Sea Kayaking & Whale Watching on Baja's Pacific Coast
While most sea kayak trips in Baja take place in the Sea of Cortez, this one is unique because we paddle on the Pacific Coast, or west side of the peninsula. The highlights of the trip are paddling in protected waters with giant sand dunes stretching to the west and mangroves to the east. We paddle approximately 40 miles in the five-day kayaking portion of the journey, making this a beginner to intermediate sea kayaking trip. The trip is supported by a motorized panga that carries our camp gear and arrives at camp earlier than the kayakers, so camp can be partially set up by the time the group arrives. Then, after our paddle, our grand finale is a night at our fabulous whale camp set at the northern mouth of Magdalena Bay, and two whale watching sessions. One of the four main birthing lagoons of the gray whales, Mag Bay, as it’s known, is defined by several islands that create a barrier between the vast Pacific and mainland Baja. On one of these islands sits our whale watching camp, the most beautiful whale watching camp location in all of Baja.
Unlike the Sea of Cortez, where winds sometimes create challenges to our routes, this bay is protected by coastal islands, so we don’t have to worry about winds interfering with our paddling. As we kayak north on the protected waters, we make time to glide among the labyrinthian mangroves that are full of life. One of the most important ecosystems in the world, mangroves filter fresh water coming from land, and buffer the shores from erosion. Their roots provide protection and food for a wide variety of fish species and their thick branches are home to a host of seabirds who feed and nest among the protective foliage.
The marvelous sand dunes create magical camping conditions. Our camps are set within the undulating dunes, where open space beckons the explorer. In camp there’s plenty of time for wandering and discovery, learning about a fascinating and specialized ecosystem where life if bountiful, but not obvious. As we approach the northernmost part of our journey, we may encounter gray whales sharing the same currents. In addition, dolphins sometimes visit these waters.
On the afternoon of our fifth day, we leave our kayaks and board small motor skiffs (locally known as pangas) to travel to our Magdalena Bay whale watching camp. On our two-hour skiff ride, we have our first intimate whale watching experience. We arrive at our island camp in the late afternoon and you settle into stand-up height canvas tents with cots, pads and warm sleeping bags.
Soon appetizers are served, followed by dinner. In the evening our naturalist guides give a presentation on the natural history of whales. These presentations are a highlight for many guests and provide meaningful insight into the biology of whales and other marine life.
On our last day, we are awed with another whale watching session before reaching the town of Lopez Mateos where we have lunch in a restaurant operated by the local fishing cooperative. We return to Loreto by late afternoon.
The gray whales are generally in Baja from late December to late April. Because Magdalena Bay is the furthest south and thus the farthest point away from the migration’s starting point in the Arctic, the whales tend to arrive a little later and leave a little earlier compared to the other two lagoons. Thus, to make sure we have the best chances of seeing the whales in Magdalena Bay, we offer during this trip from latter January to early March only.
This Baja kayaking tour begins and ends in Loreto where there is easy access by air from the US and Canada, as well as flights from Tijuana. We provide all the kayaking and camping gear required, making your travel more convenient. We invite you to join us to discover a part of Baja that few visit and, is rich with rewards for the curious paddler!
Gray Whales of Baja California Sur:
Each fall the gray whales of the northeastern Pacific migrate south from the Arctic and Alaska to the safe lagoons of Baja California. It’s a journey they’ve made for tens of thousands of years. Having spent the late spring and summer months feeding, the whales are prepared for this long journey south, an impressive migration of some 6000 miles. It takes a few months to transit from north to south, and by mid-December the first whales are arriving at the more northerly Ojo de Liebre lagoon, formerly known as Scammon’s Lagoon.
