It’s an awe-inspiring experience.

Now Is the Absolute Best Time To Book This Bucket List California Trip (But You Only Have Until April to Do It!)

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If you’re anything like me, your TikTok For You Page is filled with all sorts of encounters with whales these days. The mesmerizing, graceful sea creatures are absolutely captivating, and even more so in real life. And while the chilly winter season might not intuitively be the time when you’d head towards the water, it’s actually the best time of year for those wanting to see the migration of Pacific gray whales in the Channel Islands National Park.

Each winter, over 20,000 whales travel 6,000 miles, migrating through the Santa Barbara Channel from their feeding grounds in Alaska to their breeding grounds in Baja. They’re commonly sighted in the National Marine Sanctuary near Anacapa and Santa Cruz Island—two of the five islands that make up the park—during this peak season, which runs from December through mid-April.

Local operator Island Packers has recently had sightings of humpbacks, fin whales, common dolphins, and occasionally orcas in addition to the grays. Their three-and-a-half-hour Winter Whale Watch Cruise ($44 dollars for adults), which departs from both the Channel Islands and Ventura Harbors, runs from now til April 15, and provides stunning views of the Ventura coastline or the Channel Islands.

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If you’re more of a camper and want to do an overnight in the Channel Islands National Park, that’s also an option with Island Packers, which offers round trip transport fares as well as camping reservations, both of which are required for an overnight in the National Park. While the campsites are indeed rudimentary without water, there’s incredible kayaking, hiking, and secluded beaches to explore if you’re up for the adventure.

Here’s a sneak peak of some of whale sightings on the gray’s southbound migratory in the area to get you pumped up for the journey.

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