A Whale of a Time in San Diego

Heads up, nature lovers. From December through March, visitors to San Diego have a unique opportunity to see one of nature’s most amazing events — the migration of California gray whales from Alaska to Baja, California. Thousands of the mammals come within a few miles of the San Diego coast during this period, allowing locals and tourists alike to get a good view. During the peak migration season in mid-January, as many as 200 whales per day have been counted off the San Diego coast. Here are a handful of sea journeys that can get you even closer up on the action.

Whale-Watching by Sea — Day Excursions

From December 26, 2007 to March 30, 2008, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and San Diego Harbor Excursion team up for narrated, 3.5-hour whale- watching cruises. Two cruises depart daily, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Birch Aquarium naturalists narrate the tours. Reservations are recommended. Ticket prices are $27 for adults on Monday-Friday, $30 for adults on weekends and a daily $15 ticket price for children. www.sdhe.com, www.aquarium.ucsd.edu.

Classic Sailing Adventures features two trips daily aboard its sailing yacht, beginning in mid-December and continuing until the end of March. The 4-hour excursions depart at 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.; tickets are $75 per person and include beverages and hors d’oeuvres. Reservations are required. www.classicsailingadventures.com.

H&M Landing offers 3-hour whale-watching cruises from mid-December 2007 through mid-March 2008, and 5-hour cruises from December 2007 through April 2008. All cruises include informative narrations on the whales. Daily departure times for the 3-hour tours are 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; ticket prices are $25 for adults, $20 for juniors (13-17 years old) and $17.50 for children (2-12 years old). Tickets are $50 for adults; $40 for juniors and children. H&M guarantees to take guests out to sea again for free if no whales are spotted. www.hmlanding.com.

Hornblower Cruises and Events offers 3.5-hour deluxe whale-watching adventure cruises in partnership with the San Diego Natural History Museum from December 15, 2007 through April 6, 2008. Passengers receive a professional narration on the whales’ migration and other marine life. Expeditions depart daily at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children (4-12 years old). Discounts are available for seniors, groups and military personnel. Hornblower guarantees to take guests out to sea again for free if no whales are spotted. www.hornblower.com.

OEX Dive & Kayak Centers offers visitors a 2.5-hour Whale Watching Kayak Tour, available December 15, 2007 through March 9, 2008. The approximate one-mile paddle tour launches daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. from La Jolla Shores; the cost is $60 for a single kayak and $110 for a double kayak. Prices include transportation of the kayak to and from the beach, kayak rental, guided tour, life vest, paddle, and wetsuit. www.oexcalifornia.com.

During January-March 2008, Next Level Sailing is offering a unique whale-watching experience aboard the America, a historic replica of the world’s first America’s Cup winner. The 139-foot-long sailing yacht can accommodate up to 80 guests and is perfectly suited for whale watching. The 4-hour excursion departs every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. from the San Diego Marriott Marina behind Seaport Village. Excursions cost $75 for adults and $35 for children (12 years old and under). www.americayacht.com.