At La Jolla Water Sports, guides undergo extensive training before captaining snorkeling excursions into the calm, crystalline waters of the Pacific. The experts escort 6 to 12 patrons at a time on shark tours of the shallow, sandy flats where small-mouthed leopard sharks up to 5 feet long lounge on their easy chairs of sand. Snorkeling tours of the La Jolla cove grant participants, including beginners and kids, a siren's-eye view of rock formations, underwater flora, and marina critters including garibaldi fish, sea cucumbers, anemones, and starfish. The most action-packed of La Jolla Water Sports's offerings are the spearfishing tours in which leaders expound on the importance of safety and proper form as customers skewer fish before schlepping them home for dinner or as treats for pet grizzly bears.
Pacific Nature Tours' experienced captains and their crews navigate a seaworthy 70-foot, US Coast Guard–inspected vessel—the Eclipse—through Mission Bay waters in search of friendly marine life and ambivalent birds. As the Eclipse safely sails around island coasts, knowledgeable naturalists narrate the expeditions, which include two whale-watching excursions. Aquatic creatures ranging from dolphins and sea lions to pool noodles can be spotted in their natural habitats from the ship's spacious deck or from within the interior viewing area, which is equipped with satellite TV. As the Eclipse navigates Mission Bay, passengers can feast on the galley's appetizing offerings, including Chris's world famous clam chowder, served with 4.5 hour tours. Meals are also included in longer trips and items available à la carte for all voyages. All tours operate out of Seaforth Sportfishing.
Though she's only a few decades old, the Privateer has already retired to a warmer climate. In May 2011—after 28 years of ferrying passengers around on whale-watching trips in brisk Massachusetts waters—she made her way down the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and to the warm San Diego coast. She hasn't stopped working, however. The Privateer still carries up to 149 passengers across ocean waves during sunset cruises. With her roomy outdoor decks, she makes it easy for people to have unobstructed views of the pink-and-gold horizon kissing the Pacific's azure waters.
With its fleet of luxurious vessels, Fisherman’s Landing leads equally adventurous, and often awe-inspiring, expeditions throughout the year. Its family-friendly half-day fishing trips encourage anglers of all ages to try their hands at snagging seasonal targets.
As a pod of 12 gray whales epically crashed through the waves, their mighty fins left a trail of mist in their wake. This jaw-dropping natural display didn’t come from the pages of National Geographic, but was actually witnessed live by a group on a whale-watching trip off the San Diego coast in January 2013. Private charter trips, meanwhile, offer a bit more flexibility as they cruise highly populated fishing zones such as the Coronado Islands and the backyard ponds of local celebrities.
Experienced crews at H&M Landing, one of San Diego's oldest sport-fishing companies, and Pacific Seafari Tours have been leading whale-watching trips since 1953 and 1969, respectively. Vessels float past the California Gray Whale's offshore migration to warmer waters during the winter, while summertime voyages sidle up beside blue whales, some of which stretch up to 100 feet and weigh up to 190 tons. Trained naturalists explain various sights on each tour, such as the sea lions and dolphin that gambol in both national and international waters, depending on the status of their travel visas.
The staff members at Another Side Of Los Angeles Tours take an unconventional approach to sightseeing. The goal is to fashion an experience that is as much about the sights as it is about the tour itself. Sightseers take to the air during helicopter tours, hot air balloon tours, and biking tours with optional ETs.
The company’s segway tours wheel saunterers through Mission Bay or the Gaslamp Quarter and the Embarcadero at sunset, when San Diego twinkles and teenage werewolves cycle through awkward states of half-transformation. In addition to information and adventure, the company frequently gives tour takers round-trip transportation, waives entrance fees, and serves bites to eat.
Venture out onto open waters to see how the other half of the animal kingdom lives and tastes. For $29, today's Groupon gets you five hours of fishing on a licensed and Coast Guard–inspected boat, all the necessary rods and lines, and a food voucher for the boat's galley from Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching (a $58.50 value). Kids 12 and under can come along and try their wriggly-wrasslin' skills for $22. And though, like barnacles on a whale's belly, kids can tag along with an adult for free on the 12:45 p.m. Sunday trips, you can buy here for a child's ticket good for any day of the week.