Called “The World’s Aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau, the Sea of Cortes is the location to experience the incredible diversity of marine life. With 900 species of fish, 170 species of seabirds, a third of the world’s whales, dolphins, and porpoises, and five species of sea turtles, the Sea of Cortes is nature at its finest, and many of the best destinations along the Sea of Cortes are accessible only by small ship.
I had the pleasure of cruising the Sea of Cortes with my niece, Cheryl, and recommend these fantastic ports along Mexico’s Baha California Sur, plus the best activities in each.
UnCruise Adventures sponsored our voyage. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Pro Tip: Is It the Sea of Cortez or the Sea of Cortes? Both spellings are correct. Cortez is the Spanish spelling, and Cortes is the English spelling.
1. Baja Agua Verde
The gentle sway of the sea at Baja Agua Verde is a welcome relief to the strong El Norte winds we encountered upon leaving La Paz.
Located on the peninsula just south of Loreto, the waters of secluded Agua Verde Bay are a beautiful green and amazingly clear and clean. There are few tourists here as the 40-mile drive is rough and unsuitable for cars and the area is best visited by small ship. We anchored just offshore and enjoyed the following activities:
Skiff Tour Of Baja Agua Verde
A skiff took us to explore the rugged shore of the peninsula and is a great way to see the best of this area. Thanks to the calm waters, we could get close to and sight the many marine birds perched on the rocks.
Wildlife Sighting: Blue-Footed Boobies
The most unusual birds we saw were the blue-footed boobies. These are aquatic birds native to the tropical and subtropical areas of the Pacific. Do you know why their feet are blue? Scientists believe the blue color results from the carotenoid pigments in their diet. During mating season, the males entice females with fancy footwork during a dance ritual.
Have you ever enjoyed a burro ride along high cliffs overlooking the beautiful waters of the Sea of Cortes? Fellow cruisers, including my niece, raved about this experience with the Romero Family, who brought their burros over an 8-mile trek to provide this unique excursion. The Romeros are an authentic Mexican Ranchero Clan, rapidly disappearing as the younger generation moves away to seek educational and employment opportunities. The burro rides are an essential source of revenue for the clan and an activity unique to the area.
The so-called goat walk up the cliff was the most strenuous of the activities at Baja Agua Verde, and it was perfect for folks like my niece. I asked her if there was a special meaning to the term “Goat Walk.” “No, I don’t think so,” she replied. “It was just a scramble up some rocks like a mountain goat would.” She loved it! The path they took meandered along some relatively narrow pathways along the mountain cliff.
A beach walk and tasty refreshments at UnCruise Beach Stations topped off our afternoon at Baja Agua Verde before we reboarded the ship.
Pro Tip: Reminder that whenever and wherever you visit a beach, you should take nothing and leave nothing behind.
2. Puerto Lopez Mateos, Magdalena Bay
We docked off Isla Carmen and traveled overland on Highway #1 across the peninsula to Puerto Lopez Mateos on the Pacific Side of Baja California Sur. The terrain is amazing: desolate with miles and miles of cacti. One friend observed, “This is just like the old Western movies!”
Wildlife Sighting: Gray Whales
After boarding a small boat, we set out to observe the gray whales in the lagoon of Magdalena Bay. This area is one of the three major Baja breeding and calving lagoons for gray whales and is recognized as one of the world’s best places to view them. The lagoon is ideal because of its warm, calm, nutrient-rich waters.
Excitement sparks in the air as we all watch for the first blowholes. Soon, a sighting — and close to our boats.
What an absolute delight! Several mothers and calves were enjoying the warm waters of the bay. This is the closest I have ever been to gray whales and the first time I observed mothers and calves. We stayed for a good 45 minutes and witnessed these magnificent creatures throughout our time.
Pro Tip: The best time to view gray whales and calves here is mid-January to early March, when they begin their migration back to Alaska. Plan your trip accordingly.
3. Isla Carmen (Del Carmen Island)
Isla Carmen is the largest island in the Loreto National Marine Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We anchored just off the island and enjoyed these activities:
Prepare to be greeted by colorful fish! The waters are cold here — it’s not like snorkeling in Hawaii or the Caribbean. The good news is that hot chocolate was waiting for us on our return!
Note that UnCruise requires folks to be good swimmers and able to get back on the boat using a ladder to participate in snorkeling. There is always the option to enjoy the views from the lounge on the ship, too.
