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.)
1,547 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 73 191 0 = 191 100% 4.8
Last 6 months 113 287 0 = 287 100% 4.7
Last 12 months 297 788 0 = 788 100% 4.8
All 1,547 3,759 71 = 3,688 98% 4.6
1,547 Reviews
Displaying 1 - 10
Sort by: Date Attended Gender Age Where From Group Type
Rating: 5
Great Experience
Sat, Jul 4  12:00 PM Female 30-39 Local Family Without Children
I took my mom and sister whale watching on July 4th to pass the time.... I did not expect to have as much fun as I did. I upgraded my tickets to the upper deck (only 8 people can sit on top)... the upgrade was totally worth it! From the top deck you can see literally everything and you don't need to climb over people to get a photo of a whale.

We saw about 10 whales during our trip .... it is hard to put into words how magnificent it is to see whales up close!
Rating: 5
Great whale watching experience!
Thu, Jul 2  12:00 PM Female 20-29 Local Couple on a Date
First time I went whale watching was down in LA, didn't see a single whale. But this time with Stagnaros, we had an amazing encounter with a curious whale who decided to come close and explore our boat! She was literally feet away from us. She did this twice in one viewing! Our naturalist said this was indeed a rare encounter.

We also had some time to look for sharks towards the end of the trip, but while we didn't spot any sharks, we did see dolphins and otters in their kelp beds. As we were leaving to head back to the dock, several dolphins decided to entertain us with some bow-surfing!

The naturalist was extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable and really wanted us to learn about the whales.

Overall, it was a great experience and I highly recommend.
Rating: 5
Amazing experience our family will always remember
Thu, Jul 2  12:00 PM Female 40-49 Domestic Tourist(s) Family With Children
This was our first experience whale watching. The crew was very curtious and informative. We were able to spot several whales on our trip. We even had a whale come up close to the boat twice. The trip was thrilling, watching these majestic animals in their habitat. During our trip we also spotted dolphins and sea otters in the water too. We were very happy we booked this excursion and would definitely do it again.
Rating: 5
Highly informative and very entertaining
Wed, Jul 1  12:00 PM Male 40-49 Local Individual
I have been an avid whale watcher for many years. From 2001 to 2010, while I was living in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, I used to go out for whale watch cruises every year (Hervey and Moreton Bay). So yes I am a seasoned whale watcher. The fantastic thing about going on a whale watch cruise is...you never know what you are going to see. Wild whales do something different every day so every trip out is different as you get to see different behaviors. This trip was no different. Most times I see whales when they are en route, migrating somewhere and just stopping over for a few days. The whales of Monterey Bay live here during the summer months and feed on anchovies and krill. This is one behavior I have yet to see in the flesh.

Since Santa Cruz is a stones throw away from where Iive, I decided to find a whale watch that departed from there. I chose Stagnaro's as I read stellar reviews on Yelp about their services. I was not disappointed. The crew aboard the Stagnaro's really know their stuff, and it was an excellent way to get reacquainted with my beloved humpback whales (my 5 years in SoCal prior to my move to the Bay Area and I never had the chance to see humpbacks!). The naturalist on board that day was Megan and she was full of anecdotal knowledge and was really nice to talk to. The captain of the ship was also very well verse and he made sure everyone got a good glimpse of the whales by turning the boat around. His experience also shone through, as for his persistence. He tried to spot some great white sharks for us, of which he had seen on previous trips. We were not that lucky that day but he tried his best. Overall an excellent day out on the water, plus we got a few close runs with some feeding humpbacks. I will definitely be back for more humpback action. You guys can count on that. Highly recommended!!!!!!!
Rating: 5
Easy, fun, invigorating
Sun, Jun 28  10:15 AM Female 40-49 Local Group of Friends
Boat bolted out to the trench, maneuvered to see dolphins and whales. I loved it.
Rating: 5
Great Trip, Worth the price!
Sun, Jun 28  10:15 AM Female 30-39 Domestic Tourist(s) Family With Children
We had a wonderful time. The captain was a champ. He got us right up near some humpbacks, and quietly cruised alongside them for quite a while. When some were spotted breaching a little ways out he hightailed it right over to them. I loved that they had a naturalist on board to answer questions. She was very knowledgeable and thoroughly engaging. My twin 7 year olds can be quite excitable but she was so good with them. I highly recommend these folks and am eagerly looking forward to going again. BTW, we saw 5 different marine mammal species, 3 species of jellyfish, and several bird species as well. Loved it!
Rating: 5
Friendly crew
Sat, Jun 27  12:00 PM Male 30-39 Local Family With Children
We had a great experience on the whale watching trip of Monterey Bay with Stagnaro Charter Boats. The crew was very friendly and genuinely passionate about their jobs. The captain was great and worked really well with the entire group at spotting the whales. The Naturalist was awesome. She did a fantastic job explaining all of the sea life and providing really informative details that you could really understand. I wouldn't worry at all about getting sea sick, as the boat is of good size and stable.

I have lived in Santa Cruz for 38 years and this was my first time whale watching. I wish I had taken the time to enjoy this fun and educational journey in the past. I am really grateful that this sort of activity is available for all of the locals and visitors to enjoy.

I will definitely recommend this experience to my family and friends. It's a must if you come visit Santa Cruz!
Rating: 5
Fantastic experience!
Thu, Jun 25  11:00 AM Male 60-69 Domestic Tourist(s) Other
Everything we could hope for. Good weather, good people and cooperative wildlife. Started with a ham for a sea otter taking a bath. 5-8 black-footed albatros, most grounded due to lack of wind. 80 to 110 sooty shearwaters. numberous western and Heermann's gulls. Great next to boat looks at humbacked whales... maybe 5 to 10 different individuals over a 30 minute period. the high light was a very friendly male orca. Several looks. The Skipper and boat hand was the best, and we had the friendliest, most enjoyable naturalist. Coming back.
Rating: 3
Thu, Jun 25  11:00 AM Unspecified Unspecified Unspecified Unspecified
Rating: 5
Great day!
Mon, Jun 22  11:00 AM Female 50-59 Domestic Tourist(s) Family With Children
We all (3 adults, 2 kids 5-10) all had a great time. The boat ride alone was worth the ticket price, and the naturalist who came along did a great job telling us about the whales and other sea life we saw.
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Displaying 1 - 10 of 1,547
Ratings and Reviews for:
What whale and dolphin sightings have you seen lately?
Catching up on recent sightings from this week: MONDAY 6/29: 8 humpback whales, with several close drive-bys, flukes. 15 Risso’s Dolphin, close good looks with mother/calf pairs. TUESDAY 6/30: 2 humpbacks, tail throws, peck slapping, and 4 white sharks–one was 10 feet long, right under the boat for two minutes. Wednesday – Friday we checked out more sharks near Santa Cruz, and we continue to see humpback whales feeding and showing beautiful surface behaviors! We had a particularly friendly animal at the bow of the boat on Thursday, what a majestic sight! Join us this summer! More recent sightings reports and photos visit 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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