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San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

Singapore
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San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

From reading the various forum topics, it seems that the options to travel to Monterey Bay from San Francisco are rather limited. The recommendation is taking the Monterey Airbus which will mean we will need to head to the SFO airport from the city first.

The shuttle to SFO should be about $17 and the shuttle from SFO to Monterey Bay would be $50 per person. In total, the 4 of us will spend $268 to get to Monterey Bay and another $268 to get back.

We would like to get on a boat to go whale watching in Monterey Bay but would like to know if it is really worth the journey ( and money!) or would a similar tour in San Francisco let us experience the same 'magic'?

We will be in San Francisco ( 11-15 Oct)

Appreciate any advice! :)

San Francisco
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1. Re: San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

There are whale watching trips that leave out of San Francisco. But because of the geography of the coastline, it's much more of an open ocean experience. The tours go 25 miles outside the Golden Gate. If you get at all sea sick I wouldn't consider it. It's also a rather long tour. And, of course, there is no guarantee that you'll see whales (I'm not even sure this is the season).

But if that doesn't put you off, Google "whale watching San Francisco" and you'll come up with a number of hits.

On this board I only recall one trip report from people who went. I believe she called it the "swirling torment of despair." Read more here: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60713-i30-k472988…

San Francisco...
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2. Re: San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

The shuttle to Monterey isn't the only option. See tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60713-i30-k428359… for example. It suggests you could maybe take caltrain to San Jose and then a bus to Monterey, though there are only 3 buses a day.

You could also take Bart to the airport rather than a shuttle, which would save you around $8 per person per direction.

I took one of the San Francisco based whale watching tours years ago and it was ok, but we didn't see much except some whales pretty far in the distance. It took most of the day until around 3 pm or so. In the afternoon the wind started blowing more making the waves choppy and it pretty cool. While I don't think anyone got sick, some people went and hid in the indoor part of the boat and didn't seem to be enjoying themselves all that much.

If you went to Monterey would you also do other things besides whale watching? I'd guess you could potentially find tours down there, or see the aquarium also if you stayed a night or two.

Really having a car will be easiest for that many people going to Monterey, but I assume there is some reason preventing it.

Grover Beach...
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3. Re: San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

Whale watching trips are a hot or miss kind of thing. And most whale watch tours get their start in the morning, when the opportunity to spot whales is the greatest (Feeding time, in other words). If you were thinking of doing this as a day trip, then, no, not worth it.

San Francisco...
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4. Re: San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

It would be *much* less expensive to rent a car for the day to get to Monterey - you could likely rent a compact car for less than $50/day

Scottsdale, Arizona
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5. Re: San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

I can only share our experience. I was not really into whales, but my better half insisted we do this tour outside the Golden Gate. It was early morning so we loaded up on a huge, greasy Eagle Cafe breakfast before getting on the double-hulled tour boat. It was a clear calm day until we got out past the "Potato Patch" and then the waves picked up. I had no idea we would go out so far on the tour. It seemed like it went on forever. Then all of a sudden whales appeared...lots of them. The guide on the intercom went nuts and was literally screaming out that there were whales to the left of us, to the right of us, in front of us. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most amazing display we have ever seen on this tour!!!" (I would print this all in caps if TA would let me) As a non-whale guy, I must admit it was pretty cool. They were leaping out of the water, blowing water out of their blow holes and just being all around frisky. And they were gigantic. Unfortunately, during this entire display, the whale lover of the family was in the bowels of the boat barfing up a perfectly good Eagle Cafe breakfast. She never got to see a single whale.

So as was mentioned, if you have a strong stomach, go for it.

Santa Cruz...
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6. Re: San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

Just FYI, the what sightings in the Monterey Bay have been very good lately.

Gooogle "whale sightings Monterey Bay".

Edited: 06 July 2013, 00:42
Singapore
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7. Re: San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

Thanks all for the great advice! ( and funny story! thanks ugyved2!)

It does seem unfeasible to make it as a day trip to Monterey Bay to get on the whale watching tour there unless we rent a car.

The initial reservation about renting a car was from discussions in the other forums where I read about all how difficult it will be for a tourist to know the local SF traffic rules, colour zones, cleaning times, parking, etc. are these significantly reduced if we picked a car up early in the morning and return it back at night?

Another hesitation was the feedback on how traffic is congested getting to Monterey Bay with various suggested routes.

As Kibblesmom has said, these tours area really a hit and miss kinda thing so we'll have reconsider this part of the trip again.

Appreciate everyone's help! :)

Santa Cruz...
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8. Re: San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

The advice not to have a car in San Francisco does not apply to renting one to use for a day trip and then returning it.

The drive to Monterey is 3 hours, it is not traffic congested, well, not usually, unless you take the Hwy 101 route through San Jose. Which is why we suggest avoiding 101 and taking Hwy 280 to Hwy 85, which then runs into Hwy 101 south of San Jose, thus avoiding the traffic. Then you just watch for 15 WEST. Piece of cake.

San Francisco...
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9. Re: San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

< The initial reservation about renting a car was from discussions in the other forums where I read about all how difficult it will be for a tourist to know the local SF traffic rules, colour zones, cleaning times, parking, etc. are these significantly reduced if we picked a car up early in the morning and return it back at night?>

This shouldn't be an issue as you are renting the car to leave San Francisco and presumably return it later the same day

Santa Cruz...
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10. Re: San Francisco to Monterey Bay ( Whale Watching)

Oops. Typo. On your way to Monterey, watch for "156" West, not "15" West. Sorry.