A Chat With Next Level Sailing

San Diego’s location on the shores of the Pacific Ocean means we have a very rich maritime tradition. As part of this seafaring history, many local boating companies offer charters for fishing, sightseeing or — one of the more popular local activities — spotting whales. Since we’re right in the migration path of several species of these majestic ocean mammals, San Diego whale spotting is an adventure not to be missed.

In light of the fact that peak whale watching season is rapidly approaching, we recently spoke with Fathom Neft, Sales Representative and First Mate at our good friends (and Shelter Island neighbors!) Next Level Sailing. She was happy to let our guests know what to expect from the whale-spotting excursions they offer. Read on to see what’s in store!

Q: What can visitors expect from their first whale-watching experience with Next Level Sailing? 

A: First, they should know that Next Level Sailing has the highest success for spotting whales in San Diego. After being in the business for 16 years, our skill at finding whales throughout the year in San Diego is unmatched. As for the craft they’ll board, first-time whale-watchers will truly enjoy the yacht America — it’s the smoothest ride on the west coast! Our magnificent flagship vessel is 141 feet long and weighs 226,000 pounds, allowing her to cut through waves very easily. She also has a keel that is 11 feet deep, preventing any yaw movements, which minimizes the risk of seasickness. The deck is also completely open, allowing for all guests to enjoy panoramic views of the water. The excursion is also great for younger sailors, making this a fantastic family-friendly activity. We provide complimentary chips, granola bars, water, and soda, but you’re also welcome to bring your own picnic. Did we mention that we are also dog-friendly? There are a few resident dogs that sail with us on our daily whale-watching trips. If you want to bring a pup, you’re welcome to call us to make a free dog reservation at 619-922-6215.

Q: What’s the best time of year to book a whale-watching trip?

A: We are very lucky in San Diego because we have whales all year-round. Right now, we are at the height of our season with 26,000 gray whales migrating from Alaska down to Baja. We will see gray whales every single day from December-March. This is a great time to come whale watching!

Q: What makes whale watching in San Diego special?

A: San Diego is the best place to go whale watching for a variety of reasons. First, we have whales all year round. In the winter, we have gray whales swimming along our coast from Alaska down to Baja to mate and give birth. Then, these same gray whales start to head north to Alaska with their newborn calves when the water warms up. These beautiful creatures stay close to shore, providing guests with fantastic views. Starting in May and June, we’ll see massive blue whales feeding on krill in our nutrient-rich waters. We typically see fin whales feeding in these waters as well. Throughout the summer, we get to see a variety of other types of whales such as Bryde’s whales, minke whales, and even humpback whales. In the fall, we usually see more humpback whales and even orcas. We’re also lucky to often witness large pods of dolphins — such as Risso’s dolphin, offshore bottlenose, and Pacific white-sided dolphins — during this time of year. Sometimes, they congregate in the thousands, forming what’s called a “megapod.” All of these animals come to San Diego to feed on the dense schools of native prey that we have in our nutrient-rich waters.  

(Photo: Next Level Sailing)

Q: Can you tell us any stories about the most unique or exciting things you’ve had happen during a tour?

A: One of the best things about whale watching in San Diego is that every day is completely different. We never know what we are going to see! Just a few weeks ago, Captain Troy saw huge splashes in the distance. As we got closer, we found a large pod of Risso’s dolphins. There were at least 100 of these massive animals. We were able to follow them as they swam all the way to Point Loma. It was amazing to look at their beautiful markings and watch them swim alongside the yacht America. Not long ago, we also found a pair of gray whales. Captain Troy sailed very slowly to make sure the animals were comfortable with us. To everyone’s surprise, we saw one of the gray whales breach three times! It was amazing to see the animal’s entire body come out of the water. Every day is different, so the captain and crew are always excited to get out on the water.

Q: Is there anything new or exciting in the works that you would like our guests to be aware of?

Here at Next Level Sailing, we prioritize the protection of mother nature. With that in mind, we are always finding new ways to be eco-friendly. Since we are a sailboat, we burn less fuel all season compared to our competitors that burn the same amount of fuel in just one trip. We also have transitioned to LED lights on-board, so we are even more energy and eco-friendly. In addition, Next Level Sailing is the first dog-friendly whale watching company in San Diego. We do limit the number of dogs allowed during the voyage, however — so please give us a call to make your free dog reservation when booking your trip.

Q: What does Next Level Sailing offer Island Palms guests?

If you are staying at Island Palms, it’s a breeze to go whale watching with Next Level Sailing! We’re located right behind the hotel, just a few steps away from your room. There’s no need to even move your car. Walk on over to the delicious Blue Wave Bar and Grill for breakfast, then jump aboard the yacht America for an amazing whale watching excursion. It’s the perfect way to spend a day here in San Diego.

(Photo: Next Level Sailing)

Q: Have you been featured on any TV shows our guests might have seen?

Yes! Next Level Sailing’s yacht America has been featured on the Real World San Diego during the 2011 Season, as well as on National Geographic specials. Most recently, the yacht America was featured on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in the Over-poured and Over-board episode of Season 11. You can see a recap of the season here

Q: How can someone book their own whale watching excursion?

Feel free to give Next Level Sailing a call at (844) 684-4400, drop us a line at , or stop by the booking page on our website. We’ll be happy to help. We can’t wait to see you aboard for your next whale watching adventure!

Best Western Plus Island Palms would like to say a big “thank you” to Fathom Neft for all the information. And if you’re looking for a fantastic place to stay during your whale-watching adventure, guests who book an excursion with our Next Level Sailing neighbors can also enjoy an exclusive discount at our hotel!