Pro Tip: Uncruise offered Snorkel 101 for folks new to snorkeling, those who had not snorkeled for several years, and those who needed more confidence in snorkeling. This is a great option to help you get comfortable with snorkeling.
Wildlife Sighting: Dolphins And Blue Whales
Later in the afternoon, we heard the announcement: “Dolphins spotted off the bow!”
We rushed from the lounge to the bow of the ship to see the dolphins. In the distance, we also saw the spouts of blue whales. One of the crew identified them. I asked how she knew they were blue whales and not gray whales. Her response: “Gray whales don’t come up here.”
Fun Facts: Blue whales are the largest mammals on earth — they can reach up to 100 feet in length and can weigh up to 180 tonnes. Blue whales are found regularly in the “Blue Triangle” off Del Carmen Island. They are found greater distances from shore than the gray whales.
4. Isla Coronado
We anchored in a remote cove off Isla Coronado, another one of the five islands in UNESCO World Heritage Site Loreto Bay Marine Park. Isla Coronado is inhabited by 16 species of reptiles, including snakes, lizards, and geckos, and is also known for its jackrabbits and mice.
Skiff Tour Of Isla Coronado
A skiff tour lets you get closer to Isla Coronado’s unique volcanic rock and shore formations, which are intricate and spell-binding.
Wildlife Sighting: Marine Birds And Nests
In addition to the impressive shoreline, during our skiff tour, we observed more blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans, and cormorants. We marveled at two huge cormorant nests along the rocks — one with a cormorant guarding it.
Native Vegetation, Fishermen’s Shrine, And Pearl Farm
Amazing also was the lone cacti trying to survive in the rocks. With less than one inch of rain annually, plants here have adapted to the harsh conditions to eke out a sustainable life.
As we rounded a bend, we came across a cross and shrine dedicated to the safety of the fishermen in the area. In another area, we got to see an abandoned pearl farm.
Swim With Sea Lions
These clear turquoise waters are rich with life. One of the main attractions at Isla Coronado is the sea lions, frolicking in the waters and sunning on the rocks. If conditions are calm, folks can swim with the sea lions in one area.
Unfortunately, the winds had picked up, so we could not do this on our trip. (I always tell myself that I need to save some experiences for next time!) Flexibility is needed when small-boat cruising on the Sea of Cortes. Some experiences require good weather, and the captain always places safety first. So do be prepared for a change of plans.
Fun Fact: Loreto Bay Marine Park is also a Ramsar Site, meaning it’s internationally recognized for its wise use of waters and wetlands.
How To Get There
The Sea of Cortes lies between the Baja California Peninsula and the western coastline of Northern Mexico. Baja California Sur is the southern tip of the peninsula. We flew into San Jose del Cabo and met our UnCruise Expedition there.
- Bring some flip-flops or water shoes for wet landings.
- I also recommend you bring a backpack to have your hands free when stepping into and out of the skiffs.
- To help preserve the delicate marine environment, I recommend reef-safe sunscreen.
More On Our Small Ship: The Safari Voyager
Our cruise was the Baja’s Bounty: Baja California’s Whales & Sealife Adventure. The Safari Voyager is a 66-passenger, 33-cabin small ship operated by UnCruise Adventures. Guest to crew ratio is 2:2.1.
The ship has three decks. Deck 3 is the spacious lounge with 270-degree windows. The majority of the cabins are located on the second deck. All the cabins are outside, above the deck, and have lovely picture windows. The dining room is situated on the first deck. The vessel is decorated with beautiful handcrafted artwork in public areas and cabins.
Safari Voyager has an underwater camera and posts on Channel 2 in your cabin.
Three levels of activities are offered morning and afternoon: very active, active, and laid back. Between the two of us, my niece and I participated in all the activities.
Note that on this cruise, most landings are “wet landings,” meaning that you will step into shallow water to reach the beach. Additionally, there are no elevators on the ship.
Do plan a visit to Baja California Sur and the Sea of Cortes. Whether you enjoy sealife, birding, geography, or cruising, this is nature at its finest.
