Tips for whale watching with children

Attending the Dana Point Festival of Whales 2014 created so many amazing family memories. My daughter loved all the learning opportunities and animal encounters. Her very first whale watching experience was unforgettable and we enjoyed two different excursions during our visit. We spent time with a captain from Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching and learned a few tips for whale watching with children. The captain’s tips will help you prepare for a great experience.


Dana Point is Orange County’s best year round whale watching destination. Gray whales visit Dana Point November through April and then blue whales are present May through November. The general manager of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, Donna Kalez, is a also a children’s book author and committed to creating wonderful learning opportunities for children. Prior to our visit to the Dana Point Festival of Whales we spent time learning about whale watching with The Amazing Adventures of Captain Don, a book written by Donna about her father. The friendly characters and  illustrations in the book by Amira Gadd helped us prepare for the visit and set appropriate expectations. We stopped by Dana Wharf and chatted with Donna and the captain just before he sailed off on an exciting whale watching tour.


Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching is located in the Dana Point harbor. The tall building makes it easy to spot and recognize from most areas of the harbor.


The catamaran and sailboats go on daily whale watching tours and fishing excursions. 


My daughter had so much fun chatting with the captain. He was extremely friendly and shared all his best tips for whale watching and some interesting whale facts. She had plenty of questions and learned so much. The crew are very passionate about teaching children and sharing a love for marine life. 


Tips for whale watching with children

  • Dress appropriately. The warm California sunshine has you thinking of shorts and flip flops but on the water with the wind it might feel chilly. Dress in layers and non slip shoes. Water shoes with non slip soles are a great alternative to sandals.
  • Wear sunglasses. A majority of your time on the boat will be spent looking directly at the water. Sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the bright sun glare and will make it easier to spot sea life.
  • Pack a small bag with only your essentials – water, snacks, sunscreen, and camera. Storage on the boat is typically minimal so try to keep it simple.
  • Charge your camera!
  • Set appropriate expectations. Every whale watching adventure is unique and sightings are not guaranteed. 
  • Encourage children to ask questions. Donna says the helpful crew at Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching love to make the tours interactive.

My daughter loved her first whale watching experience. We spotted gray whales, dolphins, and sea lions during her first excursion. She enjoyed reading about whale watching before the visit and was very excited to meet Donna. Receiving two new friends, a stuffed gray whale and sea lion, has provided her with endless pretend play opportunities. 


Gray whales travel through Dana Point year round but migrate through April. The annual migration season is an excellent time to learn about the gray whales on one of the many daily excursions with Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching. The comfortable boats with experienced captains offer a great opportunity to see the gray whales spy hop, breach, and fluke as they make their way toward the warm waters of Mexico for the winter. Each whale watching experience with Dana Wharf is unique but if you don’t get a good showing of whales or dolphins during your visit, your ticket will be returned to you with an invitation to come back again. Purchase your Dana Wharf whale watching ticket online and start planning your fun day. Two hour whale watching tours depart daily and tickets prices are just $25 for children 3-12. Children under 2 are free to attend and adults tickets are $45 each.

Dana Wharf also offers privately chartered experiences and fishing tours. Dana Wharf is located in Dana Point, California just about half an hour south of Disneyland and only an hour from San Diego. Easily add a visit to Dana Wharf to your family vacation plans! The Dana Wharf kids club is a great way to get your child excited about  your upcoming whale watching tour and waive the fee for their first 2-hour whale watching trip. For just a $39 annual membership fee, your child will receive a club membership pin & card, a hat or t-shirt, and plenty of discounts through out the year. If you enjoy the experience ask about planning your child’s next birthday aboard with up to 9 friends. 

Follow the easy list of tips for whale watching with children and be sure to follow all specific safety guidelines set forth by the captain.


Do you have any tips to share that would make whale watching with children a great experience?

Learn more about  Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching by connecting with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure: My family was invited to attend the Dana Point Festival of Whales and were assisted in making all activity and accommodation reservations. Complimentary souvenirs and time with the captain were provided by  Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching.

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