Scuba diving in La Paz should be on every diver’s bucket list.
The Sea of Cortez and La Paz offer you the chance to dive with playful California sea lions, giant manta rays, pelagic sharks, colorful reef fish, migratory whales, and more. There are even awesome shipwreck dives to do here!
La Paz is simply a diver’s dream.
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In short, the incredible abundance and biodiversity of the Sea of Cortez / Gulf of California are on full display off the coast of La Paz.
Diving here and getting up and close to the marine life thriving in these waters is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in La Paz.
Even if you aren’t a pro diver, La Paz offers dive sites for novices and expert dive centers to guide the way safely.
Actually, one of the reasons I decided to live temporarily in La Paz as a digital nomad was due to the wonderful diving opportunities.
My partner got his PADI Open Water and I’m set to do my Advanced soon, so I’ve decided to write this guide with all the info and experiences we’ve had so far from diving in La Paz!
Read more below to discover when is the best time to dive in La Paz, who you should dive with, and what are the best dive sites.
Your Guide to Scuba Diving in La Paz, Mexico
What to Know Before Diving in La Paz
How much does it cost to dive in La Paz?
You can expect to pay between $190–$230 USD for two recreational dives in La Paz (for certified divers), depending on the dive sites.
That price is coherent across all the dive centers in La Paz (more on dive shops below!).
When is the best time to scuba dive in La Paz / the Sea of Cortez?
The best time for diving in La Paz depends on two things: weather and the type of marine life you’d like to (hopefully) encounter.
- 🌵 June–August: The sea lion colony dive site at Los Isolotes is closed to tourists during these months. However, summers in La Paz bring the most pleasant water temperatures.
- ☀️ August–October: The highlight of diving during the end of summer/early fall in La Paz is the chance to dive at the La Reina dive site, where you can dive with giant manta rays. If I go scuba diving in La Paz again, I’d go during these months for the temperature and availability of marine life.
- ❄️ December–Feb: We did our PADI and recreational dives in January, it was rather unbearably cold even with the thickest wetsuit. Diving in La Paz isn’t great at this time because rough winter winds usually create choppy conditions which in turn results in the boat port closing (so you might need to reschedule which can be tough if you are in La Paz for vacation/a limited amount of time).
Even though the water temperature in January was way too frigid for my liking (16°C / 60.8°F), we did get to see dolphins and humpback whales from our boat, and, of course, dive with the sea lions at Los Islotes! So, totally worth it in the end!
🦈 Keep in mind as well that if you wish to go snorkeling and swimming with whale sharks in La Paz (you can’t go diving with them), then the season lasts from October to April, more or less. It’s not exact, but the local boat captains and dive guides keep in contact so you can stay updated through your dive center.
Best Scuba Dive Shops in La Paz
A quick note on the below dive shops in La Paz:
The differences in price between the dive centers really windle down to the experience of the staff, equipment type and quality, and background/expertise in the field.
Whoever you end up going with, I have no doubt you’ll end up having a wonderful and safe time!
1. The Dive Gurus
If you’re looking for a top-notch dive center in La Paz and don’t have a strict budget, then pick The Dive Gurus.
This is who we chose for Paul’s PADI Open Water course (and my eventual Advanced Open Water this fall!) and no regrets. For Paul’s open-water training, I was able to tag along as a rec diver and we dove twice at the sea lion colony of Los Islotes and twice at Swanee Reef. (I also did a rec dive of the Fang Ming shipwreck!)
The owner, Luke Inman, is a multiskilled powerhouse in the realm of diving. His skills and qualifications have led him to shoot for Netflix, BBC, and Fourth Element. But besides all that, he’s just a super chill British dude who’s passionate about the deep blue and its magnificent creatures.
In short, The Dive Gurus has some of the best dive instructors and scuba diving gear you can find in La Paz.
That said, their prices are at the higher end of the spectrum at $200/person (based on four guests) which includes two dives.
The cost difference between the dive centers isn’t that much for recreational dives but is more apparent in TDG’s dive course offerings. For example, it costs $1000 USD for the 1:1 private PADI Open Water course (or $850/person for a 2:1 couple). Check their website for the full list of prices and courses available.
2. Dive in La Paz
Dive in La Paz is another vetted diving center you can feel confident about having a safe and exhilarating dive experience in La Paz.
While the dive center isn’t a PADI 5 Star like Dive Gurus, which means they don’t provide the full range of educational programs to become a PADI Divemaster, they do offer both PADI and SSI courses like the Open Water and Advanced Open Water.
If you want to level up your dive skills but are looking for more budget-friendly offerings, you can earn your Open Water with Dive in La Paz for $580–$670 USD (SSI vs PADI pricing).
The owner of Dive in La Paz, Alexia, is a French marine biologist and assistant instructor of SSI so you can rest easy knowing the team has ample diving experience in the Sea of Cortez and beyond.
