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Cabo San Lucas Whale Watching: Season + Best Tours

Whales are the largest and arguably the most beautiful creatures in the sea. And the Cabo San Lucas area is a prime spot to see them.

That’s right, whale watching in Cabo is one of the best activities you can enjoy in this Baja California Peninsula town! 

Over the many years we’ve been visiting Cabo, we’ve gone on quite a few different whale watching tours in the waters of Los Cabos – and we saw whales on all tours but one.

You have a 90 to 95% chance of seeing whales on these boat tours.

This is thanks to Cabo’s amazing location. It’s where the Sea of Cortez – one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet – meets the Pacific Ocean.

So, when is the Los Cabos whale season and what are the best whale watching tours? Read on, and we’ll go into it all!

Cabo San Lucas whale watching season and tours
It’s almost unreal, isn’t it, to see these magnificent mammals rise up out of the water? (Credit: Cabo Expeditions)

Types of whales in Cabo San Lucas

The most common species of whales in the seas around Cabo are California gray whales and humpback whales

They both make the 6,000-mile-long migration from Alaska down to Cabo in the cooler winter months. 

In fact, around 10% of humpback whales are born in Mexico

Breaching humpback whale in Cabo San Lucas
We caught this humpback whale on camera one of the times we went whale watching in Cabo

However, there are plenty of other whales in the temperate waters around Cabo. We said it was one of the most biodiverse places in the world, didn’t we.

Look out for blue whales (the largest mammal in the sea), sperm whales, minke whales, orcas (also known as killer whales), fin whales and pilot whales (which are like large dolphins).

As well as all the whales in Los Cabos, chances are you’ll see other marine life too, like bottlenose dolphins and sea lions.

Cabo San Lucas whale watching season

So you want to know: When can you see whales in Cabo?

Generally in the winter, but let’s explain a little more.

Yes, you will see whales during the Cabo San Lucas whale watching season! (Credit: Cabo Trek)

The Cabo whale watching season runs from around mid-December to mid-April, although it’s possible to see whales outside of this time frame.

The “official” Cabo San Lucas whale season is set by the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Mexico’s environment ministry) every year. Usually it starts on December 15.

The best time of the season depends on which whale you want to see. 

The peak humpback season is between late December and the end of January.

January in Cabo is thus an ideal time for a post-Christmas trip if you want to see humpbacks.

However, baby humpbacks – so adorable – start appearing in the seas in February.

The humpbacks disappear around late March and early April, when they make the journey back north to Alaska.

Between early January and March, you’ve also got a good chance of seeing gray whales, which normally come much closer to the shore than their humpback cousins.

Gray whale tails in Los Cabos
Gray whales in Los Cabos (Credit: Visit Baja Sur)

Why whales migrate to Cabo

Whales generally migrate from Alaska and along the west coast of the USA, down to Mexico, because of the water temperature. 

In the winter months, they leave the frigid Arctic waters and swim south to mate, socialize and give birth in the warmer waters around Cabo.

These waters have lots of excellent nutrient-rich shallows and lagoons that make for great nurseries for baby whales.

In fact, on many whale watching tours, you’ll see whales in their natural habitat – teaching their young how to survive in the wild or just playing. It’s a humbling sight. 

Then each spring, the whales leave the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez and head back north to spend their summers in Alaska. 

Some whales, such as killer whales, travel to the Sea of Cortez because of the rich array of marine life (aka whale food) here.

Barnacles on a humpback whale in Los Cabos
See all the barnacles on this humpback whale?

Best time to go whale watching in Cabo San Lucas

So, you now know the whale season in Cabo san Lucas. But what about the best time of day to see whales? 

Generally, Cabo whale watching tours are offered three times a day – early morning, mid-day and late afternoon. Is one time better than another? 

Early morning tours:

The early morning is our preferred whale watching time. 

We find that the sea is calmer and the boat ride is less choppy this time of day.

Plus, we like reserving our afternoons for enjoying the beach and reading a good book!

Mid-day tours:

Mid-day tours can be rather warm (remember to pack a sunhat).

But by this time the boat captains generally know where the whales are hanging out, which gives you a better chance of seeing them. 

This is Cabo, though. You will see whales most of the time during the Los Cabos whale watching season!

