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Scuba diving in Baja California Sur

From hammerhead sharks off Cabo to whale sharks, rays and humpbacks in the Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur lures pelagic-lovers into its depths.
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Highlights

Manta Rays at Socorro Island

As a lonely seamount far offshore, Socorro Island attracts a large number of pelagic species, among them are large groups of giant manta rays.

Hammerheads at Gordo Banks

This hit-or-miss dive features a seamount with a submerged plateau where you’ll find scalloped hammerheads, groupers, mackerels and a variety of rays.

Humpbacks and Sperm Whales

Because of the deep water found off the coast, winter sees frequent visitors from the open ocean to El Bajo including humpback and sperm whales.

Whale Sharks in Fall

Each fall season brings a few whale sharks to the dive site El Bajo. Sightings are not guaranteed, but your chances are better during these months.

Sea Lions at Isla San Pedro

More than 400 sea lions call the Sea of Cortez home. You’ll find playful babies on most dives in the area, but Isla San Pedro is our favorite site.

Diving in Baja California Sur

Quick facts

Surrounded on three sides by water, the Baja Peninsula offers astounding dives filled with pelagic species. The Sea of Cortez is the main focal point of Baja California Sur, but this region is also known as the setting off point for Socorro Island. Popular diving destinations in Baja California Sur include Los Cabos, Cabo Pulmo, La Paz, Loreto and Mulegé.

The best diving in the region is accessible only by liveaboard. This is true for the Revillagigedo Islands as well as several locations in the Sea of Cortez. If you’re committed to staying on dry land, be prepared to dive from small wooden pangas with an easy backroll.

Aside from the fascinating rocky reefs that are protected from heavy currents in the Sea of Cortez and off the coast of Los Cabos, most of the underwater landscapes consist of rocky islands mixed with underwater pinnacles. Some of the less protected islands, such as Revillagigedo Islands and Gordo Banks, are surrounded by raging currents that relegate these sites to advanced divers. Beginners should stick to the protected reefs on the east side of the peninsula.

While a reef hook may be helpful in some areas, they are not permitted in protected areas. A 16% tax is levied on all diving activities in Mexico.

When to go

If you want to dive Socorro, book from November to May. The Sea of Cortez is excellent from August to October. And Cabo can be dived year-round.

November to May

November to May is considered the best time to dive in Socorro Island. Liveaboards set sail for this remote island at this time, because the sea conditions in the Pacific are calmest during these months. The weather is generally sunny with occasional rain showers.

Manta rays can be seen throughout the year in Socorro, but during the winter months, divers also have the chance of spotting a whale shark or one of the thousands of humpbacks that breed and calve in the area. At this time, visibility is negatively impacted is by plankton blooms. These are most common around the full moon.

If you’re headed to Socorro and want the best conditions for manta ray diving, book your holiday between November and May.

Elsewhere in Mexico, November to May is considered high season for general tourism, causing an increase in the prices of flights and accommodation on the mainland.

June to October

June to October is also the season for liveaboard diving in the Sea of Cortez. While the Pacific is cold, the Sea of Cortez is at its warmest. The water is approximately 80°F (27°C) and these are the best months for hammerhead encounters in the region.

The weather at this time transitions from hot and humid to cooler with a bit of rain. On the other hand, June to October is not as busy as the winter months in terms of tourism. You should be able to snag some good deals if you book far enough in advance. Be aware, these months represent the highest risk of typhoons. It’s a good idea to take out trip insurance if you plan to visit Mexico in the fall.

Interested in diving in the Sea of Cortez? Book your Mexican diving holiday between June and October.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Advanced divers can head to the pelagic-heavy Revillagigedo Islands and Gordo Banks. Beginners should stick to Los Cabos, La Paz and Cabo Pulmo.

  • Cabo Pulmo National Park

    Located northeast of Cabo San Lucas on the Sea of Cortez, Cabo Pulmo National Park is home to one of only three coral reefs in western North America.

  • Cabo San Lucas

    A resort destination, Cabo San Lucas lies at Land’s End where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, creating great reef, pinnacle and wall dives.

  • Coronado Islands

    Known for their large population of California sea lions, the Coronado Islands delight divers in Mexico with kelp forests, rocky reefs and a wreck.

  • La Paz & Isla Partida

    La Paz and its surrounding islands are home to wrecks, caves and plentiful pelagic species, including whale sharks, hammerhead sharks and whales.

Pricing on request
Pricing on request

Snorkeling in Baja California Sur

While not as popular as on the Caribbean side of the country, snorkeling is possible in Baja California Sur. Throughout the Sea of Cortez, you’ll find operators willing to take you snorkeling with sea lions. Snorkeling tours are also offered in colorful and fish-filled Santa Maria off the coast of Cabo San Lucas.
Some of the most excellent diving sites on the Sea of Cortez can be found around Loreto. Halfway up the eastern coast of the peninsula, Loreto is a gorgeous seaside community with an unsurpassed protected marine area to explore. Don’t miss Los Candelleros, underwater cliffs that shoot straight down to the rocky depths. La Paz has some more stellar sites in the Sea of Cortez, and is a favorite of the locals. Head to Los Islotes, where you can dive through an arch, swimming with sea lions and parrotfish. El Bajo is an epic pinnacle dive site full of sharks and rays. Close to Los Cabos, you’ll find the Gordo Banks, another shark paradise. There’s also Land’s End, a dramatic sand fall where the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean meet. Finally, don’t forget about the pelagic magnets known as the Revillagigedo Islands. These islands require liveaboards to access their many adventurous dive sites.

What to see

Known for its pelagic encounters, Baja California Sur is home to a wide range of dolphins and whales as well as 850 species of fish. From massive humpback whales to tiny seahorses, your logbook will be full and happy after a dive from Baja California Sur.

You might see hammerhead sharks in the Sea of Cortez or hear a variety of whales including humpbacks in the Pacific Ocean. You can also find starfish, angelfish and wrasse of various shapes and sizes throughout the region. Down at the tip of the peninsula as well as near Socorro Island, you might be lucky enough to run across whale sharks and manta rays, in the correct season. Finally, the sea lions in Los Islotes and nearby are a delight to all who dive with them.

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