Top 7 destinations for Whale Watching

From the icy landscapes of Antarctica to the tropical waters of Costa Rica, whales can often be easier to find than you think… here are the top destinations to spot whales and the best times to see them.

Whales are the largest animals on Earth reaching up to 100 feet and weighing 200 tons. These gentle ocean giants are top of the food chain, so they play a hugely important role in the overall health of the marine environment. 

When you embark on an expedition cruise, you’ll be exploring some of the most remote and pristine places on the planet where wildlife lives free. Our expedition itineraries are not completely set in stone, often our captains will divert course to grasp new opportunities such as wildlife watching, giving you greater opportunities to spot these beautiful creatures in their natural habitats.

1. Antarctica

Despite its freezing temperatures, Antarctica is a haven for wildlife. The surrounding ice-laden seas form a rich feeding area for large numbers of whales. Blue whales can eat up to 40 million krill per day making Antarctica the perfect place for them to live as Krill is one of the key species in the Antarctic ecosystem. The majestic whales can appear out of nowhere and may even pop up right next to you when you are out on smaller explorer boats or kayaking through the icebergs.

Which whales can you see? Blue, Killer/orca, Humpback, Fin, Minke, Sperm, Southern Right, Sei

Best time to see whales: February – March

Antarctica Expedition Cruises 

2. Iceland

Iceland’s long summer days, mineral-rich waters and fertile coastal cliffs attract a wonderful mix of sea mammals. Whales will migrate to Iceland during the summer months to feed and breed. Around twenty-three whale species have been spotted here… so there’s a good chance you’ll meet one on your expedition. Despite humpback whales getting all the attention because of their playful antics, minke whales are the most common whale species found in Iceland’s waters. Minkes can be curious creatures and are known for approaching ships, even keeping pace with the moving vessels at times!

Which whales can you see? Humpback, Minke, Harbour Porpoise, Blue

Best time to see whales: May – August

Iceland Expedition Cruises

3. Greenland

Greenland is the world’s largest island, and its ice-free fringed shores attract plenty of whale species. Most whales visit Greenland in the summer months when it's completely ice-free. The most common species that you may spot are the humpback whales, however, you may also be lucky enough to see the cheeky minke whales. Disko Bay is the best place for seeing whales. 

Which whales can you see? Minke, Humpback, Sperm, Fin, Bowhead, Narwhal, Beluga

Best time to see whales: April – September

Greenland Expedition Cruises

4. Norway

Due to Norway’s northerly location, diverse eco-system and elongated coastline, the Norwegian coastline has created a distinctive habit that attracts an abundance of whale species.  The plankton blooms caused by long summer days attract the whales here. Keep an eye out at sea to spot these creatures heave their huge frames acrobatically out of the water.

Which whales can you see? Sperm, Killer/Orca, Pilot, Humpback, Minke, Harbor Porpoise

Best time to see whales: October – mid-January

Norway Expedition Cruises

5. Alaska

Explore the epic wilderness of Alaska with soaring mountain ranges, vast forests and deep fjords which are home to an array of creatures. There are seven whale species as well as the largest dolphin species, the orca. Despite being commonly known as ‘killer whales’, taxonomists actually consider the orca as part of the dolphin species. Orcas will often pray on some whale species, leading to them being known as ‘killer of whales’. Over time, this morphed into Killer Whales and ironically mistaken for their own prey!

Which whales can you see? Beluga, Humpback, Gray, Bowhead, Blue, Minke, Killer/Orca

Best time to see whales: May – September

Alaska Expedition Cruises

6. Caribbean & Central America (Costa Rica)

The warm climate of this region creates a range of wildlife habitats, and the crystal-clear waters are brimming with aquatic life. For those heading to Costa Rica, look out for the majestic humpback whales who head here from the Antarctic peninsula during the summer months to breed in the warm waters.

Which whales can you see? Humpback

Best time to see whales: July – mid-November

Caribbean & Central America Expedition Cruises

7. North America

Wildlife flourishes across the East and West coasts of North America. As we cruise the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, it’s common to spot a Gray or Humpback whale. There are also occasional sightings of the largest animal in the world – the blue whale.

Which whales can you see? Grey, Humpback, Blue

Best time to see whales: July – mid-November

North America Cruises

Whales in Greenland
Photo: Stian Klo

Help us track whales on your expedition cruise!

ORCA is one of the UK’s leading whale and dolphin conservation charities, dedicated to the long-term protection of these beautiful animals and their habitats in the UK and European waters. Through our partnership with ORCA, you can also get involved with the conservation projects too by helping to track and record whales.

Find out more Find out more
Whales in Greenland
Photo: Stian Klo