For spectacular diving year-round and some of the best marine life on the planet, the Sea of Cortez, sometimes called the Gulf of California, is a must-visit destination on your Mexico yacht charter.
The Sea of Cortez is a narrow, largely sheltered sea, which separates the Baja California peninsula from the Mexico mainland. With an ecosystem supporting over 2,900 species of fish and mammals, on a Sea of Cortez yacht charter, you can discover why Jacques Cousteau famously labelled the watery Arcadia, ‘the world’s aquarium’ and why John Steinbeck felt compelled to write a journal of his leisurely expedition here in 1940. Indeed, it’s considered such a natural laboratory in terms of speciation that it has earned UNSESCO World Heritage status.
Dive with blue whales, sharks, barracuda, wahoo and marlin in the naturally abundant turquoise waters, or moor up to discover desert landscapes, and to explore over 240 islands and islets, which are home to high rocky cliffs, deserted white sandy beaches, beach clubs, nightclubs, golf courses and Michelin star restaurants.
From its ancient Mayan and Aztec roots to its contemporary revival as a centre for arts and sciences, Mexico is one of Latin America’s most beautiful and culturally rich countries and this is its most underrated cruising ground. Discover the wonders that await with a Mexico yacht charter.
The main charter season in Baja and the Sea of Cortez is from December to April. Whales begin arriving in December and can be seen until around April (in fact at times it seems as though they never leave). The main whale mating season here is from January to March, making this the high season, although the sea will be cooler for you, and land temperatures range from 60°F- 80°F (16° C to 27° C).
Visiting just outside the main season, from April to June, is also enjoyable and will see far fewer crowds, plus the seas will be warmer and it will be hotter, averaging around 80°F-90°F (27 to 32° C).
For most people, the party beaches, luxe resorts and upscale clubs of Cabo San Lucas is the place to be. Book tickets for the Las Vegas-style shows at Coco Bongo Los Cabos or hire a private cabana for that toes-in-the-sand feeling at Cachet Beach Club.
For something a little more rustic, be bowled over by the English garden charm of Flora Farms, where you can enjoy a field-to-table dining experience, with dishes cultivated using organic ingredients grown right here on the farm and meat provided by the nearby ranch.
And for out-and-out luxury, anchor off Palmilla and take the tender across to our partner’s One&Only hotel. This resort offers the kind of peerless service that you are used to receiving on a yacht and has four incredible restaurants as well as oceanfront infinity pools.
There’s no doubt about it, the Sea of Cortez is one of the best places in the world for a sea safari. Go diving or snorkelling and see if you can spot the big five: mahi-mahi, manta ray, shark, marlin and sailfish, or cruise to Cabo Pulmo, a huge Marine Protected Area, where you can see whales – both blues and humpbacks – sharks, even jumping manta rays.
Meanwhile, at Los Islotes, a rocky island north of La Paz, you can see hundreds of sea lions – on a Sea of Cortez yacht charter you can have close encounters with all manner of marine life, which is why many people refer to it as the ‘Galapagos of North America’.
On land, take a dune buggy from desert to ocean in Cabos San Lucas, hop in a helicopter and go wine-tasting in the Guadalupe Valley or visit Isla San José, where you can walk amid forests of giant cacti and see relics from its abandoned salt-mining industry.
Most people visit this region for the Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto, which lies off its coast. Remarkably, the nature reserve is home to 80% of Pacific Ocean marine life, and frequent blue whale sightings make it a popular place with sea kayakers.
Isla del Carmen is the largest island in the Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto, with a huge mountain range that soars above the seascape and is a heavenly place to swim, hike, or simply beach-lounge.
The uninhabited islands of Santa Catalan and Monserrate, meanwhile, are great places to spot native birdlife, including vibrant parrots, and the clarity of the water make them both perfect for diving and snorkeling.
The small island of San José is surely one of Mexico’s prettiest. The coloured cliffs that frame the island, tower above the bluest waters, and though much of the island is arid, drop anchor in Bahia Amortajada on the south of the isle and you’ll enter a world of mangroves teeming with pelicans, herons and other exotic birds.
A little south of Isla San José, is another small island, once the domain of gold miners and pearl prospectors, which today is deserted aside from a diverse range of reptiles and birds. You can follow one of the hiking trails through the island or just kick-back on one of the pearly-white beaches.
For beautiful beaches in southern Baja and the chance to see playful sea lion pups, this is the region to come. Isla Espiritu Santo & Isla Partida are separated by a narrow shallow channel and the largest colony of seals can usually be found at Los Islotes, just north of the isles. You normally hear them barking before you see them and if you like, you can dive in from the swim platform for an even closer encounter.
Baja California’s capital still bears evidence of her Neolithic settlers in the rock paintings that can be found in her surrounds, while in her centre, it’s brimming with bars, laid-back cafes and some surprisingly good restaurants. A colourful, lively city, it is nevertheless, only a short hop from some stunning beaches and exceptional dive sites. With most charters setting off from here, a La Paz yacht charter is perfect for anyone wishing to visit Cabo Pulmo.
You can enjoy year-round diving at this national marine park, which encompasses 17 dive sites including an underwater canyon, where visibility can reach as far as 100ft. You can swim here all year, though in winter you’ll more than likely be joined by humpback whales and whale sharks.
At the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, this Sea of Cortez resort town is a little quieter and less in-your-face than nearby Cabo San Lucas and is undeniably pretty too, with palm-fringed lagoons, old colonial buildings and more than a little of the Old Baja about it. This is also where you will find the unparalleled One&Only Palmilla resort.
For fun, sun and all the amenities you could ask for, this resort town is where you’ll want to be. There are excellent golf courses to enjoy, some of the best sportfishing of anywhere, cool, chic beach bars and incredible Pacific Ocean views.
What is the currency of the Sea of Cortez?
The official currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso, which generally offers the best value for money. US Dollars are also widely accepted in the Baja region.
Language spoken in the Sea of Cortez
Spanish is the most common language in the Sea of Cortez, though English is spoken in many of the big resorts.
Time zone in the Sea of Cortez
The time zone in the Sea of Cortez is Mountain Time, which also adopts Daylight Saving Time from April to October. During this time, the Sea of Cortez is GMT-6 hours and outside Daylight-Saving Time (from late October to late March) it is GMT-7 hours.