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Whale Watching in Santa Barbara - One of the best locations on the whole West coast for whale watching is the Santa Barbara Channel.

The Channel Islands provide great protection for the south-facing shoreline of Santa Barbara, making for a much more pleasant whale watching experience than being on the open ocean without anything to mitigate the open ocean swells and winds.

The primary whale watching species viewed off the Santa Barbara coast is the gray whale. Several other large marine mammals can also be seen during a whale watching trip. In all there are more than 25 marine mammal species in the waters off Santa Barbara during the various season, making for a great adventure no matter when you go.

If you are looking for some Santa Barbara fun this is one of the top things to do in Santa Barbara. Seeing a huge 45-ton humpback whale breach up from the water and land with a big splash, or seeing a nearly 100- foot long blue whale, the largest animal in the world, is an unforgettable experience.

Whale Seasons off the Santa Barbara Coast

From February until early April is the best time to see the California Gray Whales on their annual migration along the western coast of the United States. If you are visiting during the summer season, from May all the way until September, keep an eye out for the amazing breaching humpback whales as well as orcas (killer whales), minke whales, right whales, and the biggest of all of the whale species, the blue whale. Fin whales and sperm whales are also seen sometimes during the winter months.

While you are whale watching in the Santa Barbara Channel also keep an eye out for sea lions and seals as well as dophins and porpoises. Many of these species can also be seen from the shoreline as they swim near shore quite frequently.

Dolphin pods out in the channel sometimes are quite large, with hundreds of dolphins in a pod. These large pods are typically the common dolphins (long beaked and short beaked), while bottlenose dolphins are seen less frequently, as are Dall’s porpoises, the Pacific white-sided dolphin, and Risso’s dolphins, all of which may be seen during the summer months.

Other Sea Mammals in Santa Barbara Waters

One of the cutest species to see is the sea otter which sometimes ventures as far south as Santa Barbara waters though is not too common.

Another treat is to see a pinniped! These include the California sea lion, a species that often likes to linger near buoys near harbors and commonly swims relatively close to the shoreline at Santa Barbara beaches. 

Also keep an eye out for harbor seals and elephant seals. Occasionally a fur seal will venture into these waters though sightings are rare.

Sea Birds of Santa Barbara

One of the funnest birds to watch is the pelican with its huge beak - the bird swoops low over the water trying to snatch fish. A variety of other seabirds can also be seen on Santa Barbara whale watching trips

Santa Barbara Whale Watching Tips

Weather out in the Channel can be on the colder side so come prepared with a nice warm jacket and also a waterproof covering (e.g., raincoat). This is true even during the summer months.

If you are prone to sea sickness, then prepare by getting some sea sickness medication and taking it before you arrive at the shore to go out on your Santa Barbara whale watching adventure.

If you take a boat out into the Santa Barbara Channel to see some whales and other marine life there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure a safe, fun, and also educational adventure.

Be prepared to get wet, and even when Santa Barbara town is sunny and warm, it can be very cold and wet out in the Channel. If you wear multiple layers then you can adjust your warmth level and also shed the outer garments in the event that they become thoroughly soaked with water.

The best cameras to use are the disposable cameras because then you don’t have to worry about protecting your expensive equipment. If you do bring your high-end camera gear then bring plastic bags to keep it dry and protect it from the saltwater spray.

Bring plenty of sunscreen as the ray’s can be stronger out there on the water which is a reflective surface.

Attractions Santa Barbara - Fun Things To Do In Santa Barbara

Sandpiper Golf Course - Santa Barbara Golf Courses

The quintessential Santa Barbara golf course, Sandpiper Golf Course is loved by locals and visitors alike. With great views ocean views and challenging holes at a variety of skill levels, this golf course is a Santa Barbara favorite. The 18-hole course measures 7,068 yards and is a par 72 golf course.

There is also a nice Club House that has a Pro Shop as well as dining. A friendly staff offers instructions as well as rentals of clubs and carts. Warm up on the putting green and driving range.

Golf tournaments held at Sandpiper include the LPGA Tour Santa Barbara Women’s Open and the PGA Tour Tournament Players Series. Sandpiper is also used during the last stage of qualifying for the PGA. Call (805) 968-1541 for more information.

For whale watching charters check out Condor Cruises and their Condor Express high speed catamaran. Another good company is Captain Don’s Pirate Whale Watching which specializes in seeing the Gray Whales. 

Sunset Kidd Whale Watching uses a sailboat as they try to spot the Gray Whales from February to May during peak Gray Whale migration time.

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