Going on a whale-watching expedition in Alaska is an unforgettable experience with its inlets, bays, and fiords. Kenai Fjords National Park is one of Alaska's most popular places to see whales. Locations like Juneau offer guaranteed sightings with its nutritious feeding ground, while the Southeast Area is a popular spot for cruise ships. The peak season is from May to September, with boat excursions being the most popular way to enjoy their beauty.
There is nothing like seeing whales as they dance on, above, and beneath the waters of Alaska in all their mysterious beauty. We are drawn to their stunning magic, grace, and desire to connect and be social with humans.
The entire season goes from March to November, with various whales migrating through the waterways around Alaska. The season begins in March, with Gray whales making their first arrival. The season concludes with the gentle retreating of whales as they depart for deeper waters or to continue their migration to other areas.
Where is the Best Place to Go Whale Watching in Alaska?
The best place to go whale watching in Alaska that guarantees sightings is the Southeast Area of Alaska near Juneau. This is a popular destination for cruise ships to convene and enjoy the whales that circulate in these waters. The inside passage is home to various whales, making them a regular occurrence.
Visitors can enjoy seeing these whales via boat or cruise ship, along the shoreline, or in some spots via car. Juneau has a high concentration of whales during the peak season for visitors to see. Saginaw Channel and Favorite Channel are rich feeding grounds for the Humpback whales.
This area is noted as being the best place to see this species of whale in the entire world. During the season, close to 600 Humpback Whales gather in these waters.
Another great place to see whales is in the Anchorage Area. Less than an hour from Anchorage along the Seaward Highway is a spot known as Beluga Point. This spot is good for seeing Beluga whales at high tide. Also in this area, slightly closer to Anchorage, is the Turnagain Arm, which also offers Beluga whale sightings.
Finally, there is another hidden gem for whale watching, and that’s the Kodiak Area of Alaska. Not a first choice, but many whales are seen here throughout the season.
What is the Best Time of Day to See the Whales?
The best time of day to see the whales is in Alaska morning due to the calm waters. This time is also a good choice because whales are most active before sunrise. If visitors want to see the Humpback whale, they should try it during high tide.
Which is the Best Month to Go Whale Watching in Alaska?
The best month to go whale watching in Alaska is July. During this month, visitors have the best chance of seeing a variety of whales. Orca, better known as Killer whales and Humpback whales, may still be swimming in the waters around Alaska since their season runs through the end of June.
Beluga and Blue whales are beginning to arrive, and Bowhead whales may still be circulating. Grey whales will be long gone since their season is March through May, but all times are estimations.
Ideally, the best time of year for seeing the most common or popular whales would be mid-June to Mid-July. This time of year would allow visitors to see Orca Killer whales, Humpback whales, Beluga whales, Blue whales, and Bowhead whales.
What are the Most Reliable Ways to See Whales in Alaska?
The most reliable ways to see whales in Alaska are by boat excursion, cruises, and on the shoreline. The time of year and day, and location can affect sightings.
Boat excursions offer an up close and personal experience. The likelihood of seeing whales is also greater when out on the water versus on dry land. Peak season offers many choices of charter companies at various access points along the shoreline.
Every boat charter company will have its own way of doing things. Most have online reservations, which are required before departure. Boat excursions will usually be a half-day or full-day event. The full-day excursion will usually include lunch.
The Juneau and Southeast Area and Anchorage Area will provide multiple boat charter companies. Also, good choices for taking a boat out to see whales are the Kodiak and Seaward. Visitors can enjoy taking a personal kayak out on the water to see whales in the Homer Area.
Choosing a reputable charter company that sticks to respectful marine practices is important. It ensures the future of whale watching in Alaska.
Cruise ships are a great way to see whales in Alaska. From their vantage point in the water and their size, visitors traveling this way along the Alaska shoreline are guaranteed to see a larger variety of whales. During the peak season, they travel through these waters, and the Southeast Area near Juneau is where they frequent.
Cruise ships are reliable, and visitors are guaranteed to see some whales on the ship. Taking an Alaskan Cruise will also allow visitors to see other diverse marine life like porpoises and dolphins.
Birds and other nature can also be enjoyed for the short period they are in these waters. Cruise ships can be traveled from various points to Alaska and offer a well-rounded vacation experience that includes whale watching.
