La Paz Diving
La Paz is a large marine life mecca with rich waters hosting hammerheads and whale sharks, mantas, curious sea lions and huge schools of mobula rays. Famous for its friendly grey whales that come close to boats, you can also spot humpbacks, sperm whales, minkes, orcas and more.
Diving in La Paz
Cosmopolitan La Paz, the capital city of Baja California Sur, is a cool town and a diving mecca. Halfway between Cabo San Lucas and Loreto, the Bay of La Paz and its offshore islands are perfectly positioned for scuba diving with the most charismatic marine life in the Sea of Cortez. La Paz diving offers up hammerhead sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, sea lions, mobula ray schools and more, in good visibility of 15 to 30 meters. People from all over the world come here to dive, snorkel or invest in their dive training at the many dive centers. People also come to La Paz to live and study, with some major universities in town focusing on the marine environment.
Liveaboards in the Sea of Cortez often stop in La Paz for its famous hammerheads and whale sharks. Land-based divers also have plenty of options. They can organize their accommodation and dive activities separately or book a package with a linked resort and dive center.
Best time to dive
La Paz scuba diving can be enjoyed year-round, though the conditions and marine life vary throughout the year. The water temperature ranges from 20 celsius / 68 Fahrenheit in winter to 29 celsius / 84 Fahrenheit in summer. July through December offers the clearest visibility, and it can get windy between December and April.
Winter brings incredible marine life to La Paz. In December, humpback whales start arriving in the Sea of Cortez from their Arctic feeding grounds, ready to calve and nurse their young. The humpback season runs from December to April. Elusive blue whales reside in the area between January and March. On the Pacific coast across from La Paz (still accessible through a combined land trip and sea tour), grey whales calve in the protection of sheltered bays, also from January through March.
Hammerheads are another species which likes the winter months in La Paz; these incredible sharks are most abundant from November to January. Whale sharks have a longer season, from October through April (with juveniles present in October and November). Manta rays frequent La Paz from June to November. Enormous schools of mobula rays migrate through the area between late April and July.
Types of diving
Scuba diving in La Paz comes with lots of different options. There are dive sites with walls, pinnacles, a wreck, currents for drift diving and calm waters for photographers and beginners. All levels of courses are available, from absolute beginner through tec diver. La Paz tour operators also offer freediving instruction, whale-watching and snorkelling with sea lions. Liveaboards don’t use La Paz as a departure point, but most Sea of Cortez liveaboards will visit La Paz to see hammerheads, manta rays, and whale sharks.
What to see
La Paz diving is known for big animals. First of all, La Paz is among the top destinations worldwide to snorkel reliably with whale sharks. These giants of the ocean are the largest fish in the world, and they arrive in La Paz every year to gorge on tiny plankton. Another species of shark, the hammerhead, is also a La Paz speciality. Hammerheads in La Paz are not as plentiful as they once were, unfortunately, but La Paz is still the best place to see them in Baja California Sur. La Paz is also one of the best Baja Sur destinations to snorkel and dive with interactive, playful sea lions. Its colony at Los Islotes is hundreds strong and is renowned for the curiosity of its pups.
The largest marine animals in La Paz are whales. In and around the Bay of La Paz, humpback, sperm, minke, orca, pilot and finback whales enjoy the protected Sea of Cortez, either as temporary or permanent residents. In the Pacific ocean across the peninsula, friendly and inquisitive grey whales gather in aggregations of more than 50 at a time.
Large rays are also a La Paz diving specialty. For years, people thought that manta rays had disappeared from the area, but they have now reformed a reliable presence at the dive site La Reina. Even more reliably, huge schools of mobula rays migrate in the hundreds through La Paz every year, and may be witnessed while diving or snorkeling.
Best places to dive
El Bajo is the most famous dive site of La Paz. This chain of three seamounts peaks between 16 and 25 meters (52 to 82 feet) and is an advanced dive with current, which is exactly what attracts hammerheads, tuna, marlin, whale sharks and potentially manta rays. El Bajo lies a few hours from La Paz by boat.
Many of La Paz’s local dive sites are concentrated around Isla Espiritu Santo, UNESCO protected since 1995 as part of the Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve. Various rocky islands dot Espiritu Santo’s perimeter, across from its incredible white-sand beaches and clear water. Los Islotes is one of these islands, technically two islets. On Los Islotes, north of Isla Partida (an island separated by a narrow channel from Espiritu Santo’s northern tip), lives a colony of over 400 California sea lions. Los Islotes is good for diving and snorkelling, and for photographing playful juveniles cavorting under a rocky arch.
At the dive site La Reina, a group of about eight giant Pacific mantas glide over a vibrant reef of gorgonians and brain corals. Divers who can pull their eyes away from the mantas will enjoy schools of colorful fish and moray eels lurking in the crevices of the reef.
The dive site La Salvatierra is a wreck which sank in action, but luckily with no loss of life. Divers can observe the trucks carried by this cargo ferry, some with their tires still inflated. La Salvatierra is an easy wreck at a depth of 18 meters (60 feet), with no penetration. It’s now a bustling artificial reef.
Other La Paz dive sites include Isla Ballena, with fun dive-throughs and a garden of conger eels, and Punta Lobos. Punta Lobos was once a sea lion colony, but it is now known for huge mobula schools in late spring and summer, and (on the smaller side) for seahorses.