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Between Socorro’s manta rays, the great white sharks of Guadalupe and the sea lions of the Sea of Cortez, Baja California has plenty of pelagics.

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.

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.

Great White Sharks in Guadalupe

Every year from August to October, divers make the pilgrimage to this tiny island out in the Pacific in order to cage dive with Great White Sharks.

Diving in Baja California

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, but this region is also known as the setting off point for Socorro Island. You’ll also find liveaboards destined for Guadalupe from the Baja Peninsula. At this far-off island, cage diving is king.

The best diving in the region is accessible only by liveaboard. This is true for Socorro and Guadalupe 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 speedboats.

Aside from the fascinating coral reefs that are protected from heavy currents in the Sea of Cortez, most of the underwater landscapes consist of remote volcanic islands mixed with underwater pinnacles. These outer islands are surrounded by raging currents that relegate these dives to divers with a lot of experience. 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

Cabo San Lucas can be dived year-round. If Socorro is your destination, book from November to May. If Guadalupe is on your list, go between August and October.

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.

August to October

August to October represent the best time to dive Guadalupe by liveaboard. During these months, the coldest water temperatures arrive with an average surface temperature of just 66°F to 70°F (19°C to 22°C). These temperatures attract the Great White Sharks making this the best time to dive in Guadalupe.

August to November is also the season for liveaboard diving in the Sea of Cortez. While Guadalupe 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, August 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 hurricanes. 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 or at Guadalupe? Book your Mexican diving holiday between August and October.

June to July

June and July are offseason for both tourism and diving in the area. The seas become too rough for sailing and too warm to attract pelagic species. At this time, many liveaboards remain in dock and divers on Baja California are limited to land-based dive operations based in Cabo San Lucas. The diving in this far southern region is still good and you’ll find excellent deals at this time of year. However, you will have to battle the hot and humid summer weather. If you’d prefer to look elsewhere, try Caribbean diving for a change. The season on the east side of Mexico is year-round.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Most divers will want to dive within the Sea of Cortez at least once. Beginners may also enjoy Cabo San Lucas while advanced divers can head to Socorro.

    Snorkeling in Baja California

    While not as popular as on the Caribbean side of the country, snorkeling is possible in Baja California. Throughout the Sea of Cortez, you’ll find operators willing to take you snorkeling with sea lions. Such 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. Finally, don’t forget about the pelagic magnets known as Socorro Island and Guadalupe. Both require liveaboards to access their many adventurous dive sites.

    What to see

    In the Pacific, you can come across everything from massive humpback whales to tiny seahorses. Dolphins play near the shoreline, and intimidating sharks patrol the deep. These include Great White Sharks in Guadalupe and Hammerhead Sharks in the Sea of Cortez. In the same sea, you can also find starfish, angelfish, and wrasse of various shapes and sizes. 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 season. Finally, the sea lions in Los Islotes and nearby are a delight to all who dive with them.

    Calendar

    For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

    Area

    The peninsula of Baja California is separated from the mainland of Mexico by the glistening waters of the Sea of Cortez. From end to end, the peninsula stretches 775 miles (1,247 kilometers). It varies in width, but at its narrowest, it is a mere 25 miles (40 kilometers) across. Baja California is made up of a primarily dry landscape.

    The peninsula was once only known in legend, and it wasn’t until the mid-1500’s that Europeans discovered Baja, learning that it wasn’t an island, but an attached peninsula.

    Other attractions

    Up north, you can visit the impressive CECUT museum in Tijuana, and eat some of the best tacos and seafood around. Be sure to go to the tacos varios carts, snapping up whatever is freshest. Down south, bask in a luxurious resort setting in Cabo, and explore the beaches along the Sea of Cortez. Or have a mini-adventure with a day of ziplining through desert-filled canyons. In La Paz, you’ll find a ton of kayak and fishing tours to fill non-diving hours. Surfing is another popular activity, particularly in Ensenada.

    Getting there

    Fly into Cabo or Tijuana, or simply drive down from California. Bear in mind that you’ll need Mexican Insurance to drive a car through the country, or you’ll accrue a hefty fine. If you don’t have your own transport, hop on a bus or fly from destination to destination. Liveaboards are a must for islands further afield.

    UTC-08:00

    Time zone

    MXN

    Currency

    +52

    Calling code

    127 V

    Electric volt

    A, 

    B

    Plug type

    TIJ

    Main airport
    Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.