San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[SDNHM Education Programs: Classes, Field Trips, Overnight Expeditions, Lectures, Films, Programs for Children]
Whale Watching with the Museum
Flock of marine birdsGray WhaleHarbor SealsGray WhaleMother and Baby DolphinsGray WhalePod of DolphinsGray WhalePelicanGray WhaleMarine birds

Meet some of nature’s largest animals and enjoy a day on the water with family and friends.

As part of our mission “to inspire in all a respect for nature and the environment,” the San Diego Natural History Museum is partnering with Hornblower Cruises and Events to provide an unparalleled opportunity to experience whale-watching off the San Diego coast December through April.

Gray Whale Watching  |  Photos

6-Hour Cruises to the Coronado Islands Marine Sanctuary

Voyage into Mexican waters on our six-hour adventure to the wildlife sanctuary of the Coronado Islands with H&M Landing. Explore the realm of the California Gray Whale and enjoy whales, sea lions, dolphins, sea birds, and other marine wildlife. Coronado Islands Nature trips to the Coronado Islands begin December 26, 2010–May 29, 2011.

This exciting six-hour guided nature tour takes you outside San Diego Bay into International waters for an up close and personal view of Los Coronados Islands. In addition to whales, you could see dolphins, harbor seals, sea lions, kelp forests and up to 80 varieties of sea birds and other marine life—much of which is just a few feet away!



Saturday and Sunday through May 29, 2011.

  • Boarding: 10AM
  • Cruise: 10:15 AM–4:30 PM
  • Adults: $50.00
  • Children (ages 4–12): $35
  • Seniors (62+)/Military: $45
  • San Diego Natural History Museum Members receive $5 discount!
  • Photo I.D. required for all adults

Purchase Tickets

Tickets can be purchased online, by calling Customer Service at 619.255.0210, Monday - Friday, 9 AM to 4 PM, evenings/weekends: 877.946.7797, by email at, or in person at the Museum.

Learn more about life on the islands—the infamous “rum running” days, the old Casino, Dead Man's Island and more. Plus, witness one of only two elephant seal rookeries within 300 miles. Don’t forget your camera!

Expertly guided and narrated
Hot food available for purchase
Comfortable seating
Coast Guard Certified vessel
Stops for photo taking
Tours start December 26, 2010

H&M Landing
Whaler's Log
Whales Galore on the October 13 Cruise

Passengers were happy for the nice cool breeze awaiting them as the boat left San Diego Bay. Dolphins are always a good start to a cruise and we soon saw a very large pod, many swimming in the wake of the boat—a treat to see. The boat headed toward to the Los Coronados Island but upon hearing there were no sightings in that direction, we headed north... Read More

Posted on October 14, 2011
Plentiful Sealife on Sunday October 2 Cruise

FANTABULOUS--is that a word? Probably not, but it can be used to describe today's cruise on the Ocean Odyssey. Not only was it sunny skies but a smorgasbord of animal sightings was in store for passengers. Common dolphins greeted us as we departed San Diego Bay—always an indication of a good day to come, and we were not disappointed... Read More

Posted on October 3, 2011
Scores of Birds on the September 25 Cruise
Pelicans awaiting passengers as we boarded the Bright and Morning Star were an indication of things to come. A few miles outside the entrance to San Diego Bay we saw scores of birds—cormorants, gulls, shearwaters, and yes, more brown pelicans. It wasn't long before spouts were spotted in the distance, and then a breach of a humpback whale... Read More
Posted on September 26, 2011
Courtship among the Blue Whales on September 22 Cruise

Passengers on today's trip enjoyed a calm ocean and feeding blue whales who also exhibited, what appeared to be, courtship behavior. We saw eight magnificent blue whales, one surfacing after a deep dive immediately in front of the boat! We also spotted two fin whales... Read More

Posted on September 23, 2011
Humpbacks Spotted on the September 18 Cruise

A gray morning greeted passengers on board the Ocean Odyssey. Everyone enjoyed seeing the many birds and sea lions at the bait docks as we departed San Diego Bay. It wasn't long before several common dolphins were spotted with moms and calves leaping in unison... Read More

Posted on September 19, 2011
A Whale-watchers Dream on September 8
Passengers aboard Thursday's Blue Whale cruise observed many different types of whales—blue whales, Bryde's whales, minke whales, and fin whales. On the way to Los Coronados Islands, a small pod of Risso's dolphins was seen with two baby dolphins traveling with the adults... Read More
Posted on September 12, 2011
Blue Whales Feasting on September 11 Cruise

