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The 9 best spots for Whale Watching in Mexico in 2022

Want to have a lifetime experience? Then you should include whale watching in Mexico on your bucket list.

After my experience with whale watching in Baja California, I have become a whale-watching-addicted and in this post, I will tell you all about where you can have the best whale watching experience in Mexico.

Before moving forward I would like to address those of you who may be intimidated by the prospect of whale watching.

There’s absolutely no reason to be. These creatures might be huge, but they’re completely harmless.

Besides, as you will see further below in this article, some of them are even docile and come close to being petted. Can you believe it?

I was there! I have the proofs, but it’s only one type of whale that does that. I will tell you all about it further on in this post.

Blue whale tale
Blue Whale watching in Loreto

I’d go so far as saying that they’re quite friendly. There were several times when I got the opportunity to get quite close to them, sometimes to even touch them.

Some other times, they were the ones getting close to me to show off their baby whales.

How many people can honestly say that they’ve swum with the largest living animal on earth? And it’s completely safe! Just looking at their silhouette while they swim close by is an awe-inspiring experience.

While I’ll be focusing on Baja California in this post, I’ll also briefly cover some other spots in Mexico where you can swim with these gentle giants.

Do I need travel insurance? Yes, you do! Whatever it is the way you love to travel, either by car, tour, or bus, always make sure you get travel insurance. I can never stress enough what a lifesaver it can be in unexpected situations. Although I hope I never need it, it gives me peace of mind to know that whatever happens I am covered. I recommend either World Nomads or Safety Wing, depending on your needs. Make sure you read carefully what’s included before making the purchase.

However, Baja California is my favorite because it’s where you can see the most whale species in one place.

And I’m not the only one, who prefers this place; marine biologists from all over the world come to Baja in order to study whales.

Now, are you ready to swim with these magnificent animals and have the time of your life? In this post, I’ll help you find the best place to do so; I’ll cover the where, how, and when.

But before we get into that, let’s cover some interesting tidbits about gray whales.

IMPORTANT: Please be informed that I only encourage whale watching (or any other wildlife activity) when the animals are left free in their natural habitat, in a way that they can thrive and aren’t exploited in any way. I don’t support animal exploitation in any way, whether for entertainment purposes or otherwise. And you shouldn’t do it too.

Grey whales boat

When is whale watching season in Mexico?

First and foremost you need to know that whale watching season in Mexico is from December through the end of March, although February is the best month.

However, that is true on the Pacific Coast only.

If you want to see and swim with the whale sharks on the Mexican Caribbean coast, from Cancun, tours are available from June through August, although you have better chances to see them from mid-July through Mid August.

Remember that whales are free in their natural habitat so it’s not 100% guaranteed that you see them, but you will.

Because they are always hanging out there! and the local guides know where to find them.

whale shark swimming to the surface - swimming with whale sharks
Whale Sharks

WHALE WATCHING IN MEXICO

Whale watching in Baja California

Baja California is where I had the majority of first-hand experience with whale watching as I kept going back several times to different spots to see those graceful giant creatures.

I can’t really explain the joy I felt every time I could see one so close. I get emotional all the time. And I am going back next year again, just because it’s such a special experience.

So here below I will tell you about all the places in Baja California where you can have these special encounters too.

Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas

Cabo is one of the most popular destinations for whale watching. And no wonder; with Los Cabos International Airport just a few miles away, all you need to do is catch a flight and you’ll be set for some spectacular whale watching!

The area of Los Cabos is situated in Baja California Sur and includes Cabo San Lucas and San Jose al Cabo.

In case you’re unaware, these are pretty touristic cities, with a ton of development along the coast. I’d say even to the point of overdevelopment.

Luckily, most of the nature is still intact in and around the area, and that’s why Cabo is a hub for marine activities.

humpback whale

Throughout the year, you can witness all sorts of marine life, including, but not limited to, dolphins, orcas, humpback whales, and more.

However, if your primary interest is whale watching, then I’d recommend visiting Cabo between December and April for a guaranteed chance to catch sight of the grey whales.

There are many tour companies situated in the area and, on average, the per-person cost of a tour will be US$100. Though it can vary quite a bit depending on the amenities being offered during the tour.