Late afternoon tours:

Many visitors report that they see the best whale activity in the late afternoon when the creatures are more playful. 

Humpback calf in Cabo San Lucas pokes its head out of the water
You never know when a humpback calf might pop up out of the water

The breeze picks up in Cabo around mid-morning and usually lasts until late afternoon.

And apparently, whales actually like a little wind and some waves.

You might want to avoid late afternoon tours if you’re prone to seasickness though.

But larger boats are usually stable, so you shouldn’t have a problem on an afternoon tour on a larger vessel.

These are all just musings, however. Whales don’t have the same Circadian rhythm (i.e. 24-hour cycle) that we have.

Sometimes they’re more active in the morning and sometimes the afternoons are better for spotting them. 

So we’d recommend picking your preferred time and just going with that.

How Cabo whales behave

Just gazing at these majestic creatures is a bucket-list check. 

Cabo San Lucas Whale Watching Season
A humpback whale in all its glory

But if you know a little more about how they behave, your experience will be even richer. Here’s some information about their behaviors:

  • Head, tail or flipper slap: This occurs when a whale moves a part of their body out of the water and then slaps it down on the water’s surface. 
  • Spyhop: It sounds like a James Bond movie. But this is when a whale lifts and turns its head before crashing back under the water. It’s generally done when a whale is watching out for predators. 
  • Breaching: When you see epic photos of whales, they’re usually doing a full body breach – jumping out of the water then turning and re-entering!
  • Peduncle throw: This is a turning motion when a whale moves its tail and peduncle (where the tail fluke connects to the body) out of the water and smashes it back down. When you see a whale doing this, they’re mating.
  • Blow: Whales blow water from their blowhole, so this is how whales breathe out. They can go for 15 minutes without breathing, although they generally breathe every 3 to 5 minutes when traveling. 
  • Logging: This is how whales sleep. They rest with their head and back exposed so they can breathe and move slowly on the surface. 

Best whale watching tours in Cabo San Lucas

Whale tail flukes
A whale heads down back under, showing its tail flukes

Whale watching is highly regulated in Baja California Sur, with the safety and preservation of these mammals and their ecosystems always taking priority. 

Boats can’t get closer than between 65 and 130 yards, depending on the whale species.

Sometimes, though, whales swim by close to your boat, even though your captain will try to move away.

Guides must be officially licensed to lead whale watching trips.

Many are led by marine biologists and local whale experts who are familiar with all the various species and conservation efforts.

Boats leave from the marina and head out into Cabo San Lucas Bay. They sometimes travel around Land’s end and into Pacific waters too in their search for whales.

Here are some of the best tours to see Cabo San Lucas whales:

Zodiac tour (Cabo Expeditions):

Cabo Expeditions is among the most popular tour companies in the area.

They offer whale watching excursions on a Zodiac boat.

People on a Cabo Expeditions Zodiac watch two whales in Cabo San Lucas.
Whoa! Not one, but two whales! (Credit: Cabo Expeditions)

With the help of knowledgeable tour guides, your boat captain will steer you to the best hot spots for whale sightings.

The smaller Zodiac boat also means it can travel to areas that big boats can’t, giving you the chance to get up close and personal to these 40-ton giants, while still keeping a safe distance.

Catamaran tour (PezGato):

A popular company for all things Cabo marine-life related, PezGato offers 2-hour tours on a sailing catamaran

Take in the best view of whales while sipping on an ice-cold beer (snacks and all beverages are included) and hear the whales’ songs through the hydrophones.

The large boat is comfortable and steady even in choppier weather, and all bookings include hotel transfers. 

Small boat tour (Cabo Trek):

Cabo Trek provides one of the best whale watching excursions in the area.

They have the prestigious title of being the first company in Mexico to obtain “Responsible Whale Watching Operator” certification from the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA). 

Visitors on a Cabo Trek boat watch a whale go back down under the water
Thar she (he?) goes! (Credit: Cabo Trek)

Their small group tours (10 to 12 people on average) are on a small boat that can accommodate up to 18 people.

Cabo Trek offers a completely immersive experience, where you can not only see whales above water and on their underwater camera system but hear them through their hydrophones.

There’s a marine biologist on every tour to help you make sense of the whales’ behavior and learn more about these special creatures. 

