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What a fluke! Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas

Please only travel when it’s safe to do so.

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.

And whale watching is one of the top things to do in Cabo.

Whale Watching in Cabo San Lucas
The whale watching in Los Cabos is epic in the winter months!

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.

Cabo San Lucas whale watching: Contents

Types of whales in Cabo

Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas | What’s it like?

Best Cabo whale watching tours

Zodiac-style boats

  • Cabo Expeditions
  • Cabo Adventures
  • Whale Watch Cabo

Big boats for Los Cabos whale watching

  • EcoCat

Whale watching on a sunset cruise

  • Rissalena Cruises

More Los Cabos whale watching tours

Cabo whale watching season

Best time to see whales in Cabo | Morning tour or afternoon tour?

We were treated to an amazing show of whale watching in Cabo on our most recent visit.
We were treated to an amazing show of whale watching in Cabo on our most recent visit (Credit: Cabo Expeditions)

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 (which the late French explorer and marine researcher Jacques Cousteau famously once called “the world’s aquarium”) on the other.

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. And more…

The largest of the "toothed" whales, sperm whales are one of the many species of Cabo whales, but chances of spotting them are rare.
The largest of the “toothed” whales, sperm whales are one of the many species of Cabo whales, but chances of spotting them are rare

The two main types of whales in Cabo San Lucas that migrate down 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
Wow! This breaching whale is a sight!

Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas: The experience

It’s possible to see whales from the shore (usually humpback whales) spouting and jumping.

We’ve seen them from Santa Maria Beach after snorkeling there.

But to see whales up close (and learn more about whale behavior), you’ll want to take a whale watching tour.

Los Cabos whale watching
Two whales show off breaching and a little tail fluke action (Credit: Cabo Adventures)

You may get lucky and capture amazing full-frame pics of the humpbacks’ barnacle-covered backs.

The whales 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.)

On our most recent visit to Cabo, we took a whale watching tour with Cabo Expeditions.

We’d previously experienced a great tour with them swimming with whale sharks in La Paz.

They had since added whale watching in Los Cabos to their portfolio of tours. So we decided to try out one of their Cabo whale watching tours in a Zodiac-style boat.

And the whales gave us the best show we’ve ever witnessed!

We got it! We caught a whale breaching with our camera on our most recent visit to Cabo
We got it! We caught this breaching whale with our camera on our last visit to Cabo

One humpback shot out of the water at least eight times, breaching in dramatic displays with huge splashes. It was almost like he (she?) was putting on a performance for us.

Following that, we watched two humpbacks lie on their sides and slap the water loudly with their pectoral fins.

(Scientists believe whales communicate with each other by breaching and tail and pec slapping.)

As a bonus, we saw dolphins too.

We also saw dolphins too on our last whale watching tour (Credit: Cabo Expeditions)
We also saw dolphins on our last whale watching tour (Credit: Cabo Expeditions)

The thing to remember, though, 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

Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas
There’s great whale watching in Los Cabos in winter

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. The boats depart from the Cabo San Lucas Marina.

Note that whale watching is regulated in Los Cabos (and Mexico).

The whale watching boats we’ve seen out on the water all respect the regulations and keep the required minimum 200-foot distance from any observed whales.

Zodiac whale watching, Cabo San Lucas

Cabo Expeditions:

Humpbacks grow to 60 feet and weigh up to 40 tons - they make quite a splash! (Credit: Cabo Expeditions)
Humpbacks grow to 60 feet and weigh up to 40 tons – they make quite a splash! (Credit: Cabo Expeditions)

Cabo Expeditions’ tours are intimate and groups are small – no more than 15 people per boat.

We had only 12 people on our Zodiac tour, plus a photographer (so you can buy a digital link to photos recording all that great Moby Dick action) and the boat captain guide.

The Zodiacs are comfortable, with cushioned bench seats at the back and front. You can can also sit on the side.

Children aged 5 or over can sign up for these tours.

Cabo whale watchers climb into a Cabo Expeditions Zodiac boat
Whale watchers climb into a Cabo Expeditions’ Zodiac boat

Among the fastest whale watching boats in Cabo, these Zodiacs move around nimbly to follow the great greyish-black mammals wherever they spout.

Our captain guide was also extremely knowledgeable.

When a whale would dive back down underwater, he’d point to where (and tell us when) to expect the whale to jump out of the water again.

Up close-and-personal whale watching in Cabo San Lucas!
Up close-and-personal whale watching! (Credit: Cabo Expeditions)

The 2-1/2 hour tours include pick-up from your hotel in an air-conditioned van.

To book your small group Zodiac tour with Cabo Expeditions, see here.

Oh, don't go! A whale's tail as it slips down beneath the sea (Credit: Cabo Expeditions)
Oh, don’t go! A tail as the whale slips down beneath the sea (Credit: Cabo Expeditions)

Cabo Adventures:

Dedicated whale watchers might also want to check out the “whale watching photo safaris” offered by Cabo Adventures.

