Diving in the Sea of Cortez is all about fun-loving sea lions and swimming with whale sharks. Cousteau called it "the world's aquarium" and Steinbeck dedicated a whole journal to it, sparking a lifelong curiosity in divers to explore its treasures.
At 25 million years old, this deep gulf brims with critters and is thought to be one of the most diverse seas on the planet. Among its residents: the world's widest variety of dolphins and whales, rays, turtles, hammerheads and over 900 species of fish.
Sea of Cortez scuba diving is a must if you love sea lions: there's a colony where you can get so close they'll nibble at your fins. These cute characters love tossing rocks and gazing at their own reflection in shiny surfaces - it's like playing with puppies, but underwater.
If big marine life tops your wishlist and you prefer accommodation on land, the best time to dive the Sea of Cortez is December-March. Waters are a cool 66°F/19°C during these months but pelagic action is red hot. Dive now to add humpbacks, grey whales, rays and sea lions to your logbook.
July-December has the best visibility, stretching to 25m. If you're after more remote sites August-November is liveaboard season. At this time the Sea of Cortez is at its warmest (80°F/27°C) and you can get up close with whale sharks and hammerheads.
Diving in the Sea of Cortez - particularly the far southern region - is still good in the low season of June/July but more remote sites may be off-limits. If you want to dive with the famous colony of sea lions off La Paz go between September and May.
Find local PADI dive shops and explore the top dive sites with our map.
The Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California) is a long and narrow body of water which separates mainland Mexico from the Baja Peninsula. There are several entry points to diving the Sea of Cortez.
The largest international airports are La Paz, Cabo San Lucas and Hermosillo which are well-connected to Mexico City and Cancun (the main gateways to the country). By car, you can enter the area from the rest of mainland Mexico, the Baja Peninsula or the United States by heading south after crossing the border.
Once in the general Sea of Cortez area local taxis, rental cars and bikes take you from A to B - the mountainous topside scenery and old-world beauty of the towns deserve time to explore. Most diving in the Sea of Cortez is done by day boats though some islands are only accessible by liveaboard.