Uncover The Best Time To Cruise Alaska For Whales - 5 Tips For Whale Watching

Whale Watching

Are you wondering about the best time to cruise Alaska for whales because you’ve always dreamed of seeing these massive and majestic beauties in the wild? Timing your Alaska cruise for peak whale watching is a common thing. Of course, the perk of cruising the crisp waters around the Last Frontier is that you’re also likely to catch glimpses of brown bears, bald eagles, harbor seals, sea lions, and many more wildlife species.

When is the best time to cruise Alaska for whales? Let’s get this important detail on the table right from the start. The peak season for whale watching in Alaska runs from May through September. This also happens to be peak cruise season. However, knowing that whales are seen in abundance during the summer months is only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to planning a successful whale watching excursion for the record books.

There are many tips and tricks to know. Depending on the different whale species you want to see, the peak window moves around a little. In addition, you may be able to enjoy the sights with fewer crowds if you have some flexibility for when you can book your Alaska cruise.

Let’s break down all the details that go into planning the best time for Alaska cruise to see whales!


1) The Best Times To See Certain Species Of Whales When You Cruise Alaska

Whale watching in Alaska is an opportunity to admire several different majestic whale species in the wild! While there will be chances to see whales of all types, you might want to be intentional about how you book a whale watching tour if you have your heart set on seeing a specific type of whale.

Here’s a quick rundown of the best times to see specific whales during Alaska whale excursions:

  • Gray Whales: March to May

  • Humpback Whales: June and July

  • Minke Whales: May to September

  • Orcas: May to June

  • Beluga Whales: Mid-July to August

  • Blue Whales: July and August

While these peak times for seeing different types of whales in Alaska provide a good idea of when you can expect to see specific species, it’s not uncommon for certain whale populations to linger for several months in certain spots.

For example, orca whales are seen throughout the year in Alaska even though prime viewing is from May to June. While humpback whales are most abundant during the middle of summer, they are commonly spotted from May through August.

It’s always a good idea to contact a whale watching company to get specifics on what you can expect to see when you book on certain dates.

See Humpback Whales Species In Alaska

2) Booking A Whale Watching Tour Is The Best Way To See Whales In Alaska

While it’s very possible that you’ll randomly spot whales in the water from your cruise ship or while hanging out by the shore, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll have a whale encounter just because you’re in town during peak whale season. Only whale watching excursions that bring you to the specific points where whales roam can guarantee that your Alaska vacation will be a certified whale watching adventure!

Luckily, booking a whale watching excursion in Alaska is a breeze. Icy Strait Point Excursions caters to cruise ship passengers by offering shore excursions in Icy Strait Point, Alaska right near the port in Hoonah. We offer guaranteed whale watching experience that brings our passengers to humpback whale feeding and migration locations.

Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of booking your whale watching adventure with us:

  • By exploring the area near Point Adolphus and Glacier Bay, you’ll be in the home of one of the largest summertime populations of humpback whales found anywhere in Alaska!

  • Our comfortable boats have heated cabins and viewing decks

  • Easy departure from Icy Strait Point Excursion Hub

  • You’ll take off just a short walk from your cruise ship

  • You’ll see spectacular scenery as we travel 1.5 miles through the picturesque landscape of Hoonah, Alaska

  • We’re so confident in the abilities of our captains and crew that we offer a $100 “whale sighting” guarantee!

  • If you want to see more wonders of the Alaskan wilderness, our bear search tours on Chichagof Island provide a one-of-a-kind experience in a place with one of the highest populations of bears per square mile!

Don’t miss your best chance to see whales in Alaska! Book your spot online with Icy Strait Point Excursions today!

Best Time To Cruise And Whale Watching In Alaska

3) Here’s How Close You’ll Get To Whales

As the world’s largest mammals, gray whales can weigh 90,000 pounds. At 50,000 to 80,000 pounds, humpback whales aren’t very far behind them. While whales are massive and intimidating, the truth is that the fragility of the environment makes them extremely vulnerable. It goes without saying that whales deserve respect for the safety of every person and creature involved!

With this in mind, you may be wondering how close you can get to whales during a whale excursion in Alaska. Based on standards set by the National Marine Fisheries Service, tours need to maintain a 100-yard spacing from whales while either approaching whales or sailing in whale watching areas. However, it’s very common for whales to approach a boat at a much closer distance once the boat has stopped.

By respecting whales, reputable tours actually offer guests some of the best chances to get amazing photos of humpback whales from a close distance!

Get Closer To Gray Whales In Alaska

4) You Might Be Able To Combine Whale Sightings And The Northern Lights

The best time to see the northern lights in Alaska is from late August through late April. This is the time of year when longer, darker nights allow for impeccable viewing from around 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly. The spring and fall are especially great for viewing because the Earth’s tilt around the equinoxes enhances auroral visibility.

What does that mean for your chances of seeing the northern lights if you come to Alaska during peak whale season? While the lights are technically active all year, the Alaskan summer’s lack of darkness makes it almost impossible to see them. However, timing your visit for the edges of whale season in April or August could make it possible to experience both during your vacation.

Combine Whale Watching And The Northern Lights

5) Whales Can Be Spotted At Popular National Parks In Alaska

While it’s not always easy to get to Alaska’s national parks if you’re exploring coastal Alaska on a cruise ship, there are certainly opportunities for epic whale sightings at parks.


