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Named the “Aquarium of the World” by Cousteau, the Sea of Cortez hosts 850 marine species and the largest variety of whales and dolphins in the world.

Highlights

The Mobulas of Cabo Pulmo

Because of the successful status of Cabo Pulmo National Park, winter sees frequent visitors from the open ocean to El Bajo including rays and mobulas.

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.

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 Los Islotes

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

Diving in Sea of Cortez

Quick facts

The Sea of Cortez, narrow yet deep, is home to a great variety of dive environments from open ocean pinnacles with heavy currents to protected coral reefs. There’s something for every level of diver here.

Diving in the Sea of Cortez takes place from one of three types of vessels. Liveaboards are a popular option for those wishing to reach distant locations such as the Midriff Islands. Otherwise, you should be prepared to dive from small wooden pangas. Some larger speed boats are also available.

Keep in mind that a 16% tax is levied on all dive operations in Mexico. While reef hooks might be useful, they are not permitted in nationally protected areas.

When to go

If you’re love pelagic species, book your trip from December to March. If you prefer liveaboard diving, August to November are the best months for you.

August to November

August to November is the season for liveaboard diving in the Sea of Cortez. While the Pacific is cold, the Sea of Cortez is at its warmest so many boats change their itineraries during these months. The water is approximately 80°F (27°C) and these are the best months for hammerhead encounters in the region. Whale sharks can also occasionally be spotted in Cabo Pulmo National Park and in the Bay of La Paz in October.

The weather at this time transitions from hot and humid to cooler with a bit of rain. However, be aware, these months represent the highest risk of inclement weather. It’s a good idea to take out trip insurance if you plan to visit Mexico in the fall.

In addition, 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 by liveaboard? Book your Mexican diving holiday between August and October.

December to March

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 also the best time to spot Humpback Whales, Grey Whales and Mobulas in the park, and you’ll 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 this part of 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 high season for general tourism, causing an increase in accommodation rates throughout the country.

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 are limited to land-based operations. The diving in the far southern region of the Sea of Cortez 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 diving 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 shouldn’t miss the protected sites of La Paz, Los Cabos and Cabo Pulmo. Advanced divers might enjoy the Midriff Islands, Gordo Banks or El Bajo.
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    Snorkeling in Sea of Cortez

    While not as popular as on the Caribbean side of the country, snorkeling is possible in the Sea of Cortez, You’ll find many 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. If you’re looking for an adventure, during the winter months, you can snorkel with Sperm whales near San Carlos.
    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 Candeleros, 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 attracts some of the best pelagic species in the area, including hammerheads and mobulas. In Cabo Pulmo National Park, El Cantil is a large reef with sheer walls that drop beyond sight. Here marco-lovers will rejoice in the nooks and crannies where all manner of nudibranchs, shrimps and crabs await. This area requires more than one dive to explore fully. Cabo San Lucas is home to Lands End where you’ll find the famous sand falls, a wonder to behold. Further offshore, the Gordo Banks, an underwater plateau, occasionally host scalloped hammerhead sharks. The Midriff Islands are more remote and accessible only by liveaboard. Bahia de los Angeles, in particular, is a hotbed for biodiversity both above and below the waves. Finally, San Carlos is home to black coral-covered seamounts called La Primera Gringa and La Segunda Gringa. Isla San Pedro is also of note. Here 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

    Home to a plethora of pelagic species, the Sea of Cortez is sure to give you numerous noteworthy encounters for your logbook. Whale sharks are frequently encountered during the spring and fall months, as well as many cetacean species, including humpback whales, grey whales, pilot whales, blue whales, killer whales and huge pods of dolphins. Schools of breaching mobulas appear during the winter months and the occasional manta ray or hammerhead shark may also be seen.

    Year-round, energetic sea lions may excite any diver and are found throughout almost all regions. The rocky reefs in the sea are also home to a huge variety of smaller creatures such as jawfish, seahorses, nudibranchs, crabs and octopuses.

    Calendar

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

    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

    Area

    The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California is a long and narrow body of water which separates mainland Mexico from the Baja Peninsula. Several rivers feed this sea, including the Colorado, Fuerte, Mayo, Sonora, Sinaloa and Yaqui Rivers. The Sea of Cortez meets with the Pacific Ocean at the far southern edge of the Baja Peninsula near Cabo San Lucas.

    Today, the Sea of Cortez is thought to be one of the most diverse areas on the planet. It’s home to more than 850 species of fish, 5,000 species of macroinvertebrates and the largest variety of whales and dolphins per square kilometer.

    Other attractions

    The Sea of Cortez is a major body of water surrounded by many points of interest. On the Baja Peninsula, 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. The mainland side of the Sea of Cortez is a bit more subdued. Small fishing villages lure visitors with their slow and peaceful pace. There’s 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

    There are several entry points to the Sea of Cortez. The largest international airports include those found in La Paz, Cabo San Lucas and Hermosillo. However, it’s also possible to enter the area over land from the rest of mainland Mexico, the Baja Peninsula or even the United States. Once you’ve reached your Sea of Cortez destination, utilize local taxis, rental cars and bicycles to travel from point A to point B.

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    Time zone

    MXN

    Currency

    +52

    Calling code

    127 V

    Electric volt

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    B

    Plug type

    LPB

    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.
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