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Where To See Seals & Sea Lions In California – 2024 Guide

Welcome to the sunny state of California where the beaches are golden and the seals and sea lions are aplenty!

From the rocky shores of San Francisco to the sandy beaches of San Diego, there’s no shortage of opportunities to get up close and personal with these adorable animals.

I recently visited California and found that by far the best place to see seals/sea lions was at La Jolla Cove.

I’d recommend joining this kayaking tour around La Jolla to get up close & personal with the animals! This is the tour I did and I loved it.

In the rest of this post, I’ll be revealing all of the exact locations where you can see seals & sea lions across California.

Best Places To See Sea Lions & Seals In California

This post covers all of the best places to see seals & sea lions in California from San Diego to Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Here’s a quick overview of the top seal/sea lion locations:

Click on the links above to jump to a certain section of the post.

Where To See Sea Lions & Seals In San Diego

San Diego is by far the best place in California to see seals and sea lions. Here’s all of the exact locations in San Diego where you can find them.

La Jolla Cove

Based on firsthand experience, I’d say that the best sea lion & seal beach in California is at La Jolla Cove which is located within the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. 

They have a resident population of Pacific harbor seals and sea lions that you’ll find either lounging on the beach or relaxing on the rocks surrounding the cove.

Seals and sea lions of La Jolla.

You can see the seals/sea lions from above at Point La Jolla or join them down on the beach for an even better view.

Most people choose to get out onto the sea on a sea kayaking tour around La Jolla! This allows you to get closer to the seals & sea lions and ride right alongside them. 

This is the tour that I did when I visited La Jolla and I had an amazing time. I saw a ridiculous amount of seals and sea lions and really enjoyed exploring the caves.

If you’re not into kayaking, there’s plenty of other options including riding a segway

Address: La Jolla Cove, 1100 Coast Blvd. (at Girard Ave), La Jolla, CA 92037

Check out the seals at La Jolla Cove in the video below:

San Diego Harbor

You can also find sea lions in San Diego Harbor all year round. It’s one of the most reliable places in California to see sea lions.

It’s a large harbor meaning it can be difficult to see the sea lions from the harbor itself. That’s why I’d recommend joining this boat cruise around San Diego Harbor.

I also did this tour and again loved it! It was my first time in San Diego so getting out onto the water felt really magical and the fact that I saw so many sea lions was a huge bonus.

The expert guides take you right past the resident flock of sea lions that live in the bay and tell you all about them.

You’ll be able to see the sea lions sunbathing on the rocks just off the bay where they tend to hang out during the day.

Address: 990 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

Children’s Pool Beach

Children’s Pool Beach is located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. 

Seals and sea lions at Children’s Pool Beach, La Jolla.

The seals and sea lions here can be often seen lounging on the beach all year round so there’s really no bad time to visit.

I was genuinely so shocked when I arrived here for the first time as there were so many seals/sea lions lying on the beach! There must have been at least 50 or more.

This is also the location where lots of seals/sea lions give birth during pupping season, so if you’re lucky, you might even spot a baby seal or sea lion. Cool right!?

During pupping season, you’ll often be able to see hundreds of baby seals/sea lions. This occurs every year between January and March.

During pupping season, the beach itself is closed to visitors to give the animals some space but you can still get a great view of them from the boardwalk.

Address: Children’s Pool La Jolla, 834 Coast Blvd S, La Jolla, CA 92037

Check out the seals & sea lions at the Children’s Pool Beach in the video below:

If you need a little help navigating La Jolla then I’d recommend this guided walking tour of La Jolla.

This is super helpful and makes sure you don’t miss anything! You’ll also learn lots of great facts about the marine life in La Jolla.

Boomer Beach, La Jolla

Boomer Beach, also located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, is another hotspot for both seals and sea lions!

Seals and sea lions on Boomer Beach.

You will often find seals & sea lions relaxing or playing on the beach. The northern point of the beach is the best place to see the sea lions.

The seals tend to hang around on the sandy area of the beach right next to the water. The seals you’ll find here are Pacific harbor seals.

Address: Boomer Beach, San Diego, CA 92037

Shell Beach, La Jolla

At Shell Beach, also located in La Jolla, you’ll usually find the seals/sea lions lying on the rocks or on the sand. 

One of their favorite spots is on Seal Rock which is located about 100ft from the shore.

Address: Shell Beach, San Diego, CA 92037

Check out the seals & sea lions at Shell Beach in the video below:

SeaWorld San Diego

You can also see harbor seals at SeaWorld San Diego as well as tons of other interesting marine animals. 