Whale watching in Cabo Pulmo

Cabo Pulmo is a small village located on the Sea of Cortez, near Cabo San Lucas. The town itself is tiny, with limited accommodations and no major hotels.

The area has a reputation for being one of Mexico’s best snorkel and diving destinations. Its waters are also home to the East Pacific coral reef, which is the only living coral reef in North America.

Other than gray whales, you can also spot whale sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles here.

If you don’t have much time to explore while you’re in the area, you can join a snorkeling tour directly to swim with marine life.

Cabo pulmo
Cabo Pulmo beach

To guarantee your chances of swimming with the gray whales, I recommend visiting during the winter months. The water will be cold but it’s worth the suffering 🙂

Make sure you ask for a thick wet suit for your tour agency.

You can read more about snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo and all the other amazing things to do in this small town, besides whale watching.

Swim with whale sharks in La Paz

La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur, and its morphological features, with deep waters and an abundance of islands, guarantee a wealthy marine life in the area.

Dolphins can be seen here year-round. Other species commonly spotted include fin whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, sei whales, and orcas.

Whale watching trips can be organized in La Paz from December to March and are usually run by local fishermen who have converted their boats into comfortable whale watching vessels.

snorkeler swimming with whale sharks

The tour with whale sharks from La Paz is especially popular.

The city has expanded greatly in the last decade or so, but its beach promenade, the Malecon, still retains its charm. Locals and tourists alike gather here at the end of the day, and during the weekends, to enjoy the various activities the Malecon has to offer.

The area also has three islands listed as national parks and protected areas: Isla Espíritu Santo, Isla Partida, and Isla San José.

Isla Espíritu Santo and Cerralvo Island have also been declared UNESCO world heritage sites because of their diversity of flora and fauna.

The naturally diverse waters off the coast of La Paz sport an abundance of marine life. This diversity makes these waters ideal breeding and feeding ground for blue, fin, sperm, killer, and grey whales, as well as dolphins and sea lions.

During your whale watching experience in La Paz, you will be able to see blue whales, humpback whales, and gray whales.

When you go on tours to see these whales, you’ll be able to swim with them and get close to them.

However, I highly recommend not touching them or even getting too close to them; doing so causes these gentle animals a lot of stress, thereby disrupting their natural behavior.

Grey Whale
Grey Whale

To not disturb the marine life, you’ll only be allowed to spend 15 minutes at a time in the water and only a limited number of people can take a swim at the same time.

Don’t be discouraged though, you can take multiple 15-minute turns and have plenty of fun.

Alternatively, if you miss the usual December to April whale season in Baja, you can also take snorkeling tours from Cancun, Holbox, and Isla Mujeres.

The whale season in these places is from June through September, and you’ll easily be able to catch sight of grey whales during these months.

Whale watching in Loreto

Blue whale loreto
Blue whale in Loreto

On the surface, Loreto is just a small town with a population of around 20,000. But it’s so much more than that.

There’s a reason this town has become a popular destination for whale watching in Baja California. It’s also part of the Mexican government’s Pueblo Magicos program.

The protected Loreto Bay National Marine Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated here.

Blue whale tale

The park covers more than 860 square miles of sea and islands, where some of the most diverse marine life in the world can be found. 

This area is home to many species including whales, dolphins, sea lions, tortoises, manta rays, and more than 900 species of fish.

The town has a rich cultural heritage that dates back over 400 years. In 1697 it became the first Spanish settlement in the vast California region, then known as Las Californias.

The first mission was founded here in 1697 by Jesuit priests. Loreto itself was named after Our Lady of Loreto who remains an important figure in this town today.

Loreto’s bay is also known as the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) and was dubbed “The World’s Aquarium” by marine explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. It was one of his favorite diving sites, and he considered it “the most beautiful sea in the world.”

blue whale loreto

It has been estimated that there are around 900 species of different marine life living here.

I highly recommend visiting the Sea of Cortez by taking a tour with one of the local companies. They organize whale watching tours from January to April. These tours usually last around 7 hours, starting at 7:30 AM and concluding at 2 in the afternoon.

Blue whales are commonly found during certain times of the year and, during my trip to see them, we got to marvel at hundreds of bottlenose dolphins dancing around our boat.

