There are many places where whales, dolphins, whale sharks, stingrays etc. can be seen by a guided boat tour, a snorkel trip or even from the costal line.
In general, Galapagos is a world-class destination at any time of the year. For divers, the best time is from June until November, when also Whale Sharks can be spotted. For snorkelers, warmer ocean temps from January to April may suit better. The sea is calmer, but rain can occurs in the afternoon.
Climate/Weather Galapagos for Diving
Rainy Season - Snorkel Season
December through May is the wet season. While often sunny and warm, you can expect afternoon showers. The sea is calm with a good visibility and the sea temperature is between 21°C and 26°C / 70°F and 79°F. It's the best time for snorkeling.
Dry Season - Diving Season
The Humboldt current brings cold water to the islands from June to November. The sea is nutrient rich which attracts a huge variety of fish, therefore sharks, seabirds like the albatross, and penguins as well. It's mostly cloudy with a higher surf. During August and September, the sea is very rough. The sea temperature varies between 18°C and 24°C / 64°F until 75°CF. From September to November the Galapagos Islands are an outstanding place to enjoy marine-life. You are able to find schools of hammerhead at Darwin & Wolf Island. Hammerhead sharks occur throughout the year at Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock). It is easy to get to Leon Dormido by guided boat tour from San Cristobal.
Check out our detailed Galapagos Guide to experience the islands underwater and also the rich biodiversity on land.
Whale watching tours are offered from April to October. The duration of the orca whale watching trips in the morning during summer is roughly 3 hours. All other trips are approximately 2 hours long. The year 2018 was different; there were fewer orca sightings. Instead, more sperm whales were spotted in May and June. Very unusual orcas were spotted again in October. Therefore, we can give you an idea what you may see and when, but marine life is not predictable and guaranteed. It's always worth a try. We recommend booking at least two trips at different times of the day. One thing is guaranteed; YOU get addicted to it.
Tarifa is the capital city of wind. From time to time the Levante is too strong that neither fisher boats nor whale watching boats can leave the harbor. In 2018 July was perfect with almost none wind, but instead, in August the boats couldn't leave the harbour for 17 days. If there is too much fog in the morning whale watching trips are also canceled. Book your trip in advance and confirm a day before.
Update 2019: The ocras already arrived in June; that's earlier than the year before. The tuna already migrates and pods of orcas can be seen this July. Even sperm whales were spotted again in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Dolphins and Pilot Whales
Dolphins and Pilot Whales can be seen throughout the year. Pilot whales are night active diving deep for hunting their prey like squid. At daytime, they rest on the surface of the sea.
Orcas follow the tuna migration into the Mediterranean Sea and out. They come for the tuna in June and can be spotted until August. The tuna is too fast for them to catch with 90 km/h and orcas are clever. They only appear when the fishermen are out in the sea, and they try to catch their tuna from the hook. Tours are offered in July and August in the morning and last for about 3 hours all other whale watching tours last around 2 hours. In 2018 the orcas were spotted from the end of June until mid-July only. Instead, 2016 was an outstanding year for orcas. The big surprise there were sightings in October in 2018 which is unusual. Therefore, we can give you an idea when you might spot them, but wildlife is not predictable and guaranteed.
They can be spotted from April to August. They appear at the surface for about 8 minutes to breathe before diving again. 2018 was an exceptional year with plenty of sightings in May and in June on 12 days.
They cross the Strait and can sometimes be spotted. In 2016 firmm had 27 sightings in one whale watching season.
Peak season in summer. Prices for hotels and apartments increase, and advanced booking is essential. Most of the rental houses are offered from Saturday to Saturday. Spring, September, and October are less busy and less expensive. Anyhow the orca season runs from July to August only.
Where to Stay in Tarifa
It depends on what you like to experience in this region. If you just come for one day for whale watching it doesn't make sense to stay here. We spend a whole week in this area. Therefore, we'd chosen one of the many rental flats. Bookmark the link for the best-rated apartments around Tarifa. Don't miss the gorgeous Bolonia Beach and Dune. The dune is one of the largest shifting dunes in Europe.
The West Indian Manatee migrates to Crystal River and the surrounding springs roughly mid-November and stays around the springs until mid-March. Guided tours are offered from November to end of March. You experience most activity during the early morning. If you like to get interactions with manatees book the early morning tour in advance! The most popular and best tours are offered by River Ventures USA: Crystal River Florida - 3 Hour Swim with Manatees (safe and reliable booking via GetYourGuide, with excellent service).
