Sea of Cortez

4.59615384615
(13 REVIEWS)
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Scuba Diving in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico

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Sea of Cortez Diving Highlights

The scuba diving in the Sea of Cortez and La Paz is all about sea lions, whale sharks, manta and mobula rays, dolphins, huge schools of fish and fascinating underwater macro life. It is one of the easiest "big animal" destinations to reach and enjoy from the United States.

La Paz, Cabo Pulmo, Loreto, and the northern Sea of Cortez all have excellent diving. You can dive the Sea of Cortez via liveaboard or a dive resort.

Read more about Mexico's best dive destinations.

View the Sea of Cortez's Location on Google Map

 

Intro to  DIVING Sea of Cortez

The Sea of Cortez is a special place situated between Baja, Mexico and the mainland. Water of all shades of blue sits against an arid desert backdrop and an assortment of islands. The Baja peninsula is home to unique flora and fauna that have evolved in near isolation, so it's no surprise that the Sea of Cortez diving features magnificent marine life. Cabo San Lucas is home to Land's End, a narrow strip of land where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. There is a famous arch, several unique dive sites and accommodations for all sides of the nightlife spectrum.

For divers, La Paz is the most popular destination. It is the capital city of Baja California Sur, Mexico and is situated on the coast about 2 hours north of Cabo San Lucas, on the Sea of Cortez side of the peninsula. Cabo Pulmo is a very small town located between Cabo and La Paz, offering fascinating diving within a protected marine park.

Moving North into the Sea of Cortez we find Lorteo, a much smaller destination than La Paz, but also with excellent diving. The cost of diving on the Sea of Cortez is much more affordable than many other destinations where divers look for the same large marine life, and short flights from the southwestern United States make travel easy.  

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Diving Information 

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Sea of Cortez Marine Life & Photography Subjects

The Sea of Cortez has a reputation for whale sharks. During the summer and fall, divers flock to the Sea of Cortez for a chance to swim with whale sharks. These gentle giants generally move south as the season gets later.

Another shark that also puts La Paz on the map in the '80s was the hammerhead shark. Divers used to be able to see massive schools of hammerhead sharks off El Bajo and Las Animas, but unfortunately, these schools have been replaced with occasional hammerhead sightings.

During the winter months, mobula rays are quite commonly seen in the Sea of Cortez, especially on night dives.

Another main attraction for diving La Paz are the sea lions, which frolic and play with divers, presenting amazing photo opportunities. Sea Lions are found in a number of places in the Sea of Cortez, but none beat the sea lion colony of Los Islotes.

Other Sea of Cortez marine life includes huge schools of jacks and baitballs, as well as tuna, wahoo and lots of other fish, dolphins, eels, jawfish, rays.

The Sea of Cortez also offers great macro photography opportunities with critters like nudibranchs, snails, jawfish, pikeblennies, signal blennies; and various crabs and shrimps to photograph.

Check out this amazing underwater video taken by Dan McGanty during our 2018 Explore Baja trip!

Love the diversity of the Sea of Cortez but fancy a change? Have a look at Raja Ampat dive trips.


Diving Conditions

  • Water Temperatures: 68 - 84°F (20 - 29°C)
  • Visibility: 50 - 115 feet (15 - 35m)
  • Depth Range: 16 - 130 feet (5 - 40m)

 

Typical Sea of Cortez Dive

Pangas (classic Mexican wood and fiberglass boats) are the norm for resort diving. These versatile, outboard-powered crafts provide smaller groups with fast, easy access to the dives dive sites.

Several operators have larger, more "traditional" dive boats. Liveaboards will dive from their tender boats. Dives in the Sea of Cortez can be a shallow "fishbowls" with fantastic vis or deep dives in stiff current looking for hammerhead sharks, so there are options for everyone.

 

 

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Travel Information 

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How to Get There

La Paz is serviced by Manuel Márquez de León International Airport (LAP), with most flights arriving from Mexico City, Guadalajara or Los Angeles. Once on the ground, it's a quick shuttle ride to the dive resorts. Divers visiting Cabo Pulmo can fly into Los Cabos International Airport (SJD), which is about an hour away. This is also the airport for Cabo San Lucas.

Loreto has an international airport, however, flights are more limited than in the larger cities. If renting a car, make sure to check reviews first as some companies have been known to scam tourists.

Sea of Cortez liveaboards depart from La Paz, or you can take van ride from Phoenix to the northern tip of the Sea of Cortez.

 

How to Dive the Sea of Cortez

There are several dive resorts in the Sea of Cortez along with a few liveaboard options. Divers will find most of the dive resorts in La Paz, which is easy to reach. Cabo Pulmo offers limited options and is also easily reached. Beyond that, divers can explore options at Loreto.

Liveaboards like the Rocio del Mar, the Quino el Guardian, and the Nautilus Gallant Lady provide extended range and offer different itineraries depending on the time of year and marine life seasons - a great way to experience the Sea of Cortez.  

 

Best Time to Dive Sea of Cortez

July to December has the best visibility, often approaching 80 feet (25 meters). We're fans of visiting the La Paz area between October and November, which is prime season for whale sharks and offers warmer waters. The whale sharks are generally found in the bay feeding on plankton, so visibility will be significantly less during these snorkeling sessions. These whale shark swimming sessions are only allowed between October 1-April 30! The whale sharks are also near Bahia de Los Angeles during July-August, dived via liveaboard.

