A place where you can pet whales! Baja Mexico is known for the wonderful sea life and varieties of whales that pass through the waters. In the town of Guerrero Negro, whale watching is the most ✨ unique ✨ animal encounter you can have.
This city was founded to mine salt in the local salt flats. As it gained popularity, whalers learned that the salty lagoon was a haven for whales and a perfect place to hunt. Nowadays, the town evolved into a sanctuary that is leading the protection of these whales. Ironically, the town is still named after an infamous whaler ship. As you drive around town, you may notice the skeleton monuments to these wondrous creatures of the sea 🌊. The grand bone relics pale in comparison to their beauty when swimming out in the lagoon.
My husband and I spent the winter months living in Baja Mexico. We encountered sea life all along the peninsula, including snorkeling with fish 🤿, whale watching from shore 🏝, and kayaking with dolphins 🐬. Without a doubt, this was the most magical experience of all. We spent hours petting whales, watching them breach, and staring in awe as they surrounded our boat.
Read everything you need to know about Guerrero Negro whale watching tours below!
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Table of Contents
Guerrero Negro Whale Watching Details
Whale Watching Experience
Gray Whales spend the winter in the Baja lagoons birthing their calves. These lagoons are buoyant because of the warm water and high salt content 🧂. So, it’s the perfect place for baby whales to learn how to swim.
There are three lagoons in Baja where you can experience gray whales up close: Ojo de Liebre, Magdalena Bay, and San Ignacio Lagoon.
Ojo de Liebre, outside of Guerrero Negro, feels virtually untouched 🤫. There are three sections of the lagoon: Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 0. Zone 1 is where the three tour companies are allowed to go with passengers to see the whales. Zone 2 is designated for fishermen and commercial needs. Zone 0 is in between the two and is off limits because it’s where the birthing occurs.
What to Expect on the Tour
Before the Boat
Before you even get on the boats, you will get to learn a lot about the Gray whales. Tour providers give a 30 minute orientation 🪧, where they teach you about the whales and what to expect.
After your presentation, you will get on mini-buses that drive for about 45 minutes to Ojo de Liebre. They pass through the Salt flats, which are privately owned. The land is closed to the public and you can only pass through on an official tour. On the way back from the tour, many of the buses will stop so you can touch the salt crystals. But, do not eat them, because they haven’t purified it for human consumption!
Once you get to the marina, they will assign you to a boat 🚤 with about 8-10 passengers on it. Captains will depart the dock and cruise for 10-15 minutes out into the lagoon.
As you cruise into the lagoon, keep your eyes on the horizon and you will probably start to see puffs of mist from the whales’ blowholes. Captains will drive the boats right into the action. While, further out you can see whales breaching if you’re lucky. It’s a out of this world experience that you will never forget!
The boat can get choppy, so if you get seasick remember to take Dramamine!
The Gray Whales 🐋 will start swimming up to the boat and turning their eyes out to see you. When they get brave enough, they will start nudging their head out of the water to allow you to pet them. You may also feel them scratching their bodies on the boat below or see them swimming underneath. But, watch out they may blow water right in your face!
It’s a little bit chaotic as you jump from side to another following the whales trying to catch them with their head out. At one point, we had 6 whales surrounding our boat. They were all coming up to interact with us and get pets. It was one of the most incredible experiences! However, I did start to get a little nauseous 🤢 from all the movement.
We stayed out on the open waters for three hours before sadly turning back to shore. On the way back to the marina, we saw a bunch of seals 🦭 hanging out on a floating barge. The captain handed out our bagged lunches with sandwiches, oranges, sweets, and a coke. Thankfully, that helped my seasickness begin to fade. All in all the tour lasted about 4.5 hours.
You will then take the 45 minute drive back to the tour provider. We went on Mario’s Whale Tours, but you can expect a similar experience with all the local providers!
Once you get back to land, make sure to stop at Tacos el Muelle for the best fish tacos in all of Baja.
Best Time to Go
Guerrero Negro whale watching tours are open year round, but Baja whale watching season peaks from January through March 🗓.
Gray whales start to go down to Baja in September and October. But, they spend winter breeding and birthing their calves. During these precious months, the mom’s teach their calves important life skills in the lagoon.