The manatees come here during winter time because they get stressed by the cold gulf if the temp goes below 68°F / 20°C. Although they look like to be prepared for cold temperatures their body has not much fat for insulation. The springs have a constant temp of 74°F / 23°C. The reason that they gather around the springs. During high tide, they move to the Three Sisters Springs, and at low tide, they gather outside in the channel at Idiot’s Delight I and II. Often 400 to 500 manatees can be seen at the springs.
Manatee Calendar (Crystal River)
While manatees can be found in large numbers from mid-November until mid-March, exceptions are possible. In 2018 for example they already left the springs mid-February due to an unusual high day temperature. On the other hand, in one year they stayed until April, even early May. But still, you should stick to most likely months:
April | May | June| July | August | September | October
From spring (April and May) throughout summer (June, July, August) until the fall (September, October), you won't see large numbers of Manates in Florida. The water is too warm for them. That's why the manatee population ranges between 60-90 in the Crystal River area outside of the winter months. That means, there are some manatee residents, but the chances are lower. However, it can still be a great experience as it's much quieter with very few other visitiors. Boat tours are being offered and you might be lucky.
Mid-November | December | January | February | March
The population in Crystal River goes up to 600-800 manatees. Seeing and swimming with lots of manatees can only be achieved during that time. However, while it won't spoil your trip at all, be prepared for thousands of other visitors.
Best Time of Day
It is almost impossible to avoid crowds while swimming with the manatees. Even in the early morning expect 30 to 40 people in the water. The Three Sisters Springs, however, are tranquil when they open the gate early in the morning and the manatees are most active during that time of day. That means, early morning bookings are necessary for the best experience, regardless of other visitors.
During the peak season of the manatees, it can be pretty chilly in the morning. On average it's roughly 50°F / 10°C cold in the early morning. We experienced 28°F / -2°C which happens rarely. It was pretty cold when we got out of the water. Day temps are usually between 58°F / 15°C and 70°F / 21°C. Precipitation occurs year-round with its peak in the summer months. It’s quite hot and muggy in the summer and temps are around 90°F / 32°C.
How Long to Stay
We highly recommend staying here for a couple of days. Visit the Three Sisters Spring, have a look to one of the many other springs like the Rainbow Springs for swimming, enjoy the manatee encounter. Actually, we planned camping in the Rainbow Springs State Park. Due to the cold night temps of 32°F, we booked a room at the Hampton Inn Crystal River instead last minute. It was just a 5 minutes drive to our manatee tour the next morning. We loved the great breakfast each day. More alternatives can be found here: Hotels in Crystal River - via booking.com with price guarantee
The park opens throughout the year at 8 a.m. but closes before sunset to protect the wildlife and to avoid disturbance (like deer, foxes, bobcats, and owls). Camping is not permitted. Clearer skies, warmest average temps and the best moths without fog are September and October followed by April and May during the harbor seal pupping season.
Crowds in Summer
This magnificent and popular State Reserve is located close to Carmel on HW 1. Point Lobos is a year-round destination and super busy during summer and especially at weekends. Limited parking within the reserve; 150 cars only. At weekends and especially Sundays during summer it’s advisable to arrive before 9 a.m. or later in the afternoon. Otherwise, you have to line up or park your car outside on the shoulder and walk in.
If possible visit the reserve mid-week. However, Point Lobos is also much loved by school classes due to the many opportunities to experience and learn about nature and wildlife. The foundation supports schools with transportation and offers adventure programmes for 8 to 12 years old youth in summer which fills up soon.
It’s a moderate cool coastal climate. The average temperature ranges from about 55 to 65°F / 13-18 °C year-round. Spring is sunny and cool before the foggy summer season starts with fog until the afternoon. Fog banks emerge from the cold water (around 50 °F / 10°C) and the warm coastal air to condense into fog. Fall (September to November) is the sunniest time of the year although evenings are more chilly. During the winter mist and showers occur between November to March.
Harbor Seal Pupping Season
From March until June you may spot harbor seals giving birth to a puppy at China Cove. It’s amazing that the new-borns start to swim just 20 minutes later. The best months to witness this spectacle are April and May.