Another great day on the water! Not only was it beautiful weather, but we saw hundreds of common dolphins and many feeding blue whales. Then, in the distance, we spotted breaching whales. We cruised over to the area and we were delighted to see three humpback whales, two of them breaching in unison... Read More

Posted on September 12, 2011
Mako Sharks on Sunday September 4 Cruise
Every blue whale cruise is different, and today's was no exception. Passengers spotted six mako sharks! I think with the sightings of sharks on local beaches recently and what we saw today, it must be "Shark Week!" We also saw two pods of common dolphins, a blue whale and a humpback whale breaching in the distance... Read More
Posted on September 6, 2011
Over 500 dolphins seen on September 1 Cruise
As the Ocean Odyssey departed San Diego this morning, 20 tall ships lined up in formation for a parade into San Diego Bay. Although a big southern swell was hitting the shores, making the surfers crazy-happy, the ocean itself was fairly gentle under very blue skies... Read More
Posted on September 2, 2011
Trapped Shark Rescued by Crew on August 21 Cruise
A pod of energetic common dolphins, including many cows and calves, started off a beautiful day on the water. As we headed out to the area many blue whales had been spotted recently, we came upon a large sea turtle, probably a leatherback! Not long after observing the turtle we came upon two blue whales... Read More
Posted on August 22, 2011
Wow! 30 Whales on the August 18 cruise!

Good karma brought out the blue whales in droves!  Today's blue whale cruise was the BEST I've ever been on, and I've been on many over the past few years. Early in the cruise we enjoyed a group of common dolphins and the a thrasher shark attached to a small buoy... Read More

Posted on August 22, 2011
Dolphins, Dolphins, Dolphins on August 14 Cruise

The blue sky didn't come out today, nor did the blue whales. However we saw plenty of common dolphins; first, a large pod early in the cruise and later several smaller pods throughout the day. Passengers had a good look at a fairly large mola mola (ocean sunfish)... Read More

Posted on August 15, 2011
Blue Whales Once Again on August 7 Cruise

Beautiful blue skies greeted passengers and whalers on board the Bright and Morning Star this morning. Not long after exiting San Diego Bay, we came upon a large school of common dolphins. According to the fish finder on the boat the dolphins were "rounding up" a very large bait ball... Read More

Posted on August 12, 2011
Day of the Dolphins on August 7 Cruise

Today's cruise turned into "Day of the Dolphin." Passengers really enjoyed the viewing a large pod of common dolphins—a highly entertaining group of toothed whales. As we headed toward Los Coronados Islands, more common dolphins were spotted and many Oyster Catchers (birds) were feasting on the mussels visible in the low tide on Dead Man's Island... Read More

Posted on August 12, 2011
A Magnificent Cruise on August 4

Even superlatives like awesome or fantastic can't describe today's cruise. Twenty-two blue whales were spotted, many of them taking large mouthfuls of krill. We say three mom and calf pairs, a minke whale feeding close to a blue, and a dolphin close at hand with the whales... Read More

Posted on August 5, 2011
Minke Whale Spotted on July 31 Cruise

As we exited San Diego Bay, a harbor seal was spotted. This is rather unusual, as we typically only see sea lions in the bay. Out on the Pacific Ocean, a pod of young common dolphins delighted passengers with their acrobatics and high jumps. Then we saw a very unusual blow and splashes in the water—a minke whale, identified by its distinct chevron markings... Read More

Posted on August 1, 2011
Unusual "Pink" Bottlenose Dolphin Spotted on July 24 Cruise
Bottle nose dolphins greeted the Ocean Odyssey as we headed out of San Diego Bay for "whale canyon," a recent feeding area for the blue whales.  No blue whales were seen in this location, so we turned north and what a strange sight we encounterd! Within a pod of bottlenose dolphins, we saw one large mottled gray and pink dolphin, a very rare sight... Read More
Posted on July 25, 2011
A Dozen Whales Spotted on July 17 cruise!
Passengers on today's cruise were in for a very special day! We started the day encountering bottlenose and common dolphins on our journey to "whale canyon," and sighted at least 12 blue whales, including two mom and calf pairs. The passengers were impressed, not only by the whales' size, but also feeding behavior, spy hops, and tail flukes before deep dives... Read More
Posted on July 18, 2011
Gray Whale Spotted on July 14 Trip

What a day!  As we departed San Diego Bay, three bottle nose dolphins were observed, as well as some frolicking sea lions. Then we heard from the captain on the Bright and Morning Star that he saw the fluke of a gray whale--a rare sight at this time of year... Read More

Posted on July 15, 2011
Gray Day Doesn't Dim Sightings on July 11 Cruise

It was a bit of a gray day, but it didn't dampen the spirits of passengers and whalers on board the Ocean Odyssey. Whaler Vicky, who had never seen a blue whale before, was the first to spot the  spout of a blue whale--spouts can be up to 40-feet high... Read More

Posted on July 11, 2011
Three blues spotted on July 7 Cruise

It was a great day to be on the ocean off San Diego...not only were we missing the humidity in the city, but we got terrific views of three blue whales. All three whales showed their tail flukes on their deep dives, and one of the whales even made the captain a bit nervous as it swam underneath the vessel a couple times!  Passengers and whalers Doris and Diane were thrilled with the sightings... Read More

Posted on July 8, 2011
A pair of blues seen on June 30, 2011

A beautiful summer day greeted passengers and whalers Alan and Judy. Not only blue skies, but blue whales feeding. Passengers caught great views of the pectoral fins and baleen of two blue whales as they took their "big gulps" of krill. As passengers watched the whales feed, a few common dolphins joined in on the action... Read More

Posted on July 5, 2011
Sunday, June 26 Cruise Spectacular

What a show the whales put on today for passengers and whalers on board the Ocean Odyssey!
Everyone saw the whales lunge feeding; throat grooves, baleen and pectoral fins visible on six blue whales, including a mom and calf pair. It was definitely a thrilling day for whale-watching--one of the best ever... Read More

Posted on June 27, 2011
Blue Whale Cruises are here!

A boatload of passenger, including newlyweds from Arizona, a Chicagoan who confessed to never seeing a whale on Lake Michaigan, and a passenger from Scandinavia (a bird enthusiast who added to his life bird list) joined whalers Judy and Emilia aboard a a recent H&M Landing blue whale cruise... Read More

Posted on June 24, 2011
"Mystery Whale" Spotted May 14
Dolphins and whales were once again spotted on Saturday's cruise. A large group of Risso's dolphins and a large pod of bottlenose dolphins were viewed as the boat traveled to Los Coronados Islands. They gave everyone a good show; some of the dolphins breaching... Read More
Posted on May 17, 2011
Blue whales spotted weekend of May 7

Bottlenose dolphins greeted Bright & Morning Star passengers Saturday morning as they left San Diego Bay - always a good start to a Nature Cruise. But viewing three blue whales was the highlight of the trip. Watching them dive and show their tale flukes is always a thrill... Read More

Posted on May 9, 2011
Blue Whale Spotted on April 23 Cruise
Breezy, white-capping conditions in the morning thwarted attempts to see dolphins and whales as the Nature Cruise ventured to Los Coronados Islands. The seas calmed by the time we reached the Islands, and the sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals and many nesting birds delighted all the passengers... Read More
Posted on April 26, 2011
Fin Whales Spotted March 27
Light rain showers Sunday morning did not dampen passengers' enthusiasm. At least 10-12 fin whales were sighted. Three ventured very close to the vessel, allowing all to see their immense size as the second largest whale on the planet. This is the first time this season that so many fin whales were seen in one location... Read More
Posted on March 28, 2011
St. Patrick Day Cruise a Hit!
The "Luck of the Irish" was with passengers on the March 17 Nature Cruise. Passengers spotted 12 gray whales, including a young whale that breached six times! On the way to Los Coronados Islands a small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins swam by the vessel; soon a megapod of hundreds, if not thousands, of common dolphins were observed jumping, tail slapping, and generally having a great time, as were the passengers... Read More
Posted on March 18, 2011
Sperm Whales Sighted on March 10 Cruise

Passengers on board the Nature Cruise to Los Coronados could not have been more thrilled with the sightings on the cruise of March 10. The day began with an unusual sight-a pod of 10-12 sperm whales, the world's largest odontocete (toothed whale). It is extremely rare to see this deep-diving species so close to the coastline... Read More

