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California whale watching, from $135

/ Source: ARTHUR FROMMER'S BUDGET TRAVEL

Dennen's Victorian Farmhouse, dating from 1877, faces the Pacific Ocean and the tidal pools and rock formations of Buckhorn Cove. It's surrounded by Van Damme State Park, and within a quick drive of the Anderson Valley wine region. The farmhouse's 10 prim rooms are decorated with antique wood furnishings, feather beds, and in some cases, fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs. Gourmet breakfast delivered to your room is another perk. If you book a two-night stay this spring, you'll receive a free whale-watching tour for two aboard Anchor Charters (valued at $70). Rates start at $290 for the two-night stay.

When: Through April 30, 2008.

Details: Taxes are an additional 11 percent. Based on double or single occupancy.

Contact: 800/264-4723, victorianfarmhouse.com.

On a hillside overlooking the dramatic Pacific coastline, the Little River Inn has been family run since the 1800s and goes all out for the whale-watching season, with storytellers, scrimshaw-carving demonstrations, a mermaid, and rounds of homemade grog among the festivities. Stay three nights in a Bayside room — with floral bedspreads and glass doors opening onto a large deck — and you'll get a whale-watching ride from All Aboard Adventures (valued at $70). Rates start at $405 per room for the three-night stay.

When: Through March 31, 2008.

Details: Taxes are an additional 11 percent. Based on double or single occupancy.

Contact: 707/937-5942, littleriverinn.com.

The three-acre Brewery Gulch Inn, set on a bluff above Smuggler's Cove, was built with 150-year-old redwood timbers eco-salvaged from the Big River. It has 10 rooms with ocean views, gas-lit fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, and private decks. Stay one night and you can add a two-hour whale-watching cruise on the Rumblefish, a 50-foot heated boat, for $35 per person — the typical cost of a one-hour cruise. Rates start at $210 per room per night, with full breakfast included. Each evening, chef Rick Anderson preps organic regional products for a complimentary food and wine hour in the soaring Great Room.

When: Through April. 30, 2008.

Details Taxes are an additional 11 percent. Based on double or single occupancy.

Contact: 800/578-4454, brewerygulchinn.com.

FESTIVALS
If you time it right, you can visit Mendocino during one of three spring fests: the Mendocino Whale and Wine Festival (March 1-2), the Fort Bragg Whale Festival (March 15-16), and the Redwood Coast Whale and Jazz Festival (April 3-13).

Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal. Check the local forecast at BudgetTravel.com, and look for tips on what to see and do in the area at gomendo.com.

BEYOND MENDOCINO
Whales swim by Virginia Beach, Va., too, and local hotels are offering whale-themed two-night packages starting at $77; get the details at vbfun.com.

If you're headed south to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, another hotbed of winter whale activity, consider staying at the CasaMagna. Guests can book an exclusive four-hour Secretos del Mar tour led by a bilingual whale-watching specialist, with snacks and drinks included, for $90 (adults) and $45 (kids).