Scuba diving conditions are best from July through October, when visibility is excellent and the water is warm. (Winter water is cold, sometimes down to 20°C/68°F or colder, and changing temperatures can mean poor visibility in spring.) Certified divers will get the most out of La Paz's amazing dive sites, including the sea lion colony at Los Islotes, distant Cerralvo Island, the sunken ship Salvatierra, an 18m (59-ft.) wall dive, and several sea mounts (underwater mountains) and reefs; a little farther afield, you can see hammerhead sharks and manta rays. Baja Expeditions, Fun Baja, and Baja Dive all offer a variety of dive expeditions, starting at $105 per person for an all-day outing and two-tank dive. Day boat trips run approximately $110 for two-tank dives, $125 to $175 for three-tank dives. Fun Baja runs scuba safaris as well, combining diving and camping at the island of Espíritu Santo in a luxury camp with beds and meal service for $440 to $999 with dives, $289 to $599 for non-divers coming along for the ride. DeSea Baja Adventures also has private boats with guides for underwater photo or video diving, and private dive masters or instructors for yachts or charters, and freediving, including instruction in yoga-based breathing exercises, mental control, and the physiology of breath hold.
Every March, groups of whale sharks are spotted in the waters of La Paz's bay. These enormous, plankton-feeding creatures, the world's largest fish, stay close to the surface, so they're easy to spot from light aircraft that make the rounds each morning to find them for snorkel tours. All Cabo and La Paz dive outfitters make the trip; for about $80 per person, you'll spend an hour or so paddling around sharks up to 10m (33 ft.) long.
La Paz's Top Dive Spots
La Paz is among the world's great dive destinations: More than 25 dive sites surround the islands outside La Paz's bay, such as Espíritu Santo, San José, and Cerralvo. What sets La Paz diving apart is the big stuff: giant mantas, sea lions, and impressive numbers of sharks, including whale sharks and hammerheads. Here are the area's most notable dive sites:
- El Bajito: Just next to the Los Islotes sea-lion colony is this beautiful dive site where crevices in the seafloor are covered in soft corals.
- El Bajo: Advanced divers revel in the underwater mountain rising to 18m (60 ft.) below the surface, with a relatively flat top. It's especially notable for its schooling hammerhead sharks; groups of several to hundreds travel clockwise around the seamount. You're also likely to see Panamic green morays; over 50 live in a small canyon on the mountain. Additional sea mounts nearby have peaks at between 18 and 45m (60-150 ft.) from the surface; visibility is good year-round.
- La Reina & La Reinita: Enjoy a wreck dive and wall diving to 45m (150-ft.) depths at these islets in front of Cerralvo Island, 1 1/2 hours from La Paz. You'll see brain coral, tropical fish, rays, and several types of morays here. During the summer you can see giant sea horses. Whale encounters are common in the channel during the winter calving season.
- Los Islotes: Divers here can view the underwater rock caves and frolic with the friendly colony of sea lions. The two large rock islands, one of which is a natural arch whose center you can dive through, are a 1 1/2-hour boat ride from La Paz, north of Espíritu Santo, and offer depths of 4.5 to 30m (15-100 ft.).
- Salvatierra Wreck: In 1976, this 75m (250-ft.) ferryboat sank after colliding with a nearby reef. It now lies on a sandbar at a depth of 18m (60 ft.) in the San Lorenzo Channel and the southern end of Espíritu Santo. Filled with sea life, it makes for a fascinating dive and a good site for novice divers.
- San Francisquito: Similar to El Bajo, this popular site for advanced divers, with varied depths, has an abundance of sea life.
- Whale Island: This small, whale-shaped island has dive-through caves, crevices, rocky reefs, and a coral forest at depths from 6 to 18m (20-60 ft.). Between the caves is a sand shelf containing a large "garden" of conger eels, which extend their bodies vertically from the seafloor and sway in the currents while feeding on passing morsels. This area is tranquil and protected from wind; its mild current makes it a good choice for beginning divers, or for a second dive of the day.
- Lapas 03 and the Fang Ming: These two rusting Chinese long liner boats were sunk in 1999 to promote artificial reef development for sport diving. They're at a depth of 21m (70 ft.) and offer full penetration diving over numerous levels.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.