The boats are spacious and have a roof canopy for shade – ideal if you’re on a mid-day cruise – and they run three times a day, taking 2½ hours. 

Breakfast cruise (Wild Cabo):

What’s better than a large Mexican breakfast? A large Mexican breakfast with views of whales, of course! 

That’s just what Wild Cabo offers on this whale watching breakfast cruise

With a twin-level power catamaran offering lots of space and two bathrooms, you’ll have a super-comfy start to the morning as you enjoy chilaquiles, beans, scrambled eggs and hot cakes. 

The open bar with mimosas, margaritas and cold beer (plus non-alcoholic drinks) is also sure to put a smile on your face.

Margarita in Cabo San Lucas
Whale watching with a side of margaritas (Credit: Wild Cabo)

The tour takes in Cabo’s Arch (El Arco en Espanol!), Lover’s Beach and Land’s End, and then heads to some of the best whale watching spots in the area.

Accompanied by a knowledgeable marine biologist, you’ll likely see plenty of whales and learn about their behavior too.

Pirate-themed cruise (Wild Cabo):

We bet the kids would love their breakfast on a pirate ship!

Wild Cabo offers a whale watching breakfast tour aboard a pirate boat.

How’s that for one of the coolest things to do in Cabo?

Whale watching tours in Cabo San Lucas on pirate-themed boats
A whale watching tour on a pirate-themed boat is fun for the whole family (Credit: Wild Cabo)

Inflatable speedboat tour (Cabo Adventures):

Cabo Adventures offers a few different types of cruises, depending on your style.

One is a whale watching adventure using an inflatable speedboat, guided by experts in marine mammals.

Double-deck catamaran cruise (Cabo Adventures):

If you want something a little more comfortable, Cabo Adventures also offers deluxe catamaran cruises on a larger double-deck vessel (with bathrooms).

The French-made cat offers smooth sailing, even in choppier waters – so it’s perfect for families or anyone who’s prone to motion sickness. It also boasts hydrophones, so you can hear the whales when they’re underwater.

With an open bar and plenty of snacks, this 3-hour tour is a definite must-do in Cabo. 

Educational tours (Whale Watch Cabo):

Whale Watch Cabo is perhaps the champion in their field, with very educational Zodiac tours

Orcas in Cabo San Lucas
Orcas (killer whales) in Cabo San Lucas (Credit: Whale Watch Cabo)

They use fast boats (carrying up to 10 people) that zip right to where the whales usually hang out, with full commentary from a marine biologist. Children under 13 aren’t permitted on this tour.

However, Whale Watch Cabo also offers tours on larger covered boats, where kids can join.

Big boat lunch tour (Sunrider tours):

And then there’s Sunrider Tours.

Hop aboard a really large power catamaran. It can hold up to 250 passengers.

These tours on the SunRider 100 are kid-friendly and combine whale watching with a delicious lunch buffet and an open bar.

A humpback whale breaches right by a large catamaran in Cabo San Lucas Bay.
A humpback whale breaches right by this large catamaran (Credit: Sunrider Tours)

How much does whale watching cost in Cabo?

Generally, whale watching tours in Cabo cost between $80 to $120 USD p.p.

If you book tours that include an open bar and a meal, they’ll be at the higher end of this spectrum. Likewise, if you opt for experiences with a marine biologist, you’ll be paying for their knowledge.

That wraps up our guide on whale watching and the whale season in Cabo!

When planning your Cabo trip, whale watching is definitely a bucket list activity you’ll want to experience. 

It’s one of the reasons to head here in winter (the best time to see whales in Cabo).

Witnessing these majestic mammals is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. 

We hope your whale watching tour will give you plenty of wonderful memories that you’ll be talking about for months to come!

Planning your trip to Cabo?

See the following helpful resources:

Booking.com | Score a “wow” hotel in Cabo – or at least a decent one.

GetYourGuide | Check out the best local guided tours in Cabo.

Discover Cars | One of the best ways to explore is to rent a car in Los Cabos. Discover Cars searches car rental companies to help you find a vehicle at the best rates.

World Nomads | World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers, for travelers, with coverage for more than 150 activities, as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.

CDC | We follow CDC travel guidelines to see what medications and vaccines are needed for trips. You can get vaccines at your pharmacy, travel medical clinic or doctor’s office.

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