Over the past few years, I have visited many gorgeous beaches in Mexico. But if I had to pick my favorite, the beaches of Baja California would have to take the cake. If you want to see a wild and virtually untouched part of Mexico, then sail the Sea of Cortez in Baja California.
There is something so magical about the Sea of Cortez. It is a dazzling sea in the midst of the desert, surrounded by staggering mountains covered in 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. In Baja, you can’t help but be in awe of the beauty and wildness surrounding you. Though this was my second trip to the peninsula, it was like I was experiencing it with fresh eyes. From sunrise to sunset I just couldn’t get enough of my surroundings.
The World’s Aquarium
The Sea of Cortez was dubbed the world’s aquarium by Jacques Cousteau because it is one of the richest and most extraordinary marine environments on earth. During our weeklong trip, we got up close and personal with the stunning creatures that call the Sea of Cortez home.
On various occasions, we had a pod of dolphins surround our boat with babies by their sides. A couple of times they even put on a show for us, jumping out of the water in synchrony. The manta rays competed with the dolphins, flinging their bodies several feet out of the water and landing with a loud slap. One night, we went paddle boarding at sunset and they jumped right in front of our boards! A few whales also made an appearance, flapping their tails and spouting.
Snorkeling & Diving
Though you can certainly see a lot from a boat, a whole other world awaits you under the water’s surface. If you don’t have your diving certification, no worries, you can still see all kinds of creatures snorkeling. While snorkeling we saw many types of starfish (including one with 25 arms!), menacing-looking eels, and countless varieties of vibrant fish.
However, if you do have your PADI certification, I would definitely recommend diving. We did two incredible dives in Isla Espiritu Santo—one where we saw nudibranchs, a creature that looks like a brightly colored sea slug, and the second where we explored a sunken ship that has become its own ecosystem.
We had also planned to swim with whale sharks but unfortunately the conditions were not right. I guess we’ll just have to come back! (*Update: we returned the following spring and had the unforgettable opportunity to swim with these gentle giants. Read about it here.)
During our last trip to Baja, we swam with the famous sea lions of Espiritu Santo and it was such a cool experience. You can swim right next to these friendly creatures; they won’t pay you any mind. Hundreds of sea lions call the rocks of this isle home and it’s so fun to watch them engage in their favorite activities—defending their personal rock, playing in the water with their friends, and sunbathing their hefty bodies.
In Baja, we took full advantage of our environment and ate freshly caught seafood everyday. We bought specialties of the region from the local fishermen and dined on delicious octopus, chocolate clams (named for the color of their shells, not the taste), and fish such as grouper and sea bass. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll be in heaven feasting on the fruits of the Sea of Cortez.
Seashell Lover’s Paradise
Baja is a seashell lover’s paradise. On some beaches, almost every inch of sand is covered in shells! Throughout the trip we collected dozens of intricate shells, driftwood, and dried starfish on the white sand beaches. Venturing off the beaches, we also enjoyed exploring the mountainous terrain. After a long uphill hike through winding paths of brush, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the water.
Best Explored by Boat
For logistical and sightseeing reasons, Baja is best explored by boat. Only by boat will you get unparalleled exposure to the inhabits of the Sea of Cortez. It’s also very difficult, and in many cases impossible, to get from one beach to another by land. On our trip, we left from La Paz and sailed to Coronado Island, then Monserrate, Agua Verde, Espiritu Santo, and finally San Jose. Traveling by boat grants you access to the most breathtaking, untouched beaches; so rent a boat for the day (or the week!) and immerse yourself in the dazzling Sea of Cortez.