Whale Watching Trip on Monterey Bay

Stagnaro Charter Boats

Zerve Seller: Stagnaros
Activity #1050
  • See the diverse marine animals – Sea Lions, Otters, and more – that inhabit beautiful Monterey Bay during this fun, educational cruise.

  • Join us on this special cruise for a spectacular view of the Monte Foundation's annual fireworks display from our local Seacliff Beach.

  • Join us for a private charter cruise or fishing trip. Ideal for weddings, parties and other special events!

Available Dates & Times Price Duration
All times listed are Pacific time zone


Climb aboard the Velocity, our 60 foot luxury charter boat, and experience the Monterey Bay area like never before! In winter or summer, we take you to the depths of whale territory as we spot these magnificent creatures and much more!

Summer Whale & Sealife Excursion:
  • May through November: The Humpback Whales frequent the Monterey Bay as their feeding grounds.
  • Climb aboard and join us as we search the bay sanctuary for a variety of marine mammals including: Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Dolphins, Sea Otters, Sea Lions and more
Winter Whale Watching:
  • December through April: The winter is Gray Whale season. The chance of sighting the Gray Whales at this time is very high, somewhere around 90%!
  • 20,000 California Gray Whales pass through our bay waters on their annual winter migration from the cold arctic waters, to the warm lagoons of Baja Peninsula. You can get breathtaking close up views of these beautiful cetaceans. Sightings of dolphins and other marine mammals are also common. This is truly an Ocean Adventure for the whole family!
All trips are narrated, and offer fascinating insight by our knowledgeable crew. Trips can last approximately 3 to 4 hours, depending on the conditions, as we try to see as much wildlife as possible!

What Is Not Included?

Food and drinks are not included in the price of the cruise. The boat has a full-service galley that has available for purchase lunch, snacks, beer, wine, and soda. Previous guests who have enjoyed food and drinks aboard our boats have found $15, cash or credit, per person to be sufficient.

You can also bring your own food and drinks on board, but no outside alcohol. Coolers longer than 20" in length are not allowed.

Meeting Location

Stagnaro's Office, 1718 Brommer Street. Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA) (Exact meeting location details will be provided immediately upon purchase of tickets.)
1,445 Reviews Rating: 4.8 4.8 out of 5.0
Verified Customer Reviews
Always from real, paying customers
# of Reviews Positive
= Overall
% Positive Average
Last 3 months 20 48 0 = 48 100% 4.7
Last 6 months 87 229 0 = 229 100% 4.8
Last 12 months 261 681 3 = 678 100% 4.8
All 1,445 3,495 71 = 3,424 97% 4.6
1,445 Reviews
Displaying 1 - 10
Sort by: Date Attended Gender Age Where From Group Type
Rating: 5
Great experience and many whales w/ friendly staff
Sat, Feb 28  12:30 PM Male 30-39 Local Family With Children
Definately recommended to visit. Very much friendly and well educated staff.

Thanks for teaching my son about 20mins.
Rating: 5
Sat, Feb 28  12:30 PM Female 30-39 Local Family With Children
This was the best whale watching I have ever been on. We saw so many whales and even dolphins who were following our ship. It was just amazing. The crew were very knowledgeable and so friendly, I will do this again.
Rating: 3
Trivial info, poor business practices
Sun, Feb 22  11:00 AM Female 50-59 Combination Other
We had a beautiful, sunny day and our guide gave some minimally interesting facts. However, paying extra (for a "red band" option that was never mentioned anywhere except on the ship) to spend time w/what turned out to be the captains new love interest seemed cheesey. And I'm not sure the two girls paid the extra to be on the upper level. The guide was loud and overenthusiastic causing some of us to laugh AT her rather than WITH her. Stressed out "first mate was flustered about food and drink service because "somone chose not to show up for work" that day. He tried his best, but service suffered greatly. In my opinion, $75 should entirely go to the animalss that day....they made our day!! Also, the tour guides suggestion for good food @ Aldo's was crap!
Rating: 5
Sun, Feb 22  11:00 AM Male 60-69 Local Couple on a Date
great trip. good hosts
Rating: 3
Captain and Crew were absent or ill-mannered
Sat, Feb 21  12:00 PM Male 50-59 Local Group of Friends
While the Stagnaro naturalist (Marge?) was sweet, lively and informative with the charter passengers, this unfortunately barely made up for the Velocity's Captain and first mate's behavior. While the Captain himself sounded pleasant, he was a bit like the Great and Powerful OZ: he was absent and stayed in his second-story pilothouse the entire four hours, and we only heard his barely audible voice pointing out whale sightings through a poor speaker system.

