Whale Watching in Cabo San Lucas (Bonus: How to Pet a Whale!)

During a whale watching tour in Cabo San Lucas, a large Humpback Whale rises out of the ocean to expose half of its body and pectoral fins.
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Cabo San Lucas is one of the most famous places in the world for all-inclusive resorts. However, the natural wonders that lie just off the coast have always been the main attraction. If you’re interested in whale watching, Cabo (as it’s often nicknamed) is spectacular if you know a few basic tips. 

In this guide, you will learn how to have a whale of an adventure on your trip to Cabo!

The Baja California Peninsula extends south for about 760 miles (1220 km) from the border of California in Mexico. It is very narrow, with the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Sea of Cortez to the east. A treasure trove of marine life surrounds its 2,038 miles (3,280 km) of coastline. 

All the way down at the peninsula’s southern tip, Cabo San Lucas is uniquely located where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. Here you have the thrilling opportunity to observe rays, dolphins, sea lions, turtles, sharks and of course whales! And I’ll share how you can pet a whale(!!) if you have time for a road trip from Cabo.

Best time to go whale watching in Cabo

Whales have a mind of their own. Some are very playful while others sometimes spend their day a bit quieter. Nature can be unpredictable which makes it all the more exciting! 

But we are trying to maximize your chances of whale sightings, right? 

Well, I have been traveling all over the Baja California peninsula since January 2020. From personal experience, it would be exceptionally strange if you didn’t see a whale during your winter vacation in Cabo! 

Humpbacks are plentiful and playful here this time of year. They travel from thousands of miles away for mating and calving (giving birth) in the warmer tropical waters. It’s thought that they communicate with each other by breaching (leaping out of the water, exposing most of its body) and slapping their tails and fins on the water surface. Seeing whales play in the wild like this is guaranteed to be a highlight of your trip. 

Time of year

At least seven species of whales pass through Cabo’s waters. The most abundant are Humpback Whales, followed by Gray Whales. Certain whales are off the coast of Cabo year-round. But you’ll have the best chance of a close encounter by visiting when thousands of whales are there. 

Schedule your tour between January and March when both Humpback Whales and Gray Whales have migrated to Mexico to breed. This is peak season for whale watching in Mexico and it also happens to be the best weather in Cabo San Lucas. How lucky is that? 

The months of December and April can also be great depending on the year and several natural and climate factors. Licensed boat operators are permitted to offer whale tours from December 15 to April 15.

Time of day

Certain whales can be most active around sunrise and sunset. Others are more active during high tide, as the wind picks up, or with choppy waves. 

Here are some general observations about whale activity at certain times of the day. 

An early morning tour typically has lower wind speeds and calmer waters. This allows you to spot changes on the glassy surface while enjoying a more comfortable boat ride. 

As the day goes on, winds generally pick up. Whales may be more active, and tour guides have learned where the whales are gathering that particular day. More wind means choppy waves. If there’s choppy waves, you may experience a slightly rougher ride.

Weather conditions

Bright sunny conditions can make all the difference for great visibility above and below the water. With more than 96% days of sunshine in Cabo, from December to March you’ll easily spot whales surfacing, breaching and fluking (lifting its tail high into the air) whether near or miles away. 

In a nutshell, choose a tour that suits you. Between December 15 and April 15 in Cabo, it’s so common to see a whale that many tour companies offer a guarantee. This is one of the most incredible activities you can do anywhere in Mexico! 

What to bring and wear on your trip

  • Polarized sunglasses (to reduce glare on the water from the sun)
  • Hat or baseball cap
  • Jacket (preferably waterproof)
  • Pants (if cooler weather forecasted)
  • GoPro or waterproof camera
  • Binoculars
  • Sunscreen

Best whale watching in Cabo

A whale watching cabo tour boat sees a whale breach out of the water.
A whale watching cabo tour watches a whale breach. © Whale Watch Cabo

By boat 

Numerous tour operators in Cabo San Lucas offer guided whale watching tours. Research and pick a reputable company for your own safety and the safety of the wildlife. 

Boat tours are typically 2-3 hours and led by a guide who provides information about the whales and their behavior. Some operators offer private tours that can be customized just for your group. 

Most tours depart from the marina in Cabo San Lucas. They pass by the famous sights of Pelican Rock, Lover’s Beach and El Arco (an arch-shaped rock formation rising out of the ocean).

Whale Watch Cabo offers small group tours for non-invasive whale watching. Marine Biologist guides and experienced boat captains conduct eco-friendly tours and the company has a 100% whale sighting guarantee. They have two different styles of boats, high-speed and traditional, and kindly offer free photos after your tour. 2.5-hour tours start at $79 per adult, $59 per child (age 3 and under are free).