My 4 Favorite Small Ports To Experience Along Baja’s Sea Of Cortes? ›
The voyage includes seven ports of call in Baja Mexico: Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, La Paz, Topolobampo, Guayamas, with an overnight in Loreto and an overnight in Cabo.What ports are in the Sea of Cortez? ›
The voyage includes seven ports of call in Baja Mexico: Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, La Paz, Topolobampo, Guayamas, with an overnight in Loreto and an overnight in Cabo.What makes the Sea of Cortez unique? ›
Along the Sea of Cortez is roughly 2,500 miles of striking beaches and gin-clear water allowing for pristine views of wildlife above and below the surface. The unique geology encompassing the region including its climate harbors a rich marine ecosystem to be observed by researchers and world-travelers alike.Where is the sea of Cortes? ›
The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, is nestled between Mexico's mainland and the Baja California peninsula. It has about 37 islands that were formed during an era of frequent volcanic activity.How do you get to the Sea of Cortez? ›
The most popular option is to fly to San Jose del Cabo (SJD) and take a 3-hour shuttle to La Paz. Numerous airlines fly direct between North American cities and the airport in Cabo (Cabo is also referred to as Cabo San Lucas, Los Cabos and San Jose del Cabo–where the airport is actually located).What are the ports in coastal? ›
On the west coast, there are the ports of Mumbai, Kandla, Mangalore, JNPT, Mormugao, and Cochin. The ones on the east coast are the ports at Chennai, Tuticorin, Visakhapatnam, Paradip, Kolkata, and Ennore.What are the ports in Panama called? ›
Panamá has five seaport areas: Panama City, Manzanillo, Balboa, Colón, and Cristóbal. These seaports handle the 16000 and the 17000 million dollars in exports and imports, respectively, which is the annual value of the foreign trade of Panama.Can you swim in the Sea of Cortez? ›
The Sea of Cortez is also famous for its clear waters and marine life. The marine life includes dolphins, whales and sea lions. What Kind of Watersports are Available? Swimming, sport fishing, surfing, kayaking and wind surfing are popular in the Sea of Cortez.Can you swim across the Sea of Cortez? ›
Swimming and snorkeling is good on the Sea of Cortez side depending upon the water conditions. Warning! While at Lover's Beach do not attempt to wade or swim on the neighboring Pacific Ocean side, called Divorce beach, as strong and dangerous under toes are prevalent and very dangerous.What shark is in the Sea of Cortez? ›
Are There Sharks In the Sea of Cortez? Yes, great white sharks have been known to venture from the island of Guadalupe closer to shore.
What city is near the Sea of Cortez? ›
San Jose del Cabo
This “Old Town” has a downtown arts district that's as rich and colourful as the city's history and culture.
The name “Sea of Cortes” was given to the body of water to honor the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortez, who claimed Mexico for Spain.Why is it called the Sea of Cortés? ›
Named after Herman Cortes
It was named in honor of the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés in 1593, and at only around five million years old is the youngest sea in the world. The Sea of Cortez makes up for its youth by boasting over 900 different species of fish alone.
Spring and fall are some of the most ideal times for enjoying the Sea of Cortez. The strong northerly winds tend to blow longest and strongest from December through February although sunny, calm days during this time are common.Can you see whales in the Sea of Cortez? ›
Of these, the most commonly seen whales in the Sea of Cortez are blue, humpback, orca, and fin. On the Pacific Coast side of Baja, the most common species are the humpback and gray whale, and nothing compares to the calving lagoons of Baja for intimate encounters with gray whales.What islands are in the Sea of Cortez? › What are the four major ports? ›
The four major ports of India that lie on the Golden Quadrilateral are Kolkata, Mumbai, Vishakhapatnam and Chennai.What are the 3 ports? ›
The port numbers are divided into three ranges: the well-known ports, the registered ports, and the dynamic or private ports. The well-known ports (also known as system ports) are those numbered from 0 through 1023.What is the most important sea port? ›
The Port of Shanghai is the busiest port in the world in terms of cargo tonnage and comprises a deep-sea port and a river port, and it is the most important gateway for foreign trade. The port covers an area of 3,619.6km² at the mouth of the Yangtze River. Port of Shanghai occupies an enviable geographic location.What are the two famous ports? ›
- Kandla Port. Located 90 kilometers from the Gulf of Kutch, the Kandla Port was built in the 1950s in the Kandla Creek area as the first export processing port in India. ...
- Mumbai Port. ...
- Chennai Port. ...
- Port Blair Port. ...
- Kolkata Port. ...
- Tuticorin Port. ...
- Cochin Port. ...
- Ennore Port.