At Sea Lion Point, you’ll pretty much always find the seals happily sleeping on the rocks enjoying the sunshine. 

Address: 500 Sea World Dr., San Diego, CA 92109

Check out the seals at SeaWorld San Diego in the video below:

Where To See Seals & Sea Lions In Los Angeles

San Diego isn’t the only place in California where you can meet seals & sea lions.

Los Angeles also has its fair share of seal/sea lion hangouts!

Marina del Rey

Fisherman’s Village, located within Marina del Rey, is a replica of a New England seaport and fishing town. It’s an excellent place to watch sea lions lounging on the docks.

The best way to see the sea lions up close is by getting out into the water! I’d recommend this 2-hour kayaking tour as your expert guide will show you exactly where to find the seals.

This is a great opportunity to get up close & personal with the sea lions and it is also super fun.

Another great place to see sea lions in Marina del Rey is at Burton W. Chace Park.

I saw tons of sea lions sunbathing on the docks of the marina from the park where we had an excellent view.

Address: Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Check out the sea lions at Marina del Rey in the video below:

Crescent Bay Beach

Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach is a large cove with a long sandy stretch of beach with rocky areas at the north and south ends.

At the north end of the beach you’ll find a large rock just offshore called Seal Rock.

Sea lions love to hang out here on the rock and also in the ocean nearby. You’ll get a fantastic view of them from the beach.

For the best view of the sea lions, I’d recommend getting out onto the water by joining this kayaking tour around Laguna Beach.

You literally can’t get any closer to the sea lions than this and you’ll also see lots of other marine life too including dolphins!

Alternatively, you can also try out stand up paddle boarding instead.

Address: Crescent Bay Beach, Cliff Drive and Barranca St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Check out the sea lions at Crescent Bay Beach in the video below:

Aquarium Of The Pacific

Aquarium Of The Pacific is an aquarium located in Long Beach where you can see seals and sea lions swimming around. There’s plenty of other animals to see here too.

They also offer a package where the animal care staff will take you into the seal/sea lions enclosure to meet them. You even get to help feed them!

Address: 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802

Santa Catalina Island

Santa Catalina Island has been home to seals and sea lions for a very long time.

Santa Catalina Island

Old Ben was a super friendly (and now legendary) sea lion who was a regular visitor of Avalon Harbor in Santa Catalina Island in the late 1800’s. 

Old Ben now has been immortalized in the form of a bronze statue which you can see by the harbor. 

Today, there’s plenty of places to see live seals and sea lions on Santa Catalina Island.

You can often see them in Avalon Harbor but the best place to see them is at Seal Rocks, at the east end of the island.

I did make the trip out to Santa Catalina Island on my last trip to Los Angeles and it was so worth it. Seals/sea lions galor!

At Seal Rocks, seals and sea lions gather in their hundreds all over the beaches and the rocks.

Check out the seals of Santa Catalina Island in the video below:

As well as seals, Santa Catalina Island is one of the best places in Los Angeles to see dolphins.

King Harbor in Redondo Beach

King Harbor in Redondo Beach also has its own colony of seals and sea lions that love to gather in the marina.

The Portofino Hotel actually offers their guests a front-row viewing of the seals/sea lions basking in their natural habitat.

They even have a gift shop with stuffed seal & sea lion dolls (complete with a donation to the Marine Mammal Care Center).

You can see the animals from the harbor itself or you could go kayaking and get even closer!

Address: King Harbor, 208 Yacht Club Way, Redondo Beach, CA. 90277

Check out the sea lions & seals at King Harbor in the video below:

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, located off the Santa Barbara coast on the Channel Islands, is home to 3 different species of seals as well as sea lions! 

Here you’ll find northern fur seals, harbor seals and northern elephant seals as well as California sea lions. You can easily access the islands by boat. 

They offer lots of different activities including kayaking, diving and boat trips where you can see lots of wildlife including seals and sea lions.

Where To See Seals & Sea Lions In San Francisco

San Francisco also has it’s fair share of seal/sea lion spots and is even home to one of their largest breeding colonies!

Año Nuevo State Park

The Año Nuevo State Park has one of the largest breeding colonies in the world for the northern elephant seal.

Loads of seals on the beach at Año Nuevo State Park.

During the breeding season which starts in December, you’ll find up to 10,000 seals on the beaches here. That’s crazy!?

Don’t worry if you’re visiting outside of breeding season as you can still see the seals basking on the sand all year round.

