Off the coast our crew knows the best places to spot whales. Puerto Vallarta is known as a great place to catch a glimpse of a whale.
Vallarta is home to the spectacular humpback whale, who return home from summer feeding grounds off the Pacific coast, stretching from California to Alaska, to the Sea of Cortez along Puerto Vallarta’s coast each November. By December, the official start of whale watching season, you are certain to catch numerous glimpses of humpback whales in Banderas Bay, as their population grows substantially with each passing day.
At the beginning of whale watching season, it is often only adult humpbacks that are spotted, with new male and female whales arriving every day. Until the males have caught the attention of their female partners, you are likely to see a lot of mating displays from the males and females that are not yet pregnant. Once pregnant, the female humpback whale will leave the area to protect her pregnancy; returning in January with a new baby humpback whale in tow!
January to March is the most exciting time for whale watching, as this is when new baby humpbacks are arriving to the area and learning how to swim. As the baby humpbacks advance their swimming skills and grow stronger by the day, the activity in these waters explodes. You are guaranteed to see these cute little (big!) whales showcase their newly acquired talents during this time.
The humpback whale’s cycle of activity levels appears to follow a pattern in which there are 2-3 days of intense activity bursts followed by several days of quiet waters as the whales’ rest. There also appears to be a correlation between the arrival (bursts of activity) and departure (quiet waters) of male humpback whales.
While the time of year will impact the number of whales spotted off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, the time of day during peak season does not affect the activity level of these stunning creatures. Humpback whales display a variety of activities, such as mating, breaching, and mating displays, throughout the day. It has, however, been noted that following a full moon (where they sing, sing, sing!) their activity levels decrease significantly. Similarly, they do not follow a standard daytime/evening schedule, unlike us humans. Humpback whales rest by shutting off one hemisphere of their brain when they feel “sleepy” and this can occur at any time of day.
Although whale activity does not depend on the time of day, water conditions vary throughout the day and can both affect sailing conditions and your overall comfort. Early in the morning, between 8 and 9 AM, usually has the calmest waters, while 1 PM and later winds can pick up and temperatures start to cool off. Dressing in layers is strongly recommended as mornings tend to be cool until gradually warming up by noon.
So if you’re goal is to see a ton of humpback whale action in Puerto Vallarta’s waters, it is suggested that you book at least 2 whale watching tours, spaced several days apart, during the peak season between December and March. This will ensure you have every opportunity to see whales leaping and gliding through the ocean, and hopefully catch sight of those cute and clumsy little baby humpbacks!