Farallon Islands Whale Watching (May - Nov)

  • We have been leading whale watching trips in the Bay Area since 1984

  • We are a non-profit organization dedicated to marine conservation

  • We have the most experienced naturalists

Day trips to see whales, seabirds, sea lions, harbor porpoises, and much more.

Offered Saturdays and Sundays from May through November, with departures from San Francisco and Sausalito.

The Farallon Islands, just 27 miles off San Francisco, lie amid the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, a food-rich marine ecosystem that attracts whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and seabirds each summer and fall, to feed and to breed. Researchers have catalogued hundreds of individual humpbacks and blue whales as seasonal feeding residents. 23 species of marine mammals, including 18 species of whales and dolphins, can be found here.

Tufted Puffin, Farallon Islands The Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge is the largest seabird rookery in the contiguous United States with nesting Tufted Puffins, Pigeon Guillemots, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres and other species. Migratory seabirds such as Shearwaters, Jaegers, and Phalaropes are also attracted by these nutrient-rich waters. Island beaches are covered with sea lions, including massive Steller's sea lions, now on the Endangered Species List.

Each trip is led by an expert naturalist who assists with locating whales, identifying seabirds and other marine life, and who provide informative presentations throughout the trip on the islands and marine ecology of the area.

Read a review of our Farallon Islands trip in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Wildlife Calendar - What We See

Marine mammals are found both in the summer and fall and include Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, and Minke Whales; Risso’s Dolphins, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Northern Right Whale Dolphins; Harbor and Dall’s Porpoises. California and Steller Sea Lions; Northern Elephant Seals, Northern Fur Seals, Harbor Seals, Sea Otters are also possible. 

Spring-Summer (April-Aug): Western Grebes; Black-footed Albatrosses; Northern Fulmars; Pink-footed, Buller’s, Sooty Shearwaters; Ashy Storm-Petrels; Brown Pelicans; Double-crested, Brandt’s, Pelagic Cormorants; Black Oystercatchers; Red-necked, Red Phalaropes; Pomarine, Parasitic Jaegers; South Polar Skuas; Heermann’s, Herring, Western, Sabine’s Gulls; Caspian, Elegant, Common, Arctic, Forster’s Terns; Common Murres; Pigeon Guillemots; Xantus’s, Craveri’s, Marbled (rare) Murrelets; Cassin’s, Rhinoceros Auklets; Tufted PuffinsTufted Puffins and general bird diversity is better in May/June/early July.

Fall (Sep-Nov): Red-throated, Pacific, and Common Loons; Eared, Western, and Clark’s Grebes; Black-footed Albatrosses; Northern Fulmars; Pink-footed, Buller’s, Sooty, and Black-vented Shearwaters; Ashy, and Wilson’s (rare) Storm-Petrels; Brown Pelicans; Double-crested, Brandt’s, and Pelagic Cormorants; Black, Surf, and White-winged Scoters; Black Oystercatchers; Red-necked, and Red Phalaropes; Ruddy Turnstones; Pomarine, and Parasitic Jaegars; South Polar Skuas; Bonaparte’s, Heermann’s, Mew, Ring-billed, California, Herring, Western, Glaucous-winged, and Sabine’s Gulls; Caspian, Elegant, Arctic, and Forster’s Terns; Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets; Peregrine Falcon. 


Full-day whale watching cruises depart from San Francisco at 8:00am, and from Sausalito at 7:15 a.m. aboard the 56-foot Salty Lady, a Coast Guard certified vessel, on Saturdays and Sundays, and select Fridays, from mid-May through November.


San Francisco: Marina Yacht Harbor (7:30 AM) located at 3950 Scott Street, San Francisco (Map). Parking is free, but space is limited. You will return to this dock at 4:00 PM.


Sausalito: Clipper Yacht Harbor, on Harbor Drive. Check-in time is at 6:45 AM, and the boat leaves promptly at 7:00 AM.

Duration: Approximately 8 hours. In order to visit the whale "hot spots," including the Continental shelf, and have enough time to observe the wildlife at the islands, an 8-hour trip is required.  

Itinerary: Under the Golden Gate Bridge and west to the Farallon Islands. Weather permitting, we visit the Continental Shelf to search for deep water whales.

Vessel: Certified 56-foot Salty Lady. Our whale watching vessel offers an observation deck, indoor seating salon (limited indoor seating) and bathroom. Our captains are experienced in nature cruises.

Passenger maximum: 48.

Clothing: Warm, layers with water-proof outerwear for sea spray recommended.

Parking: Parking is free in San Francisco and Sausalito

Food & Refreshments: Bring lunch and beverages.

Age Restrictions: Age minimum 10; an adult must accompany youths under 15.


Many trips will benefit from the participation of a Cascadia Research Collective researcher who will be on board to collect data on humpback and blue whale distribution.

Oceanic Society is a nonprofit organization, and has been commended by the California State Senate for its public education service through Whale Watching and Farallon Islands programs. In cooperation with Cascadia Research Collective, Oceanic Society sponsors long-term humpback whale research in the Gulf of the Farallones. Since 1972, Oceanic Society has sponsored educational natural history encounters for over 140,000 people. Program revenues benefit environmental education and conservation research.

For recorded information on Oceanic Society's current sightings of wildlife please call the sightings hotline: 415 258-8220





Reserve Your Trip

Video: Friendly humpback   Video


Trips depart Saturdays & Sundays from San Francisco & Sausalito
2014 RATES: $125.00/person
Discounted group rates available. Please call for more information.


MAY 2014

Saturday, May 24 
Sunday, May 25
Saturday, May 31 

JUNE 2014

Sunday, June 1 - Sausalito only 
Saturday, June 7 
Sunday, June 8
Saturday, June 14
Sunday, June 15 
Saturday, June 21 
Sunday, June 22
Saturday, June 28

Sunday, June 29

JULY 2014

Saturday, July 5 
Sunday, July 6
Saturday, July 12 - Sausalito Only
Sunday, July 13
Saturday, July 19 
Sunday, July 20
Saturday, July 26
Sunday, July 27 - Sausalito Only


Saturday, August 2 
Sunday, August 3
Saturday, August 9
Sunday, August 10
Saturday, August 16 
Sunday, August 17
Saturday, August 23
Sunday, August 24
Saturday, August 30
Sunday, August 31


Saturday, September 6 - Sausalito Only
Sunday, September 7 - Sausalito Only
Saturday, September 13
Sunday, September 14
Saturday, September 20
Sunday, September 21
Saturday, September 27
Sunday, September 28


Saturday, October 4
Sunday, October 5 - Sausalito Only
Saturday, October 11 - Sausalito Only
Sunday, October 12
Saturday, October 18
Sunday, October 19
Saturday, October 25
Sunday, October 26


Saturday, November 1 
Sunday, November 2 - Sausalito Only
Saturday, November 8
Sunday, November 9 - Sausalito Only
Saturday, November 15 
Sunday, November 16
Saturday, November 22
Sunday, November 23 - Sausalito Only
Saturday, November 29
Sunday, November 30

2014 RATES: $125.00/person

Special group rates for 10 or more:  http://www.oceanicsociety.org/whaleGroups-farallons

We reserve the right to increase trip fees if there are exceptional cost increases for fuel. 


Reservations recommended - call our office for availability Monday-Friday 9am-5pm PST (415) 256-9604 or (800) 326-7491.

Whale Watching Gift Vouchers

"BLUE WHALE SIGHTINGS -- One of the single-most spectacular wildlife events of the year off the coast."


Share this