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. I’ve now visited Baja three times and each time I have fallen more in love with this magical part of Mexico. Below you will find my favorite things to do in Baja California:
Things to do in Baja California
Swim with Whale Sharks
From early winter until late spring whale sharks can be found feeding in the Sea of Cortez. Whale sharks are as big 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 is a humbling and truly unforgettable experience.
*P.S. This experience reinforced my belief that sharks are misunderstood creatures who often get an undeserved bad rep. If you’re still skeptical, check out the Misunderstood Predators episode of the Netflix show “Tales by Light.” I guarantee you it will change the way you think about sharks.
Go Whale Watching
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. If you’re lucky, you might see mothers with their young spouting and splashing right next to your boat.
Interact with Sea Lions
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 you can watch them engage in their favorite activities–defending their personal rock, playing in the water with their friends, and sunbathing their hefty bodies. 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.
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 other, the rough waves of the open sea. The terrain looks almost extraterrestrial with its red, jagged rocks, hundreds of different species of cactus, and arid soil. After your hike, cool off in the refreshing sea.
Kayak or Stand-Up Paddle Board
Rent a kayak or stand-up paddle board 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.
Explore Isla San Jose
Out of all of the starkly beautiful islands in Baja California Sur, San Jose may be my favorite. 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.
Visit Coyote Island
Not far from Isla San Jose is a tiny fishing village called Isla Coyote. This island is home to a grand total of 15 inhabitants and they are literally in the middle of nowhere. They make weekly trips to La Paz, over 2 hours away by boat, for fresh water, food and other necessities. I was blown away by the friendly fishermen’s decision to live in a nearly inhospitable environment disconnected from the rest of the world. It served as an important reminder that many live with far, far less, and without the modern conveniences we take for granted, and yet are happy with what they have.
For more helpful information for your trip to Baja, visit:
- AllAboutBaja.com – the Official Travel Guide to the Baja Peninsula
- Baja Insider
- Baja Norte
- Discover Baja
Baja California in Photos:
For more of my favorite places in Mexico click here.
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