For some incredible California wildlife spotting head to these spots along the sunny coast.

The Golden State’s 1,100-mile shoreline abounds with tide pools, kelp forests and protected bays and beaches, making California one of the world’s most diverse habitats for wildlife. With World Animal Day approaching (4 October), discover the breadth of biodiversity with these California wildlife hotspots – from beautiful insects to majestic whales.

Sea lions – Santa Barbara

Sandwiched between rugged coastal mountains and south-facing beaches, Santa Barbara is often referred to as the American Riviera and the dramatic geography and warm Mediterranean climate are magnets for sea lions. The best way to get up close and personal with these creatures is on a guided kayak tour. Knowledgeable guides lead visitors through the history of the region and offer a front row seat to view wildlife. Santa Barbara’s coastline has an abundance of beautiful creatures to admire and if you’re lucky, you could paddle with a family of dolphins or wave to grey whales passing by on their yearly migration pattern.

Blue whales – Newport Beach

Southern California is blessed with a year-round whale migration and during the summer the warmer waters bring the giant blue whales to the California coast. Newport Beach, just an hour south of LA, is the perfect place to visit for a front row seat on whale spotting. On a daily basis, visitors have a high chance of seeing blue whales, dolphins and sea lions, and with professional guidance, visitors can use drones to watch these incredible creatures from above.

Newport Beach Whale california

Photo: Newport Beach

Monarch butterflies – Santa Cruz County

With an impressive variety of wildlife watching experiences for visitors to enjoy, Santa Cruz County has become a destination for nature lovers. From year-round whale watching, birding and otter spotting to elephant seals and seasonal monarch butterfly migrations have put Santa Cruz County firmly on the map. Monarch butterflies are one of Santa Cruz’s most beloved natural seasonal treasures and welcomed back in October to Natural Bridges State Park for their over-wintering habitat. Free 1-hour tours are available every weekend at 11am and 2pm to see these beautiful insects.

monarch butterfly california

Photo: Geoffrey Gilbert

Sea otters in Morro Bay – SLO CAL

From coast to inland, SLO CAL is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, from giant elephant seals to beautiful dolphins. Those in search of cute fluffy creatures should head to Morro Bay – the go-to place to catch sea otters in their natural habitat, due to the calm and protected waters in the bay. One of the best spots to ensure a sighting is by Morro Rock, which you can drive, bike and walk right up to. Alternatively, head out on a boat tour with Sub Sea Tours or hire a kayak for up-close-and-personal experiences.

Bird’s the word – Huntington Beach

A remarkable destination for birdwatchers and nature lovers, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve represents the culmination of decade of efforts by activists who battled to protect this wetlands ecosystem from development. An important migratory spot for hundreds of avian species, the Bolsa Chica Wetlands has some of the best birding in the US. After years of restoration work, you can now walk on five miles of trails, and spot both resident birds and transient species that use the wetlands as a critical stopover while migrating along the Pacific Flyway.

Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Huntington Beach 1 california

Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Huntington Beach

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