Just off the coast of Oxnard, observe the ocean's gentle giants in the Santa Barbara Channel, designated a Whale Heritage Site (WHS) by the World Cetacean Alliance

Whale Watching in and near Oxnard is an experience like no other. Whether you're planning a family day, outing with friends or a solo adventure, a whale-watching excursion in Oxnard is a great way to observe these majestic creatures.

Santa barbara channel whale heritage area

The Santa Barbara Channel has proudly attained the esteemed status of being the 9th Whale Heritage Area in the world. Recognized and accredited by the Whale Heritage Area (WHA) program established by the World Cetacean Alliance and World Animal Protection. It highlights the region's commitment & dedication to the coexistence between cetaceans and humans, promoting thriving marine habitats and sustainable practices. They're dedicated to promoting responsible ecotourism, enhancing ocean education, advancing conservation efforts, and honoring the unique cultural connection to whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

In the Santa Barbara Channel, there's a high diversity of large whales with 27 species sighted, including gray, blue, humpback, Bryde's, Fin, minke, sperm, and pilot whales. According to the National Park Service, there are also orcas, Dall's porpoises and bottlenose dolphins.

Here's a handy guide to help you plan the best whale-watching experience in Oxnard.

*This post is current as of 1/05/24; dates, times and prices are subject to change.

oxnard whale watching

WHEN IS THE BEST MONTH TO GO WHALE WATCHING IN OXNARD?

From mid-to-late-December through mid-March are the most common sightings of gray whales. You'll see blue and humpback whales during the summer, and it's common to see dolphins throughout the year.

WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO SEE WHALES IN OXNARD?

There are plenty of options to see whales off the coast of Oxnard. Here's a rundown of the best tours.

ISLAND PACKERS

Experience Whale and Wildlife cruises during Summer and Winter and trips to the Channel Islands with Island Packers.

Summer Whale Watching is from mid-June to mid-September. Whale Watching trips are usually 3-4 hours long and return to Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. There is no island landing, but you'll get to see the Channel Islands from the boat.

Winter Whale Watching is from December to mid-April. The cruises are 3.5 hours and you'll explore Santa Barbara Channel, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the Channel Islands National Park. You'll also get to see Anacapa Island, the famous Arch Rock and the lighthouse on top of the island. There is no island landing.

*Visit Islands Packers to book and for more information.

channel islands whale watching

CHANNEL ISLANDS WHALE WATCHING

Take a Whale Watching tour during the annual Gray Whale migration from December 26 - April 30. Channel Islands Whale Watching offers breathtaking excursions embarking from the pristine waters of the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard to the Channel Islands National Marine Sancturary and National Park.

The Channel Islands is one of the few places globally to observe several species all on one trip. You'll get to see Channel Islands National Park and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Southern California. The waters surrounding the park and sanctuary are rich in nutrients and feed for many species of whales. It's also common to see whales breaching, which is always a crowd favorite.

*Visit Channel Islands Whale Watching to book your trip and for more information.

Channel Islands Expeditions

Experience the Grey Whale migration as the whales make their way back to Alaska to the Sea of Cortez during the months of February to April. On this tour, you'll visit the Anacapa Arch & cruise the coastline of Anacapa Island.

Tours depart from Channel Islands Harbor. Tours are approximately four and a half hours on the Sunfish, a 54-foot boat with outdoor deck space for whale viewing. This is a non-landing trip to Anacapa Island and the best way to see ocean wildlife and flowers in full bloom. Remember to dress in warm boat clothing. Guests are also able to bring Lunch, snack, and beverages.

*Visit Channel Islands Expeditions to book your trip and for more information.

CHANNEL ISLANDS DOLPHIN ADVENTURES

Start your Oxnard whale watching adventure with a 90-minute tour which travels about a mile offshore. This area is well known for having some of the best Dolphin and Whale Watching in the country! Tours run during light rain but may get canceled if it becomes too windy. You'll get a "whale check" that allows you to come back another time if conditions become unsafe.

*Visit Channel Islands Dolphin Adventures to book your trip and for more information.

whale watching channel islands

Channel Islands National Park

Whales and dolphins can be seen from a boat or the shore at Channel Islands National Park. The park visitor center has a tower with telescopes for whale watching.

Tip: The best time of day to watch whales is in the early morning before it gets too windy.

To book a tour to Channel Islands National Park, check out our park guide.

TIPS TO PLAN THE BEST WHALE WATCHING EXCURSION

1. Wear the right gear. Bring a jacket and dress in layers since tours can take place in the early morning. Wear comfortable flat shoes.

2. Check the forecast. Check the weather and marine forecast on the day of your trip. Ask about the cancellation policy for extreme weather.

3. Don't miss the boat because you're late. Give yourself plenty of time to find parking, get your ticket and board the boat.

4. Here's what to bring for your whale watching adventure:

  • Binoculars: You'll get an up-close view of these beautiful whales.
  • Camera: Bring a waterproof camera or case if you have one.
  • Sunscreen & lip balm: Avoid getting a sunburn while you're on your trip.
  • Sunglasses: Bring polarized lenses if you have them to avoid the glare from the waves.

WHALE WATCHING GUIDE CONCLUSION

We hope you found this guide to whale watching in Oxnard helpful. We'd love to see your pics! Find us on Instagram at @visitoxnardca and tag #VisitOxnard to share your pictures of whales and other wildlife.

Visiting Oxnard for the first time?
Here's how to plan your visit, including where to stay and the best things to do.

Whale Watching Tour Operators

Island Packers

Island Packers has boat trips to and from the Channel Islands. Our boats are powered by bio-diesel fuel and are eco friendly. The islands offer lots of fun for the entire family. While visiting the islands you can hike, camp, kayak or take a guided...

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Channel Islands Expeditions

This Epic Ocean Adventure is Vessel SupportedUsing our custom built "adventure vessel" the Sunfish to get to the islands, we unload the kayaks in an upwind location on the Western end of the island chain. We then paddle with the prevailing wind at our...

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Channel Islands Whale Watching

Southern California Whale Watching at its finest. Welcome to Channel Islands Whale Watching, the gateway to the beautiful world famous Channel Islands, located in Oxnard, California. We offer whale watching excursions during the annual Gray Whale...

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Channel Islands Sportfishing

Channel Islands Sport FishingFishing at its best! There is something about the enormity of the ocean and the vastness of its riches that call to anglers everywhere. Nowhere is that more true than here, fishing along the amazing Southern California Coast....

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Channel Islands Parasail

Channel Islands Parasail is the premier parasail operator based at the Marine Emporium Landing in the beautiful Channel Islands Harbor. Guests launch right from the boat and into the clear blue skies like a seagull, capturing views of the Southern...

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