Also, check out all the amazing things to do in Loreto!. I am sure you will want to stay a few extra days in this cute little Magic town (Pueblo Magico)

Blue whale loreto

Magdalena bay whale watching: Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos

Magdalena Bay, Mexico is another great place to go whale watching. It’s a protected area and has one of the highest concentrations of humpback whales in the world.

This is the largest bay where you can see the grey whales.

The bay is located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) away from La Paz, and around 267 miles (430 kilometers) away from Cabo San Lucas.

Now, there’s a very special aspect to whale watching here. The whales in Magdalena Bay are very used to being around human beings, to the point that, when they hear the boats, they come close and expect you to give them a nice scrub on their back whenever they come close.

Grey whales in Adolfo Lopez Mateo

If you don’t they’ll get offended and swim away (not even kidding). It’s an experience that you won’t have every day.

A lot of people say that they feel a very special connection with these whales when they touch them.

There are a few spots in Magdalena Bay where you can go whale watching. The first one is San Carlos. I tried to join a tour there but all tours got canceled at the time because of really strong wind.

I then tried the Adolfo Lopez Mateos whale watching tour. This time I was successful, and I loved this tour so I stayed for the night so that I could have a second round in the morning.

How to book a whale watching tour in Adolfo Lopez Mateos

The town of Adolfo Lopez Mateos is situated about 167 miles (270 kilometers) away from La Paz, close to Ciudad Constitución. Once you arrive here, you’ll have to go to the marina to visit the authorized tour companies.

Grey whale

All the authorized companies in the area have similar rates of 1600 Pesos (78 USD at the time of writing this) per hour for the whole boat.

This cost is divided among all the people who sign up for a tour. You can also choose to take the tour alone, in which case you’ll have to pay the full cost.

The small boats here can hold a maximum of 12 people. But, if you want the best experience, I wouldn’t recommend going on a tour with more than 6 or 7 people on board.

I did 2 tours. During both of these, I found 2 couples and we shared the cost.

If you’re planning on staying a day or two in Adolfo Lopez Mateos, you should be aware that the accommodation options are quite limited and often very simple here.

You might not get the same level of luxury that you’re used to in other touristy towns like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta.

Grey whale tail - whale watching in Mexico

San Ignacio Lagoon whale watching

For the more adventurous souls, San Ignacio Lagoon situated in Baja California Sur is a must-visit. The lagoon is known as the grey whale birthing ground and can be enjoyed via boat or swim.

A ton of people, from all over the world, come to San Ignacio to camp for several days, watching whales and connecting with nature.

San Ignacio has the charm that differentiates it from some of the other popular destinations for whale watchers in Mexico. It has a relatively milder climate, which makes it perfect for outdoor recreation all year round.

There’s also the fact that visitors aren’t forbidden from touching grey whales in San Ignacio Lagoon. Quite the opposite whales expect pets here.

Let’s briefly cover how you can go see the whales in this lagoon.

How to see the whales in San Ignacio lagoon

If you want to spend multiple days whale watching in the area (which a lot of people do), you can stay at one of the eco camps in San Ignacio.

During the days you’ll be free to use the boats as many times as you like to go and see grey whales.

When I visited the area, I arranged my tour through Kuyiba. It’s a local agency that’s been around for quite a while and they have a great track record for amazing tours.

While you can just visit their office in the town and book an impromptu tour, I would recommend booking in advance, especially if you’re visiting during the high season.

They offer different tours based on visitors’ needs. There’s a 4 days and 3 nights package where you’ll stay in a bungalow; there’s also just a one-night package, which is the one I picked.

San Ignacio old church
San Ignacio town

One day whale watching tour in San Ignacio lagoon

I’ll start by saying that, if you have more time, you should stay in the area longer because there’s so much to see here.

The reason I went for a one-day tour is that I was strapped for time; I honestly kept wishing I could’ve stayed longer.

To start this tour, you’ll have to check-in at Kuyiba’s office in town and pay for the tour (if it’s not prepaid).

They’ll give you a map and information on how to reach their camping site where your tour will begin.

Their camping site is an hour’s drive from the town. I recommend taking a 4-wheeler if it has rained heavily in the days before your visit, otherwise, a regular car will be fine.

Besides taking the tour, you should also try and explore the nature of the area if you have the time. The area is naturally quite beautiful and is home to a lot of bird species.