The real disappointment however was their first mate/deck-hand/cook named Chris, who should have been left on the dock to gut fish, as he apparently left his manners and sense of humor somewhere there. Chris was quite rude to most of the passengers during the boarding and intro spiel, and he seems to need a lesson in manners and how to deal pleasantly with the public. Now, I'm a salty dog sailor with boat in the harbor myself, so I'm not allergic to some local color in a charter boat's crew, but this Chris should either get an attitude adjustment if he's going to be dealing with the public tours every day, or he should be taken off the whale watching tours and left to just bait the rigs for the fishing trips only; the average whale-watching public should not have to deal with his acidic tone, snide remarks and sarcasm.

We did see whales that day (as you can almost every day from Santa Cruz) but I really felt for the poor folks who got sick while aboard that day, as I did not see one of the two crew ever approach any of them with ginger candy, towels or a word of encouragement or advice on how to minimize their agony. I would suggest they turn off the smokey hamburger grill and instead serve sushi or some decent food that belches out less smoke than the diesel engines.

They seem to be taking a good thing for granted...perhaps because they have the whale-watching market nearly cornered in Santa Cruz. That is shame, as they could be such a better-run outfit, and leave people more informed, inspired, amazed and grateful with such whale encounters, but instead there was just a feeling that there was a sigh of relief by all just to be off the ship when we reached the dock 4 hours later.

I'm a wildlife biologist and I have had my sailboat in the Harbor myself for 15 years, which is how long ago I last took some out of town visitors out whale-watching with Stagnaro's...and it will be at least that long before I do it again if they don't clean up their deck-hands and/or their attitudes.
Rating: 5
Awesome trip!
Sat, Feb 21  12:00 PM Female 20-29 Combination Family Without Children
We had a great time! This was my second time whale watching with this company and my mom's first. We got to see up close and personal many humpbacks and a few gray whales. Our naturalist on board was so knowledgeable, so enthusiastic and fun. She really made the trip! We also learned a lot.
Rating: 5
Great family trip!
Wed, Feb 18  11:00 AM Female 40-49 Local Family With Children
Weather was beautiful, staff excellent, and we were amazed at all the wildlife we saw! Grey whales, Humbacks, and a huge group of dolphins! Can't wait to go again!
Rating: 5
Amazing experience!
Sun, Feb 15  12:30 PM Male 40-49 Local Individual
What can we say? This trip was fabulous!

Like everyone going to such trips we were a bit concerned we will not see whales... Well we certainly were not disappointed. It turned out that for some reason the Humpback Whales decided to stay late this season and we were lucky to meet them. We saw a dozen or more whales, some appeared very close (50 yards away). What amazing, elegant and beautiful creatures! In addition we saw many dozens of dolphins, some otters, seals and sea lions and so many types of birds. We stayed on the deck the whole trip (3.5) hours and loved every moment.

The ship was full (63 people) but it's a big boat so there room to move around and everyone around the deck.

The crew was great, captain and guide explained very clearly and were very professional.

Strongly recommended!
Rating: 5
Just incredible!
Sun, Feb 15  12:30 PM Female 20-29 Domestic Tourist(s) Couple on a Date
I have never seen so much ocean activity in my life! Of course we were lucky with the unusually warm waters, more food means more wildlife. The humpbacks apparently chose to hang out instead of migrating, so we saw maybe 20 individual whales. Hundreds of dolphins! I couldn't keep track.

The boat was lovely, and even though it was a very full charter at no point did I feel crowded or uncomfortable. We were also lucky weather wise, and had sunny skies the entire trip.

