Mexico's Baja Peninsula runs southward from Mexicali just under 800 miles to the tip of Cabo San Lucas, comprising the Mexican states of Baja California to the north and Baja California Sur to the south. Officially, the waters on the east side of the world’s third largest peninsula are known as the Gulf of California, but most people refer to them as the Sea of Cortez. An impressive mountain range rises from Baja. The peak of San Pedro Martir is more than 10,000 feet above sea level.
As a Baja yacht charter unfolds, the desert and craggy rocks, white sandy beaches, towering cardón cactuses, and occasional long-nosed leopard lizard ashore juxtaposed against a brilliant turquoise inland sea give a distinctly otherworldly character to the sailing experience. The isolated nature of the region makes it a flourishing breeding ground for California gray whales, which migrate to Baja from the Bering Sea in winter. California sea lions are also a common sight. The exquisite beaches for swimming and snorkeling, the deserted islands to explore, and the abundance of wildlife in a remote, unspoiled natural setting makes a Baja sailing vacation a magical adventure for the entire family.
A Baja yacht charter is relatively easy. Passages are short, the waters generally clear of hazards, and the anchorages secure with good holding in sand. Basic navigational skills are all that’s required. The winds are usually steady from the northwest at 10 to 15 knots in winter, though they can be stronger when a northerly frontal system blows through. In summer, the winds shift to the southeast and weaken. The exception is when the Coromuel winds blow from the southwest at night from early spring through late fall, creating a pleasant cool breeze. The average daytime temperature in the summer is 95°F (35°C). Temperatures during the rest of the year range from 70°F to 85°F (21°C to 29°C). In the winter months, it can get chilly at night. Expect sunshine most of the time, roughly 300 to 340 days per year. The tide ranges from two to six feet. Currents can be strong in narrow passages, but generally are not an issue.
A Baja yacht charter focuses on the superlative sailing, scenic and secluded anchorages, and exploring deserted islands rugged in their remote desert beauty. The fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving in some of the clearest water anywhere is still another delight to savor. The Sea of Cortez receives as many as 340 days of sunlight every year, its depths exceed two miles in some places, and the currents moving within it carry a rich cargo of plankton throughout the ecosystem, supporting California sea lions, sea rays, dolphins, and more than 500 species of tropical fish. Twelve species of whales (including the blue whale, the largest animal on Earth) breed in these waters. Few other places on the planet are as biologically diverse and unique. Add the Old World charm of sightseeing in La Paz and a Baja sailing vacation is an adventure that will inspire fond memories for years to come.
La Paz is the largest city and capital of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur with a population of about 300,000. Yet it retains a small-town ambience. A scenic boardwalk runs along the edge of the harbor, with its historic grand hotels on the north and south end of the waterfront. Cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, shops, art galleries, and the Juarez Theater for performing arts are downtown. The museums in the city – National Art Museum, Museo de Oro, Casa Murillo, to name a few – present a fascinating tableau of Mexican history. Nearby is the world-class CostaBaja Resort & Marina, site of the Moorings base in La Paz. Amenities at the resort include a full-service, modern marina, excellent restaurant, infinity pool, championship golf course, and a business center with high-speed Internet access. It’s an ideal location to begin a Baja yacht charter.
About 20 million years ago the peninsula of Baja California broke away from the mainland to create the Sea of Cortez and the mountains that rise steeply from its shores. Large and small islands capped with high hills were left behind. Isla Espiritu Santo, roughly 18 nautical miles north of La Paz, broke apart to form Isla Partida (the island that parted). A sandspit bisected with a narrow channel still connects them, so they are both only technically two separate islands. The Nature Conservancy has identified Isla Espiritu Santo, designated as a protected area in 1978, as one of the most ecologically significant islands in the Sea of Cortez. With its ecosystem largely undisturbed, the terrestrial and marine life is among the most diverse in the region; some species of rabbit, squirrel, and snakes are found nowhere else in the world. It’s a remarkable place for sailors to explore.
Situated at the tip of Isla Espiritu Santo is a formation of rocks rising sharply from the Sea of Cortez called Los Islotes. The rocks and cliffs appear as though they are from another world, twisted and misshapen, and somehow sublimely grand. Hundreds of golden-colored sea lions sun themselves on the rocks, their strident barks filling the air. It is possible to swim with the sea lions, and the snorkeling and scuba diving at Los Islotes is some of the best in Mexico.
One of the delights of a Baja charter is the chance to walk through a forest of cardón cactuses, the largest such plants in the world. Just a short distance from the anchorage at Isla San José is a superb example of these cactuses, which branch upwards as high as 60 feet with the 2,000-foot, reddish hued mountains and a sparkling blue sky in the background. Children and adults alike will find the cardón forest unforgettable, a must for the shutterbug of the family. A beautiful white-sand beach fronts the shore of the island, a great place to explore with the kids. Snorkeling is excellent in the area.
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