December to March brings sightings of grey and humpback whales as well as mobula rays, however, the water is colder with poorer visibility than the summer and fall. Temperatures range from 65F in the winter to 86F in late summer. It can also be windy during the winter months. The Sea of Cortez and Baja Peninsula get hot topside during the summer, but it's a dry heat and the refreshing Sea of Cortez is never more than a few steps away.

As an additional note, if you're visiting La Paz to dive with the sea lions on Los Islotes, please be informed that the colony is closed for mating season each year from June 1-August 31. 

 

Topside & Non-Diving Activities

Sea of Cortez dive resorts offer activities like fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, sandy beaches, dining and lounging by the pool. Keep in mind that swimming with whale sharks is limited to snorkels and no tanks, so it's a great opportunity to bring non-divers on an ocean adventure.

Non-diving activities on liveaboards are limited to snorkeling and enjoying the sun decks.

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SEA of Cortez Liveaboards

Find a liveaboard in the Sea of Cortez and book online with the help of our travel experts. Live chat support available. Best price guaranteed!

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Please contact us for the latest availability of  MV Valentina.

 

New to liveaboards? Let's help you get started with our Guide to Liveaboard Diving.

 

Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

  • Currency: Mexican Peso (MXN)
  • Language: Spanish is the official language in Mexico but most people today learn English as a second language
  • Time Zone: UTC-7
  • Electricity: 127 V 60 Hz

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Call us today at +1-310-915-6677 or email us info@bluewaterdivetravel.com

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Reviews (13)

5
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5
5

I would say the diversity when diving in the Sea of Cortez is just amazing.

The Sea Lions and Whale Sharks were the highlight of the trip. It’s pure joy to watch the Sea Lions with their antics as they try to get divers attention and interact with them. But I can’t leave out the Nudibranchs, Giant Jaw fish (with eggs), Seahorse and Bulls Eye puffer (the puppy dog of the sea) along with beautiful seascapes. So much to see it’s hard to take it all in on one trip.

The Sea of Cortez shows off her diversity both underwater and topside on the trip to the Midriff Islands.
Besides the diversity of the sea life the added bonus is being on a photography trip with like minded guests who were willing to share their experience and subjects. No hurrying during a dive, take the time you need to photograph a subject or seascape.

Overall and amazing and enjoyable trip.

Visited on 07/2021 - Submitted on 08/19/2021
5
5
5
5

The dive spots were excellent with wonderful interactions with sea lions and viewing for many other types of sea life I’ve had little opportunity to see in the past. The Sea of Cortez is definitely a wonderful place to dive and I will definitely do so again given the opportunity. This was my first live aboard and it was a very enjoyable experience I would welcome again. The whale shark snorkeling was amazing this time. Views and encounters with these creatures in Baja de los Angeles exceeded previous encounters in La Paz, mostly due to much better visibility.

This trip was truly enjoyable for me. I only have great memories and experiences and was able to grow a little bit as a budding underwater videographer. There was no shortage of sea life opportunities with which to try and improve my knowledge and skills. Nirupam is an excellent guide and coach. I’ve been on three trips with him now (twice in La Paz and this one) and I would happily go on any dive trip with him.

Visited on 07/2021 - Submitted on 08/19/2021
5
5
5
5

Diving the Sea of Cortez is magical. I love the blend of macro and wide photo ops. I do wish I would have seen some sharks though.
Setting up dream dive destinations with Bluewater Travel is effortless! Great job to all involved. Can't wait for my next adventure with you guys.

Visited on 07/2021 - Submitted on 08/05/2021
5
5
5
5

After hearing so many wonderful things about the Sea of Cortez, I booked a trip there in August of 2019 with Bluewater Travel. The beauty of this area can't be described, it needs to be seen! What I liked the most is the incredible diversity of sea life. And the divermasters were so knowledgeable in the dive sites that they knew just where to look to find the most amazing sea life. Although this was a Photo Workshop, I only had a Go Pro and there was plenty to photograph!
The boat was very comfortable and we had many divers that had specific food requests that always considered at every meal. The entire staff was amazing and very accommodating to every need.
I would recommend this trip to a diver that has some experience as there were sometimes very strong currents and sometimes reduced visibility.
But I enjoyed this trip so much that I am actually planning on going back again. There is so much to see and experience in the Sea of Cortez!

Visited on 08/2019 - Submitted on 03/11/2021
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5

Cabo itself is a great place to visit. We went over Spring Break, so there was plenty of night life. Had fun and good food at Cabo Wabo. Enjoyed the Giggling Marlin and El Squid Roe for a little night life. Had a great diner at La Central Los Cabos and watched all the boats coming in to dock.

We only had time for one day of scuba diving. We went around 7-8 meters for the most of the 3 dives. We aren't used to the cold water diving even in the 7mm suit. The dive was still fun and worth it!

Pelican Rock:

Interesting rocky, underwater mountain dive site. Good visibility - 15 meters, water temp was cold - 22 degrees celcius. Saw lots of fan corals, star fish, lobster, puffer fish, stone fish, nurse shark, spotted sea snake, eels, and lots of school fish.

Land's End:

Started off with a sea lion, sandy bottom dive with lots of rays. Also went by an old sunk boat, but the visibility wasn't as good there. Saw flounder and a few nudi branch as we came up a rocky wall. Lots of eels. Small cave at the end.

Neptune's Finger:

Sandy bottom start with rocky wall at the end. Saw large schools of fish, but visibility wasn't great. Saw lots of rays and eels. Pretty fan corals with lots of color. Nice butterfly ray, electric rays, and guitar rays. Puffer fish and nudi branch on wall.

Visited on 03/2020 - Submitted on 05/29/2020

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