(I may earn a small commission on the products mentioned in this post.)
Unfortunately, the human eye has its limits. To circumvent the limits of our vision, humans invented binoculars which are useful for a wide range of activities.
Whether it be whale watching in the Indian Ocean, or bird watching in the Kalahari, binoculars can enhance your visual experience and bring you closer to the action.
Likewise, choosing a poor pair of binoculars can have the opposite effect. Beach Expert is here to help! We’re sharing the best binoculars for whale watching from shore – they are also great for dolphins and seabirds!
We’ve broken this article into 4 sections.:
Section 1: Compact | Our Pick: Bushnell 138005 H2O Waterproof
Section 2: Mid-range | Our Pick: Wingspan Optics Spectator 8X32
Section 3: Larger lens for low light | Our Pick: Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Porro Prism
Section 4: Accessories | Our pick: Gosky Pioneer 10×42 Monocular with Smartphone Adapter Kit for Whale watching and Birdwatching
Binoculars and My Whale Watching Trip to Sri Lanka
My recent travels inspired me to write this article. Last April I visited the island of Sri Lanka to take in some sights, enjoy the spicy food and friendly people, and appreciate the spectacular beaches.
I spent most of my time at the beach near Marissa, soaking up the sun and the waves. One day I went whale watching off the Southern Coast. It was a spectacular experience and something I’ll never forget.
The spinner dolphins were tiny and literally jumped out of the water spinning with excitement. I’m not sure if they are in the Northern Hemisphere but I’ve never seen them in California.
The blue whales were just as awesome. They moved with purpose and confidence as they took deep breaths at the ocean’s surface then dived deep into the depths.
I took plenty of photos and gained some good memories, however, what I didn’t have was a decent pair of binoculars.
Fortunately, I was able to use another passenger’s binoculars but they became foggy and weren’t very useful. Immediately after the trip, I made a note on my phone, “look for good binoculars”.
Binoculars for the Beach
Binoculars are a perfect tool for use at the beach. Surfers use them to size-up the waves, sunbathers use binoculars to scope out whales and dolphins from shore, and seabird watchers use binoculars to follow pelicans as they dive for fish.
In all cases, binoculars provide us with a great opportunity to get a deeper view into the natural life around us.
In this article, we’ll mention a few options for your time at the beach. If you need additional gear for the beach check out our article on must-have beach items.
You’ll need to decide which binoculars are right for your needs. Here are some things to consider:
- Will you need binoculars for ocean viewing?
- Do you want binoculars for whale watching from shore?
- Maybe you’re a lifeguard and need binoculars for beach viewing?
- Or possibly you’re a sailor and need marine binoculars with a compass?
Here’s another idea for those of you looking for the best marine binoculars. My father loves to sit on the balcony and look out of the harbor. Rather than birding or whale watching, he uses binoculars for ship-spotting.
Yes, he watches ships. It may seem strange, but where we live there are often U.S. Navy ships entering and exiting the harbor.
On a daily basis, we try to recognize the ship number and we look up to see whether its a cruiser or destroyer etc. The best days are watching a ship come into the harbor and the crew is on the deck in their dress whites.
In this article, you’ll be able to find a good pair of binoculars for ship-spotting too.
Beach Binoculars I’m Using Now
Currently, I’m using the Nikkon 8252 ACULON 10-22 x 50 Zoom. They are a beautiful pair of binoculars perfect for viewing at the beach or in the harbor.
My family takes them everywhere but normally they’re used on the coast while searching for whales, dolphins, and birds.
They run over 100 dollars but in my opinion, the Nikon ACULON are worth the cost.
What makes them unique to other beach binoculars is the zoom setting which can take magnification from 10 to 22 times – this works well for getting a close look at wildlife near and far.
Need to see far away? Just slide the zoom setting down and you go from a 10x to 22x zoom (I was blown away).
The lens diameter allows plenty of light for evening viewing and star gazing and looking at the moon through these powerful binoculars amazing.
Another thing I really like about this pair of binoculars is the rubber, non-slip grip that is soft on the hands. The grip isn’t a cold metal like some binoculars.