Whale watching in cabo san lucas
Wouldn’t you love to see this while whale watching in Cabo San Lucas? (Credit: Cabo Adventures)

Small 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.

Whale Watch Cabo:

Humpback whales in Cabo are commonly seen in winter
Humpbacks are commonly seen in Los Cabos in winter (Credit: Whale Watch Cabo)

We haven’t yet gone on a tour with Whale Watch Cabo, but we know they have a reputation for offering 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).

The EcoCat is one of the widest and most stable whale watching boats in Cabo (Credit: EcoCat)

Spot whales on a sunset cruise

Seeing whales in Cabo on a sunset cruise
Go on a sunset sailing cruise in winter, and you might even see whales in Cabo while sipping margaritas!

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.

It's possible to see whales in Cabo on a sunset cruise too!
It’s possible to see whales on a sunset cruise too!

When we went out on one sunset dinner sail with Rissalena Cruises, our motorized 24-passenger catamaran ordinarily would have cruised along the scenic shoreline.

But on this occasion, we spent a goodly amount of time lingering by a mama and baby whale we came upon.

Whale sightings trump all other sights!

All the makings for a fresh margarita aboard the Rissalena

More Los Cabos whale watching tours

There are other fun ways to see whales in Cabo too.

How about 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.

Or check out this whale watching tour with lunch on the stable Sunrider catamaran.

See also these other tours:

Wanna go snorkeling? See our insider guide to the best snorkeling in Cabo San Lucas (and the best snorkeling tours)

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.)

A great day - whale watching in Cabo in the morning, then fun beach time in the afternoon
A great day – whale watching in Cabo in the morning, then fun beach 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.

Cabo San Lucas whale watching

Cabo San Lucas whale watching is one of the most awesome activities in the whale season!
Cabo San Lucas whale watching is one of the most awesome activities in the whale season!

However you choose to watch the whales in Los Cabos that winter here each season, you’re sure to come away with a greater appreciation for their species.

And hopefully you’ll catch a memorable pic or two too!

Don’t miss our Cabo guide: Get the scoop on everything Cabo in our ultimate Los Cabos travel guide! (Find restaurant reviews, learn bargaining tips, discover the best beaches and more!)

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Recommended reading: See our ultimate Mexico Travel Guide!


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Photo credits: 7, 10, 16, 17, 18 and 20 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Anda

Saturday 18th of January 2020

I've never been to Cabo, despite the fact that it's just a short flight away from where we live in California. It seems that December through April would be the best time to travel there if we want to see the whales migrating. We went whale watching here, locally, a few times, but only saw them from very far away. What you experienced in Cabo was the real thing. An experience I'd love to have someday!

Janice and George

Saturday 18th of January 2020

We'd always wanted to see whales breaching -- but never had until just a few days ago. Totally amazing...

There are so many flights from California to Los Cabos, that, like you say, it would be very easy for you to visit! Maybe one day soon you will :-).

Frank

Thursday 29th of November 2018

Would love to do that. Last year I did the El Chepe train ride across northern Mexico (spectacular experience). Anyway, the train ends at the west coast town on Los Mochis - some people I met were continuing their adventure by taking an overnight ferry across to La Paz in Baja. Would love to do that one day. Mexico gets so little credit. We just got back from another 2 weeks there and it really is among my favorite countries.

Janice and George

Thursday 29th of November 2018

Now you've got us thinking about doing the El Chepe train ride :-). We had to read your post on Why Riding El Chepe Through Copper Canyon is Just Mind-Blowingly Amazing.

Yes, Mexico is a country full of contrasts. When one is ready to explore beyond the beaches, its colonial cities (like San Miguel de Allende) are enchanting...

Suzanne

Wednesday 2nd of March 2016

We went whale watching in Monterey Bay in September and saw some spectacular sights; a pod of Orca's hunt down a dolphin and breaching. Humpbacks breaching and a pod over 300 dolphins - the highlight of our USA road trip!

Janice and George

Wednesday 2nd of March 2016

OMG - that sounds fantastic! (though a bit sad for the dolphin being hunted by the Orcas) Great to hear there's fabulous whale watching so close to home :-).

Adrian

Thursday 28th of March 2013

awesome! that's an incredible experience! i wonder when can I ever see a humpback whale!

Janice and George

Thursday 28th of March 2013

You can see humpback whales in several places around the world. Cabo San Lucas, of course. Also Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) and Hawaii. Hope you get to go whale watching some day :-)

Fermin

Monday 4th of March 2013

I've lived for 10 years in Los Cabos and I can tell you for sure that if you can make it, don't miss this lifetime seasonal opportunity. They are very playful this year!