The crew was great, the captain was a wonderful narrator and the naturalist was so excited and informative about the animals! I would recommend this to anyone.

Even if we hadn't seen any animals, the scenery is beautiful and I'm sure we would still have learned quite a bit from the naturalist and captain.

Parking was a bit of a pain in the harbor, so be sure to arrive a little early! (Especially if it's a holiday weekend, like our trip was, as it's apparently the thing to do on holiday weekends)

Didn't sample the food on the trip, but the burgers smelled amazing. Smelled like typical, relatively cheap, outdoorsy burgers--My favorite kind.

I can't gush enough over how wonderful this day trip was. I hope everyone gets to experience even a taste of what we got!
Rating: 4
Sat, Feb 14  12:30 PM Male 40-49 Local Couple on a Date
I had a great time on a new adventure. I had never been whale watching before and it was very enjoyable. The staff was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I would definitely go again!
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Displaying 1 - 10 of 1,445
Ratings and Reviews for:
What whale and dolphin sightings have you seen lately?
NOTICE: From January 5th thru February 5th our main vessel Velocity will be in the shipyard undergoing a complete re-powering. She will soon be powered by engines that meet the latest EPA standards in clean burning, fuel saving marine motors. Meanwhile we will have our smaller 6-pack charter vessel Sea Stag Six available for charter for January. We apologize for any inconvenience this temporary closure may cause. Thanks and we hope to see you on the water! —The Santa Cruz Whale Watching Team. ........... Check for sightings updates at this link: http://santacruzwhalewatching.com/recent-sightings/
When do the Whale Watching Trips run?
Our trips are scheduled frequently throughout the year! Please check our calendar for upcoming events. Other marine life can also be seen on our inner bay 1 hour Scenic Cruise.
Do you guarantee that I will sees whales on the cruise?
We have a success rate of over 90% for sightings of whales and/or dolphins. Sea lions and otters are quite common in the bay. Mother nature can be elusive, but we will try our best.
How long is the trip?
Our trips may vary in length depending upon the time of year and where the whales are located. They can last between 3 and 4 hours, depending on where the animals are on a given day.
What is the best time of the year to see whales?
Anytime. We see different types of whales at different times throughout the year. Every trip is different. No two trips are alike.
Do I have to purchase tickets in advance?
Advance purchase is strongly recommended, and trips often sell out quickly. To maximize your chances of getting the day and time you prefer, please buy your tickets well in advance. Tickets can only be purchased with a Visa, Mastercard or American Express.
Are children allowed?
Yes, children are welcome to attend.
Is this cruise suitable for pregnant women?
For safety reasons, this cruise is not suitable for pregnant women. If you are pregnant and would like to attend anyway, you must first consult with your doctor.
What happens if it rains?
The trip runs rain or shine, regardless of weather conditions. But don't worry. Some of our best trips have taken place in less than perfect weather, so plan your attire accordingly. In the case of severe weather, we may cancel the activity up to an hour before the start time in which case you will be allowed to reschedule tickets (subject to availability) or receive credit for a future event.
Can you make special arrangements for groups?
We are able to accommodate groups of 10 or more who would like to go Whale Watching. If your group is interested in this trip, please click on the "Contact Stagnaros" link.
What types of food and beverages are served in the full-service galley?
You can purchase a variety of food and beverage items at the galley. For lunch/dinner, our selection includes cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, quesadillas, cold-cut sandwiches, chips, popcorn, and candy. Our drink selection includes soda, bottled water, beer, and wine.
I am planning on eating in the full service galley, how much money should I bring?
Approximately $15.00 should cover the cost of your lunch, as well as some wine or beer.
Can I bring my own food and/or beverages?
Yes. You can bring your own food and beverages, but outside alcohol cannot be brought onto the boat. Please limit your cooler size to less than 20 inches. Beer and wine are available for purchase in the full service galley.
Can I bring an ice chest?
A small one for your food and beverages (no alcohol!). Coolers longer than 20" in length are not allowed, so as to not deprive yourself or everyone else of space.
How close do we get to the whales?