Captain Scammon was a whaler who first found these breeding locations of the gray whale during the whaling era. Within 100 years the whales had been hunted to near extinction. Scammon eventually became appalled by the slaughter, but in his years as a whaler, he kept observant notes and sketches of the whales, providing us with details that contained the largest body of knowledge of gray whales until the 1970’s. From a post-whaling period low of maybe 2000 gray whales in the eastern Pacific, the population now fluctuates between 22,000 and 32,000 depending on cycles of food, weather and unknown elements.
The gray whales come to two other lagoons that are south of Oje de Liebre. San Ignacio, where the first “friendly” encounter between man and whale happened in the 1970’s; and Magdalena Bay which is the furthest south. Today, in all three of these bays or lagoons, there is a certain percentage of the population of whales that exhibit “friendly” behavior. For whatever reason, these whales seek out human contact. They choose to approach the whale-watching skiffs, even though they have the wide-open sea before them. The mothers even push their calves close to the boats. It’s one of the world’s most incredible wildlife experiences to look into the eye of a whale just a few feet away. For some, it is a powerfully spiritual moment, while for others, it is truly exhilarating and awe-inspiring.
On our Magical Magdalena Bay trip, you enjoy the best of two experiences – whale watching and sea kayaking. During our kayaking, each evening is spent with nothing but space and the glory of nature surrounding us. At our whale camp we watch the whales from shore and, because of the deep water frontage of the camp, the whales (as well as dolphins) come very close to shore. We also head out for two, two-hour excursions in small skiffs, or pangas as they are called locally, with our naturalist guides. This is a chance for close-up viewing, even smelling the breath of the whales and feeling the force of their exhalation when they release air from their blowholes! We’ve seen whales mating, mothers milking, whales breaching and so much more on these marvelous adventures.
Images & Videos
Arrive in Loreto:
Upon arrival at the Loreto Airport take a quick cab ride to your hotel. After checking in (not included in the tour cost) you are on your own to explore Loreto, take a walk down the malecon, or relax by the hotel pool before your evening orientation meeting. At the orientation meeting you will meet your guides who will give you details about the plan for the next morning and answer any questions you may have.
Please see our Baja Travel Guide for full details on travel to and from Baja.
Travel to San Carlos, Begin Kayaking
We depart from Loreto, Baja, Mexico early in the morning and drive about two and a half hours across the Baja peninsula to the coastal town of San Carlos. On the way we pass through the small city of Constitucion, where 50 years ago, a government project created a city in the desert by investing in a massive pumping system that draws from an underground aquifer, in order to develop this area into a large agricultural center.
On arrival in San Carlos, you meet your other guides and have a thorough orientation and kayak safety talk. You load your personal gear into your kayak and soon we’re paddling north on our grand adventure!
Our motorized panga travels slightly ahead of the group, loaded with food, drink and camping gear. It supports us for our first lunch, then goes ahead to set up your tents for camp.
Our camps are set on the west side of the lagoon and the east side of the coastal barrier islands. Your guides prepare delicious and bountiful meals. Sunsets here are some of the most spectacular you’ll find anywhere on earth. Dinner is served after sunset, and then stars appear. Retire to your tent at your leisure.
Sea Kayaking, Sand Dunes and Mangroves
We rise soon after the sun and wake up with a morning beverage. After a Baja breakfast we put on our kayaking skirts and set out for another day of fun and discovery. We spend some of our time paddling through the narrow channels amid the mangroves. Other times we hug the shore to peer down into clear water at fishes and underwater plants. It’s a beautiful day. We again stop for lunch to rest and reenergize. By the time we arrive in camp we hope you feel more at one with nature and yourself. We transition to another evening of camaraderie and story-telling, dinner and laughter.