Cabo Trek is the original certified Responsible Whale Watching Operator in Mexico. They specialize in eco-conscious whale watching tours in Cabo San Lucas and other areas of Baja California Sur (the Mexican state where Cabo is located). Intimate group tours with Marine Biologist guides provide information about the whales and conservation efforts. 2.5-hour tours start at $89 per adult, $59 per child (age 5 and under are free).

Cabo Nature is a female-led ecotourism company offering whale watching, snorkeling and paddle boarding experiences. The staff are marine biologists and oceanographers from Mexico, so a tour with them is a great way to support the women of the country you are visiting. Cabo Nature also has a 100% whale sighting guarantee and free photos. 2-hour whale tours start at $73, children under 12 not permitted.

Salty Cabo prides themselves on safety, very small group tours, and touring away from the crowds for a unique experience. They also include complimentary drinks, snacks, and photos. 2-hour whale tours start at $95 per adult, $65 per child (age 6 and under are free). Ask them about their cash payment discount.

For the most exclusive and personalized boating excursion, consider renting a private yacht charter for whale watching in Cabo. If a boat is not specifically licensed for whale watching, it must stay much further away from whales.

A whale blows a plume of moist air from its blowhole.
A Humpback whale blows a plume of moist air from its blowhole. © Carol Vinzant | Flickr

From land

It’s practically effortless to whale watch in Cabo from a beachfront restaurant, rooftop bar, or your own ocean view balcony. If you’re on a tight budget or you’re prone to sea sickness, you can view these majestic creatures from land. 

If other whale aficionados are nearby, you might hear them exclaim with joy when they spot a whale breaching. Scan the water for their telltale spout, look closer and wait 15 seconds to 2 minutes for the whale to resurface in the same general area. 

Fun fact: most people call it a whale spout, but it’s technically a blow, which is a dense puff of moist air expelled through the blowhole. You can see whales blow from the comfort of your beach chair every day during the peak season.

Whale watching beyond Cabo San Lucas

The largest whale populations that visit Mexico have long annual migrations. They spend winters off of Mexico and summers further north, off of Alaska and in the Arctic Circle. Gray Whales have the longest migration of any mammal on the planet at 12,000 miles (19,000 km).

Whale watching season in the rest of Baja California Sur (BCS) is similar to Cabo, with nearly all whale activity between November and mid-April. Going even further north on the Pacific side, the whale season varies more. This is because whales are just passing through as part of their annual migrations north and south. 

However, while the season may be the same, the adventure possibilities couldn’t be more different. You can book an excursion with a Cabo-based company or plan your own trip. If you prefer to arrange your own tour outside of Cabo, I recommend renting a car.

Day trip to Todos Santos

Luckily, Cabo is an excellent whale watching location. You really do not need to make a day trip anywhere else (by land) to book a whale encounter. But perhaps you want to visit a nearby town for a quick day trip and whale watch while you’re there. The federally designated Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town) Todos Santos is a great choice.

Papel picado flag garland is strung across a street in downtown Todos Santos.
Papel picado flag garland is strung across a street in downtown Todos Santos.

Todos Santos is located on the Pacific coast just over an hour from Cabo. It is known for its art scene and culture, as well as great surfing. While it is not known as a whale watching destination, you will almost certainly spot whales from the beautiful beaches and dramatic cliffs during the winter. 

How can I be so sure? I have spent every winter in Todos Santos since 2021 and while there I see dozens of whales every day!

Here’s a sweet one-day itinerary. Enjoy some mid-day shopping and strolling in the adorable downtown area. Then enjoy an afternoon of artisanal cocktails and seafood tostadas at The Green Room. It is right on the beach, perfect for watching all the whales slowly passing by, often very close to shore. It’s one of my favorite places to take guests from out of town.

Todos Santos is an easy day trip from Los Cabos at just over an hour away by car. From Cabo San Lucas, take Hwy 19. From San Jose del Cabo, take the toll road to Hwy 19 which shaves off at least a half hour. At the time of this post, the toll is the equivalent of about $6 USD and they accept dollars or pesos. Alternatively, you can also get to Todos Santos without a car.

Multi-day excursions for whale watching

Do you have the time to take a longer road trip from Cabo? You can be rewarded handsomely in the form of insanely amazing whale sightings! Take tours to see the largest animal on the planet, the Blue Whale. Watch Orcas (Killer Whales) hunt right in front of your boat. Maybe even pet (or kiss!) a Gray Whale!

