If you want to see a wild and virtually untouched part of Mexico, explore the Sea of Cortez in Baja California. The Sea of Cortez is one of the richest and most extraordinary marine environments on earth. It is a dazzling sea in the midst of the desert, surrounded by staggering mountains covered with enormous cacti. As you sail from one cove to another, the sea changes from shades of crystal clear blue, to aquamarine, turquoise, and emerald green. Also known as the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez separates the Baja California peninsula from the Mexican mainland. Below are 7 must-do activities while in Baja California Sur.
From early winter until late spring whale sharks can be found feeding in the Sea of Cortez. Whale sharks are as large as some species of whale and, like whales, are filter feeders. They are the largest species of fish, growing up to 40 feet (12 meters) and weighing as much as 47,000 pounds (21.5 tons). In Baja, you can swim alongside these gentle giants in the presence of an authorized tour operator. It’s a humbling and truly unforgettable experience.
Baja California is one of the best places in the world to see whales. Grey whales travel more than 10,000 miles from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to the southern Baja peninsula. They spend the months of December to April mating in the warm waters, giving birth and feeding their calves. If you’re in Baja during these months, book a marine safari. It’s not unusual to see mothers with their young spouting and splashing right next to your boat.
25 miles from the shores of La Paz is a cluster of small isles home to hundreds of sea lions. Arrange an expedition to Los Islotes to interact with these playful creatures in their natural environment. Above the sea is entertaining enough but below the surface, it’s a whole other world. With snorkeling or diving equipment you can spend a few hours playing with the curious pups and living as the sea lions do.
If you are scuba-dive certified, don’t skip the chance to explore the depths of the Sea of Cortez. Depending on the time of year, you could encounter groups of giant manta rays, humpback and sperm whales, hammerheads, sea lions, or whale sharks, not to mention colorful starfish, corals, and fish. Near the beautiful Isla Espiritu Santo is the Fang Ming Wreck, a ship sunk to create an artificial reef. Today it is a flourishing underwater ecosystem and a diver’s dream.
3. Hike Isla San Francisco
The hike up Isla San Francisco is not too strenuous and the view from the top is unbeatable. On one side, you have the calm aquamarine waters of the inlet and on the Pacific side, the rough waves of the open sea. The terrain almost looks extraterrestrial with its red, jagged rocks, hundreds of different species of cactus, and arid soil. After your hike, cool off in the refreshing sea.
2. Kayak or Stand-Up Paddleboard
Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and get up close and personal with the creatures who call the Sea of Cortez home. You may encounter a pod of dolphins with their young, manta rays jumping through the air, playful sea lions, or even a grey whale. It is also a great workout and a wonderful way to explore the coves throughout Baja California Sur.
1. Explore Isla San Jose
Isla San Jose is a nature lover’s paradise swarming with life. It is an incredibly diverse island with everything from giant cactus covered beaches to mangroves and salt flats. At one point in the cove, there is a salt-water river accessible by kayak or small boat. After a short ride, the canal opens to a large bay with a narrow strip of beach. Walking the shell-strewn beach you’ll feel as though you’ve stumbled upon an untouched utopia.
For more information about Baja California, visit Baja Insider.
All images courtesy of Sarah Daisey Clark and Julian Holzer unless otherwise noted.
Written by DLX contributor Sarah Daisey Clark. Follow my adventures living in Mexico City and exploring south of the border on my travel blog Detours with Daisey and on Instagram. Come take a little detour with me!