Sea Kayaking, Sand Dune Hiking, Wildlife Viewing
More days to relish life and wide-open spaces. Very few people visit this area, so the sense of isolation and raw nature is palpable. Wind-swept dunes rise above the salt water, providing home for many species of plants and animals. Your guides share their knowledge of this ecosystem, but the main reward comes from simple observation. Back on the water, we continue our way. We paddle through the narrowest channel of our trip, the Curva del Diablo. We fall into a peaceful paddling rhythm, soaking in the salty air while also enjoying each stroke. We paddle among the mangroves and along the edges of the dunes. Our lunch stops give us more time to explore and rejuvenate. Late afternoon we arrive at camp, each slightly different, but all offering options for walking, relaxing with a book, or simply watching the sea.
Sea Kayaking, Lopez Mateo and Whale Camp
We rise early today to start our final paddle. It’s a good stretch of paddling, past more splendid dunes, and a stop for lunch. Soon we arrive at the fishing town of Lopez Mateos. Here we board our whale-watching panga (motorized skiff) for a two-hour whale watching session. We discuss a few “rules of respect” relative to whale-watching and head out. There is palpable excitement in the air as we see whales blow, perhaps breach, and swim in the protected waters of Magdalena Bay. When we find a whale that seems relatively stationary, we cut our motors and float. It’s then up to the whale to engage with us or not. Sometimes they choose to swim away. Sometimes they approach us, coming right up to the edge of our 22’ (7 meter) boats. If we don’t interact with the whales, they quickly lose interest and leave.
After our two-hour session, we arrive at our island camp. After a brief camp orientation and moving baggage to the tents, we gather for appetizers and sunset. Our camp is set up with a large camp dome that serves as our dining room. Delicious meals of typical Mexican fare are prepared by our local cook. After dinner, the dome is also the perfect setting for a presentation on the natural history of the gray whales. Guests love these interactive sessions where we all learn about the lives of these giant sea creatures. Our guides have a depth of knowledge they love to share. Some are marine biologists and others grew up in fishing families. They bring passion to their talks and hope to create more advocates for the protection of the whales and the world’s oceans.
Depending on weather conditions you might sit outside to stargaze, or head to your own walk-in tent replete with cots and insulated sleeping pads.
Dune Walk, Whale Watching, Return to Loreto
Get up with the sun, or later, as you wish. After breakfast it’s time for an optional walk across the dunes, led by our naturalist guides. We learn about the various dune plants, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals. Soon we arrive at lapping Pacific waves on the beach. Time to take off shoes and let the tingle of sand and water sooth the spirit. After a little beachcombing, we make our way back to camp.
Leaving your luggage on the beach for our gear panga to load, everyone climbs aboard one of the whale-watching skiffs for another exhilarating session with these gentle giants. We motor out into the lagoon, watching for whales and absorbing the beauty of the bay, making our way back towards Lopez Mateos. Once back at the town dock, we enjoy a late lunch, followed by a 2 ½ hour drive to Loreto. Check into your hotel and then celebrate with a no-host final dinner in one of the town’s restaurants to share memories of a wonderful week.
Note: If you have the time, we encourage you to extend your trip by joining one of our one-day excursions from Loreto. These include a day of blue whale watching, hiking in Tabor canyon or a visit to the mission town of San Javier.
Dates & Rates
|Dates||Adult (USD)||Child (USD)|
|Jan 21, 2024 to Jan 26, 2024 |
Lowest Tier Price
|Feb 04, 2024 to Feb 09, 2024 |
Lowest Tier Price
|Feb 18, 2024 to Feb 23, 2024 |
Lowest Tier Price
4 - 7 Guests - $2390
8 - 12 Guests - $2190
- Full services of our Adventure Consultants
- Professional naturalist and bi-lingual guides
- All meals and beverages as indicated on the itinerary
- All transportation while on tour
- All kayaking, camping and snorkeling equipment
- Panga supported kayaking tour
Transportation to and from the airport
Hotel before and after the tour
$30 National Parks & Biosphere Reserves access fees required by itinerary
Items of a personal nature
Single Supplement: Solo travelers will always have their own tent during kayaking tours, at no additional cost. (limited amount of single tents available at no charge, per departure)
ALL PRICES IN US DOLLARS. We will do our best to adhere to the itineraries and trip descriptions listed on our website. However, tour itineraries or sub contractors (such as taxi, cruise boats or hotels) may change slightly due to reasons beyond our control including but not limited to Acts of God, wind, waves, inclement weather or other. We always welcome you to call us to clarify any item - often this is the best way to fully clarify expectations - call us collect or on our toll-free number. You will be sent pre-trip email with latest details within a month of your tour - it is your responsibility to check in with us prior to your trip to see if you have all the information you need. We will always do our best to provide you with the best possible tour and to fully meet your expectations to the best of our ability.
