Where to see seals in California

Where to see seals in California : elephant, seals and whales

Where to see seals and sea lions in California

One of the attractions of Highway One is its thriving population of seals and sea lions.
The California coast is in fact dotted with places where it is possible to spot them seals, sea lions and elephant seals. In none of these cases is it allowed or allowed to get close to them, but the distances are really small and the view excellent.

Starting from San Diego until San Francisco there will be no shortage of places where you can see them rolling on the sand or sunbathing undisturbed.

However, if you don’t know where to look you could miss some interesting stops.
Given that during the road trip that gives Las Vegas took us to San Francisco It took me a long time to find the locations, I decided to create a list for those who will venture along the Californian coast to make the choice easier.

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Wildlife Photography of Elephant during Golden Hour

San Diego-La Jolla

The best place to see San Diego seals and sea lions is in La Jolla along the Coast Boulevard tra The Cave Store a nord e la Childrean’s Pool a sud.

  • Children’s Pool – Originally an area intended for children to swim, given that it is protected from the waves, over the years the bay has begun to attract colonies of sea lions and seals, thus making the area now shared (or contested given that there are those who would like to make it a sanctuary for animals and those who would like it to remain for the use and consumption of humans) including children and seals.
  • Shell Beach – Shell Beach is located south of Boomer Beach, it is a small beach and includes Seal Rocka large rock off the coast where California sea lions like to congregate.
  • La Jolla Cove – La Jolla Cove is a small coastal cove surrounded by picturesque sandstone cliffs that protect the popular La Jolla Cove Beach. Gulls, cormorants, sea lions, and native plants line these bluffs above the ocean, making this one of the most beautiful and photographed areas of Southern California.

The Angels

The Angels it’s a gigantic city and, obviously, to be able to see marine wildlife you need to move to the coast so in this case I’m referring to Los Angeles County.
The two main places to spot seals are:

  • Marina del Rey – From Fisherman’s Wharf you reach Dock 52, most likely if you haven’t met them along the walk you will find them here! It is possible to take part in a tour in kayak o sup with the possibility of seal sighting.
  • Santa Monica Pier – With luck you can spot some seals from the pier.


San Francisco

San Francisco it is home to the legendary Pier39 where, before arriving, the noise and smell of the friendly sea lions that live in the bay, will guide you to the observation point.
Each winter the population can increase to up to 900 specimens, most of which are male.
During the summer months, sea lions migrate south to the Channel Islands for the breeding season, but generally a small group remains at the Pier year-round.

What is the difference between sea lions and seals?

It is not uncommon to confuse sea lions with seals. Both species are found in California, let’s learn to recognize them by some distinctive and unmistakable traits!

I sea ​​lions they are brown, often scream and walk using their flippers.
The seals instead they are decidedly quieter, of more colors and shades but above all they have smaller fins and these do not allow them to “get up”, like sea lions do, but they push themselves with force almost crawling, and it is impressive how fast they go.
Seals are more aquatic than sea lions and also more solitary and less sociable.
If we get a little closer, we will notice that sea lions have ears that are visible externally, whereas seals do not seem to have them, even if, if you look carefully, you will notice small holes on the side.

Where to see seals in California

Monterey – Otters and whales year round

Il Big Sur is a rugged stretch of California’s central coast between Carmel e San Simeon and is known for its winding roads, cliffs and stunning coastal views.
In this small corner that concentrates unique naturalistic but also faunal beauties.
Here I saw otters for the first time, and also the only one at the moment, and from November to April you can do excellent whale watching.
To see otters the best places in Monterey County are

  • Moss Landing State Beachwhere to see the otters it is recommended to take a kayak outing
  • Lovers Point Parkone of four small marine protected areas located near the cities of Monterey
  • Point Lobos State Reserve, an animal sanctuary but also an ideal place for hiking, scuba diving, bird watching and, obviously, sea otter spotting. Otters can be seen very well and up close.

From Monterey you can spot whales year-round with tours departing from Fisherman’s Wharf.
Among the whales that can be spotted are the megawattsfrom March to November, with peaks generally in the months of July and August, the gray whalesbetween December and May, with peaks in January and March, the blue whalesfrom May to October, with peaks generally in July and August, and the orcasfrom mid-April to mid-May and from the end of August to October.

Elephant seals at Piedras Blancas

The elephant seal colony of White stones It spans 6 miles of beach from Piedras Blancas Point on the central coast of California about 10km from San Simeon.

The observation areas are open every day of the year, are accessible to disabled people and are free. The volunteer rangers are always available to talk about the uses and habits of these wonderful animals.

The population of elephant seals varies from month to month, generally August is the month in which few specimens are sighted, only the largest remain on the beach, and then begin to return towards September.

Another beautiful park in which to spot elephant seals is Ano Nuevo State parkabout 100km south of San Francisco.

Where to see whales in California

California is one of the best places in the world for whale watching.
Every year or so 20,000 gray whales they make an epic 6,000-mile journey between Alaska and Mexico, then make the same journey in reverse.
These huge, itinerant mammals travel from feeding areas in the Mare in Bering to the mating and breeding lagoons along the Baja California in Mexico.
It’s one of the most incredible wildlife migrations on the planet and also relatively easy to spot if you travel at the right time.
In California there are many places where you can see whales right from the coast.
The northernmost of these is Mendocinowhere there are many panoramic points that make it easier to see.
Proceeding south you find the San Francisco Baywhere experts say 94% of migrant gray whales pass through, Santa Cruz, Moss Landing,  Monterey, Newport Beach south of Los Angeles.

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