Whale Watching in Mazatlán (Mexico): The Definitive Guide


When, Where and How to see Whales in Mazatlan

Planning your next trip to Mazatlán?

Don’t miss the opportunity to witness whales in their natural habitat!

Mazatlán stands out as one of Mexico’s prime locations for whale watching, especially during their mating season.

Here, you can not only spot these majestic creatures gliding through the water but also observe the males performing their intricate dances to win over the females.

Motivated by my unforgettable experience, I’ve put together this guide to share everything you need to know about whale watching in Mazatlán.

You’ll find insights from my own journey with a reputable agency, plus answers to all your burning questions: the ideal time to visit, the types of whales you might encounter, essential items to pack, safety measures on the boat, and much more.

I’ve also shared personal tips to enhance your whale-watching adventure and my accommodation picks for every budget in Mazatlán.

So, are you ready to see the whales? Let’s dive in!

The Whale-watching Tour: My Feedback

We left the Mazatlán marina at 9 a.m., meeting a friendly group of travelers – a family, a couple, and friends.

Seeing our RIB boat for the first time, I thought, “This is going to be an adventure!”

I wanted the full experience, so I took the front seat. Our guide, Arturo, told us the front ride might be bumpier, which made me even more excited.

But my new friend, a lively lady in her fifties, didn’t like the idea of a bumpy ride. She chose to sit at the back instead. I missed her company because she was so much fun.

rib boat mazatlan
Rigid inflatable boat, Mazatlan marina
marina mazatlan
marina de mazatlan

As we headed out to sea, Arturo, our guide and a marine biologist, began telling us about the humpback whales.

He shared that in winter, these amazing whales come to the warm waters near Mazatlán to rest, mate, and have their babies.

After about 20 minutes at sea, we followed the coast, stopping here and there.

Then, the captain turned off the engine, and we waited quietly. We were so eager that we mistook flying fish for whale signs.

We looked around – nothing yet.

Feeling a little let down, we remembered it was just the beginning of our trip, and there was still time. Plus, the view of Mazatlán from here was beautiful!

vue mazatlan depuis le bateau
view of mazatlan from the boat

We did this a few times before finally, someone shouted and pointed: “There!”

I couldn’t see because I forgot my glasses. I thought, “I should’ve brought binoculars!” Even though I’m not too nearsighted, it’s hard to spot anything from far away without sharp vision.

Luckily, this was just the start of many sightings during our 3 to 4-hour trip.

We saw a mother whale and her baby, and witnessed males performing elaborate dances to woo a female.

They leaped and slapped the water with their tails like skilled acrobats or dancers.

The guide remarked, “Notice all the effort they put in? For a 40-ton (80 000 pounds) whale to jump, it takes a lot of energy!”

whale mazatlan
Humpback Whale in Mazatlan

Whales not only show off their moves but also sing underwater.

It’s a rare treat to hear them, but we were lucky enough to experience it twice! We all watched in awe, some even moved to tears.

Arturo, with the excitement of a child, shared it was his first time hearing them in two years. He explained that on a larger boat, such sounds would have been unheard.

Later, as I was absorbed in Arturo’s explanation of whale behavior, a child’s shriek of surprise cut through the air: a HUGE grey shape glided past our boat.

Right beside us, another whale surfaced, spraying water. We were amidst a small group of whales!

I was amazed by the boat’s steadiness and the gracefulness of the whales, so huge yet so smooth in their movement. They vanished after a few moments.

Returning to the marina, we couldn’t stop smiling.

If you’re keen on experiencing whale watching with a responsible agency, booking is easy. The package includes hotel pick-up, with insights from the biologist guide, and onboard snacks.

whale tour in mazatlan
whale tour in mazatlan

Exploring Whale Watching in Mazatlan

What types of whales can you find in Mazatlan, Mexico?

Mazatlan is most famous for the humpback whale, known for its spectacular jumps and tail slaps. While grey whales and sperm whales also visit these waters, they’re seen less frequently.

Is Mazatlan a prime spot for whale watching?

Definitely! Humpback whales migrate from the chilly waters of Alaska and Canada to Mexico’s warm coastal waters every late autumn for mating, birthing, and nursing. They return north for feeding, making this period ideal for whale watching.

When is the best season for whale watching in Mazatlan?

You’re most likely to see whales from December to March. The exact timing can shift slightly each year, with the government officially marking the season’s start and end in the Official Gazette of the Federation.

What’s the optimal time of day to spot whales?

Whale watching tours typically run from 7 a.m. to noon. While it’s hard to pinpoint the whales’ most active times, mornings offer calmer seas and clearer visibility. Plus, it’s cooler than after 11 a.m., ensuring a comfortable outing.

Personally, my tour kicked off at 9 a.m., and it was ideal!

How long does a whale-watching excursion last?

A typical whale-watching adventure in Mazatlan spans 3 to 4 hours.

Is Whale Watching in Mazatlan Ethical?

Yes, it is, provided you choose a responsible agency.

With an increasing number of tours available, it’s crucial to pick an agency that strictly adheres to wildlife viewing guidelines to ensure the whales aren’t disturbed.

A responsible agency will:
– Keep a respectful distance from the whales to avoid stress or disturbance.
– Follow guidelines set by SEMARNAT and the International Whaling Commission, including speed limits and minimum distances from whales and dolphins.
– Reduce noise pollution to avoid disrupting whale feeding and communication.
– Prevent any pollution of the marine environment.

