Socorro Islands



Country: Mexico

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Socorro Islands in a Nutshell

Diving the Socorro Islands is a wide-angle adventure filled with giant manta and shark encounters, schooling fish, and other large pelagic marine life.


Intro to Socorro

The Socorro Islands are a group of 4 islands in the Pacific known as the Revillagigedo Archipelago. Socorro and Roca Partida are the most popular for diving, accompanied by San Benedicto and Clarión. The islands lie 240 miles (386km) southwest of Cabo San Lucas in Baja, Mexico, and are often called Mexico's "Little Galapagos" due to their unique ecosystem and attraction of large pelagic animals. Searching for large pelagics leaves divers with a choice between the Socorro, Galapagos, Cocos, and Malpelo. Socorro is the closest destination for those in the U.S. Because the Socorro Islands are volcanic and rise out of the open ocean, the only scuba diving options are liveaboards.  


Check out Diane Randolph's video from our 2016 Socorro Photo Workshop below!


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Diving Information 

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Marine Life & Photography Subjects

Socorro is known for its manta cleaning stations, where underwater photographers can often spend many dives with the gentle flying giants. They're regularly found when the water is warmer in the late spring. When the water cools during winter months (December - March), divers are treated to humpback whale sightings. Galapagos, silky, oceanic whitetip and hammerhead sharks are common at Socorro, as well as dolphins, whale sharks (best in November) and schools of pelagic fish like jacks and barracuda. Divers often see large gamefish like tuna, wahoo and marlin, something few other destinations can offer. Those interested in shooting photos of some smaller creatures will find eels, octopi, nudibranchs and more. Another "signature experience" at Socorro: swimming with a group of bottlenose dolphins that often visit divers and typically make several close passes.


This outstanding Socorro video was taken on one dive trip, and shows many mantas, dolphins, and hammerheads, all up close 


Diving Conditions

  • Water Temperature: Water temps range from 21-23C/70-74f during the winter and 24-28C/76-82f during late fall and spring. Usually, a 5mm wetsuit with optional hooded vest works well at Socorro. Note that dive gloves are not permitted at Socorro by law
  • Depth Range: 33 - 100ft (10 - 30m)
  • Visibility: varies depending on the dive site, season, currents and other conditions. Roca Partida often has the best visibility, reaching over 100 feet. There are sometimes reports of lower visibility in November/December (when whale sharks are found feeding on plankton).


Typical Socorro Dive

We recommend Socorro for experienced divers due to the exposed nature of the diving. The islands often see choppy seas and strong currents (which attract the rich pelagic life). The diving is correspondingly rugged, with rocky structure and some huge walls. Liveaboards will typically run 3 to 4 dives per day, diving the best sites at Socorro Island, Roca Partida and San Benedicto.



Dive Sites

  • El Fondeadero is often dived first. It's generally pretty calm and not too deep so its where some boats go checkout dive. There are three large pinnacles full of lobster, fish, eels and occasionally shark.
  • A large pinnacle rises to about 20 feet from the surface, so you can't see it from topside. The surf and swell running across the top sometimes making the water look like its boiling. The pinnacle is small enough to swim around during one dive and it's very majestic looking from all angles. The bottom is at around 160' so getting your weights right and not being too heavy is very important. This area is a popular cleaning station for the giant Pacific manta. They gather here to be cleaned by the Clarion Angelfish.
  • It is usually just a matter of a few minutes in the water before the mantas started to show up. As they approach, they look you right in the eye, and you DO feel like you are communicating with them. On a past trip in March we were fortunate enough to see a humpback whale underwater here, and shortly after, a Tiger shark.
  • "El Canyon" is on the south end of the island. It was here that we had seen many mantas, dolphins, Galapagos sharks, 
  • silky sharks, and schools of hammerheads off the point.
  • Cabo Pearce is located on the east side of Socorro Island. You can expect to see dolphins, humpback whales and mantas.
  • Punta Tosca is another site on Socorro Island. There are often playful, sociable dolphins here, and sometimes Silky sharks.
  • The afternoon dives were done on the other side of the island at a spot called "The Aquarium". We could see whales just offshore the entire time we were there and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
  • Roca Partida is a guano-covered pinnacle about 85 miles from San Benedicto Island. About 100' high and as long as a football field, the pinnacle is in the middle of nowhere and is a magnet to pelagics. This is where you can see many sharks, mantas, huge schools of fish, and whale sharks (you must be very lucky). A diver on a recent trip saw Oceanic whitetips and Scalloped Hammerheads here in January.

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Travel Information 

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How to Get There

Divers fly into Los Cabos International Airport (SJD). Once through immigration, you'll meet a shuttle provided by your liveaboard to its departure point at either San Jose Del Cabo (15 mins) or Cabo San Lucas (40 mins). Most boats take about 24 hours to reach Socorro from either city.  


How to Dive Socorro

The area can only be reached by liveaboard. There are no hotels in on most the islands no place where you could get off the boat and walk around. Liveaboard boats sail out of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The journey is 24-28 hours each way, and can be rough, so take sea sickness precautions.  



November - May is the best time to dive Socorro, and the liveaboards' itineraries correspond. During these months all the mantas and sharks are plentiful.


Topside & Non-Diving Activities

Cabo San Lucas, and to a lesser degree San Jose Del Cabo, offer a range of non-diving activities, including golf, fishing, village visits and various other options. Once you're at sea, however, topside activities are limited to standard liveaboard entertainment: catching up with fellow divers, editing photos, reading, etc. There is not much else to do there!

