You don't have to go to Mexico or take a boat miles offshore to have the amazing experience of seeing gray whales up close. A kayak is an eco-friendly way to see gray whales migrating from Alaska to Baja as they pass the San Diego coast.

Whale watching in San Diego is a sport of its own, whether you're searching from a kayak or a big boat. Thousands of gray whales can be found heading south to the lagoons of Baja on their 10,000-mile round-trip migration.

On the San Diego Harbor Excursion cruise, people are armed with binoculars and cameras, just waiting for a glimpse at the gray giant. Eureka, we see whales!

Birch Aquarium at Scripps provides a naturalist on every whale watching excursion.

"I thought it was a pretty good day. We got to see lots of behavior that we don't always see, some breaching and some mating so we got to see some rolling of the whales," naturalist Kari Agostinelli said.

"We saw things we never thought we would see. Not just the spray out in the distance, but to see the whales up so close and then the breaching. We actually saw the whales breaching," whale watcher Kathy Ross said.

For a more intimate experience with the whales, some opt for self-motoring. A group of us with La Jolla Kayak paddled about a mile-plus off shore. It's pretty out here, and we can even see evidence of gray whales in the distance, but what are the chances of seeing a whale up close?

"It's very unusual to see a whale come up that quickly, especially come up that close. That was probably my third time seeing a whale that close, a very special day," tour guide Chris Burrows said.