Eight Extraordinary Places to Go Whale Watching in Latin America
Published on: November 14th, 2017
Last modified: July 28th, 2023
Hoards of whales drift to the warmer waters of Latin America for breeding and mating season.
One of the most rewarding activities on this continent is whale watching in South America.
Here's our pick of the eight best locations to watch these magnificent animals up close.
Head to the coastal town of Puerto Madryn on Patagonia’s rugged Peninsula Valdes, where from June to December southern right whales can be seen within just feet of the shore, with even closer encounters on boat tours, and the added opportunity to see elephant seals, sea lions and colonies of magellan penguins.
From July to November in the southern state of Santa Catarina, the secluded beaches and fishing villages of Florianopolis attract wildlife enthusiasts who arrive to see the southern right whales and humpback whales that migrate to these waters.
Close to Florianopolis, Praia do Rosa in Imbituba is a well known bay for whale watching, as is the town – and former fishing village – Garopaba. During these months, the whales mate, give birth and nurse their young off of the coast, so mothers are often seen with their calves. Boat tours go out from the main hubs, but you can also see the whales from points along the coast.
THE SEASON: July to November
A marine-life rich spot to head for along Chile’s long stretch of coast is the island of Chiloé, where blue whales reside from late January to April. Take a boat trip or see the whales in the distance from the coast, then explore the island’s rolling countryside and peaceful coves.
4) Costa Rica
Whales migrate from both the Arctic and Antarctic waters to breed and raise their young off the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, and they can be seen from the pristine Osa Peninsula. Head to Drake Bay for Ballena National Marine Park where colonies of dolphins can also be spotted.
Humpback whales are most frequently seen, but there’s the added opportunity to see pilot whales, killer whales, sei whales and beaked whales.
THE SEASON: August to November
Humpback whales give birth to their calves in the warm waters off the Pacific coast of Ecuador from June to October, having migrated from the Antarctic. Machalilla National Park is an especially rewarding spot to base yourself with both land and ocean wildlife.
Whale watching boat tours run from the coastal city of Salinas and the fishing village of Puerto Lopez, which is also the headquarters for the national park.
THE SEASON: June to October
The Galapagos islands attract visitors all year round for the chance to get up close to an abundance of wildlife species, but July, August and September are the best months for whale watching, as humpback whales come to make the most of the nutrients that rise to the surface of the water during these months.
El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, at the centre of the Baja California Peninsula, is the largest wildlife refuge in Mexico, and within this habitat, the lagoons of Baja California Sur – San Ignacio Lagoon in particular – are the breaching habitat of whales.
Stay in Los Cabos from December to March to see humpback whales and grey whales during this season. Throughout February, towns in the region hold celebrations in honour of the whales too.
THE SEASON: December to March
Along northern Peru’s long stretch of coastline, base yourself in the beach towns of Mancora and Punta Sal to witness the arrival of humpback whales. During whale watching season, from July to October, boat trips can be taken to seek out the cetaceans, including pods of dolphins.
THE SEASON: August to November