If you drop these or bump into something, they should be fine (however we recommend using the harness so you don’t drop them).
The Nikkon ACULON comes with end covers, a storage pouch, and a neck strap (don’t make the same mistake I did and buy a separate strap).
Needless-to-say I’ll be using these for many years to come and I’m planning on adding a tripod to view while at home (similar to a telescope).
Best Beach or Marine Binoculars for Whale Watching From Shore (Plus Seabirds)
Best Travel Binoculars
Compact binoculars can’t compete with the lens diameter (for light) that larger binoculars have, however they are easy to use and move with.
Often, they can just slip into your pocket while walking/hiking making them a good travel size binocular for whale watching.
No. 1 Bushnell 138005 Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular (8 x 25)
If you’re looking for a high-quality option that is still compact, the Bushnell 138005 might be your best bet.
Bushnell is a well-know binocular company making optics for outdoor sports for the past 65 years. They have the largest share of the optic industry because they make reliable and quality products.
- 8 X 25
- BaK-4 prisms for clear, bright viewing
- 100% waterproof and fog proof
- Rubber outer layer
- 12mm eye relief
- 15-foot close focus and center focus knob
This compact binocular option is sleek. In my opinion, the design is much better than the above-mentioned option (Aurosports).
The binoculars break down by folding together and it weighs roughly the same as the Aurosport at .75 lbs. I’ve owned a pair these in the past and they can fit in pockets or hung around the neck without feeling much pressure
One thing to note is the binocular optics are 8×25. The 8x magnification is great, however, the 25mm lens diameter won’t capture a lot of light during darker times.
A smaller lene is the sacrifice we make to have more a more compact binocular. However, there are other bonuses such as having 100% waterproof O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged for anti-fogging.
The rubber coating helps reduce shock and wear-and-tear. This product has a limited lifetime warranty which is nice – a good binocular for whale watching (travel size).
No. 2 Aurosports Folding Binoculars (10 x 25)
Aurosports binoculars offer a compact and affordable option for beach visitors on a budget. They are no doubt one of the more affordable options on our list but they are also the least advanced. The binoculars come black (as most binocs do) and fold to the middle to easily break down.
These binoculars can be held in one hand easily while fitting them in a pocket or fanny pack is possible too as long as there is some decent space.
- Compact and lightweight
- Can see well even at 1000 yards out (10x magnification)
- Grip coating to provide a slip-free holding
- Waterproof (to a point)
- Great for hiking, bird watching, and whale watching at the beach
As far as appearance goes, these aren’t my favorite. They have an old-school look to them, and while they are small and compact I believe they could reduce the size even further with straighter lines.
These binoculars won’t do well under low-light conditions however most people whale watching from shore will be using during daylight hours. On e-commerce sites, the reviews are impressive and the Aurosports 10X25 is one of their best sellers.
A few hundred reviews give Aurosports two-thumbs up. For the power and price, these are the best budget binoculars for your time at the beach.
No. 3 Wingspan Optics Spectator – Bird Watching (8 x 32)
Wingspan is an optics company that has focused on birdwatching. They offer “updated” designs with good magnification-lens ratios.
I like them a lot because of their appearance, but don’t get me wrong, the product is good as well. And I’m not the only one – these compact binoculars have hundreds of positive reviews that support my opinion.
- 8 X 32 = power + light
- Comes with neck strap, mesh carrying case, eyepiece and lens covers, microfiber lens cleaning cloth
- Lifetime warranty
- 1.2 lbs
- BaK-4 prism
Although these are considered “compact” the 8 X 32 provides good magnification with a 32mm lens, enough to capture light in dawn or dust. Since they are made for bird watching they may not be your first choice for a day at the beach but don’t look past them, they are versatile and come with a 100% lifetime warranty – now that’s impressive
These Wingspan binoculars measure 4.5 x 4.5 x 1.75 inches and are water and fog proof. The accessories they come with are great too.
It weighs 1.2 lbs and is small enough to fit in loose pants or around the neck. In my opinion, this is the best compact/mid-size binoculars for ocean viewing!
