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History of the Festival of Whales

The Festival of Whales in Dana Point was first held in 1972, making it one of the longest-running whale festivals in the United States. The event was created by the late Don Hansen, a pioneer of whale watching and sportfishing in Southern California, who initially organized the event to celebrate the annual migration of California gray whales along the Southern California coastline, particularly past Dana Point.


Over the years, the festival has grown into a significant community event, drawing visitors and locals alike to participate in various activities focused on marine education, conservation, and appreciation for these majestic marine mammals.

Dana Point is renowned for being a prime location for whale watching, particularly for the migration of the California gray whales. The festival celebrates the majestic migration of these whales as they pass by the Dana Point coastline during their journey between the cold waters of Alaska and the warm lagoons of Baja California. The Dana Point Festival of Whales offers a wide array of activities and events for locals and visitors alike to enjoy, promoting environmental education, marine conservation, and appreciation for these magnificent marine mammals.

Help Us Keep the Festival of Whales Clean and Green

The Dana Point Festival of Whales is an ocean-friendly event with many of our booths, displays and exhibits being very close to water’s edge. We ask that all our spectators , sponsors and exhibitors keep this ocean location top-of-mind and refrain from buying, selling and using single-use plastic water bottles, balloons, stickers, temporary tattoos, flyers or other materials that might find their way to the receiving waters of the Pacific Ocean.


Drinking fountains are plentiful for the refilling of water bottles. Please don’t forget to BYO (bring your own) water bottle and refill throughout the day. Please help us keep the Festival of Whales clean and green for generations to come. 

Did you know? Plastics are the most common form of marine debris. They can come from a variety of land- and ocean-based sources, enter the water in many ways, and impact the ocean. Once in the water, plastic debris never fully biodegrades.

  • Over 400 million tons of plastic are produced every year for use in a wide variety of applications.

  • At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.

  • Marine species ingest or are entangled by plastic debris, which causes severe injuries and death.

  • Plastic pollution threatens food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism, and contributes to climate change.

  • There is an urgent need to explore new and existing legally binding agreements to address marine plastic pollution.

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