Where To Find Whales In Alaska

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Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!

Summer Trips To Alaska
Grizzlies & Glaciers Tour

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See The Northern Lights

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When Is Whale Watching Season In Alaska?

Alaska’s wildlife viewing season is year-round, but if you are interested in seeing whales during your vacation you will have to plan your visit around whale season in Alaska! There are eight species of whales that frequent the cold and icy waters of Alaska – beluga, humpback, grey, orca, bowhead, blue, right, and minke whales. Some whales live and feed in Alaska’s waters year-round, but others begin their migration from the warm waters of Mexico in early February to arrive in Alaska in April. Keep reading to learn more about the best time to see whales in Alaska.

Alaska whale watching

Why Whales Migrate To Alaska

Many of the aquatic mammals found in the Gulf of Alaska are migratory. Each year, they move from their southern calving grounds in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula and Hawaii to the nutrient-dense waters of the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. This migration signifies the start of whale season in Alaska. Many visitors who come to Alaska to see whales want to know when whale watching season is in Alaska. The answer is summer! Once the whales have finished their long journey, the viewing opportunities for visitors are almost endless. Alaska’s peak whale-watching season runs May through September, which is also when most boat tours operate!

Five Fund Facts About Alaska’s Whale Population

Certain species of whales, like the orca, live and hunt in Alaska’s bays and inlets all year long. But it’s the summer months that offer visitors the best viewing opportunities. Gray whales are the first to arrive in Alaska’s waters, most often in April when they're often spotted off the coast of Seward. Humpback whales arrive in June, just in time for peak whale season in Alaska to begin.

  • The humpback whale reaches a maximum length of 60 feet and a maximum weight of 40 tons. Female humpback whales are larger than males! Humpback whales are known as “singing whales,” with songs from males lasting a half hour or more and changing year to year.
  • Most of the larger species of whales have a low reproductive rate. Female whales only have a single calf every 2-4 years. This low reproductive rate means that it takes decades for a whale population to see growth. Calves typically remain with mother whales for a year before becoming independent.
  •  Whales eat a variety of food from the entire food chain, from tiny zooplankton to other schools of fish to other large mammals. There are a variety of feeding styles in whale populations, too – some whales take huge gulps of water containing their prey (known as lunging) while others skim along with their mouths open before straining out their prey.
  • The sperm whale is a toothed whale. Toothed whales are known as odontocetes.
  • The blue whale is quite possibly the largest animal ever to inhabit the earth. Blue whales can grow up to 100 feet long (roughly the length of a basketball court) and weigh up to 160 tons.

How can I see whales in Alaska?

humback whale leaping out of water in AlaskaNow that you know when whale season in Alaska is, we can talk about the best ways and places to catch a glimpse of these incredible sea creatures. In peak season, these sea giants can often be sighted from the shore at select locations. But if you want a truly unforgettable experience, you’ll need to book a boat cruise in whale territory. You’ll also be able to see Alaska’s beautiful glaciers, rainforests, and other wildlife during a cruise. Here are some top whale-watching locations and corresponding times of year to see the various species of whales in Alaska:

  • Gray whales – whale season in Alaska starts with gray whales. The best places to see gray whales are Ketchikan, Sitka, Kodiak, or Seward. These whales can be spotted as they move to the far north Alaska waters of the Bering Sea. April and May are the best months to see gray whales in Alaska.
  • Beluga whales – beluga whales can be seen around Anchorage, in Cook Inlet and the Turnagain Arm, from spring until fall. They also can be seen year-round in the waters near Katmai National Park and Kodiak Island.
  • Humpback whales – more than 500 humpback whales call Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage home for the summer. June and July are the best months to see these enormous whales feeding in the waters between Homer and Kodiak.
  • Blue whales – to see these enormous beasts during whale season in Alaska, you’ll have to book a boat tour. Blue whales are more likely to be seen in open water, near the northern and eastern portion of the Gulf of Alaska. The best time to see blue whales is during the months of July and August.
  • Orcas – orcas (or “killer whales”) are year-round residents of Alaska. However, the best time to see orca pods is between early May and early June. You can see individual whales from June until September, though. Orcas can be seen near Seward, in the waters of Resurrection Bay.

What is the Best Way to Watch Whales in Alaska?

The best way to watch whales in Alaska is through a dedicated whale-watching tour. These tours typically offer specialized vessels equipped with expert guides who are knowledgeable about the behavior and habitats of whales in the region. Whale-watching tours take you to prime locations where whales are known to frequent, increasing your chances of encountering these magnificent creatures up close. Whether you opt for a boat tour or a smaller vessel like a kayak, these excursions provide an intimate and immersive experience, allowing you to witness the beauty of whales in their natural habitat. Additionally, many tours offer amenities such as onboard hydrophones to listen to the captivating sounds of whales underwater. With the guidance of experienced naturalists and the thrill of spotting whales in the wild, a dedicated whale-watching tour ensures a memorable and unforgettable adventure in Alaska.

Heading Out For A Whale Of An Adventure

Before you book your trip to Alaska to see whales, it’s important to know when whale watching season in Alaska is! Now that you know the best time to see whales in Alaska is during the summer months, you can start planning your trip. Just remember to pack layers and a waterproof jacket, along with sunscreens, bug repellant, and binoculars. Being prepared for anything will help you have a great time on the water during your whale-watching adventure.

Download all three Alaska tour brochures for tour dates and pricing.