I didn’t visit during breeding season but I still managed to see at least 60 or so seals on the beaches! It was pretty exciting.

Address: 1 New Years Creek Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

Check out the seals at Año Nuevo State Park in the video below:

The Marine Mammal Center

The Marine Mammal Center in San Francisco rescues injured animals including seals.

You can visit their animal hospital to hear about what they do and to see the animals they’re currently looking after.

Baby elephant seals are common patients from February to May each year.

Address: 2000 Bunker Rd., Fort Cronkite, Sausalito, CA

Point Reyes

Northern elephant seals can also be found on the sandy beaches of Point Reyes.

One of the best viewing spots here is Drakes Beach which is right next to the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center.

The best time to visit is between December and March as this is mating season but the seals can be seen here all year round.

You’ll get excellent views of the seals from the Elephant Seal Overlook and South Beach Overlook.

Address: 1 Drakes Beach Road, Inverness, CA 94937

Check out the seals at Point Reyes in the video below:

Did you know you can also see seals in Hawaii?

Pier 39

The sea lions of Pier 39, locally referred to as the ‘Sea Lebrities’, can be found on  Pier 39’s West Marina in San Francisco. In the winter, up to 900 sea lions can be found here!

To find out more about the sea lions you can visit the Sea Lion Center at Aquarium of the Bay where they have fun displays and presentations.

You can then step out onto their dock for the best view of the sea lions.

Address: Pier 39, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133

Check out the sea lions at Pier 39 in the video below:

Where Else Can You See Seals & Sea Lions In California?

It’s not just the main cities that have seals and sea lions. There’s several other locations around California where seals/sea lions can be spotted year round.

One bonus is that these locations don’t tend to get as busy as the ones in the major cities!

San Simeon

San Simeon has an impressive colony of elephant seals which are actually the largest type of seals in the world.

In peak times, there can be up to 17,000 elephant seals on San Simeon shores!

Elephant seal in San Simeon.

The best times to visit are in January, April and October but you’ll see seals here all year long.

The Piedras Blancas Rookery

Located in Cambria near Sam Simeon, the Piedras Blancas Rookery is easy to access and is open for free all year round. It’s another great place to spot elephant seals.

The best time to see the seals here is from December to March but you’ll find them there all year long.

This is one of the best places in California to see elephant seals as you can get quite close to the seals.

Alternatively, you can also see them from above by walking along the boardwalk. At peak times up to 10,000 seals can be found here. 

Address: Plaza del Cavalier, 250 San Simeon Ave Suite 3B, San Simeon, CA 93452

Check out the seals at the Piedras Blancas Rookery in the video below:

Monterey Bay

Seals and sea lions can be spotted all year round on the beaches of Monterey Bay.

One of the best spots along Monterey Bay is the Coast Guard Pier, just next to the Reeside Access Beach Park, where you’ll see lots of seals and sea lions.

Another good place is all around the docks and boats at Fisherman’s Wharf right next to Del Monte Beach.

I’d recommend going kayaking around the bay for the best view of the sea lions & seals up close! Alternatively, you can go on an electric scooter tour.

Monterey Bay is easily accessible from San Francisco. The easiest way to get there is by joining a Monterey Bay day tour that includes transport to/fro San Francisco.

This makes the day super easy (you don’t have to worry about parking) and you can just sit back and enjoy your day.

Address: 1 Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, CA 93940

Point Lobos State Park

This national reserve is home to lots of wildlife including seals, sea lions, otters and whales.

Seals and sea lions in Point Lobos State Park.

The state park features lots of different walking trails which allows you to explore the park and discover the animals.

The Sea Lion Point Trail is a fun hiking route that offers fantastic views of sea lions/seals from above. If you follow the trail, you’ll be able to see the Sea Lion Cove.

The best spot to see it is Sea Lion Point where you can see and hear hundreds of sea lions that huddle together on the rocky islands just off the shore.

Their loud barking can be heard long before you reach Sea Lion Point so you’ll know when you’re close.

Address: Point Lobos Parking Lot, 2 Point Lobos, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923 

Please note: this address is for the parking lot where you can start your hike.

Check out the seals at Point Lobos State Park in the video below:

And that’s a wrap on this journey to discover the best spots to see seals and sea lions in California.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these amazing creatures and the places where you can observe them in their natural habitat.

With so many beautiful locations to choose from, I know you’ll have a memorable experience watching these playful creatures bask in the California sun.

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Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir, who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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