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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.

Previous Festival Logos

The Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World®

Dana Point, California

Dana Point earned the title of the "Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World" due to its strategic location along the Southern California coast, which lies within the annual migration routes of numerous whale species, including gray whales, blue whales, and humpback whales, as well as large pods of dolphins. The area's rich marine biodiversity, coupled with its favorable weather conditions and abundance of marine life, has made it a prime destination for whale watching enthusiasts worldwide, solidifying Dana Point's reputation as a premier spot for observing these majestic marine mammals in their natural habitat.


America's First Whale Heritage Site

Feel good about whale watching in Dana Point.

Dana Point is proud to be the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas, as designated by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA)-- the world’s largest marine conservation partnership, dedicated to the promotion of safe and sustainable whale watching.

Whale Heritage Sites give you a transparent and easy way to select responsible whale and dolphin watching destinations.

Here's your VIP invitation to experience these animals in their natural habitat, in an authentic and respectful way.

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