Southern Sea Otters
They may be spotted offshore in the kelp beds during calm days. On windy days they are more often found in protected coves. They are living in waters with a temp between 35°F and 60°F / 1,5°C up to 15,5°C. This is important for their constant body temp of almost 100 °F / 37°C. They mate and give birth in the sea throughout the year with a peak of pupping from January to March, fewer from August to October.
They can be spotted throughout the year. Perfect spots to observe whales are South Point and Sea Lion Point.
Grey whales are most commonly seen from late December to January and again from March until early May.
Humpbacks are frequently seen from March until December.
- Minke whales are sometimes spotted from January until April. They migrate in larger numbers but due to their smaller seize often missed.
- Blue whales are sometimes spotted in summer.
Orcas; three different species of orcas can be found. The transient orcas feed on mammals, therefore, frequently seen when gray whales migrate with their calves their preferred prey. They can also be spotted at other times of the year hunting seals, porpoise, and dolphins. The resident orcas feed on fish especially salmon and always stay in the same area. Nowadays resident orcas from Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca can be found around Monterey. The offshore orcas are mostly seen during winter feeding on squid, fish and even sharks.
The sea lion population is much smaller in late spring and summer due to migration to the south for mating.
Spring and summer is the nesting season. The bird island trail is great to spot lots of birds in the morning or late afternoon. Two cormorant species can be found year-round; nesting on rocks offshore from March to August. We spotted several birds like the scrub jay and dark-eyed junco.
The wildflower season in spring; California Poppies, Douglas Iris, lilac Ceanothus and many more
A permit is required, and reservations can be made up two months in advance. 15 diving teams always two divers are allowed to dive at Whalers Cove and Bluefish Cove each day. Some caves are accessible in calm seas. Diving map of Point Lobos State Reserve
Where to Stay (bookmark the links)
Unfortunately, there isn't any campground or accommodation offered inside the reserve. The best-located hotel is the Hyatt Carmel Highlands with spectacular views. Nearby is the popular town of Carmel with a vast variety of hotels and lodges. An alternative and half an hour drive is Salinas. We'd chosen the Super 8 Salinas where breakfast is included.
The Orcas usually approach the bay to rub against the pebbled beach in shallow water close to the shoreline, in as little as 1.8 m (6 feet) of water. It can be very close to the beach during high tide. The sea should be smooth and avoid windy days. The chance to spot them increase if you overnight at the campground at Bere Point Regional Park and select an ocean view site. The campground is serviced during summer only.
In the evening we spotted Humpback Whales and in the morning Orcas which were rubbing on the pebbles.
Weather and Season Details
The precipitation of Vancouver Island's east coast is just 700-800 mm per year. In contrast, the west coast of the island is exposed to moisture-packed winds blowing from the Pacific Ocean and receives plenty of precipitation from October to March. Summers are in general relatively dry.
Spring is always a great time to visit Vancouver Island. Daily temperatures range from 11-15 ºC. It's a great time for wildlife viewing. The Pacify grey whales are on their route to Alaska, Grizzly and black bears finish their hibernation a looking for food along the shoreline.
From June through September, Vancouver Island is typically sunny and mild although the temperature at Malcolm Island seldom goes beyond 15-17°C but can reach up to 25°C.
In fall you may see a lot of fog especially in the morning which could last until mid-day or afternoon. The temperature is on average around 12°C.
Vancouver Island enjoys a moderate and mild winter in most regions. This allows outdoor activities such as fishing and hiking in the south-coastal areas even in January.
When is the best time? May, June, July, August, September and October are the months for whale watching from Boston with great sighthings. Each summer the whales migrate to Massachusetts and back to warmer water when the weather gets cold.
Make sure to check our 7 Top Tips for Whale Watching from Boston at the end of this article.
Time of Day
In terms of sightings there is no big difference between mornings or afternoon. Mornings are usually less crowded though. That's we recommend the first tour in the morning. From mid-June until early September the first one starts at 9 AM from Monday through Sunday. During other months it can be 10 AM or even later. Click on the tour link below and check available times.
Weather and Sea
During the months of July, August and September the weather is generally more consistently pleasant. However, the whales even come out in the rain. If sea sickness is an issue for you check the weather forecast first to choose a calm day for whale watching. Marine Weather Boston Harbor