If you want a wildly different whale experience than what can be found in Cabo, keep reading.

I’m saving a deeper discussion about the safety of the Baja peninsula and how to have a successful Baja road trip for future posts. For now, rest a bit easier knowing that Baja California Sur is generally very safe. It is consistently ranked among the safest states in Mexico, is overflowing with some of the loveliest locals and tourists I’ve ever met, and has been a major gringo road tripping destination for decades.

Blue Whales and Orcas in Loreto

Loreto is a quiet and picturesque town about 315 miles (516 km) north of Cabo San Lucas. It is on the east coast facing the Sea of Cortez. Loreto National Marine Park is a protected area with an astonishing abundance and variety of fish, whales and other wildlife. It’s the best place to see Blue Whales on the entire Baja California peninsula.

A blue whale surfaces from the ocean a few feet from a tour boat.
A blue whale surfaces from the ocean a few feet from a tour boat. © Arturo’s Sportfishing

Orcas (Killer Whales) and Blue Whales are pretty rare sightings anywhere, but Loreto has my vote as the best place in Mexico if you want to try to see them. 

A friend recently took a fishing tour in Loreto. He witnessed a huge pod of Orcas hunting an even bigger group of Mobula Rays. He knew it was a rare moment when even the very experienced boat captain started recording video on his phone.

You can book Loreto boat tours online, and if it’s a more spur of the moment trip, that’s okay, too. You can typically book a tour for the following day once you arrive in town.

Gray Whale breeding and calving lagoons [and the chance to pet one!]

All Gray Whales breed and calve in three lagoons off of the Baja peninsula. While in the lagoons, they are docile and friendly. Some mama whales even push their baby calves up toward the boats, encouraging them to interact with the humans onboard. 

Even the adult whales get in on the action, popping up right next to boats for a good scratch from the passengers. Avoid touching anywhere near their eyes, mouths and tails. These are the most vulnerable parts of the whale.

Gray Whales become more guarded once they leave the safety of the lagoons and venture out into the Pacific Ocean. And the three lagoons are the only legal areas in Mexico to touch a whale of any species.

This is my favorite marine activity in the whole world. I wish everyone could have at least one chance to pet and stare into the eye of a Gray Whale. 

It’s incredibly special, and I feel so blessed to have taken three tours in these lagoons and pet multiple whales! If you’re craving the best whale experience in the world, look no further. The extra effort to plan a road trip from Cabo is 100% worth it, in my opinion.

Puerto Chale and Magdalena Bay

The closest place to Cabo to see Grey Whales is Puerto Chale in Magdalena Bay. Puerto Chale is the southernmost section of the southernmost lagoon they migrate to for winter. It is 205 miles (330 km) from Cabo and a 4-hour drive. 

Passengers on a small tour boat in Magdalena Bay photograph and splash to get the attention of a Gray Whale surfacing just a few feet away.
Passengers on a small tour boat in Magdalena Bay photograph a Gray Whale surfacing just a few feet away.

Puerto Chale is an off-the-beaten-path village, and fishing and whale tourism drive a large part of their economy. For those reasons, the best way to book a tour is to just show up the day before. You can find pangueros (boat captains) and tour companies on the main road through town. 

That said, I don’t want you to make that long drive just to find out there are no whales in the lagoon! So please only attempt this trip during peak whale season, January-March. You should also check the wind forecast since boat tours are not permitted in strong winds. Ask around before hand in Cabo, or find a local Facebook group to post your question.

If you’d rather book ahead, some Cabo-based companies do tours to Magdalena Bay, like Whale Watch Cabo mentioned earlier.

Two Gray Whales approach a boat full of passengers to be scratched. © Mona & Christian Wittman

Laguna Ojo de Liebre

My absolute favorite lagoon for Grey Whale watching is Ojo de Liebre in Guerrero Negro. It is halfway up the Baja peninsula and nearly 12 hours of driving each way, so it’s better for an extended road trip of at least five days.

Malarrimo is a basic hotel but one of the best in town. They offer excellent tours that leave directly from the hotel. Tours last about four hours in total and you may have a chance to make a quick stop at the world’s largest outdoor salt mine.


Whale watching by boat is a regulated activity in Mexico. Boats must be licensed specifically for whale watching, cruising speeds are regulated, and swimming with whales is illegal. Touching whales is also illegal except in a few specific lagoons. Choose tour operators that prioritize the safety and well-being of the whales, and adhere to sustainable tourism practices. Always ask to see their current permit prior to booking a tour. If you plan to take a tour off-season (April 16-December 14), research carefully and vet the companies carefully.