Whales can be spotted in Santa Cruz throughout the day, but whale watching in the morning is recommended for optimal viewing. There are fewer clouds at that time, and the sea is less choppy, enhancing visibility and allowing watchers to distinguish a whale's spout from an ocean wave.
Whale-watching cruises are available at Santa Cruz. Humpback and blue whales can be seen year-round in Monterey Bay as can other species such as the minke whale. Whale watchers are more likely to spot a humpback or blue whale from May through mid-December when the whales come closer to shore to feed on the abundance of anchovies and krill. The annual migration of gray whales passes by Santa Cruz from mid-December to April.