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.)
1,509 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 65 167 0 = 167 100% 4.8
Last 6 months 90 230 0 = 230 100% 4.7
Last 12 months 293 766 3 = 763 100% 4.8
All 1,509 3,659 71 = 3,588 97% 4.6
1,509 Reviews
Displaying 1 - 10
Sort by: Date Attended Gender Age Where From Group Type
Rating: 5
Sun, May 17  12:00 PM Female 40-49 Local Couple on a Date
Grew up in Mtry but never went on whale watching adventure... It was awesome. The crew was very experienced, knowledgeable and accommodating. The guide was as excited as we were when seeing whale activity. She made the trip...well the whales did too;)
Rating: 4
Who can have a bad day watching whales!?
Sun, May 17  12:00 PM Female 50-59 Domestic Tourist(s) Couple on a Date
We booked our whale watching trip with Santa Cruz Whale Watching online. We did not do a lot of Yelping or other research, we just booked it. We were familiar with the Santa Cruz area so the location of the launch is what we went with. If we had read other reviews, we would have been better prepared for the actual boat experience which was a bit rougher than I had anticipated.

This is a very utilitarian, spartan metal boat. You are VERY exposed to the elements so wear anything you think you will need to stay warm and DRY! I felt very sorry for the woman in her sari!

There is little comfortable seating unless you pay the $25 extra to sit in a separate, elevated part of the small boat away from all us commoners! (We had more fun down on the main deck, for sure!) Plan on standing for most of the trip and moving about with all your new friends. Seeing whales together has a magical, bonding effect.

Wear practical shoes that have some traction as the boat deck gets WET and moves around like a boat does on the open ocean, which is where you go to watch whales/dolphins/sea lions etc....Plan on standing for the majority of the 3-4 hour trip.

Don't count on any kind of food or drink of any substance. It was a really basic galley, not very clean either. It had a very distinct smell of FISH because this is a fishing boat!! Also, this is really an active trip and all the action goes on outside. Most of the people inside near the galley were trying to just get out of the elements or were sea sick and trying to be near the "head"! Also, you need both hands to hold onto the rail while outside and trying to hold a glass of wine was very impractical...for me, anyway!

Having said all that, the people who ran the tour couldn't have been more regular and nice. The naturalist was a really approachable lady who knew her stuff! She mingled with everyone, kept us informed of what we were seeing in the whale's behaviors and BOY DID WE SEE A LOT OF WHALES!!! By all accounts, we were not disappointed. The crew said that we had the great fortune of seeing one of the most active whale watching tours they had ever seen. BREACHING, TAIL SLAPPING, FIN CLAPPING, ROLLING IN FRONT OF US AND LOOKING AT US, A BABY WHALE WITH IT'S MOTHER....we saw it all, some of it very up close! We saw about a dozen whales up close. Two, then four, whales were about 25 feet from us and stuck with our boat for about 15 minutes. AMAZING.

SO! Grab your sneakers, a good all-weather jacket, some binoculars and a candy bar snack for your pocket.... and put on a happy face! There's something really special going on out there off Monterey Bay and, lucky us, Santa Cruz Whale Watching put's it all together.
Rating: 5
Whale Watching
Sun, May 17  12:00 PM Female 30-39 Domestic Tourist(s) Couple on a Date
my husband and I had a great trip. Loved looking at the whales and recommend anyone to book through serve. We will be definitely booking soon again
Rating: 5
Stagnaro' & Santa Cruz Whale Watching - fantastic!
Sun, May 17  12:00 PM Female 40-49 Local Couple on a Date
What a wonderful experience. Not only were the whales on point and active, Maureen and the crew were so friendly and knowledgeable and shared everyone's excitement.

They really know their stuff and I highly recommend this trip.
Rating: 5
Many Humpback we saw
Sun, May 17  12:00 PM Male 30-39 Local Family Without Children
We saw many Humpback, and it was so close to boat!

Also the explanation by tour guide is very helpful to understand those animals.

