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Just four hours south of the border, San Carlos sits on the Sea of Cortez where divers enjoy the highest concentration of marine species in the world.


Seahorses at San Antonio Point

It might be tempting to search the blue for pelagics, but San Carlos is home to fascinating macro species including seahorses at San Antonio Point.

Hammerheads at Isla San Pedro

At South Point of Isla San Pedro, you’ll find schooling hammerheads during the fall months. You’ll be impressed by the size of these sharks.

Sea Lions at Isla San Pedro

More than 400 sea lions call the Sea of Cortez home. You’ll find playful pups on most dives in the area, but Isla San Pedro is the best site for abundant encounters.

Sperm Whales in the Sea of Cortez

Because of the protected geographical location of San Carlos, winter sees frequent visitors from the open ocean including massive Sperm whales.

Diving in San Carlos

Quick facts

From the coast of San Carlos to the shores of the Isla San Pedro, diving in the northern Sea of Cortez offers divers the opportunity to get in the water with several large pelagic species.

Both beginners and advanced divers are welcome. Beginners remain closer to shore while advanced divers will spend more time in the open ocean where drift dives are more prevalent.

Although most dives will take place from a certified operator’s dive boat, some dive sites are accessible from shore for those that prefer to walk into the waves.

When to go

In San Carlos and Isla San Pedro, October and November feature the best all-around conditions but December to May also have great marine life sightings.

August to November

August to November is considered the best time to dive in the Sea of Cortez and around San Carlos. During these months, 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. Whale sharks are also occasionally spotted.

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.

Interested in diving in the Sea of Cortez? Book your Mexican diving holiday between August and October for the best overall conditions.

December to May

From December to March, divers can expect cooler temperatures in the Sea of Cortez. However uncomfortable it might be for humans, it’s balmy for pelagic species. If you are a pelagic fan, this is the best time to dive the Sea of Cortez.

This is the best time to spot Humpback Whales, Sperm Whales Grey Whales and Mobulas near San Carlos. You’ll also find increased sea lion activity. Lucky divers might spot Bullseye Rays, Banded Guitarfish and Octopuses who climb from the depths due to the cold.

The topside weather is generally sunny with the occasional rain shower. Because northern Mexico is significantly cooler than during the summer months, December to March is also considered the best time to vacation here. Because of this, the winter months are considered high season for general tourism, causing an increase in accommodation rates.

June to July

June and July are offseason for both tourism and diving in the area. The seas become rough meaning that some sites may be inaccessible and pelagic species disappear to cooler waters. At this time, many dive boats remain in dock and divers in the Sea of Cortez are limited to land-based dive operations. The diving in San Carlos 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

Beginners will want to dive on the reefs skirting the southern shores of San Carlos. Intermediate and advanced divers should head out to Isla San Pedro.

    Snorkeling in San Carlos

    Great snorkeling is also possible at San Carlos. Of particular interest to topside spotters are the sea lions of San Pedro Island. Most dive operators will also run snorkeling trips to the island. Those who prefer to stay closer to the city will find several reefs of interest. If you’re looking for an adventure, during the winter months, you can snorkel with Sperm whales in the area.
    Whether you are a beginner or a technical diver, you’re sure to find a dive site that will keep you interested from start to finish at San Carlos. Near to the city, you’ll find macro-heavy sites such as San Antonio Point and Eagle Rock. These are easy dives that all levels can enjoy. A bit further towards the open blue, a series of seamounts called La Primera Gringa and La Segunda Gringa feature black coral forests and some small fish action. Finally, intermediate and advanced divers can head to Isla San Pedro where sea lions frolic on the eastern coast of the island. The site called South Point is known for schooling hammerheads between October and November. Only advanced divers should attempt a dive in the heavy currents on this side of San Pedro.

    What to see

    The Sea of Cortez is home to over 6,000 marine species. Principle among these are the area’s famous sea lions. In terms of other large species, the park also welcomes Humpback Whales, Sperm Whales, Mobulas and Whale Sharks. Enormous groupers, turtles and large schools of jacks are easily found. Tropical fish are bountiful and even the occasional reef shark can be found stalking its prey nearby. Underwater photographers will marvel at the diversity of macro life found on this rare reef. If you move a bit off the reef, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by garden eels, sticking their head out of the sand to stare at new visitors.


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    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings


    Located four hours south of the United States-Mexico border on the eastern coast of the Sea of Cortez, San Carlos is technically a subdivision within the port of Guaymas. Because of its warm water and outstanding underwater visibility, San Carlos has attracted a large expat and scuba diving community. The neighborhood also features a disproportionate number of resorts and RV parks to its population. This only serves to prove the perfect conditions that make San Carlos a scuba diving paradise.

    Other attractions

    As Sonora’s premier seaside escape, San Carlos features plenty to keep you entertained during non-diving hours. Look inward for amazing hiking particularly in the Nacapule Canyon. Drive or walk to the Mirador Escenico de San Carlos for spectacular views over the Sea of Cortez. There’s also a ton of watersports to partake in, including sea kayaking, flyboarding and sport fishing. Horse riding is yet another popular activity. When you’re feeling lazy, pack your towel and head to the white sand beaches.

    Getting there

    The easiest way to reach San Carlos is to drive from the southern United States. Cross the border at Nogales and head south for four hours. The road through Sonora is a modern, four-lane highway. If you prefer not to drive, you can also reach San Carlos by bus from elsewhere in Mexico or from Tucson in the United States.


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    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.

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