FAQ & More
This trip takes place on the Pacific Coast side of the Baja Peninsula rather than the Gulf of California side. It’s a totally different environment with somewhat cooler waters of the Pacific, and a landscape of sand dunes and mangroves rather than mountains and rocks. Both areas are beautiful and we highly recommend this trip due to the isolated nature of the area. The timing of this trip is also set to take advantage of the presence of the gray whales in Baja.
This trip features amazing viewing of gray whales. Gray whales do not travel in the Gulf of California. There we see blue whales, humpbacks and sometimes other species. During the gray whale camp part of this trip, a big difference is that generally the whales come very close to our whale-watching skiffs.
The trip covers 40 miles during five days. There are two days when we paddle about 10 miles, one rather short day and a couple days with six to eight mile paddles. Because the area is protected winds generally do not interfere with our paddling plans.
Please see our Baja Travel Guide for full details on travel to and from Baja.
Yes, all of our tour pricing is in US Dollars.
Included: Skilled professional guide services, ground transportation, motorboat-support to carry gear, camping equipment including tents, sleeping bags, liners, and sleeping pads. Our camping trips include all meals from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day.
Not Included: Airfare, transportation to and from airport, hotels before and after kayaking, gratuities and items of a personal nature.
For all of our Baja tours we use high quality, fiberglass kayaks, made by Seward. The majority of our fleet is comprised of tandems, as these boats offer the greatest stability, speed, and ease of paddling. There are typically a small number of single kayaks present on the tour, which will be utilized by the guides. Depending on weather conditions, and interest, they may allow guests to rotate into singles; however this will be at the guide's' discretion based on safety and the paddling objectives for the day. We also have a limited number of solo kayaks available to reserve and use throughout the trip (for an additional cost) for paddlers who have ocean kayaking experience.
Yes, if at any time a guest does not want to paddle they are welcome to ride in the panga instead.
We have single kayaks available to reserve and use throughout the trip (for an additional cost of $100) for paddlers who have previous ocean paddling experience. If you would like to reserve a single kayak for your trip you will need to contact our Adventure Consultants to add this to your reservation and provide a summary of your ocean paddling experience.
Whether you are an avid sea kayaker, or it is your first time, you’ll enjoy these incredible trips, and share in our passion for adventure, commitment to conserving the environment, and relishing unique experiences. For those new to the sport, kayaking is easy to learn in the sheltered waters that we visit, and we provide all of the camping gear, kayaking equipment and guidance needed. In addition, we keep our groups small to allow you to not only travel intimately among nature, but to ensure you receive the necessary attention from our guides.
When stopping at shore, you should be able to climb in and out of the kayaks on your own. They will be floating in calf-deep water. Your guides are happy to assist, but balance and limberness are required. When you get to your evening campsite, all group members must to be able to help carry the kayaks above the high tide line, in teams of 6-8, before the group disperses. You will change camp sites almost every night, but may have a layover day. Camp sites are assigned by the National Park Service immediately prior to the tour.
When you get to your evening campsite all group members must be able to help carry the kayaks above the high tide line. You will change campsites almost every night, but may have a layover day. Campsites are assigned by the National Park Service immediately prior to the tour. We endeavor to secure the very best campsites for the natural beauty and amenities of the area. Your guides will give a demonstration of how to set up and take down your provided dome tent. We also will provide you with a sleeping bag, liner sheet, pillow and an inflatable thermarest sleeping pad. There will be a kitchen/dining area and shade tarps where you can sit back and relax.