What is the most popular port in Panama? ›
Port of Cristobal (Colón, Panama)
At present, it is one of the biggest and busiest in terms of international port calls in Panama.
Seaport. A seaport is a port located on the shore of a sea or ocean. It is further categorized as a "cruise port" or a "cargo port". Additionally, "cruise ports" are also known as a "home port" or a "port of call".Are there sea snakes in the Sea of Cortez? ›
Seven marine reptiles inhabit the Sea of Cortez, five threatened/endangered sea turtles, one sea snake (Pelamis platurus), and one crocodile (Crocodylus acutus).Are there great white sharks in Sea of Cortez? ›
Great white sharks are prevalent both in the Sea of Cortez particularly in December and January when pregnant sharks make their way to the waters in order to feed.Why is the Sea of Cortez so rough? ›
The San Andreas fault runs right down the very middle of the Sea of Cortez, which explains the violent activity during the period of the sea's origin.Why are Cabo beaches not swimmable? ›
Arguably the number one reason to avoid swimming in some Cabo beaches is the presence of rip currents. These are commonly called 'rip tides', but they're not actually tides – they're powerful, fast-moving water currents that move from the shore out to the ocean.Are there octopus in the Sea of Cortez? ›
The Sea of Cortez is very diverse and has a vast array of nudibranchs, blennies, jawfish, rays and guitarfish,schools of fish, eels, octopus, sea horses, frogfish, Mexican horn sharks, playful sea lions, and the list goes on and on.Are there dolphins in the Sea of Cortez? ›
Expedition cruises to the Sea of Cortez run from November through to April, avoiding the hottest summer months and the hurricane season, and timed for the best wildlife viewing opportunities. The area is home to pods of thousands of common dolphins and hundreds of bottlenose dolphins.What is the largest fish in the Sea of Cortez? ›
Aside from the myriad of endemic marine creatures, the Sea of Cortez also attracts seasonal sea visitors like whale sharks. Acknowledged as the largest fish in the sea, whale sharks can grow up to 40 feet or more. These marine creatures can weigh as much as 20.6 tons. Just imagine a fish as big as a school bus!How deep is the Cortez Sea? ›
What is the most feared shark in the ocean? ›
Because of these characteristics, many experts consider bull sharks to be the most dangerous sharks in the world. Historically, they are joined by their more famous cousins, great whites and tiger sharks, as the three species most likely to attack humans.Is Mazatlan on the Sea of Cortez? ›
Located due east from the tip of the Baja California peninsula, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, Mazatlan sprawls along approximately 12 miles of scalloped coastline at the base of the Sierra Madre.Are there giant squid in the Sea of Cortez? ›
Overview. Before 1950 there were no reports of Humboldt squid in the Sea of Cortez. Today however it is estimated that there are over 20 million of these fearsome predators in these waters.Is there shrimp in the Sea of Cortez? ›
Sea of Cortez wild shrimp weren't discovered by the explorer Cortez. But the blue shrimp were plucked out of the unspoiled and pristine waters between Baja California and mainland Mexico known as the Sea of Cortez. This narrow sea is home to some of the most unique and interesting water species in the world.What animals are in the Sea of Cortez? ›
Amongst the most important marine life include; Whale sharks, humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, the totoaba fish and sword fish, seahorses, the Californian octopus, stingrays, sardines, shrimp, and giant squid.How warm is the Sea of Cortez? ›
Dive Conditions. The water temperature in the Sea of Cortez is generally around 19 °C (66 °F) in winter and 24 °C (75 °F) in summer. However the temperatures can vary greatly in the gulf, and the water is almost always warmer by the coast than the open ocean.What is the deepest part of the Sea of Cortez? › What do Mexicans call the Gulf of California? ›
The Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez or Sea of Cortés; locally known in the Spanish language as Mar de Cortés or, much less frequently, Golfo de California) is a body of water that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland.What is the name of the boat in Sea of Cortez? ›
The Western Flyer is a fishing boat, most known for its use by John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts in their 1940 expedition to the Gulf of California, the notes from which culminated in their 1941 book Sea of Cortez, later reworked by Steinbeck into The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951).Who owns the Sea of Cortez? ›
"The sea of Cortez belongs to Mexico" Mexican deputies will Not annex the gulf to the U.S. -
Do you need a passport to go to the Sea of Cortez? ›
