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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 16 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Sue Bryant

Dubbed ‘the world’s aquarium’ by Jacques Cousteau, the Sea of Cortez, shimmering between the arid mountains of the Mexican coast and the long, skinny finger of Baja California, is a wildlife haven like nowhere else.

You’ll swim with boisterous sea lion pups and snorkel among colourful reef fish. Watch out for super-pods of hundreds of dolphins, or rays flipping across the sparkling surface like pancakes. Kayak into caves, or watch red- and blue-footed boobies courting.

Days are spent kayaking, hiking and snorkelling, with a chance to leave the ship for a day and drive across the peninsula to Magdalena Bay, to get close to surprisingly relaxed grey whales and their calves. Also expect guided desert hikes, a mule trek into the arroyos, and beach bonfires under a glittering sky.

There are no busy ports along the way, just rustic villages, so these expeditions tend to attract lovers of the outdoors and wildlife enthusiasts.

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around
Duration: Min 7 days

Getting there & doing it

Expeditions start from La Paz, with the airport of Los Cabos the only gateway. Most ships follow roughly the same itinerary, hugging the coast of Baja California Sur and sailing as far north as the sleepy town of Loreto.

Ships on some longer West Coast itineraries call at Los Cabos and head into the Sea of Cortez as far as La Paz. You wouldn’t get the immersive experience of the region as you do on a dedicated Sea of Cortez expedition, though.

Given a recent surge in popularity, most major cruise operators run routes here now, but small ship is by far the best way to explore this area, particularly because the marine life is so spectacular. UnCruise Adventures, a small ship expedition specialist with a ship stationed here, offer an annual season out of La Paz, featuring snorkelling, kayaking, whale-watching and desert hikes with a team of expert guides.

When to do it

The expedition season is from January to April. You’ll need a wetsuit to swim in January, but these are usually provided. January to March is calving season for grey whales and an experience not to be missed.

Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

Aurora Expeditions [Sea of Cortez]

Aurora Expeditions [Sea of Cortez]

Sydney, New South Wales, Indonesia

Offer intimate expeditions varying in length from 10 to 26 days in remote destinations around the world. They offer science-led voyages around the Sea of Cortez on the futuristic expedition ship Sylvia Earle, named after the famous conservationist.

Scenic [Sea of Cortez]

Scenic [Sea of Cortez]


Offers Sea of Cortez expeditions from Los Angeles by ultra-luxury yacht, all-inclusive on board, led by an expedition team of 15 experts.

UnCruise Adventures [Sea of Cortez]

UnCruise Adventures [Sea of Cortez]


Small ship expedition specialist, offering an annual season out of La Paz, featuring snorkelling, kayaking, whale-watching and desert hikes with a team of expert guides.

Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Several dolphins jumping and swimming off the coast of La Paz and close to Isla Espiritu Santo in Baja California, Mexico.

Swim with dolphins in the Sea of Cortez

Baja California, Mexico[8.4 miles]

The wildlife-packed Sea of Cortez is a reliable place to find the big cetaceans of all stripes – including dolphins. October and November are best, when the water is warmer and visibility is better. March and April are also good. The best way to reach them is on multi-day live-a-board diving trips, or on specialist (luxury) expedition cruises.

Best for ages: 10+ | £0 | 2-7 days

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