The best way to see a whale is to find a nice place to sit. In other words you want to sit down, relax, and stay a while! Let your eyes adjust to the look of the ocean profile, that way you will quickly notice when it changes.
In the month of May when the females are migrating north very close to the shore, focus out about 150 - 200 feet past the breakers. Just scan the surface of the ocean with your eyes, back and forth. When a whale is passing by you will usually notice the spout first! You will see water spraying straight up, and when you see this, look for the whale. Shortly you will be able to see the body of the whale just below the surface of the water, and you will see glimpses of her back as she swims in the rocking fashion.
If you are lucky, you may see the whale and her calf (sometimes several of both) stop and play, roll, dive, and even peek up out of the water to see what is above the surface of the ocean. That is the special part of whale watching, and there are some known areas where this happens frequently. Often they have a favorite place along the shoreline where the water is shallow and they can scrape along the bottom sand. These are the spots that are the most fun for whale watchers because you can often see the whole body of the whale and even see some great maneuvers from time to time.
I usually see the whales in the late afternoon / early evening. I think this is because the water is often very calm at that time, and the surface is like glass. It is much easier to see the ripples and dimpled surface that sometimes happens when a whale is spending a little bit of time in that spot. But your eye can catch the sight of a spout or a large black area just under the water when the sea is glass-like.
It is a waiting game to see a whale, so best to settle down in the early evening and just wait. Hopefully your patience will be rewarded! There is something rather mystical about seeing the huge creatures gliding effortlessly over and through the water, especially in May when they are often so close to shore. You realize why so many books, songs, poems, and paintings speak of the whale and the awesome sight of one of these amazing creatures.
Good luck, and in this second week of May I have seen one whale off of Nesika Beach, very close to shore, and two in Yachats, just a little bit further out, but these two performed all kinds of movements for me from rolling, slapping the water with that huge tail and more. Yes, after all these years it still takes my breath away, and makes me feel that something just a little bit special has happened to me that day.
Come to the coast in May, and stay at one of our wonderful homes, at Wild Coast Vacations by the sea.