I opted for an agency that practices responsible whale watching, and I was not disappointed.

You can book this responsible tour here:

What to Wear for Whale Watching

Opt for lightweight attire due to the heat, especially when the boat is idle. However, consider bringing a light sweater, as it can get cooler on the water. Secure your hat well to protect against the sun without losing it to the wind!

Packing List for Your Tour

Besides suitable clothing, remember sunscreen and plenty of water. Binoculars are a great addition for distant whale spotting, something I wish I had brought along!

Likelihood of Spotting Whales

During peak season, seeing whales is almost guaranteed. The exact number can vary, but your captain will navigate areas where whales are typically found.

If conditions are deemed unsafe, the tour will be canceled with options for a refund or rescheduling.

Do I have to eat before whale-watching?

Eating beforehand is optional. Unsure about potential seasickness, I chose not to eat.

Yet, for some, eating can actually help prevent seasickness. It varies by individual.

Snacks and soft drinks are available onboard for when you need a light bite.

Should You Tip on a Whale-Watching Tour?

Tipping in Mexico is a kind gesture, though not compulsory. It’s a great way to show appreciation for your guide’s efforts to ensure a memorable experience.

Can You Swim with Whales in Mazatlan?

Swimming with large whales is prohibited by federal law in Mexico to protect these majestic creatures.

Best Seats for Whale Watching

On a double-decker boat, opt for the lower deck for closer views of the whales and sun protection.

On a semi-rigid boat, any seat offers a good view, but the front is thrilling for adrenaline seekers, while the back offers more stability.

Is Whale Watching Safe?

Yes, it’s very safe. The boats used, especially the semi-rigid ones, are designed for stability and safety.

Even if a whale comes close, there’s no danger; the boat will stay steady. Safety gear and professional staff ensure a secure experience.

My Whale Watching Tips:

  • Book early, especially during peak seasons like Christmas, New Year’s, Carnival, and Spring Break.
  • Secure your hat or cap to prevent it from blowing away.
  • Apply sunscreen generously; the sun can be deceivingly strong at sea.
  • Use the restroom before departing; there are no bathroom breaks during the 3-4 hour tour.
  • Treat the guide and captain with kindness; they can’t control wildlife sightings or the weather.
  • Be patient; it might take time to spot the first whales.
  • Keep your camera ready; whales move quickly!

Where to stay in Mazatlan: The Best Hotels

When it comes to finding the perfect place to stay in Mazatlán, you have two fantastic options: the charming historic center, adorned with colonial buildings, or the lively seafront Zona Dorada, with numerous bars and restaurants.

Here are my top hotel recommendations in Mazatlan:

  • One Mazatlán (Zona Dorada): Offering great value for money, this new hotel is just steps away from the beach in the Zona Dorada. With modern amenities, comfortable rooms, and a refreshing swimming pool, it’s an excellent choice starting at only 70 $usd per night, including breakfast!
  • Royal Villas Resort (Zona Dorada): For added luxury, consider this well-appointed hotel nestled in Mazatlán’s Zona Dorada. Enjoy a pool overlooking the sea, direct beach access, and spacious rooms with kitchenettes and sea views. With facilities like a gym, spa, restaurant, and bar, rates start at just 91 $usd per night.
  • Hotel Raices de Mar (Historic Center): Perfectly situated in Mazatlán’s historic center near Plazuela Machado, this hotel is ideal for explorers. Clean and comfortable rooms, an on-site restaurant, a small pool, and a rooftop terrace await you, starting from 120 $usd per night, including breakfast.
  • Casa Lucila Boutique Hotel (Historic Center): Experience the charm of Mazatlán at this intimate hotel near Olas Altas beach. Offering stunning ocean views from its terrace with a sea-facing pool, this boutique hotel features elegant rooms, a spa, and a restaurant. Prices start at 158 $usd per night and provide easy access to the malecon and other attractions.
  • Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan Beach Resort (All-Inclusive, Zona Dorada): Indulge in luxury at Mazatlán’s premier all-inclusive resort. With accolades from Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure, this 5-star property offers spacious rooms, direct beach access, multiple pools, restaurants, and a spa. Rates begin at 300 $usd per night.

My advice
 Dive deeper into my comprehensive Guide to the best hotels in Mazatlán for more insights and feedback!

Rent a car in Mazatlan

Renting a car is for sure the best way to discover Mazatlan and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personally, I always use Booking.com Cars, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Booking Cars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

Discover the Best Flight Offers

Mazatlan International Airport (General Rafael Buelna International Airport) boasts excellent connectivity, welcoming flights from major Mexican cities such as Mexico City, Los Cabos, San José del Cabo, La Paz, Monterrey, Chihuahua, Hermosillo, Querétaro, and Tijuana.

Moreover, it serves as a prime entry point for direct flights from the US, including cities like Los Angeles, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, and Minneapolis, as well as from major Canadian airports.

This extensive network of flights makes reaching Mazatlan a breeze from various locations.

To find a great deal on flights to Mazatlan and discover the best domestic flights across Mexico, make sure to use our flight comparison tool in partnership with Skyscanner. It’s your ticket to securing the best prices!

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Mexico: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

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whale tour mazatlan
whale tour mazatlan

I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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