Each year between December and April, thousands of whales migrate from their Arctic feeding grounds to the warm waters of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula to mate and give birth.
This is the time for whale watching in Cabo!
Indeed, Cabo (short for Cabo San Lucas) – and the whole area of Los Cabos – is one of the best places in the world to see whales.
Whale watching in Cabo
Over the years visiting the destination (writing travel articles on Cabo for various magazines and newspapers), we’ve taken many Los Cabos whale watching tours.
On all but one tour, we saw whales. Sometimes gob-smacking, amazing whale sightings!
The odds are high you will see whales – something like a 90% to 95% chance during the whale season in Cabo.
Whales in Cabo: Thar they blow!
Cabo is located at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.
This finger of desert is flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of Cortez on the other (which the late French explorer and marine researcher Jacques Cousteau famously once called “the world’s aquarium”).
And the waters curling around Cabo are home to many species of whales. Blue whales (the largest). Orcas (killer whales). Sperm whales. Minke whales. Fin whales. Pilot whales. Even whale sharks – which actually aren’t whales, but ginormous gentle fish.
But the two main types of whales in Cabo San Lucas that migrate down here from Alaska are gray whales and humpback whales.
You see mainly humpbacks when whale watching in Cabo; they’re the most active and also the most rewarding to watch.
Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas: The experience
It’s possible to see whales from the shore – usually humpback whales – spouting and jumping.
But to see whales up close (and learn more about whale behavior), you’ll want to take a whale watching tour.
You may get lucky and capture amazing full-frame pics of the humpbacks’ barnacle-covered backs. They might even come so close that you can smell their fishy breath as they exhale and spew plumes of white water in the air!
On the other hand, you may only snap a shot of a tail fluke. (Though it’s rare you’d have such bad luck.)
The thing to remember is that whales are wild creatures, and there are no guarantees they’ll show up. But if you don’t spot whales on your tour, most tour operators will offer you another tour complimentary.
Cabo whale watching tours
There are many options for whale watching tours in Cabo San Lucas, so you can choose the tour that best suits you – from adventurous, high-speed, Zodiac-style boats to a large stable vessel to a small sunset cruise boat.
Dedicated whale watchers might want to try the “whale watching photo safaris” offered by Cabo Adventures.
Small, new, all-weather inflatable speed boats are used, and trips are guided by marine mammal behavior experts.
Sit quietly – and watch the humpbacks play, breach and engage in tail slapping and other fascinating whale behaviors.
Well, that’s the idea, anyway…
See here to book this 2-hour whale watching trip with Cabo Adventures.
Ocean Riders is another good outfitter that we’ve tried.
Cleverly designed, their Zodiacs take 14 passengers each – you sit astride on a yellow cushioned seat, as if riding a horse, and hold on to handles attached to the seatback in front of you.
You have a captain, guide (who is a marine biologist) and photographer (so you can buy a DVD recording all that great Moby Dick action).
Among the fastest whale watching boats in Cabo, these Zodiacs move around nimbly to follow the great greyish-black mammals wherever they spout.
Whale Watch Cabo:
We haven’t yet gone on a tour with Whale Watch Cabo, but we know they have a reputation for offering responsible and educational whale watching tours in Cabo San Lucas. You go with a marine biologist guide on fast Zodiacs that hold just 10 people each (no children under 13).
Whale Watch Cabo also offers tours on small covered boats holding 12 people. Kids can join these tours.
Los Cabos whale watching on a big boat
If you’re prone to motion sickness, consider one of the larger, more stable vessels for your Cabo whale watching tour.
The EcoCat, for example, is a large sailing catamaran with a huge enclosed indoor space, as well as plenty of outdoor viewing areas (it can accommodate 120 people onboard).
Spot whales on a sunset cruise
During the whale watching season in Cabo San Lucas, you may also see plenty of whale action on the water, even though you’re not on an actual whale watching tour.
On one sunset dinner sail with Rissalena Cruises, our 24-passenger, motorized catamaran spent a goodly amount of time lingering by a mama and baby whale we came upon, when normally we’d be out cruising by the scenic shoreline. (But whale sightings trump all other sights!)
However you choose to watch the whales that winter in Los Cabos, you’re sure to come away with a greater appreciation for their species – and hopefully a memorable pic too.
More Los Cabos whale watching tours
Or what hopping aboard a fun pirate boat for a spot of whale watching with breakfast? Then you’ll want to book this 2-hour whale watching pirate cruise.
Cabo whale watching season
The “official” whale watching season in Los Cabos is usually set each year by the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Mexico’s environment ministry) as being from early-to mid-December to about mid-April.
The peak season for spotting humpbacks is from late December to late January. If you go in February, you’ll start to see baby humpbacks.
Come March and April, the whales start to migrate back north to Alaska. But there’s still lots of good whale spotting!
Best time to see whales in Cabo San Lucas
Whale watching tours are typically offered three times a day – early morning, mid-day and late afternoon.
Which is the best time to go? That depends…
We like the early morning tours. That’s when the sea is calmest and the wind hasn’t yet picked up. The boat ride is likely to be the most comfortable then. (Plus, we personally like to be active in the morning and enjoy beach-and-book time in the afternoon.)
But many people report that late afternoon tours can offer some of the best whale activity sightings. Whales are more active and playful in wilder weather (more wind and waves), they say.
You’ll probably have less people on your boat or Zodiac on an afternoon tour, so that could make it more comfortable for you and give you more room to move around.
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Photos 9 to 11 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase