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10+ Amazing Places To See Sea Lions & Seals In SoCal 早

Who DOESN’T love a cute California sea lion?

Californians are lucky that seals and sea lions can be spotted up and down the coast year-round.

But what are the BEST spots?

Well in this post we’re revealing the best spots to see seals and sea lions in Southern California.

Have you been to any of these spots?

Number 14 is probably the best and most famous spot.

1. Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary, Carpinteria

We’re starting off with a place that’s specifically good for seeing seals, but you can also see sea lions in Carpinteria too.

The Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary, located in the small town of Carpinteria, is a special reserve where seals can be observed in their natural environment. 

seals at carpinteria seal sanctuary california

This sanctuary is particularly notable during the pupping season when seals come ashore to give birth and raise their young. 

The pupping season is generally from January through May and this is when the beach is normally closed to visitors.

Visitors can still view the seals from the bluff above the rookery which is easily accessible via the Coastal Trail.

This way you get to witness these special creatures without disturbing them.

It’s a unique opportunity to see seal families up close, especially during the quieter months of the year.

2. Channel Islands National Park 

Channel Islands National Park is a unique and relatively untouched set of islands off the coast of Southern California, near Ventura. 

seals sea lions channel islands national park california

The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including seals and sea lions that can often be seen resting on the beaches or rocks. 

Visiting these islands requires a boat trip, but the effort is worth it for the chance to see these animals in their natural habitat. 

Remember to bring your binoculars for the best views and to maintain distance, keeping the wildlife safe and undisturbed.

People generally set off to go to the Channel Islands from Ventura, Santa Barbara or Oxnard.

3. Oxnard, Channel Islands Harbor

Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard serves as a gateway to the Channel Islands National Park and is a location where visitors can sometimes see seals and sea lions. 

These marine mammals are attracted to the harbor’s calm waters and can often be found sunning themselves on the docks or swimming nearby. 

Boat tours departing from Channel Islands Harbor offer further opportunities to see seals, sea lions, and other marine wildlife in their natural habitat around the Channel Islands. 

The harbor area itself also features beautiful waterside paths for walking and enjoying the ocean views, with the chance of spotting these playful creatures along the way.

4. Point Dume, Malibu

Point Dume in Malibu is a prominent headland known for its stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and wide sandy beaches. 

point dume california

This natural landmark offers a unique vantage point for watching seals and sea lions, especially from the cliffs above the beach. 

The animals are often seen playing in the surf or resting on the beach below. 

For a closer look, visitors can take a hike down to Point Dume Beach where you can sometimes see the animals chilling on the beach.

point dume beach sea lion

Point Dume’s clear waters and protected coves also make it an ideal spot for snorkeling and paddleboarding, offering the chance to observe these marine animals in their natural habitat.

5. Leo Carrillo State Park

Leo Carrillo State Park, also located in Malibu, offers a variety of natural landscapes including beaches, tide pools, and coastal caves. 

leo carrillo state park beach

Seals and sea lions are often seen here, especially in the less crowded areas of the park. 

The park’s tide pools are another highlight, where you can observe marine life up close. 

For the best chance to see seals and sea lions, visit during low tide when they’re more likely to be found sunbathing on the rocks.

6. Marina del Rey

Marina del Rey is a picturesque waterfront community in Los Angeles County known for its bustling marina, the largest man-made small craft harbor in North America. 

Sea lion in Marina del Rey, CA

While it’s more urban than other spots on this list, you can still spot seals and sea lions sunbathing on docks or swimming in the harbor. 

Early mornings are usually the best time for sightings. 

Keep an eye on the water as you walk along the marina; you might just see a head popping up to say hello.

7. King Harbor, Redondo Beach

King Harbor in Redondo Beach is a vibrant waterfront community where visitors can enjoy beautiful views, dining, and the chance to see sea lions. 

The sea lions at King Harbor are a familiar sight, often found lounging on the docks and buoys or playing in the water. 

king harbor redondo beach

For those looking to see these animals, the best spots are near the marina and along the breakwater. 