In addition to the slew of day and night dive trips, they offer Open Water PADI/SSI courses, whale-watching excursions, sea lion snorkel trips, and private tours to Balandra.
3. La Paz divers
La Paz Divers is another dive center offering PADI dive courses in La Paz. It is owned and operated by British expat and marine biologist, Jay Gittens who has been living in Baja since 2010.
Jay also is the founder of the La Paz Dive Club. Like others on this list, La Paz Divers offers diving adventures, snorkel and Mobula tours in La Paz around Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida in the Espiritu Santo National Park, plus the neighboring islets of Isla Cerralvo.
They offer competitive rates of $175/person for a 2-tank dive, but you’ll find their rates for the PADI Open Water on par with The Dive Gurus at $795, $895 (for sea lions + shipwreck upgrade), or $1000 for 1-on-1.
4. UP Dive La Paz
UP Dive (“Under Pressure Diving”) is another choice for recreational diving in La Paz (note: they do not offer diving training courses).
Their dive trips cost $190 (for two dives) and include everything except for towels and tips for crew members. They also offer private dive trips for groups of 3–5 divers which is ideal if you want to go out with a group of friends or family.
These guys came recommended by a local whom I met at the mezcal bar one night when I was asking about environmentally responsible/eco dive centers in La Paz.
However, my hesitation is that they aren’t very transparent online about who their team of “Divemasters and marine biologists” are. (If you know or are a part of the team, please reach out so I can update this info!)
That said, considering there are other dive centers in La Paz offering the same experience for the same price, with more transparency about their equipment and team, I’d preferably book with them first over UP.
Finally, in case you’d like to try freediving while in La Paz, check out Hipoxia Freediving (they came highly recommended by a fellow diver when we went diving on Bonaire Island in the Caribbean Netherlands).
Popular La Paz Dive Sites
- Location: Espiritu Santo National Park
- Max Depth: 18m
- Highlights: California sea lions (September to May), archways
Diving with the sea lion colony of La Paz is an experience I’ll never forget. If you come to dive in La Paz, don’t miss out on Los Islotes.
Even though it can be intimidating (even daunting) to submerge yourself underwater with wildlife that could toss you about like a pinball, the feeling of being in their natural environment is beyond beautiful.
- Location: Cerralvo Island
- Max Depth: 26m
- Highlights: Giant Mantas, submarine canyon, small sea lion colony
La Reina is another extremely popular bucket list dive to do while in La Paz because of the chance to dive with giant mantas (July to October).
Fang Ming Shipwreck
- Location: Espiritu Santo National Park
- Max Depth: 20m
- Highlights: Sunken shipwreck, sea turtles
Fang Ming was a Chinese ship that was seized by Mexican authorities while carrying illegal migrants bound for the United States.
It became Latin America’s first intentionally sunken ship and now lies at a depth of 20-22m on the seabed, acting as an artificial reef that attracts an abundance of marine life including sea turtles.
Divers can explore the shipwreck’s exterior and briefly submerge inside through the large windows.
This was my first shipwreck dive and I must admit it was pretty cool! The visibility wasn’t the best (January) but the experience was by far worth it.
Another shipwreck dive in La Paz is El Salvatierra (depth: 20m) in the San Lorenzo Channel.
- Location: Espiritu Santo Marine Park
- Max Depth: 40m
- Highlights: Hammerhead sharks, sea mounts, marine life
El Bajo is an exciting dive site near La Paz because you have the chance to see hammerhead sharks (although, not guaranteed!). Due to the nature of the dive, this site is for advanced divers only.
- Location: San Lorenzo Channel
- Max Depth: 12m
- Highlights: Reef, schools of fish
Swanee Reef is a top choice for novice divers. You’ll likely come here to train at one point if you are doing your Open Water dive course in La Paz because it’s an easy, shallower dive with an abundance of colorful reef life to look at.
For a complete list of dive sites near La Paz, you can refer to these pages:
Last Tips for Diving in the Sea of Cortez
If you’re planning to go diving while on vacation in La Paz, make sure to carve out a few extra days before and after the dive just in case the weather turns sour and your dive dates get pushed.
La Paz is notorious for its windy days which will cause the boat port to close.
In this case, you really don’t want to miss out on these bucket list dives if you packed too many of the things to do in La Paz into your itinerary.
It’s also wise to have a couple of days to rest after the dive, and before you take off onward to your next destination.
Also, here are a few more tips for preparing for your La Paz dive. As always when scuba diving:
- Drink plenty of water pre-dive and post-dive!
- When in doubt, ask it out. NEVER dive feeling uncertain about your gear or instructions.
- Plan a return trip! Each season in La Paz offers a different diving experience thanks to all the diverse marine life you can encounter.
If you have any questions about my experience with The Dive Gurus or have questions pertaining to scuba diving in La Paz (and beyond in Baja), please drop them below or reach out to me on Instagram @bucketlistbri.
Happy and safe diving! ✌️ 🤿