Visitors can enjoy seeing some whales in Alaska along the shoreline during the peak season. Whether on foot or in a car, they can enjoy sightings. The season and time of day greatly affect if a visitor sees whales from the shoreline, so does the location, and if they have equipment.
What Types of Whales Can You See in Alaska?
The types of whales you will see in Alaska include the Humpback whale, Beluga whale, Orca Killer whale, and Grey whales. Blue whales and Bowhead whales.
The whales of Alaska are Cetacean, a class of large mammals that includes approximately 90 species of porpoises, dolphins, and whales. All these ocean mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Some species are depleted, while others have further protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The largest population of whales in Alaska. These whales are usually located between Homer and Kodiak during the summer. They have a unique way of feeding by casting a bubble net they swim through during feeding. This net confuses any prey and protects them from harm.
These whales have a high concentration and cluster year-round in the waters of Alaska. There are five population groups Bristol Bay, Bering Sea, Cook Inlet, Beaufort Sea, and the Chukchi Sea. Two of these, the Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet populations, stay year-round.
Orca Killer Whales
These whales cluster on pods. They can be seen in different areas of the Alaskan seas but are commonly sighted in Kenai Fiords National Park near Seaward.
Grey whales spend over six months traveling the 10,000 miles run back and forth between Baja, California, and their feeding grounds in the Arctic. They get their name from their grey coloring.
These whales are less common than other whales in this area. They are the biggest whale to live, with a massive size of 90 feet long and nearly 200 tons.
The most important whale to Alaskan culture and nutritionally for the fishing villages. These whales spend their entire lives along the sea ice in the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas.
What Should You Wear When Whale Watching in Alaska?
You should wear multiple layers of clothing when whale watching in Alaska. Removing clothing and putting it back on as needed is always possible. If you don't, at least carry multiple layers of clothing with you on the trip.
The base layer clothing should be moisture-wicking. Then you should have an inner layer of clothing that's lightweight. Finally, the top layer of clothing should be heavier, more durable, and waterproof. The temperatures along the shoreline can be colder than inland. Wind and changes in temperature can vary from one location to the next. On a boat, it's even colder and windier.
Waterproof shoes and one or two layers of socks are a good idea. A hat and sunglasses are good to wear for comfort from any sun.
Tips for Whale Watching in Alaska
Get plenty of rest the night before to ensure energy and the best health possible since the boat tour will last a few hours or all day. It’s a good idea to eat a nutritious meal beforehand, get enough sleep the night before, and most importantly, relax. The journey is meant to be a fun experience.
Have the right mindset. Whale watching is an unforgettable experience; even if there are no whales that day, it's still a great experience. There is plenty of other nature and wildlife to be enjoyed on every cruise. Tour guides always point out all the sights, not just the whales. A positive mindset will prevent disappointments and allow for other exciting adventures on tour.
Carry a bag containing essentials, necessary medications, medical information, a small first aid kit, water, and some portable snacks. Situations can arise on land or on a boat in the water. Planning is important to prevent problems. If you are on a boat for the first time, carry motion sickness medicine just in case.
Weather and Equipment
Be weather savvy; tours will operate whether it's raining or sunny. Some people can tolerate being on a boat during unusual weather. Others can’t; being prepared is half the battle. It will also give visitors a good idea about what to pack. Some might need a pair of gloves or an extra shirt for warmth; everyone is different.
Carry sunblock and lip balm just in case it's extra sunny the day of your excursion. Also, be prepared and carry a waterproof bag to protect your phone, camera, and other delicate items. Carrying a waterproof bag while on the shoreline is helpful, too, since things can drop into the water accidentally.
Bigger boats are best for those who get seasick since they create a gentle smoother ride. Smaller vessels allow a more intimate experience and a chance to visit inlets and spots that the small tour boats can access.
Make sure all equipment for the tour is ready to go. Nothing spoils a tour like a camera or binoculars with a dirty lens or forgetting a waterproof sealed bag for protecting items. Pack the bag early and smart to ensure a great tour.
Arrive on time but preferably a little early. This ensures that you don’t miss the boat tour and prevents delays for other visitors who are whale watching. It helps the tour guides tremendously when their patrons are ready and waiting for the tour instead of them waiting for the patrons.
Whale watching in Alaska is breathtaking, with the many whales to see during the season. Peak season is the best time to watch whales, and boat tours are the best way to get close and enjoy the experience.
Numerous spots offer a chance to watch whales while driving, onshore, or on