When is the best time to visit La Paz and its surrounding Sea of Cortez area?
The answer really depends on what you want to do while here, because a very important consideration to keep in mind when planning a trip to this corner of the world is the seasonal aspect of nature in this area. Few of the animals are present all year round, so these are some of our main activities and seasons:
- Swimming with sea lions – An hour north of La Paz lies Espíritu Santo Island, a Protected Marine Area. On the north side of Espíritu Santo Island lies “Los Islotes”, the largest, most successful sea lion colony in the Sea of Cortez. This is one of the most popular day trips from La Paz, with one of the longest seasons, from September to May. The trip includes a swim with sea lions among hundreds of colorful fish, lunch and another activity, typically sea kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), hiking or more snorkeling
- Swimming with whale sharks – La Paz Bay is visited by feeding juvenile whale sharks up to 6 meters long from October until end of April. This is usually a half day trip, either in the morning and afternoon. The experience itself is thrilling – jumping into the water to see an 18 foot-long animal swimming towards you with mouth open is unforgettable. We provide a full-body wetsuit and full snorkel gear to ensure you are warm even in the winter months.
- Diving – Diving in the Gulf of California is a world-class experience. There are many sites around La Paz Bay, including sunken ships, rock walls, and deep blue dives, where we can see many species of fish, sharks (including hammer heads), and occasionally, mostly in the summer months, Giant Manta Rays. The best months are August to November, although the activity is available year-round.
- Kayaking and Camping – This is one of our favorite activities on Espíritu Santo, where we offer a base camp with safari-style tents to ensure traveler comfort. Sunsets and sunrises on the island can be spectacular, and it is a great way to maximize your time in nature to see all the island has to offer. Our camps are based around sea kayaking as a way to explore the island, and it is beautiful to be able to get up close to the coastline and explore it in such a leisurely way. Meals are fully catered, and we offer a happy hour every evening. Other activities include hiking and snorkeling, and we are family friendly.
- Whale watching – During February and March, multiple whale species visit various spots along the coast of the Baja Peninsula to feed, breed and give birth. Gray whales congregate in the coastal lagoons on the Pacific side, in San Ignacio Lagoon and Almejas Bay. On our trips, is it not uncommon to be completely surrounded by whales spy-hopping, breaching and just coasting along. Other migrants include Humpback whales that gather near the southern tip of the peninsula, around Los Cabos, and Blue whales, which gather further north on the Gulf of California side, off the coast of Loreto. Other species can be occasionally viewed in La Paz Bay, including Humpback, Blue and Fin whales, and even Orcas.
How do I get to La Paz?
There are severals ways. There is a small airport in the city, which receives flights from all major Mexican cities, so flying to Mexico City and then to La Paz is a very easy connection. Alternately, there are many international direct flights to Cabo San Lucas, so this might be easier. Keep in mind though, that once you arrive in Cabo, you still need to take a 3 hour shuttle to La Paz. You can purchase tickets at the airport and online here. It’s a beautiful drive though.
What is whale watching in Baja like?
Whale watching in Baja California Sur is a majestic, humbling experience. There are many places around the world where you can see whales, practically every ocean and sea, from tropical waters to arctic areas in both hemispheres. However, the Baja Peninsula is one of a kind. It is a region of very high biodiversity, with a great abundance of whales and dolphins on both sides of the peninsula. Along its southern half, it hosts the winter grounds of at least three species of baleen whales: grays, humpbacks and blues. On the eastern Sea of Cortez side, it is also possible to find fin whales, as there is at least one resident population here.
During February and March, Del Carmen Island, near Loreto on the eastern coast of the peninsula, is visited by the largest animal of all time – the blue whale. Blue whales are up to 90 feet long and weigh up to 180 tons. During the same months, in the Cabo region, we can enjoy charismatic humpbacks, hanging around with their calves and displaying their impressive breaches, and fluke and fin slaps, evidencing the strength of these 36 ton animals. Farther north, on the Pacific coast of the peninsula we reach the famous Mexican Pacific lagoons, where adult gray whales mate, and the females give birth and nurse their calves. These are the lagoons discovered by Scammon all those years ago, which nearly led to the demise of the species.
Gray whales are known for their curiosity, even approaching skiffs in what is known as “friendly whale behavior”, which attracts visitors from all around the world. Gray whales are not only curious, but can be as energetic as other whales, breaching, and slapping their flukes and fins. From south to north, the gray whales can be watched at Puerto Chale (where we have our Research Camp on Margarita Island), Puerto San Carlos, Puerto Lopez Mateos, San Ignacio Lagoon and Ojo de Liebre Lagoon.