San Ignacio town is also definitely worth exploring. There’s an old mission you can visit and explore. Kuyiba also organizes hiking tours in the surrounding area to see the cave paintings. These paintings are thousands of years old and are quite fascinating!

As you can tell, there are tons of things to do in San Ignacio; so I recommend spending a few days here.

Guerrero Negro Whale watching

Whale watching in Guerrero Negro

Guerrero Negro is a small town with just under 17,000 residents and one of the largest saltworks in the world.

The salt lakes surrounding the town are home to a thriving population of grey whales that can be seen from February through April. They migrate from Alaska to mate here.

The salt lakes are also a major draw for birdwatchers, as over 100 species have been sighted here. Needless to say, the area isn’t lacking in biodiversity.

While being naturally beautiful, Guerrero Negro wasn’t my favorite place during my trip. I found the restaurants and hotels here to be generally shabby, and the touring industry here isn’t focused on providing the visitors with a great (or even enjoyable) experience.

Grey whale from the boat

The tour boats always leave with 12 people, the total cost for which is 50USD (around 1000 Pesos). They insist on filling the boat up to capacity unless you agree to pay the difference.

And honestly, my experience of whale watching while being squeezed into a boat was underwhelming.

Just to catch sight of the whales we had to move and shuffle a lot; and given that there were 12 people on the boat, there wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver.

Guerrero Negro Lagoon

WHALE WATCHING IN MEXICO

Whale watching in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta has become known as one of the most beautiful and romantic places in Mexico. It is located on the Pacific Ocean, not far from the southern tip of Baja California.

The city is full of lush vegetation, beautiful beaches, and friendly people, besides the romantic feel of the old colonial city center.

When I visited the city, it wasn’t whaling watching season so I cannot use my own experience here.

However, I know for a fact that not only can you take whale watching tours on boats, but you can also spot them from the coast; for example, if you’re standing on a cliff or your hotel is situated near the beach, facing the Pacific Ocean, you’ll easily be able to whale watch while still being on land.

For the best experience, I recommend taking a boat tour to see the whales up close.

It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people, and words cannot describe the beauty of these majestic animals. When taking a tour, make sure you go in small groups so you can have an enjoyable experience.

HUmpback whales

WHALE WATCHING IN MEXICO

Whale watching on the Oaxaca coast

Even along the Oaxaca coast, you can have incredible sights of the whales passing by, especially humpback whales.

Dolphins

The best months to appreciate the large cetaceans are January and February whether you are in Puerto Angel-Mazunte, Santa Maria Tonameca, and San Pedro Pochutla.

Also from the most touristic area such as Puerto Escondido, Bahía Principal and Bahía de Puerto Angelito, in San Pedro Mixtepec, and Santa María Colotepec you can see those incredible creatures.

From Puerto Escondido, you can join a Dolphin tour all year round but between December and February, you may be able to see whales as well.

But there are many other local operators where you can book your tour.

whale and dolphins

WHALE WATCHING IN MEXICO

What to bring and wear on a whale watching tour

General packing list for whale watching in Mexico

Phone waterproof pouch

Eco-friendly sunscreen

GoPro

Camera + zoom lens

Sunglasses

Binocular

✔ Now there are different outfits for different places. In Baja California it was very cold luckily I got a windbreaker and a sweatshirt. If it’s windy you will need it.

What to wear for swimming with whale sharks

✔ Whalesharks encounters are in the water and you need to keep in mind that in winter the water will be really cold in the pacific ocean so I would suggest you wear a wet suit.

✔ Also bring a towel and a change for when you come out of the water. Staying wet on the boat in the cold it’s not pleasant, trust me.

✔ A rash guard will be helpful too.

✔ A snorkeling gear is always included in the tour, but I love to have my own.

WHALE WATCHING IN MEXICO

How to do whale watching in the most respectful way

To be able to observe those amazing creatures from a close distance is a life-changing experience that anyone in love with wildlife and nature should do.

However, it’s as important to do it most respectfully without disturbing the animals’ natural routine. After all, we are invading their environment, right?

Before booking your whale tour you should ask the operator about it or if you observe an unrespectful attitude during the tour, you should mention it.

It’s ok if it is the whales jumping out of the water near you, or if they come close to the boat because it’s their choice.

But you are not supposed to chase them when they come out.