If you like these binoculars but need a little more lens for evening/night viewing, check out Wingspan’s 8 x 42 option here!
No. 4 Bushnell Falcon 133410 Binoculars w/ Case (7 x 35)
The Bushnell Falcon 133410 offers superior viewing at an affordable price. This is a classic looking binocular for Bushnell.
I believe that due to its popularity, they haven’t made many changes throughout the years and the reviews back up the quality. The Falcon binoculars have almost 2,000 positive reviews with excellent reviews. This model must be doing something right!
- 7 X 35 (decent option for viewing in evening or night)
- Affordable and quality
- Coated optics to increase light exposure
- 12mm eye relief and 5mm exit pupil (good for glasses)
- 35mm lens allows for plenty of light and wider viewing
- Instafocus technology that assists with focusing
- Comes with case and straps!
Here’s what I like and dislike about the binoculars. First let’s start with the likes:
- The lens size 35mm is wide enough to provide adequate light even in low light circumstances
- The “instafocus” system for moving targets and “focusing porro prism” will help to make images clear
- I like the fact it comes with a carrying case
- Affordability at a great price point
I don’t like:
- 7x magnification which isn’t small or large – I must admit that this magnification will provide more balanced viewing with less “bounce”
- I don’t like the design because it appears bulky (even though it weighs only 1.5 lbs).
This is a solid binocular at a marvelous price, great for viewing whales and bird from the beach shore.
Our large size section could also be called our high-end section. These are all beautiful binocular options for water sports. Whether sailing, cruising for whales and wildlife or hanging on the beach.
These binoculars will provide excellent quality viewing and attract attention due to their solid designs.
No. 5 Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Porro Prism (8 x 42)
Given Bushnell’s rich history as a sporting optics company, you can never go wrong with their binoculars. Their H2O waterproof and fog proof binocular is a sleek blue with everything you’d expect from a high-quality binocular.
With a magnification of 8x and lens diameter of 42mm, you’ll be able to see far and wide, even under the stars. This would also be a great option for whale watching from land.
- 8 x 42mm
- 17mm eye relief (good for glasses)
- O-ring sealed and nitrogen inserted for waterproof and fog proof
- BaK-4 prism
- Non-slip grip
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Weighs 1.75 lbs
The reason this binocular is good for the water is that it’s waterproof and fog proof. The design is clean, weight reasonable for a larger binocular (1.75 lbs), and I really like the 17mm eye relief – your eyes can be far away from the lens, perfect for glasses.
Like the other larger binoculars, the Bushnell H2O has a higher price point, but if you want the best quality from a reputable company, this may be your best choice.
No. 6 Promariner Watersport Marine Binoculars – Water/Fog Proof, Float (7 x 50)
Promariner was founded over 35 years ago and is based in New Hampshire, USA. Promariner makes a variety of sailing equipment products, including battery chargers, optics, and other marine accessories.
Ask any sailor about Promariner and chances are he/she has heard of them. They make some of the best marine binoculars on the market.
The Watersport 7 X 50 Marine Binoculars were made for the ocean. You’ll quickly notice the high lens measurements (50mm) which is great for low light and wide views.
The 7x magnification provides enough zoom to see the horizon but if it was any higher there would be a lot more bounce. Because the ocean waves can make binocular viewing more challenging, a lower magnification is perfect.
- Waterproof and Fog proof
- Nitrogen trapped inside the lens to prevent fogging
- BaK-4 prism with ruby coated lenses
- Field view angle 6.6″
- Field of view: 116m-1000m
- 3.5 lbs
I like the color and style of these binoculars and I like that they were made for the water…yes they float! If you happen to be viewing at night, you’ll be able to see the stars well with this binocular and will capture much more light than your eyes could
The binoculars are a little on the heavy side, however, with larger binoculars this is understandable. The Promariner Watersport also comes with a handy case!
No. 7 BARSKA – Waterproof + Floating w/ Internal Rangefinder & Compass (7 x 50)
Barska doesn’t have decades experience like Bushnell but they’ve been around since the early 1990s (1994). They make up for their lack of history with high-end optics, not only for whale and bird watching but for riflescopes, spotting scopes, and telescopes.
