December begins the peak whale watching season in San Diego

The cultural offerings in San Diego are constantly evolving, giving residents a never-ending supply of fun and exciting ways to spend their time. As one of the premiere tourist destinations in California, the city also offers some of the best whale watching opportunities in the world. According to the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, gray whales have provided countless viewing spectacles since whale watching became popular in the late 1950s.

The peak of the season takes place between December and April, when California gray whales leave Arctic waters and migrate south to the warmer marine habitat off of southern California. During these months, giant whales come within miles of the San Diego shoreline and dazzle residents with their natural movements. The gray whale migration pattern is one of nature's greatest spectacles, as these mammals travel more than 5,000 miles on an annual basis. Groups of whales grow in number along the journey, as many mothers give birth and rear their babies in the warm coastal waters. During this time, whale watchers can have the pleasure of seeing more than 200 whales per day, the SDCVB reported.

Whale watching from the sea
If you're feeling adventurous, there are many companies based out of San Diego that run whale watching day excursions. The Maritime Museum of San Diego offers a unique experience, inviting visitors to view the wonders of the sea aboard the America - a 139-foot-long sailing yacht with low, sleek lines that provides ideal conditions for whale watching. The low decks will allow you to see the whales up-close, and offers the perfect vantage point for taking breathtaking, clear photographs. As the vessel travels out to sea, you can enjoy a narration about the whale migration habits you are about to witness.

Whale watching from land
If you want to go whale watching but fear heading out on the water, the city has two great viewing places for "landlubbers." Located on the Point Loma Peninsula, the Cabrillo National Monument provides exceptional panoramic views of the coastal waters. The scenic national park is home to an enclosed observatory that whale watchers can visit to view the water and learn more about the marine mammals' unique characteristics. There are also rangers available in the park to help visitors spot whales along the coast.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps is also a great vantage point, with an ideal location overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the La Jolla shoreline. Watchers can view the whale's journey in real-time from the aquarium's outdoor tide-pool plaza and celebrate the massive creatures with exhibits and other educational activities. The aquarium is open for whale watching from December through March and invites visitors to come celebrate whale season with other enthusiasts.

Summer blue whale migration
During the warmer months, thousands of giant blue and finback whales relocate to southern California. This phenomenon was first noticed in 2010 when the number of reported sightings grew exponentially. Although the prime whale watching opportunities take place in the colder months, the new migration has become a spectacle in the area. Blue and finback whales are the two largest beings on earth and can span more than 100 feet long. Unlike gray whales, these creatures appear to have a very relaxed temperament and are known to come very close to whale watchers. If you choose to go whale watching in the summer months, you may also have the privilege of seeing minke and humpback whales, sea lions and super pods (groups of 1,000 or more) of dolphins.