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What a fluke! Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

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 San Lucas!

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 San Lucas, Mexico

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

Small boat tour

  • Cabo Trek
  • Whale Watch Cabo

Big boats for Los Cabos whale watching

  • EcoCat
  • Cabo Adventures
  • Pezgato

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?

Final words

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)

Types of Cabo whales: Thar they blow!

Cabo is located at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico.

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.

The annual migration of whales in Mexico from Alaska and the Arctic is one of the lengthiest mammal migrations in the animal kingdom.

The long journey is a mammoth 12,500 miles round-trip.

And it’s estimated that 10% of the world’s humpback population is born in Mexico.

Needless to say, whale watching in Mexico – in Cabo and Puerto Vallarta (another whale hotspot) – is one of the top activities in all of Mexico.

Don’t miss it when visiting Cabo!

Which Mexican vacation is better? Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta? We compare the two, so you can decide the right place for you

Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas: The experience

Humpback whale breaching in Cabo San Lucas
Wow! This breaching humpback whale is a sight!

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. It’s the best way to view these magnificent creatures.

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 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

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

They’ve 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!

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 bottlenose 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

You have 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.

Boats depart from the Cabo San Lucas Marina.

They head out into the Cabo San Lucas Bay, passing by Lover’s Beach and El Arco (the iconic rock arch) and giving you a close-up view of the sea lions that hang out at Land’s End.

Depending on where the whales are, they often leave the protected bay and go around to the Pacific side of the Cabo San Lucas area too.

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 guests on our Zodiac tour, plus the boat captain guide and a photographer. (A photographer accompanies each tour, so you can buy a digital link to photos recording all that great Moby Dick action.)

The Zodiacs are comfortable, with cushioned bench seats at the back and front. You 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 inflatable 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 2½-hour tours include pick-up from your hotel in an air-conditioned van.

And as you’ve probably gathered by now, we had an awesome time on this small group Zodiac tour with Cabo Expeditions – we recommend them highly!

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:

Cabo Adventures also offers whale watching tours in Cabo San Lucas on inflatable speedboats.

On their “Whale Watching Cabo Photo Safaris,” 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…

For more information or to book, see the Cabo Adventures website.

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

Whale Watch Cabo:

Dedicated whale watchers might also want to check out Whale Watch Cabo.

We haven’t yet gone with them, but we know they have a reputation for offering good educational Zodiac tours.

You go with a marine biologist on fast Zodiacs that hold just 10 people each (no children under 13).

Cabo San Lucas whale watching tours on a small boat

Cabo Trek:

Visitors in red lifejackets watch a whale from a Cabo Trek whale watching boat.
There are many different types of whale watching boats in Cabo, so you can pick the best one for you (Credit: Cabo Trek)

Cabo Trek has a boat with a roof canopy (for shade).

While they’re licensed to carry up to 18 people, the group size for their whale tours average 10 to 12 guests only – so there’s no fussing for shade, leg room or the best view!

Three tours are offered daily at 8 am, 11 am and 2:30 pm, and they’re 2½ hours long each.

Marine biologist guides are on every tour.

And the company prides itself on being the first and only company in Mexico certified as a “Responsible Whale Watching Operator” by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA).

Whale Watch Cabo:

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

Whale Watch Cabo also offers 2½-hour tours on small covered boats holding no more than 12 people.

Unlike their Zodiac tours (covered above), 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.

EcoCat:

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

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).

Cabo Adventures luxury catamaran:

Cabo Adventures (mentioned above) also offers whale watching in Cabo on a large boat. Their tours are on a luxury double-deck catamaran.

This French-made vessel was designed for comfortable and smooth sailing. Bonus: It has a hydrophone system so you can hear the whales singing.

This 3-hour adventure includes snacks (or lunch) plus alcoholic drinks.

Pezgato catamaran tour:

This 2-hour whale watching cruise on a big steady catamaran with Pezgato can take about 45 passengers.

It includes hotel transfers, a light breakfast or lunch plus an open bar. New hydrophones onboard allow you to listen to the whales’ songs too.

Sunrider tours:

For total stability on a large motorized catamaran (two decks high), there’s the Sunrider 100, large enough to hold 250 passengers. You won’t have any worries about getting seasick on this boat!

The 2½-hour Sunrider trips include a full hot Mexican lunch and open bar.

Spot whales on sunset cruises

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 pirate boat for a spot of whale watching with breakfast?

Then you’ll want to book this 2-hour whale watching pirate cruise. Families with kids are sure to especially like this one.

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

Cabo whale watching season

If you want to see whales, the best time to visit Cabo is during the winter months.

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 late March and April, the whales start to migrate back north to Alaska.

But there’s still lots of good whale spotting toward the end of the Cabo whale season!

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.

Have you decided where to stay? Check out our reviews of the best hotels and resorts in Los Cabos (from boutique to all-inclusive)

Final words on Cabo San Lucas whale watching

Cabo San Lucas whale watching is one of the most awesome activities in the whale season!
Watching whales 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 three) too!

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Photo credits: 7, 11, 18 to 20, 22 © 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 publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

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

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!