Barska’s products are for serious buyers but can be used for sailing, stargazing, concerts, and sporting events.
- 7 x 50
- Captures a lot of light
- Best marine binocular with rangefinder and compass
- BaK-4 prism
- Exit pupil 7.2mm and .91″ eye relief
- 2.38 lbs and measures 3.5 x 7.1 x 7.7 inches
The Barska Deep Sea 7 x 50 is a great option for the beach. It comes in a beautiful blue and black color scheme and a smooth design.
The 7 x 50 magnification and lens size will allow you to see without shake and capture a whole lot of light. With 50mm lens diameter this binocular would be amazing to use in the evening.
What sets this binocular apart from other options is built-in in rangefinder and directional compass – this is a great feature for someone wanting more than the average binocular.
These extras are perfect for the sailor. Barska’s Deep Sea binocular is also waterproof so don’t be afraid to get it near water.
All-in-all, Barska is offering a special product that, in my opinion, is the best marine binocular with a compass. This is the perfect binocular for serious sporting and a good binocular for whale watching.
Check out this video from Southern California. People swimming at the beach received an awesome surprise – this is that moment you needed binoculars on shore.
Binocular Accessories for Whale and Bird Watching
In this section, I wanted to mention a few additional items for the whale watcher in your family. Maybe you’re looking for a gift for someone who already has a nice set of binoculars.
The recommendations below are useful for cleaning, holding, and recording video at the beach.
Video Recording Monocular – Gosky Pioneer 10×42 Monocular with Smartphone Adapter Kit for Whale Watching Video
What I like about it is you can easily attach it to your smartphone (see in photo) for high-quality recording at a distance. It is compatible with iPhone, Samsung, and other smartphones plus it can be used without the phone attachment.
This is a simple solution to capture video during whale watching from the beach (or bird watching).
The zoom has come a long way in smartphones, but this monocular helps get you even closer to the action. It also has plenty of reviews on with a high average rating.
Binocular Harness – Vortex Harness Strap
The Vortex harness strap is a best seller for outdoor enthusiasts. It fits around the shoulders and can be adjusted based on size/height. The harness takes the pressure off the neck and evenly distributes the weight throughout the back and chest.
This helps with stress and reduces binocular movement. The straps are made from nylon and lycra
In addition to binoculars, the harness works well for cameras and rangefinders. With hundreds of positive reviews, this is a great accessory for the binocular user in your family.
Binocular Lens Cleaning Pen – Altura Photo Professional Cleaning Kit
We all know that using binoculars at the beach can lead to sand in strange places. If you need a good cleaning tool for your binoculars Altura is a good product to go with. They specialize in lens cleaning and use alcohol-free, ammonia free, and odor free solution that won’t harm your binocular or breathing.
They also include a microfiber cloth to avoid scratching and 50 sheets of cleaning tissue paper. It has a 90-day 100% guarantee so don’t worry if this is the right product for you.
The cleaning kit is affordable and in my opinion, it’s a great addition to someone who wants to view at the beach.
Considerations for the Best Binoculars for Whale Watching From Shore
When learning how to choose binoculars you’ll notice 2 numbers separated by an X. Here is an example: 7 X 50. It’s important to know what each number means so you purchase the correct type of binocular.
The first number is for magnification (ex: 7). The second is the measuring length of the lens (ex: 50). We’ll go into detail about these measurements below.
We’ll also cover the following:
- Magnification power
- Objective Lens Diameter
- Eye Relief and Binocular Quality
- Waterproof and Fogproof Binoculars
- Binocular Focus
There are additional criteria for evaluating binoculars however in this article we’re trying to keep things simple.
Magnification power for binoculars may be the most important aspect of the tool. After all, what good are binoculars if they don’t give you a closer view. Most quality binoculars will use between 5-10x magnification.
This means the binocular brings an object between 5 and 10 times closer. Imagine if you’re using a binocular with magnification 5x, you’ll see the image a lot closer, however, you’ll get much closer with binoculars that have 10x magnification.