While kayaking, we can only carry enough fresh water for drinking and cooking. There are no fresh water sources on most of the coastline and islands we visit. You can clean up with saltwater and soap off above the high tide line, or bring disposable shower wipes. A porta potty will fit into a hatch of the kayak or on the panga support boat, and will be transported to each campsite and set into a sheltered area for solid waste. Liquid waste can be expelled below the high tide line, or in a separate porta-potty bucket.
If it’s too windy to paddle your guides will have alternative activities for guests to enjoy. There are opportunities to hike or just relax on the beach with a margarita. We plan our itineraries to minimize risks posed by weather, but there is always an element of unpredictability in nature. The risk capsizing is reduced by our stable boats, but exists. All of our kayak guides are certified in kayak rescue.
In general, fishing is allowed in Loreto/La Paz. You would need to obtain a fishing license either before arriving or upon arrival. Our guides will not allow fishing if you are unable to produce a valid license. You will also need to bring all of your own fishing equipment. Along our kayaking routes there are areas where fishing is allowed, the guides will let you know where fishing is prohibited. Also, fishing is only allowed at the guide's discretion, as we have an itinerary, schedule and other group members that we have to take into consideration.
Sea Kayak Adventures will provide you with a detailed packing list prior to your trip. We provide all of the necessary camping and paddling equipment, which you will need to fully enjoy your adventure. If you are interested in more specific information, check out our general Baja packing list here! If you have any questions, or need help deciding what to bring, you can call or e-mail one of our friendly Adventure Consultants at any time for some extra advice!
Our renowned wilderness meals are prepared daily by our guides using local, fresh, healthy ingredients. In Baja you can expect an authentic dining experience, with savory dishes like chiles rellenos, tostadas, ceviche, and chicken mole. We even serve delicious desserts like brownies and pineapple upside-down cake! Each morning, we serve up freshly brewed coffee or tea. Throughout the day we provide an abundance of local fruits, vegetables, and other snacks. Wine and mixed drinks are served with hors d’oeuvres each evening for happy hour.
We do our best to accommodate special dietary requests, working within the parameters of the destinations in which we operate. If you have a very strict diet, we recommend packing extra snacks that you know you can eat.
To keep our group size small and our impact minimal, we typically limit our tours to 14 people or less. Our standard minimum to confirm a departure is 4 guests for our Islands of Loreto Bay kayak tour.
Please check out this great website Weather Underground for temperature averages in Baja.
Contact your service provider for the best options for taking your cell phone to a different country. You are unlikely to receive cell service while paddling, but WiFi is available in many coffee shops in town. Your guides will be equipped with radios during the tour in case of emergency.
If you will be extending your stay in lovely Loreto before or after your tour, we are happy to arrange a Tour Extension option to help you explore Baja. Please inquire with the office if you would like to add on a tour extension to your reservation.
You can leave your luggage at your hotel while you are on tour. We recommend getting a luggage lock if you are leaving any electronics in the bags. We’ve never had any issues with guests leaving their bags at hotels but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Some of the gray whales in Baja exhibit what is known as "friendly" behavior. While they have the entire sea as their home, some whales choose to come very close to our boats to interact. When this happens, there are times when it is appropriate to touch the whales. In fact, if we don't interact they will sometimes swim away in search of another boat of humans to play with. We can't know the emotion that the whales are experiencing, but clearly they have a choice to approach the boats or not. Equally fascinating is the fact that often these friendly whales bring their babies up close as well, sometimes even pushing the calf closer to the whale-watching skiffs. On some tours the whales choose not to get close to us and it's important to remember that these are whale watching trips, not whale touching trips.
Please see our full Terms & Conditions HERE.