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Liveaboard availability

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Please contact us for the latest availability of the following boats: MY Cassiopeia and MV Valentina



Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

  • Currency: Mexican Peso
  • 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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Reviews (4)

  • Reviewer
Minneapolis, MN
United States

I attended the Socorro photo workshop with Bluewater in March 2017. The daily workshops were fun and also informative for everyone on our boat, from novice photographers to experienced professionals. We learned tips and tricks about lighting, framing and even post-processing. I have since applied a number of the techniques during future trips and have noticed significant improvement in my photos. Thanks Erik!

I rated Socorro as a destination as 4 stars because the conditions can be intense (especially the crossing if you experience motion sensitivity), water is chilly and excellent water skills and experience swimming into strong currents is advised. Such great exercise! Seasonality and weather can also greatly affect the amount of pelagic life that you might see. Some dive groups might spot humpbacks, dolphins, Galapagos sharks, hammerheads or even a whale shark like we did, but other groups may not. That is expected diving the deep blue so as long as you set your expectations properly, it can be a nice experience.

Visited on 02/2017 - Submitted on 02/27/2018

Socorro is not a place for novice diver. The currents are strong, and even on calm days, there is a lot of surge (which is actually fun to ride in after awhile). None of that was unexpected -- after all, we were diving in the middle of the Pacific without any extensive reefs, or large islands to provide sheltered water.

The marine varies by season (we did not see whale sharks, for example, because they do not show up typically in January -- again no surprise), but is focused on large pelagic creatures. Socorro is all about wide-angle photography. We dove at 3 sites, (Canyon, Boiler, Roca Partida), all of which were very similar in the types of creatures you see. There is a surprising amount of interesting smaller creatures lurking in the rocks (I followed around a very sweet octopus for awhile) at the dive sites, but sadly they just tend to get ignored by divers in awe of the big stuff -- dolphins, sharks (hammerhead, silky, reef), and playful manta rays that seem to love swimming through the bubbles of divers. The experience of playing with the giant Pacific Manta rays, over and over again really made the trip worthwhile.

The dolphins were surprisingly shy (I know other divers have different experiences), but they did show up on 2 early morning dives at Canyon. Later on, we headed out in the panga boats, chasing humpback whales (there were 4 hanging out near the boat). We got close to one whale, but he dove immediately upon our approach. However, we did get to snorkel with a playful pod of dolphins, (and some curious sharks that made us a bit nervous), and got some nice video

If you want better idea about the trip, you can check out my video here:

Visited on 01/2014 - Submitted on 02/28/2014

Fine, really fine pelagic quarry diving and in our backyard (from NW US that is)! Our last several trips involved tortuous amounts of time in airplanes and ports but not so Socorro and yet the payoff is up there on the "best" scale. This November in the Revillagigedo islands, we made the CLOSE acquaintance of at least 4 whale sharks including a calf, saw white tips stacked like cord wood, Galapagos, Silvertip, and Silky shark cruised within 20 feet. Hammerheads, as they tend to, stayed on the blue edge. We have seen more than a few mantas elsewhere but these were there to entertain, coming in multiples and staying for the length of the dive. Octopus, turtles,humongous lobster, morays in most nooks, we had absolutely no shortage of sightings. Topside all there was time for was excellent eating and welcome beds before time to get deep again. Currents added some spice but not excessive danger to the experience. Visibility was affected by the storm crossing our path but was 75 ft at worst. Water temp was 74-80 degrees, we wore 5mm's to keep warm on successive dives. Our crossings a bit rough but hey, this is the Pacific and the dolphins were there for diversion. If you have dived enough to gain respect for open water and essentially bottomless sites, Socorro is for you!

Visited on 11/2013 - Submitted on 02/06/2014

Diving the Isla Revillagigedo has always been on my bucked list. I was finally able to cross it off in early December 2013. A short flight from LAX brought us to Cabo San Lucas. We overnighted in Cabo, and the next afternoon boarded theboat for the 22 hour ride to the islands. Our first stop was Isla San Benedicto. The boilers had a few manta rays circling us. Our next stop was Roca Pardita. A rock in the middle of the ocean, known for lots of pelagic fish cruising by. But not when we were there. I did see a group of hammerhead sharks deep. The pile of white tip sharks in the crevices was worth the ride. Then off to Isla Soccoro. Cabo Pearce had dolphin, turtles, schooling fish, lobsters and manta rays. Finally back to San Benedicto, and The Canyon. Dolphins and more mantas. Our final destination was The Boilers once more. And, more mantas.

This trip was basically Manta Madness. We had up to 7 flying carpets on one dive. I was told to make lots of noise. Apparently mantas like that sort of thing. I tested it. A manta would come by, I sang and screamed, it circled and circled. Same manta would swim by later in the dive. I was mute. It slowly glided by. Even later in the dive, said same manta approached, I sang and screamed (some say it's the same). Said manta circled and circled. I was perplexed why are the mantas approaching us bubble breathers? We don't offer food, nor cleaning. We aren't even allow to touch them. I think they're just as perplexed at the insane bubble breathers. A behavior I thought interesting, they would unwind their cephalic lobes in my face, and wind them back up. I wasn't sure what was proper reply was, so I just sang and screamed. Also, a manta with no tail, would come straight at me (and others), shoot straight up. Then like a stalled biplane, drop back down. Recover and do it again. I had always thought that mammals only did things for FUN. I was wrong, these guys may have had more fun the we had.

I would consider this a fairly advanced sort of trip. Long bumpy boat ride (bring your meds). Help is a long way away. Large ocean swells, and currents. But the reward is great big animal encounters. I tend to do macro videography. I even brought my macro stuff along. Save luggage weight, leave the macro stuff at home. His is a wide angle adventure.

My video of can be seen at Please give it a like.

Visited on 12/2013 - Submitted on 02/06/2014


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