Each year between December and April, thousands of whales migrate from their Arctic feeding grounds to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula’s warm waters to mate and give birth. This is the time for whale watching in Cabo San Lucas!
Indeed, Cabo (and the whole area of Los Cabos) is one of the world’s top places to see whales.
Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas – they’re they blow!
The two main types of whales in Cabo San Lucas that migrate down here 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.
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.
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.
The thing to remember though is that whales are wild creatures, and there are no guarantees.
Sometimes you may only snap a shot of a tail fluke. Then again, you may get lucky and capture amazing full-frame pics of their 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.
(If you don’t spot whales on your tour, many tour operators will offer you another tour complimentary.)
Here’s the low-down on what to expect, the best time to see whales in Cabo San Lucas, and the tour operators that offer the best whale watching in Cabo.
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…
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.
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 running from about 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 begin to migrate back north to Alaska. But there’s still lots of good whale spotting these spring months!
Best time to see whales in Cabo
Tours are typically offered three times a day – early morning, mid-day and late afternoon.
Which is the best time to go whale watching? That depends…
We like the early morning tours. The sea is the calmest then, and the wind hasn’t yet picked up. The boat ride is likely to be the most comfortable in the morning too. (Plus, we personally like to be active before lunch 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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Update November, 2018: Since originally posting this, we’ve checked out more Baja whale watching tours, which we’ve added here, along with info on the Los Cabos whale season.
Have you gone whale watching? Were you lucky enough to see a whale breach?
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We’re Janice and George Mucalov, professional award-winning travel writers, sharing tales of luxury travel with a twist of adventure.