You can see the whales in the lagoon anytime from the end of December to early April. But if you go during peak season, you’ll see a lot more. On our tour, we could see puffs from the whales all around us. We had more than 20 different whales swim up to our boat!
Gray Whale Fun Facts
🐳 Gray Whales make some of the longest annual migrations of any mammal. Every year they travel 12,000 miles from their feeding grounds in the Arctic down to Baja lagoons where they breed calves, before heading back up North.
🐳 When they are in the Arctic, they fuel up on tons of food for their long journey. Because when they make their way South, they do not eat much. Instead, they rely on their fat for energy.
🐳 Gray whales like many other species are filter feeders. So, they have baleen instead of teeth. They scoop up large quantities and filter out anything they do not want.
🐳 These whales are not ambiturners (Zoolander fans where you at?). They only turn right or left, and are classified as either right headed or left headed. You can tell which side they turn based on the barnacles on their body. They rub the barnacles off on the side they can turn.
🐳 These majestic creatures can be as long as 49 feet and weigh up to 90,000 pounds. Surprisingly, the females are larger than the men.
🐳 Mama whales teach their babies how to swim, breach, and lift up in the waters of the lagoon. The lagoon is a safe space for the calf to learn before heading to open waters.
How to Get There
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending how you look at it, Guerrero Negro is far from most major cities. So, you will find that these tours are less crowded and not as well known. The closest major city is Ensenada, which is an 8 hour drive away.
So, the only way to get there is to drive 🚙.
Guerrero Negro is located on the West Coast of the Baja peninsula of Mexico. You can take Mexico 1 North from La Paz or take Mexico 3 South from Ensenada. Guerrero Negro is a small town, but there are a few hotels to choose from if you need to stay. If you are in an RV or camper van, you can stay at Mario’s for $300 pesos 🏕.
Guerrero Negro Whale Watching Tour Providers
The local government has only given three outfitters permission to tour in Ojo de Liebre: Mystic Whale Tours, Malarrimo, and Mario’s. All three tour companies run very similar tours and are great options 🎖.
Tours are $50 for adults and $40 for children 💵, which is well worth the price. They are about 4 hours and there are two options: one at 8 am and one at 11 am.
Important Rules to Follow
⚠️ Do not touch the whales’ flippers, blowholes, or mouth. They are sensitive and do not like when those things are touched.
⚠️ You should not stand when the boat is in motion. They will stop the boat and you’ll have plenty of time to move around.
⚠️ Follow all the rules from the guides and respect the whales.
⚠️ Respect the Leave No Trace Principles and leave the lagoon better than you found it.
Is Touching Gray Whales Ethical?
Many people asked me why the whales came up to the boat. Did they feed them? Is this normal? Is this ethical?
Local authorities give certain tour outfitters special permits to interact with the whales. These boat captains ensure the whales are being interacted with respectfully. This is one of the only places in the entire world 🌎 that you can pet whales!
These gray whales flock to the boats and surround them. They lift their heads and bodies towards the tourists above so they can be pet. Tour guides and captains do not feed the whales or entice them to interact with customers.
It is clear the whales love the interactions and act like sea puppies 🐶. Even when we had to leave, the whales tried to follow us home! They clearly enjoy spending time near humans.
Guerrero Negro Whale Watching Packing List
Most people would expect Mexico to be sunny and warm, but the whale watching tours can be very cold 🥶. I layered up on the tour with leggings under jeans, a winter hat, and a rain jacket.
Despite the cold, the sun is very strong ☀️ and bounces off the water. All four members of my group left the tour with a facial sunburn. So, wear plenty of sun protection and layers to have a great day on the water!
- Closed Toes Shoes
- Small Pack
- Water Bottle
- First Aid Kit
- Hat to block sun
- Rain jacket or light winter jacket
- Dramamine for Sea Sickness
I cannot truly describe all of the feelings that I experienced while on that boat 🤩. Getting that close to whales is one of the most remarkable things you can ever do. In my opinion, there is no better whale encounter in Baja. Guerrero Negro whale watching is something that everyone should add to their bucket list! I cannot wait to go back and do it all again.
Let me know in the comments if you found this guide helpful!
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