Posted on March 14, 2011
Large Pod of Dolphins on Nature Cruise

Passengers on the March 12 Nature Cruise were thrilled when they came upon approximately 2,000 common dolphins frolicking in the water, tail slapping and high jumping, as well as surfing the wake of the vessel. The elephant seals, harbor seals with their pups and hundreds of sea lions were enthusiastically observed... Read More

Posted on March 14, 2011
Wonder and awe on the open seas
We were lucky enough to encounter a very large pod of Common dolphin about one mile west of the San Diego Bay entrance. Jaws dropped and time stood still for a moment as we all watched in awe the glory of the active dolphins. We continued on toward the nine-mile bank and came across a decent-sized Mola-mola, large enough for everyone to see... Read More
Posted on August 31, 2010
Minkes, mola molas and more...
It was another fantastic San Diego summer day on Thursday, August 26, as The Bright And Morning Star headed out of San Diego Bay in search of big blue whales. The first part of the trip was blessed with the warmth of the sun and a gentle breeze to keep things comfortable... Read More
Posted on August 30, 2010
Great whale-watching experience

The H&M Landing/Whalers Cruise is fantastic! My family went yesterday and saw four blue whales, a wonderfully playful humpback whale, lots of dolphins, and a "mola mola, also called a sunfish because it lies just beneath the surface to absorb the sun, and then does crazy twirls in the water... Read More

Posted on August 20, 2010
Blue whales on a mission

Today was a fabulous day on the ocean – sunny yet temperate weather and relatively calm seas. Throughout the day we were entertained and educated by common and bottlenose dolphins who delighted us with their antics.

We were approximately 7 miles out when we encountered a spectacular pod of three adult blue whales... Read More

Posted on August 19, 2010
Whale watchers checked out by curious whales and 1000 dolphins

After seeing a couple Black Sea Nettles near the dock we headed out into the ocean wilderness off San Diego where we hit a motherload of at least 1000 common dolphins, including moms and babies. They were in every direction we looked!  After the dolphins we spotted several mola molas—new to many people on the boat—and when the unusual fish jumped up out of the water it was even more surprising... Read More

Posted on August 15, 2010
A whale of a day! Breaching, tail-slapping humpbacks, and spouting blues in every direction

What could be the best trip of the summer started with a blue sky and swells which rocked the boat to the enjoyment of several young boys on board.  We had a whale of a day, seeing breaching and tail-slapping humpbacks, and many spouting blues in every direction, with one displaying its tail fluke... Read More

Posted on August 12, 2010
It was a breath-taking experience

We had a spectacular day of whale watching. One of our youngest passengers, a 12-year-old boy, told his he hated to go home! As we headed out to the 9-mile bank we came across several pods of dolphins, both common and bottlenose. A few passengers were the first to spot the blows of two blue whales in the distance... Read More

Posted on August 8, 2010
Mom and baby Blue swim close to boat...

This Sunday morning we headed out to the vicinity where blue whales had recently been spotted. Once again, luck,or was it krill (the small shrimp-like food the whales consume in great quantity), was on our side. Upon reaching the area, all were treated to seeing a spout and a blue whale... Read More

Posted on July 25, 2010
Ocean "boiling" with thousands of dolphins...

As we headed out of the bay in search of the "Blues of Summer" we were treated to a few dolphins who seemed to enjoy riding the side wake of the boat, three lined up in a row!  Little did we know what was in store for us as we continued the day... Read More

Posted on July 22, 2010
Seals fall from the sky...

On Thursday morning, we departed H & M Landing with 40 passengers aboard the Bright and Morning Star.  We meandered our way out of San Diego Bay, passing moored submarines and one of the Navy's newest stealth ships.  Little did we know that our interaction with the U... Read More

Posted on July 15, 2010
Whale watches humans...

Leaving the bay, we had an excellent sighting of the U.S. Navy working with their dolphins—even watched one jumping on and off their boat. We were only a few miles from Point Loma when we a lot of large blows. Soon we were surrounded by five or six (or maybe more) huge blue whales... Read More

Posted on July 8, 2010
Rare sightings...

At the Los Coronado islands we saw many California Sea Lions with their new pups, a black sea nettle (a type of jellyfish) and in addition to the Brown Boobies, saw a Blue Footed Booby—a rare sighting so far north. The trip ended with several bottlenose dolphins accompanying the boat through San Diego Bay... Read More

Posted on July 4, 2010
Thrilling moments...