When I was in Loreto on my boat during the tour we saw some people on a kayak chasing the whale and getting very close to it while she was coming out of the water. This is a NO-GO!

First of all, they were creating discomfort for the whale, second, it was dangerous also for them. If you get in between the whale movement you can get hit by the tale and it can kill you, in the worst-case scenario.

Then don’t say it’s the whale’s fault. They mean no harm, you just need to let them dive and swim in their own environment without invading it. It’s so simple and easy. 🙂

That time our guide was so mad but he respectfully told the kayak people that was not the right thing to do. I didn’t spare words either. I just couldn’t let it go and I spoke my mind. I hope they got the message. And won’t do it again.

WHALE WATCHING IN MEXICO

A brief story on grey whales

In the 1800s, grey whales were nearly hunted to extinction by whaling ships. During these fishing trips, they came to be known as the “devil fish”.

The reason is that when whalers harmed/killed their calves, the mother whales were forced to defend themselves and their children. In a lot of these incidents, the whales destroyed the small fishing boats.

In the local fishing communities, the grey whales were still considered quite dangerous. But the story goes that in the 1970s, a group of fishermen in San Ignacio Bay was approached by a grey whale.

At first, the fishermen were apprehensive, but then worked up the courage to reach out and touch the whale.

This gesture started a new (and very welcome) trend, and today many fishermen have become advocates for grey whale protection.

When you’re out on a whale watching tour, you can notice that these whales have a very special bond with the local fishermen.

The fishermen themselves are very gentle and loving with these majestic creatures, and it’s quite endearing to behold.

The local population now understands that protecting these animals is beneficial not only to them but also to everyone else who enjoys seeing them every year (including tourists!).

WHALE WATCHING IN MEXICO

Some interesting facts about the gray whales in Baja California Peninsula

The gray whale is the largest mammal traveling on the West coast of North America. They can grow up to 15 meters long and can weigh around 25-30 tons.

✔ The gray whale is one of the two great whales in the North Pacific, the other one being the humpback whale. Gray whales are found in all of the world’s major oceans, from polar to tropical waters.

✔ They’re solitary in nature, but can sometimes form small groups. Gray whales have also been seen traveling with humpback whales and orcas.

✔ Gray whales spend their summers in the cold waters of Alaska, Canada, and Siberia, where they gorge themselves on amphipods and other small crustaceans to build up the blubber they’ll need to survive the winter.

✔ In fall, they migrate south to Baja California, Mexico, where they stay for about three months. During this time, gray whale mothers give birth to their calves in sheltered bays along the coast.

✔ Gray whales spend their summers in the cold waters of Alaska, Canada, and Siberia, where they gorge themselves on amphipods and other small crustaceans to build up the blubber they’ll need to survive the winter.

In fall, they migrate south to Baja California, Mexico, where they stay for about three months.

During this time, gray whale mothers give birth to their calves in sheltered bays along the coast.

✔ Speaking of migration, gray whales have the longest migration of any mamma. Researchers tracked a female western gray whale migrating from Russia all the way to Mexico, and then back again. The total distance of this trip was a whopping 13,988 miles (22,511 kilometers)!

✔ They stay awake during this whole journey. Gray whales can manage this impressive feat by putting one half of their brain to sleep at a time; the other half stays alert, watching for predators.

✔ These magnificent animals were once hunted almost to extinction by commercial whalers. The good news is that these days, they are protected by international laws. Their numbers are rebounding and there are around 22,000 gray whales in existence today.

✔ To protect their population, whaling has been outlawed since 1947 and Mexico banned all whaling within its territorial waters in 1972.

✔ Females typically breed every 2-3 years and produce one calf each time. Gray whale calves are about 15 feet long when they’re born and weigh roughly 1 ton (2,000 pounds). Their mothers nurse them for seven months before they can survive on their own.

✔ The average lifespan of gray whales is about 60 years.

Whale watching in Mexico: final thoughts

I hope this post helped you decide where to go whale watching in Mexico. In a nutshell, if you want to see the grey whales you should go to Adolfo Lopez Mateos, for the Blue whales go to Loreto, for the humpback whales, either Cabo Pulmo ( my favorite), Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Puerto Vallarta o Puerto Escondido.

Now that you know where to see the whales in Mexico and what are the good practices, happy whale watching in Mexico !!