Mexico’s Magical Migrations - In Search of Monarchs and Whales

(February 23 - March 4, 2020)

Every winter, the cloud forests in the mountains of central Mexico play host to millions and millions of over-wintering monarch butterflies.  This aggregation of monarchs in Mexico’s central highlands remains one of the most impressive wildlife spectacles on the planet. When masses of butterflies are in flight, it sounds like rain falling and their cumulative weight can bend branches of oyamel firs. 

Monarch Butterflies in Mexico - Stock

Baja California Sur, Mexico, a long peninsula stretching 800 miles to the south from California, is one of the best places in the world for up close encounters with whales. The Pacific coast of Baja Peninsula and the Sea of Cortez become home to thousands of whales for approximately four months each year. Visitors to Baja’s wild coasts have the chance to spot a greater variety of whales in a week’s time than anywhere else. In addition to humpback whales, friendly gray whales, blue whales, and sperm whales, the area is also home to whale sharks (the world’s largest fish), boisterous dolphins and playful sea lions. 

Gray Whale - Stock

From mid-February through early March, it’s possible to combine two of Mexico’s greatest animal migrations in one trip. This is it! Join us as we embark on an unforgettable wildlife adventure from central Mexico to the Baja Peninsula.

ITINERARY

DAY 1 (Tues, Feb 23): Arrival to Mexico City ~ Upon arrival to Mexico City, you’ll be met by your local guide for the transfer to your hotel. For those arriving by early afternoon, an optional tour of Chapultepec Castle is available. 

Accommodations: Zocalo Central or similar

Meals: Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: 30 to 45 mins from airport to hotel (depending on traffic).

DAY 2 (Wed, Feb 24): Mexico City/ Piedra Herrada Monarch Sanctuary/ Valle de Bravo ~ After breakfast at the hotel, depart to Piedra Herrada Monarch Reserve, the easiest monarch sanctuary to access from Mexico City.  Often, visitors to Piedra Herrada encounter swarms of monarchs before even arriving to the sanctuary. Travel by horseback and on foot uphill to the heart of the sanctuary to witness massive aggregations of monarchs.  Standing in the forests of the reserve as millions of orange and black monarch butterflies swarm overhead is a magical sight. Today, you’ll experience it first-hand.

Continue to nearby Valle de Bravo, one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (“Magical Towns”) located less than 30 minutes from Piedra Herrada.  Valle’s narrow, cobble-stoned streets and colonial-style buildings along the shores of Laguna de Avandaro are perfect for exploring.  Your hotel for the next two nights is conveniently located just a few blocks from the main plaza.

Accommodations: Meson de Leyendas or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Times Today: 2.5 hrs to Piedra Herrada; 20 mins to restaurant for lunch; 40 mins to Valle de Bravo.

DAY 3 (Thurs, Feb 25): Valle de Bravo/ El Capulin Monarch Sanctuary ~ Today brings a visit to El Capulin, a second monarch sanctuary in Mexico State.  El Capulin receives far less visitors than Piedra Herrada and offers a much wilder feel.  The trails here are more rugged so again the group will travel by horseback and on foot to the butterfly congregation sites.  After time to fully enjoy the spectacle of butterflies, head back to Valle de Bravo.

Accommodations: Meson de Leyendas or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Times Today: 2 hrs to El Capulin (each way).

DAY 4 (Fri, Feb 26): Valle de Bravo/ Mexico City/ La Paz~ Morning transfer to Mexico City in time for your flight to La Paz, a vibrant city situated on the Sea of Cortez and the capital of Baja California Sur (BCS).  The evening is yours to explore on your own.

Accommodations: Hotel Catedral or similar

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated Travel Times Today: 2.5-3 hrs to MEX Airport; 2.5 hr flight from MEX to LAP; 30 mins from LAP Airport to hotel

DAY 5 (Sat, Feb 27): La Paz/ Sea of Cortez (Espiritu Santo & Los Islotes) ~ Today brings a full day boat excursion to the Sea of Cortez, labeled by Jacques Cousteau as “the world’s aquarium”.  Few words can really describe just how extraordinary it is to swim alongside a shark, especially a shark the size of a whale! Whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, have taken up semi-permanent residence in La Paz Bay, just a 10-minute boat ride from the marina. 

After searching for, and hopefully swimming with whale sharks, we’ll continue to the islands of Los Islotes and Espiritu Santo.  A year-round population of more than 300 California sea lions lives in the waters around Los Islotes. Because this colony of sea lions sees human visitors just about every day, individuals are very interactive with snorkelers and divers.  Young pups seem to be the most curious, often coming close and swimming alongside you. 

Accommodations: Hotel Catedral or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

 DAY 6 (Sun, Feb 28): La Paz/ Magdalena Bay~ Morning departure to Magdalena Bay, a winter breeding and calving ground for gray whales and one of the best places in the world for encounters with this charismatic species. Friendly encounters, when mothers and calves approach the boat, are regular occurrences in the lagoons of BCS.  Friendly encounters aren’t guaranteed, but having multiple excursions at Magdalena Bay increases the likelihood of such an experience.  Afternoon whale watching excursion.   

Accommodations: Mar y Arena or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: 3.5 hrs from La Paz to Puerto San Carlos

DAY 7 (Mon, March 1): Magdalena Bay ~ Full day of whale watching and wildlife viewing at Magdalena Bay

Accommodations: Mar y Arena or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

DAY 8 (Tues, March 2): Magdalena Bay/ Loreto~ There is time for one more whale watching excursion at Magdalena Bay before heading to Loreto, one of the oldest settlements in BCS.  The afternoon is yours to explore Loreto during a walking tour. You’re sure to be amazed by Loreto’s beautiful setting between the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains  and Sea of Cortez.

Accommodations: Posada del Cortes or similar

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated Drive Time Today: 2.5 hrs from Puerto San Carlos to Loreto

DAY 9 (Wed, March 3): Loreto ~ Three Sea of Cortez wilderness islands (Danzante, Carmen and Monserrate) located in Loreto Bay National Park form the corners of the “Blue Triangle”.  This area is considered one of the most important winter areas for blue whales, the largest animal ever known to have lived on Earth.  In addition to blue whales, the national park provides habitat for humpback, fin, pilot and sperm whales in addition to orcas.  Early morning guided boat tour searching the nearby coast in search of whales.  Relive trip highlights this evening during our farewell dinner.

Accommodations: Posada del Cortes or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

DAY 10 (Thurs, March 4): Departure~ Transfer to Loreto International Airport in time for your flight home.

Meals: Breakfast

Estimated Drive Time Today: 15 mins from hotel to Loreto International Airport (LTO)

DETAILS

Price: $4225* per person (double occupancy; two people sharing accommodations); $595* supplement for private accommodations on single occupancy basis.

Includes accommodations, full-time bilingual trip leader, private ground transportation, private excursions w/ local guides, domestic flight (MEX-LAP),  activities as listed with entrance fees, gratuities for included meals and local guides, and sales taxes. 

Exclusions: international airfare, passport fees, travel insurance, medical preparation (if applicable), optional activities, taxis, gratuities for full-time trip leader and driver(s), and personal expenses. 

Group size: 6-8 participants + trip leader

*A 3% discount will be applied to payments by check.

Important Note: If these days don’t work for you and/or you prefer a private trip, contact us for pricing and availability.