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La Paz is a good entry point for whale-watching expeditions to Bahía Magdalena, 266 km (165 miles) northwest of La Paz on the Pacific coast. Note, however, that such trips entail about six hours of travel from La Paz and back for two to three hours on the water. Only a few tour companies offer this as a daylong excursion, however, because of the time and distance constraints.
Many devoted whale-watchers opt to stay overnight in San Carlos, the small town by the bay. Most La Paz hotels can make arrangements for excursions, or you can head out on your own by renting a car or taking a public bus from La Paz to San Carlos, and then hire a boat captain to take you into the bay. The air and water are cold during whale season from December to April, so you'll need to bring a warm windbreaker and gloves. Captains are not allowed to "chase" whales, but that doesn't keep the whale mamas and their babies from approaching your panga so closely you can reach out and touch them.
An easier expedition is a whale-watching trip in the Sea of Cortez from La Paz, which involves boarding a boat in La Paz and motoring around until whales are spotted. They most likely won't come as close to the boats and you won't see the mothers and newborn calves at play, but it's still fabulous watching the whales breeching and spouting nearby.
Baja Expeditions. Baja Expeditions runs adventure cruises around the tip of Baja between La Paz and Magdalena Bay. The eight-day cruises start at $1,995 per person, based on double occupancy. 2625 Garnet Ave., San Diego, CA, 92109. 612/125-3828; 800/843-6967 in U.S. www.bajaex.com.
Cortez Club. The water-sports center Cortez Club runs extremely popular whale-watching trips in winter. The one-day excursion costs $180 per person. Hwy. to Pichilingue, Km 5, between downtown and Pichilingue, La Paz, Baja California Sur, 23004. 612/121-6120; 877/408-6769 in U.S. www.cortezclub.com.
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