Let’s say you need binoculars for whale watching from shore and the whale is 500 feet away. Using the 5 magnification (500/5) the whale will appear like it’s 100 feet away.
On the other hand, the 10 magnification (500/10) will make the whale appear 50 feet away. That’s a big difference!
Now you must be careful when deciding which magnification is best for you. If you have a 5x magnification the picture will be more stable and easier to control.
If you’re using a 10x magnification you’ll be able to see farther but might be too difficult to control (more shakey/bouncy). Usually, 7-8x is a good place to start.
Objective Lens Diameter
Lens diameter is the 2nd number often shown on binoculars (ex: 7 X 50). If the lens diameter is 50, then it is 50mm in diameter.
We won’t get too technical in this article but remember this: the larger the diameter, the more light captured by the binoculars and therefore the easier it will be to see in low light circumstance.
For example, in the evening or even at night (stargazing), binoculars with a larger lens will capture more light and be better for viewing.
With this in mind, you’ll also want to consider the size of the binocular, because the larger the lens, the heavier the binoculars will be. Finding a mid-range binocular with 35-55mm lens will help limit size but provide enough viewing light for dawn, dusk, and overcast days.
Eye Relief is Associated with the Quality of Binocular
Eye relief is another basic binocular term to know. Simply put, eye relief is the distance away from your eyes that you can still see through the binoculars.
Long eye relief is generally more comfortable because you can hold binoculars away from your eyes and eyelashes.
Eye relief is important especially if you wear glasses. If you happen to wear glasses consider an eye relief of at least 11mm.
Waterproof and Fogproof Binoculars
So, if you’re at the beach or on a boat, this one is important. Waterproof binoculars are not essential for the beach but they should be considered.
The waterproofing refers to the inside of the lens and once water penetrates the lens it can create all kinds of problems including being blurry and foggy. Once inside the lens, water sometimes has a difficult time drying out and may never dry. Waterproof lenses use an O-ring that seals the edges of the lens.
Fogproof binoculars are slightly more technical. The have nitrogen inserted into the lens and therefore don’t fog up due to humidity levels or temperature changes.
The fog proof quality won’t protect against the outside of the lens (you can just wipe off).
All decent binoculars have a focus adjustment.
This comes either on the right or left eyepiece and can adjust both sides with a simple turn of the device. All of the binoculars on our list are high quality with focus adjustments.
How to Clean Your Binoculars
There are some do’s and don’ts when caring for your binoculars. Generally, binoculars don’t need to be cleaned very often, however, when you do clean them, make sure you do it correctly.
When cleaning follow these steps:
- First, check the user’s instructions for your specific binoculars. Cleaning may differ slightly depending on the quality and characteristics of your product
- Blow away dirt and dust without fogging the lens
- Get rid of dust caking and fingerprints with a soft, microfiber cloth
- Finally, use a lens cleaning pen. Lens cleaning pen are useful for all high-end optics and are fairly cheap (as seen in the above section).
Don’t do the following:
- Store you binoculars standing on the rubber ends of the viewing lens. The soft rubber can bend or break and affect the viewing quality.
- Use a t-shirt or towel to clean the binocular lens. Most binocular lenses are treated to maximize light, rubbing with a rough cloth can damage the lens.
- Use moisture to clean the lens. Sometimes a slightly damp cloth is ok, however, I wouldn’t risk it. If your binoculars aren’t waterproof, moisture could get inside the lens and cause all kinds of problems. Better to use air, a microfiber cloth, and/or a lens cleaning pen.
In this article, we’ve covered some of the important characteristics of binoculars and provided some solid choices for your next visit to the beach. Binoculars come in many options for magnification and lens size and each option has its own strength.
Some of you might need the smaller compact models that are easy for travel and transport.
Others who are willing to travel with larger sizes might need a bigger lens size to help with areas of reduces lights or need something waterproof. Whether its whale watching in a boat, or bird watching from the bay, we hope you found this article useful. Thanks for reading!