Once spotted we must stay back and maintain a respectful distance of a minimum of 100 yards then let the whale do what the whale wants. Sometimes they will be very friendly and approach us at which time the engines are shut down.
Can I touch or swim with the whales?
Unfortunately, no. We are there to observe and learn. Besides, our waters are too cold!
Is there a bathroom on the boat?
Yes, there is a restroom on the boat.
What should I wear?
Warm layered clothing and rubber soled shoes are best. It is always much cooler on the ocean than on land, so it is better to be over dressed than under dressed. Once you become comfortable you can always peel a layer off. If rain is in the forecast, a poncho or raincoat may be necessary.
Will I get seasick?
We sure hope not. Unfortunately, this is not something we can predict. While we can't recommend you take any medications, prevention might be a good idea if you are susceptible to motion sickness.
Where does my trip end?
Your trip will end in the exact place that it starts from.
Where will we be going?
In the winter, we follow the gray whale migration routes. During the summer, the whales are active 8-10 miles off the shore.
Is the boat safe?
Absolutely. In addition to modern safety equipment (EPIRB, Life Floats, Life Jackets, etc.) our vessels are constantly maintained and inspected twice a year by the United States Coast Guard, a Division of Homeland Security.
Are there life jackets on the boat?
Yes, there are life jackets for every adult and child on board. The location of the jackets is clearly posted and verbally announced by the skipper.
Do I have to wear the life jacket?
No. You may choose to wear a life jacket if you feel you need one.
Are dogs or pets allowed on the boat?
No pets are allowed on our boat, but we may be able to allow service dogs on a case-by-case basis.
Is the boat wheelchair accessible?
Our boats are accessible to those with walkers and canes. Though we are often able to accommodate people in wheelchairs as well, our boats are not wheelchair accessible by average standards. If you are in a wheelchair, please keep in mind that steps leading to the boats prevent you from wheeling directly on board. As a result, you will need to be able to walk up the 4 stairs with help or have friends with you that will have to physically carry you from the dock, on to the boat, and back into your chair.
Where does the boat depart from?
Trips depart from the Santa Cruz West Harbor at Atlantic Avenue. HOWEVER, check-in for the trip happens at Stagnaro’s office at 1718 Brommer Street, Santa Cruz. The staff will then direct you to the boat, which is about a ten minute drive away. Don't worry - exact meeting location details and directions will be provided upon ticket purchase!
How early should I arrive to check in before my trip?
Please arrive AT LEAST 45 minutes before your trip begins. Remember to take traffic into account when making your plans, which is much heavier during the weekends and in the afternoons.
Is there shade on the boat?
Yes. Indoor seating and awnings are available if you need to get out of the sunlight.
Will there be room on the boat to stow my belongings?
There is a limited amount of space on the boat for your personal belongings. Please keep your coolers under 20 inches in length. Out of respect for your fellow passengers, please keep your personal items to a minimum.
Are gift certificates available?
Yes! Gift certificates for Stagnaro Charter Boats are great for any occasion. To purchase a gift certificate, click on the "Contact Stagnaros" link.


Refund/Rescheduling Policy

Non-refundable, cannot be rescheduled.
Once purchased, tickets cannot be refunded and cannot be rescheduled because your space is being guaranteed at the event.

Weather Policy

Activity may be cancelled due to severe weather.
The activity usually runs in light rain and other moderate weather conditions, but the seller may cancel the activity up to an hour before the start time in the event of severe or unsafe weather conditions. If the seller cancels the event, ticket-holders will be allowed to reschedule tickets (subject to availability) or receive credit for a future event.

Other Policies

Not suitable for pregnant women.
Pregnant women are not advised to attend due to the inherent motion of the boat and safety precautions. If you are pregnant and would like to attend anyway, you must first consult with your doctor.

Stagnaro Charter Boats

The Stagnaro family has been serving the Santa Cruz area for over a century, ever since Italian patriarch Cottardo Stagnaro settled in Santa Cruz in 1879.

This historical landmark business is still leading the way in ocean fun on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Today's fourth generation Stagnaro Charter Boats will surely make your trip fun and memorable.
Please call Zerve at
1 (800) 979-3370
to get more information or
book this activity now
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