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Ocean Life

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.

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

The beautiful coastline at Point Lobos Reserve

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.

Weather

Point Lobos is often foggy during the summer

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.

Seasonal Highlights

  • Harbor Seal Pupping Season 
    Seal pup

    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 
    Sea Otters at Point Lobos

    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.
     
  • Whales 
    Whales at Point Lobos
     
  • 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.
     
  • Sea Lions 
    Sea Lions at Point Lobos

    The sea lion population is much smaller in late spring and summer due to migration to the south for mating.
     
  • Birding 
    Birding at Point Lobos

    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.
     
  • Wildflowers
    Wildflowers along the coastal path

    The wildflower season in spring; California Poppies, Douglas Iris, lilac Ceanothus and many more
Diving

Diving at Point Lobos

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.

US United States

The whales come to Tonga for two reasons; first for mating and second for giving birth eleven months later. A large population of humpback whales gathers around Vava'u Islands in Tonga between July and October. These months are the best time for whale watching as well as the unique opportunity to swim with a humpback mother and her calf.

Are Humpback Whale Sightings Guaranteed?

To be on the safe side book your visit between mid-July and end of September. The high number of whales in this area at this time means, there are plenty of opportunities to see them and swim with them. It's also the 'dry season' with less precipitation, less wind, and usually a calmer sea. If you decide to go in October: Whales are starting to leave late September, but especially mothers and their calves are still around in October which can lead to fascinating encounters.

Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga

How Long to Stay?

It's recommended to spent several days even better an entire week there, to maximize your chances of sightings and to swim with the whales. The whale watching tours take place in the open water. Sightings can't be guaranteed and the swell can be pretty high. Consider on Sundays none is working.

Where to Stay on Vava'u Islands?

There are not plenty of accommodations on Tonga; Vava'u Islands available. The most excellent hotel is the Mystic Sands Hotel with crystal clear water in front. You can get your pick up by boat for the whale watching trip from their jetty. Another option close by is the Tongan Beach Resort with a tasty restaurant.

 

TO Tonga

The season starts middle of June until September. The highest chance for a sighting is also the peak season on the Hebrides in July and August. Anyway, no guarantee at all. I booked a four-day trip to increase the chance for snorkeling with one and I only saw a young one from the boat. One guy had booked a trip for the third time and our three meters tall shark was his first one. You need the right conditions and also a lot of luck!!
I'd recommend August now. This is also the month when the shark festival takes place at one weekend.

GB United Kingdom

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
 

US United States

The season for basking sharks usually starts in May and last until October. Actually, the best time is mid-May until mid-July. However, there is no guarantee to spot these sharks. In 2017 the best time was April until the beginning of May. In 2018 the first sighting of two sharks was at the end of April. In recent years, fewer basking sharks were spotted. In 2019 two basking sharks were already seen on March 12 which is pretty early.

Very important are good weather conditions, a sunny day and calm wind to spot them on the surface of the sea and for snorkeling with them as well. Book your trip at short notice. First, check if basking sharks are already around the coast. 

What Else to Spot
  • common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins
  • minke whales (very shy)
  • pilot whales
  • leatherback turtles
  • sometimes sunfish
  • blue sharks; season starts end of June, more reliable to spot them but not predictable
  • seals from mid-May until October

Check out the recent sightings for SW England

Where to Stay

There are many lovely B&B's in Penzance to choose from. Don't come here in a rush and for the basking sharks only. There is so much more like Kynance Cove, St. Michaels Mount, Minack Theatre and the hanging gardens to mention just a view. Our absolutely favorite B&B is the Marine Lodge. The view alone is worth to stay here. The Marine Lodge is spotlessly clean with wonderful owners. You couldn't wish for better.

GB United Kingdom

The Algarve is a year-round destination with pleasant temps during the winter and hot temps in summer. Anyhow, there is often a breeze in summer. Dolphin tours are offered from March until late November. Although the best months to spot schools of dolphins are from June to September. In spring and at the end of the summer from September onwards it's cold out on the sea in the morning; bring a warm jacket.

Dolphins at a dolphin watching tour in Albufeira Algarve

Crowds at the Algarve

The Algarve is a popular destination by the Portuguese. They spend their summer holidays here between the end of June until the beginning of September. It's pretty busy and accommodation prices are at a high level. It's almost the same at Easter and Christmas. 

Weather at the Algarve

The summer from June to mid-September is quite hot with temps in the high 20s and above while nights are pleasant below 20°C. In spring and fall, the day-temps are between 20°C-25°C and nights are between 10°C-15°C still comfortable for camping. During winter the temps are still lovely below 20°C, but one digit temps in the night. Most precipitation during winter. Summer is almost dry. Rain can occur from autumn to spring, but usually not much.

The rugged coastline at Albufeira, Algarve wit many caves

PT Portugal