Marine life in san diego  


Wondering what you might encounter during your tour? Learn more about the vast marine life San Diego has to offer. It’s not just whales!

frequent sightings


San Diego offers a remarkable opportunity to witness a variety of whale species throughout the year. The magnificent Gray Whale graces San Diego’s waters during winter and spring, while the summer and fall months attract the presence of the Blue Whale, the largest animal on Earth. In addition, San Diego’s waters are home to the playful Humpback Whale year-round. Minke Whales are most commonly spotted during the Fall, whereas Fin Whales make appearances in both Winter and Summer. Spotting these magnificent whales is a testament to the abundant marine life in San Diego and offers a thrilling experience for all!


Throughout the year, San Diego provides a wonderful opportunity to witness a variety of dolphin species, including the Common Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Risso’s Dolphin, and Pacific White-Sided Dolphin. Bottlenose dolphins can be spotted in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Pacific white-sided dolphins typically show up in the Winter and Spring while Risso’s dolphins make their appearance in the Summer. Common dolphins can be spotted all year long. Commonly mistaken for whales, Orcas are the largest member of the dolphin family. While very rare, people can sometimes spot Orcas in late Summer to Fall.  


Harbor Seals are roughly 4 to 6 feet in length with tiny front flippers and larger back flippers. They use the sharp nails on their front flippers to help grip rocks and escape predators. Harbor Seals have large eyes that help them see better in the darker waters. They use their whiskers to help sense the direction of the water and prey. Seals deep dive by breathing out and using the oxygen that is in their blood and muscles. They slow their heartrate to roughly 10 beats per minute from their normal 100! Harbor Seal pups receive care only during the first month of their life, after which they must figure out how to hunt and survive on their own. Seals can be spotted all around San Diego Bay and in La Jolla Cove. These captivating mammals are some of the most beloved marine life in San Diego.


California Sea Lions grow to be roughly five and a half to eight feet in length with the males being larger. They are the fastest out of the sea lions and seals, topping out at twenty five mph! Sea Lions are incredibly smart and have even been trained to help the military! Sea lions are also extremely playful and are often seen throwing around sea stars underwater. Make your way to La Jolla for the chance to snorkel with these wonderful creatures and see their underwater acrobatics! You can also see them May through October when they use a portion of the beach as a pupping ground! Originally created to be a children’s pool, pregnant sea lions started their own rookery in the calm waters of this man made cove. Make sure you give them lots of space, especially during pupping season, because while very cute they are still wild animals who want to protect their young!


San Diego’s coastal region is teeming with a vibrant array of sea birds. The Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight with its towering stature and striking blue-gray plumage. Often found near shorelines, these elegant birds patiently wade in shallow waters, poised to catch fish or other aquatic prey. Meanwhile, the Brown Pelican captivates with its remarkable diving skills. With their large beaks and impressive wingspans, Brown Pelicans plunge into the water to snatch fish, with their beaks holding over 2 gallons of water! Cormorants, known for their dark feathers and long necks, possess skilled swimming and diving abilities. Cormorants, often perched on rocks, swiftly swim underwater in search of small fish and shellfish, making them easy to spot. These sea birds add a touch of beauty to the coastal landscapes and are an important part of the San Diego ecosystem.

unique sightings

Experience unique and extraordinary sightings during our whale watching tours, offering unforgettable encounters with these magnificent marine creatures in their natural habitat.


MOla mola

The Mola Mola, also known as sunfish, is one of the more fascinating examples of marine life in San Diego. Their flat, almost disk-shaped bodies, and large dorsal and anal fins make these peculiar-looking fish renowned for their unique appearance. Growing to immense sizes, with some individuals reaching up to 10 feet in length and weighing over 2,000 pounds, encountering a Mola Mola in San Diego’s coastal waters is a remarkable experience. When the Mola Mola is basking in the sun, it is usually inviting birds to come pick parasites off of it or warming up from the deep depths it hunts in. The Mola Mola has earned renown for its incredible ability to dive to extreme depths, with recorded descents reaching over 2,000 feet. This remarkable feat showcases its adaptability and survival skills in the vast oceanic environment.

sea turtles

Green Sea Turtles, named for the color of their skin, can grow to be 4 to 5 feet in length. They feed mostly on seagrass and algae, with younger turtles sometimes feeding on jellyfish. Turtles are immune to the sting of jellies because of keratin projections that line their throat and stomach to aid in protection and digestion. In order to warm up, they will bask in the sun on the beach. These turtles prefer to hang out in the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where they have access to a protected foraging and rest area. However, divers when snorkeling can sometimes spot them in the open water. Year round San Diego has a population of around 60 turtles that are part of the Eastern Pacific nesting population and will migrate to lay their eggs on the beaches of Mexico.



San Diego’s coastal waters are home to several fascinating shark species. The leopard shark, with its distinctive dark spots, is a common sight. These docile sharks often inhabit shallow waters and can be spotted gracefully swimming near the shore. Conversely, the mako shark is a powerful and swift predator that occasionally patrols San Diego’s waters. These streamlined sharks possess remarkable speed and agility, allowing them to pursue prey with speeds up to 45mph! The Great White Shark is a iconic species that occasionally visits the waters of San Diego. These sharks can grow to be over 20 feet in length, with the largest recorded being over 37 feet! Great whites play an important role in keeping the seal and sea lion population in check. Despite their poor media representation Sharks are an integral part of marine life in San Diego.

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