Remember to keep a safe distance, as sea lions are wild animals and should be respected as such.

8. Long Beach

Long Beach, located in Los Angeles County, offers several opportunities to observe sea lions in their natural environment. 

The area around the Aquarium of the Pacific and along the marina are popular spots where these marine mammals can be seen resting on docks or swimming nearby. 

Long Beach’s coastal waters are rich in marine life, making it an ideal location for sea lion sightings.

Boat tours and harbor cruises are also available for those who wish to see these playful creatures from the water.

9. Santa Catalina Island

Santa Catalina Island (sometimes just called Catalina Island) is located off the coast of Southern California near places like Long Beach, Newport Beach and Dana Point.

It’s a picturesque destination with abundant wildlife, including seals and sea lions. 

santa catalina island avalon harbor

This Island is pretty unique and if youre not careful you might forget youre in California and think youre on the Amalfi Coast of Italy instead! 

The city of Avalon and the quieter Two Harbors are both good locations for spotting seals and sea lions.

Kayaking and snorkeling trips around the island can also provide encounters with seals and sea lions in their natural habitat. 

The animals are curious and may come close, but it’s important to respect their space and observe from a distance to ensure their safety and yours.

10. Newport Beach

Newport Beach offers a variety of spots where sea lions are frequently sighted, particularly around Newport Harbor. 

The animals are known to lounge on buoys and docks, soaking up the sun. 

Sea Lions on a Buoy in Newport Beach Harbor

For those interested in seeing these playful creatures, taking a harbor cruise can provide an up-close view. 

Additionally, the area’s beaches and piers offer a chance to see them from a distance, especially during the early morning or late afternoon.

11. Laguna Beach, Seal Rock (in Crescent Bay)

Seal Rock in Crescent Bay, Laguna Beach, is an iconic spot for observing seals and sea lions in their natural setting. 

This area is known for its clear waters and beautiful sandy beaches, making it a perfect backdrop for seal watching. 

But just remember that Seal Rock isnt on the beach.

At the northern end of Crescent Bay, about 120 yards offshore is where you can see Seal Rock. 

Crescent Bay, Laguna Beach

The marine animals are often seen here on Seal Rock, resting on the rocks or playing in the surf. 

For an insider tip, visit at sunrise or sunset when the animals are most active and the crowds are smaller, offering a peaceful experience.

12. Dana Point

Dana Point is a coastal city in Orange County, known for its tall cliffs and the Dana Point Harbor. 

The harbor area is a great place to see sea lions, especially around the docks where they like to sunbathe. 

sea lions on a dock in Dana Point Harbor

Boat tours from Dana Point also offer opportunities to see these animals in the water, along with other marine life like whales. 

Keep an eye out while walking along the marina to spot them, but to be fair, sea lions can often be heard before they’re seen anyway, thanks to their distinctive barks.

13. Oceanside Harbor

Oceanside Harbor, located in the northern part of San Diego County, offers a scenic spot where you can often see sea lions. 

oceanside harbor sea lions

They like to hang out around the docks and boats, basking in the sun. 

Visitors have a good chance of spotting them throughout the year. 

An insider tip is to walk along the harbor near the fishing boats, as sea lions are often drawn to these areas.

14. La Jolla, San Diego

This ones got to be one of the best on this list. 

La Jolla is particularly known for its sea lions. 

It’s famous for its beautiful coastline and it’s a prime spot for seal and sea lion viewing. 

La Jolla has so many spots to see sea lions youll be spoilt for choice. 

Here are just some of the spots you can easily see them lounging on the rocks or playing in the water. 

  • La Jolla Cove
  • Children’s Pool (Casa Beach)
  • Point La Jolla (Closed as of September 2023 to the public, but the boardwalk above is still open which gives you amazing views)
  • Shell Beach

The best time to see them is during the morning or late afternoon. 

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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