No, it is not necessary to have a passport to travel. You have a few alternatives for getting to Mexico via land. When crossing the border into Mexico, you can produce your US passport, a passport card, or a SENTRI Card. Minors can also travel without a passport.Where is the best place to see whales in Baja? ›
There are three spots in Baja California Sur where the gray whales come every winter—Laguna San Ignacio, Laguna Ojo de Liebre, and Bahía Magdalena. Visitors go out into the lagoons in small fishing boats, and up close encounters with the gentle giants are extremely common.Where is the best snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez? ›
The city of La Paz is the gateway to the Espiritu Santo island group, and what is generally considered the best snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez. A combination of coral reefs and rock ledges provide habitat for a wide range of resident marine life, along with migratory species such as manta rays, whales and dolphin.What time are whales most active? ›
Whales are never diurnal, but they can be crepuscular. This means they are most active during twilight hours which are both before sunrise and after sunset.What is the best time of day to go whale watching? ›
One of the reasons that the morning time is the best time of day for whale watching has to do with weather and ocean conditions. The wind is a key player when it comes to smooth seas, and morning trips often have less wind.What time of day is best for whale watching in Cabo? ›
There is morning activity as the whales congregate and feed. There is more activity during mid-day whale watching tours as the waters begin to get rougher. The afternoon and early evening have the most activity thanks to the high tides and increased winds.Is there a ferry across the Sea of Cortez? ›
Baja Ferries is the leading shipping group in Mexico servicing cargo and passenger ferries in Mexico. Their vessels connect Baja California Sur with Mexico's mainland; they have two routes crossing the Sea of Cortez, departing from Pichilingue port (La Paz, BC).What are the biggest sea ports in Mexico? ›
Mexico's largest port, the Port of Manzanillo, is located in the state of Colima along the pacific coast and handles the Pacific Ocean cargo for the Mexico City area.What are the major ports of entry at the US Mexico border? ›
The Border Between the U.S. and Mexico
Three public U.S. ports of entry: San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, and Tecate.
Cruisers enjoy the Sea year round, but the prime seasons for exploring this area under sail would be April to June, and Late October to December.
Is there a ferry from Baja to Puerto Vallarta? ›
Getting to Puerto Vallarta by Ferry. An alternative route to Puerto Vallarta is by ferry from the southern tip of Baja California.Can you take a ferry from Baja to mainland Mexico? ›
Baja Ferries enable you to travel between Baja Sur and mainland Mexico without taking the long road north, nearly all the way to the states saving miles of driving and fuel costs.What is the famous port in Mexico? ›
The Port of Lázaro Cárdenas (Spanish: [ˈlasaɾo ˈkaɾðenas] ( listen)) is the largest Mexican seaport and one of the largest seaports in the Pacific Ocean basin, with an annual traffic capacity of around 25 million tonnes of cargo and 2,200,000 TEU.What is the oldest port in Mexico? ›
Developed during Spanish colonization, Veracruz is Mexico's oldest, largest, and historically most significant port.Which is the sea biggest port? ›
The Singapore port is the world's busiest container transhipment facility, offering maritime trade connectivity with 600 seaports in over 100 countries. Also, Singapore port is one of the largest bunkering facilities in the world. It comprises 84 berths spread across 6 major port terminals.What is the safest border crossing into Mexico? ›
The Ojinaga - Presidio
This border crossing has about one million vehicles every year coming through here. The landscape is mostly flat, but the path does have some curves. It's not as busy as other crossings so it can be a bit safer for those who are looking to avoid crowds while still getting across safely.
San Ysidro is the busiest crossing by far, followed by El Paso. Most of the the annual crossings are made by personal vehicles and their passengers, and pedestrians.What is the port of entry to Mexico from San Diego? ›
The Tecate Port of Entry is located between Tecate, California in San Diego County's Mountain Empire and Tecate Municipality in Baja California.What is the best time of year to take a Mexican cruise? ›
Best Time to Cruise to Mexico: November - January
If you're after that sweet spot of cheaper fares and perfect weather, the best time to go to Mexico is from November through January. Skies during this period are mostly clear, temperatures are warm and crowds are smaller (with the exception of Christmas and New Years).
Absolutely no swimming is allowed because the strong currents and powerful shore break is very dangerous. Lover's Beach (Playa de Amor) is located on the Sea of Cortez side near the famous stone arch (El Arco). The only access to this beach is by water taxi from the marina or Medano Beach.