Whale Watching In Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park near Resurrection Bay in Alaska is home to several whale species. While humpbacks are the most common whales seen at Kenai Fjords National Park, it’s not unusual to see orcas, fin whales, gray whales, blue whales, minke whales, and sperm whales passing through during migration via the Gulf of Alaska.

Experience Whale Watching In Kenai Fjords National Park

Are There Whales At Denali National Park?

No, Denali National Park doesn’t have a coast. However, Denali does offer 6 million acres of stunning wilderness that is home to grizzly bears, caribou, Dall’s sheep, moose, snowshoe hares, bald eagles, and more.

All hope is not lost for a whale sighting in Denali. Denali is notably home to a geological formation called the Whale’s Tail. This ridgeline found between Tokositna Glacier and Ruth Glacier unmistakably resembles a giant whale tail!

Grizzly Bears At Denali National Park

Whale Watching With Experienced Local Captains

Don’t let another summer pass by without booking a trip during the best time for Alaska cruise to see whales! You don’t need to be a whale expert to get access to known migration and feeding spots for Alaska’s whale species.

Simply book a tour with Alaska’s most experienced captains and whale guides with Icy Strait Point Excursions. Our trips are perfect for families and we promise you an unforgettable day with a whale sighting guarantee! We also carefully build our tour times around your ship’s schedule to ensure that you’ll be back on your ship on time.

With spots for peak whale season filling up quickly, we recommend booking the best whale watching excursion in Alaska today!

3 hours
Group Size
Up to 10

Wilderness Tour and Brown Bear Search - LEO, Military, Teacher Discount!

This Alaskan wilderness and bear search tour is offered on Chichagof Island, a one-of-a-kind location with the highest population of bears per square mile of any place on Earth. Depending on the season, catch the bears coming out of hibernation and looking for food; or later on in the season when the bears are mating and eating grasses on the tidal flats. Older males fight each other for dominance and mating rights with the females, who at times are not receptive and force the male to give chase. This is truly an experience for the books, and cameras.

3 hours
Group Size
Up to 30

Guaranteed Whale Watching Tours in Icy Straits - LEO, Military, Teacher Discount!

Join us for the best show in town, a 3-hour whale watching excursion (includes transportation time and approx 2.5 hours on the water) which begins when you board the bus that departs from the Icy Strait Point Excursion Hub, just a short 5-minute walk from your cruise ship. Travel just 1.5 miles through the picturesque landscape of Hoonah, Alaska. On arrival at the Hoonah Harbor, it's “All aboard!” and you’re off for the waters of Icy Straits and the ultimate whale watching experience. The area near Icy Strait Point, with its proximity to Point Adolphus and Glacier Bay, is home to one of the largest summer populations of humpback whales found in Alaska and the whale watching is second to none.

3 hours
Group Size
Up to 6

Saltwater Fishing Adventure

Join local maritime hero Captain Billy, a locally raised Tlingit of Hoonah, Alaska on this unforgettable fishing adventure. His knowledge of area waters is unsurpassed and his desire to share it with you is second to none! Southeast Alaska and Icy Strait in particular, is home to some of the best halibut and salmon fishing around. The biggest halibut on record was caught inside Icy Strait! Hoonah is just a stones throw from Icy Strait so no time is wasted getting to the fishing grounds and the hooks down!

3 hours
Group Size
Up to 12

Kayak Adventure

Your Kayak experience will take you into the peaceful waters of Port Frederick. Enjoy the serenity that can only be had while quietly gliding across the waters near Icy Strait Point enjoying the beautiful Alaskan scenery. Wildlife such as; eagles, seals, sea lions, Sitka black tail deer, whales, and even a bear on the beach are possible sightings. Take a journey into this serene kayak adventure on Icy Strait for an unforgettable experience!

3 hours
Group Size
Up to 14

Whales, Wildlife & Drones

This whale watching tour is personalized, as it takes out a maximum of 14 guests at a time. This allows for a great crew to guest ratio, ensuring your experience is personal. The areas we search near in Hoonah near Icy Strait Point and Point Adolphus are known Humpback whale feeding grounds. Josh has captained in this area for many years and knows the area well! He know how to find the whales! Add in the communication he has with other captains on the other boats, and it's a perfect whale finding system!

What really makes this tour unique is the Drone imagery. Drones are able to see below the water surface and broadcast live video back to the boat.
View pods of orcas effortlessly gliding under the waves, on rare occasions, see humpback calfs playing with their mothers, on rare occasions, the amazing phenomenon of "bubble-net" feeding by groups of humpbacks is seen. Your personal view of the whales is not repaced with drones; just supplemented! You will experience seeing and hearing these amazing animals with your own eyes and ears, and then we take you to the next level with our displays onboard.

4 to 5 hours
Group Size
1 to 6

Freshwater Stream Fishing

Professionally guided stream fishing excursions on the hidden edge waters of Chichagof, Island.

3 hours 30 minutes
Group Size
2 to 10

Icy Strait Birding & Nature Experience

Come experience the birds and nature of Chichagof Island, near Icy Strait Point! Every trip is an adventure in this lush rainforest where Brown Bears outnumber humans. While we love delivering stunning target birds like Varied Thrushes, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Red-breasted Sapsuckers, Bald Eagles, and Steller’s Jays, we aren’t just about birds on this tour. You will be led by an expert birder and naturalist who will set the stage by sharing the human and geological history of the area. You will then get to see how the birds, fish, mammals, plants, forests, rivers, and climate all weave together to create this lush, vibrant ecosystem!