Thanks lots for Velocity boat team.
Rating: 5
They came to the boat!
Sat, May 16  10:00 AM Female 50-59 Domestic Tourist(s) Individual
This was my third whale-watching trip, but I had never seen any whales before. With this trip we saw many humpback whales, and three of them played around and under our boat. I could see their eyes, and the barnacles on their backs! They were so mesmerizing and beautiful to watch. It was an incredible experience!
Rating: 5
Great crew, great experience.
Sat, May 16  10:00 AM Female 30-39 Domestic Tourist(s) Individual
We got lucky. You never know what you're going to get, as you're just at the mercy of wild animals in their natural habitat. But our captain knew just where to find them. We didn't have to go very far out, according to our naturalist Megan. We hunted down some humpback whales and waited patiently. Saw some full body breeches in the distance as well as some tail slapping. One such tail slapping moment coincided perfectly with an albatross sighting, soaring right next to the whale. It was great! After much patient waiting three humpback whales took an interest in our boat and swam right up to us. We spent 20 minutes or so with three whales right next to us. Close enough for us to smell their breath. Wow. And really gross. Top notch whale watching. Doesn't get any better than that.

The boat was a boat. The crew was great. I highly recommend them. Though from reading their website I didn't realize that I needed to check in at the shop in Santa Cruz 45-60 minutes PRIOR to embarking. I didn't find that out until after I had purchased the tickets, and I was an hour away in Palo Alto. So make sure you have plenty of time to get to check in 45 minutes before you need to be at the harbor. That gives you time to drive down to the harbor, use the restroom, and get settled.

Some tips to make your trip better: take motion sickness medication before you embark. I did, and the water was fairly calm, but I still spent a few minutes at the back of the boat losing my morning coffee. And dress WARMLY. Wear layers so you can dress to comfort, but it can get COLD out on the water, even in the summer. With the wind and the spray. I was really shivering by the time we got back to dock and it took me a while to warm up. But so totally worth it. Make sure you lather on the sunscreen and wear sunglasses. And a beanie or a hood would be better than a ball cap. Just to be safe, you don't want it blowing off in the breeze. And if it looks like light rain, you'll want a poncho. In fact some people got pretty wet just from the spray.

You don't want to be encumbered by lots of belongings. Take a backpack with some snacks and a water bottle, and have your camera on a neck strap.

An experience of a lifetime. Well worth the cost. Thanks to the Stagnaro company!
Rating: 5
Two kinds of whales and dolphins.
Sun, May 10  12:00 PM Male 60-69 Domestic Tourist(s) Other
We had an extraordinary whale watching trip. It began with a large number of dolphins around the boat. Then two pods of humpback whales. They were of three adults and four adults. One had a calf. There were several breaches and many fin slaps. On the way back we came upon three Gray whales and a calf and two bottlednosed dolphins. A wonderful day of two types of whales and two types of dolphins.
Rating: 5
Great morning
Sat, May 9  10:00 AM Male 60-69 Domestic Tourist(s) Family Without Children
The boat ride was smooth, the views were great. We saw lots of humpback whales and Orcas.

Lots of sightings. Well worth it!
Rating: 5
Great equipment, great captain, & a lot of luck
Sat, May 9  10:00 AM Unspecified Unspecified Unspecified Unspecified
First, the boat is nice. Great size and power to motor out to the bay. Crew had a good, humorous spirit. The captain clearly has a high bar given the time he spends on the water. We got super lucky with our 3.5 hour tour that began at 10am by seeing a dozen orkas, a few humpbacks, dolphins, a few albatross. The captain was really excited about the big day but alas, you'll never know what's out there until you get there.

I would do this tour with these guys again based on the boat alone. Great equipment.
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Displaying 1 - 10 of 1,509
Ratings and Reviews for:
What whale and dolphin sightings have you seen lately?
Saturday, May 16, 2015 We counted 12 humpback whales out in the center of Monterey Bay. Four very friendly humpback whales stayed with the boat for a half-hour! These friendly whales were spy-hopping, pec-slapping, breaching and spinning near the boat, and looking up “people watching.” Everyone got sprayed by their spout! Sunday, May 17, 2015 There were 15 humpback whales on Sunday, and what a show! We got to see all types of whale surface behavior on display, including tandem breaches! Tandem tail lobbing! One whale approached the boat to look up at the people, another friendly encounter.
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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