"Totally beyond expectations," were the words of Francette and Bernie from Coronado after spending a day on the Ocean Odyssey in search of the whales of summer…As we headed in a southwesterly direction we saw blows in the distance and had quite a show of breaching and pectoral fins and flukes from two humpback whales... Read More

Posted on July 1, 2010
Blue whales feeding...

We saw four blue whales feeding within five miles offshore.  All the passengers, as well as the whale-watch volunteers, were delighted that no matter where they were on the boat they got great views of the blues as they criss-crossed our bow while feeding and showed us their 20-foot tail flukes on their short dives... Read More

Posted on June 24, 2010
No April Fool's on the Nature Cruise
No foolin' - it was a very summer-like day on Friday;calm seas, warm temperatures and lots of whale. Passengers spotted six gray whales (three of them exhibiting mating behavior), five fin whales (one came very close to the boat for a little people watching), possibly one blue whale... Read More
Posted on November 30, -0001

Blue Whale watching: JUNE–OCTOBER

Join the San Diego Natural History Museum Whalers on a 6-hour cruise to see these magnificent creatures on an offshore adventure in partnership with H&M Landing. All cruises include an onboard volunteer naturalist, trained by the Museum, who provides information about whales and other marine life. Dolphins, sea lions, sea birds, and seals are spotted on every cruise!

Blue Whale

Thursday and Sunday; June 2–October 16, 2011.

  • Cruises: 10 AM–4 PM
  • Adults: $80
  • Children (ages 3–12): $55
  • San Diego Natural History Museum Members receive $5 discount!
  • Photo I.D. required for all adults

Purchase Tickets

or contact 619.255.0210 (weekdays) or H&M Landing 619.222.1144 (weekends)

Did You Know?
Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are long and slender, having a remarkably streamlined shape for such a large animal. They are the largest mammal on Earth, some as long as 100 feet and weighing 150 tons or more.

Blue whales are found in all oceans of the world and sighted off the coast of San Diego each summer. They mate and calve in tropical-to-temperate waters during winter months and feed in higher latitudes during summer months. Most blue whales in the northern hemisphere move north to Arctic waters to feed, but the high level of productivity off southern California seems to attract a number of these animals each year. Blue whales in the southern hemisphere move south to the Antarctic to feed. Nearly all the southern hemisphere population may be found in the summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic. It is estimated that there are 10,000–25,000 blue whales world wide. The largest population in the northern hemisphere is found along the west coast of North America.

Blue whales are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In 1966, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned all hunting of blue whales and gave them worldwide protection. Recovery has been extremely slow, and only in the last few years have there been signs that their numbers may be increasing. It is estimated that blue whales once numbered about 275,000 worldwide.


•  Blue Whale Cruises Questions and Answers (PDF)

Gray Whale watching: DECEMBER 10–MAY 1

Gray Whale Watching with the San Diego Natural History Museum and Hornblower Cruises and Events

During this whale-watching season, the San Diego Natural History Museum offers cruises with Museum-trained naturalists, the “Museum Whalers,” who provide interpretation on board the Hornblower Whale and Dolphin-watching Cruises.

These 3.5 hour cruises are great for the entire family, with guarantees to also see sea lions, dolphins, and birds.
Photos courtesy of Brad Hollingsworth, SDNHM

Gray Whale spyhopping


December 10–May
Two trips daily: 9:30 AM–1 PM and 1:30 PM–5 PM

Boarding 15 minutes prior to departure.


Hornblower Whale Watching includes Museum Admission!
Non-Member Price
(includes general-admission ticket to the Museum)
Member Price
Adult Package: $45.00 $30.00
Senior Package: $40.00 $25.00
Child Package: $30.00 $20.00
Buy Tickets**
by Phone: 619.255.0195
by email:
*Photo I.D. required for all adults.
** Tickets purchased through the Museum require registration with Hornblower for the day and time you wish to go whale watching.

Love the ocean, talking to people, and whale watching? Join our volunteer group, the Museum Whalers. Application deadline for the 2012 fall classes is September 15, 2012

Member Price

Did You Know?
Every year from December through April, magnificent gray whales pass through San Diego’s coastal waters on their way to and from their breeding grounds. Gray whales spend the summer months in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and then leave for the breeding lagoons along western Baja California and off southern Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico.
Read more about Gray Whales...

Hornblower Cruises and Events

Whale Watch Photostream by Whale watch photostream by Flickr

Join our whale watching Flickr group.

Remember to join our Flickr group at and share your whale watching adventure photos.