A Sea of Cortez cruise is an intriguing option to go to “the world’s aquarium,” within the phrases of Jacques Cousteau. It’s a nature lovers’ paradise, with one-third of the Earth’s marine mammals, 900 species of birds, crystal blue water, and abandoned white sand seashores.
This text covers the port-of-calls and in a single day anchorages you’ll discover on a Baja Mexico cruise for each mega cruise ships and smaller boutique journey cruises, together with interactive maps and a deal with shore excursions. Preserve studying if you happen to ever dreamed of following within the footsteps of Steinbeck or Cousteau by means of one of the biologically various areas of the planet.
Sea of Cortez Map
Under is our Sea of Cortez map that accompanies this publish. It has a typical mega cruise route and boutique cruise route, together with port of calls and shore tour choices. It is not going to assist you to navigate the Gulf of Mexico, however it may simply assist you to resolve if you wish to go cruising. If it doesn’t load, you’ll be able to hit the refresh button or click on this hyperlink. Both method, we encourage you to click on round a bit and take a digital Sea of Cortez cruise.
It’s laid out equally to this publish, the place you begin in Cabo San Lucas and journey throughout to the Mexican Riviera for calls in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. You come to the Baja in La Paz and make your method up the islands of the Gulf of Mexico till you attain Loreto.
Cabo San Lucas
Many Baja Mexico cruises begin at Cabo San Lucas, with its huge cruise port and the Los Cabos Worldwide Airport. The flights are cheap, too, with direct spherical journey tickets from a number of US cities costing lower than $200 and taking lower than 3 hours within the air
When you’re on a mega cruise, you’ll seemingly be accountable for the 30-mile (~$60) switch from the airport to the cruise port and maybe an evening at a resort on the entrance of your journey. Boutique cruise manufacturers like UnCruise do issues otherwise, together with partnering with a resort near the airport and packaging in airport shuttles.
Cabo and the Mexican Riviera ports of Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta have fashioned a cruising triangle for many years and developed a wholesome shore tour trade. Many boat excursions depart from the harbor, starting from kid-friendly pirate boats to romantic sails. Each boat of each taste takes you by the well-known Cabo Arch, which sits simply outdoors the harbor. From there, they go to Lover’s Seaside, adjoining to the Arch, or extra distant seashores like Playa Santa Maria or Chileno Bay, the place they provide swimming and snorkeling. Generally, they cruise the coast searching for whales or dolphins.
Overland adventures characteristic quick journeys to one among Cabo’s many resort resorts or bus excursions 75 miles north to Todos Santos to search out an “genuine Mexican expertise.” Journey parks, like Wild Canyon Adventures and Cover Costa Azul, provide zip strains, rappelling, ATV excursions, and extra.
San José del Cabo
Like our Baja UnCruise, boutique cruises make the most of Cabo’s well-developed infrastructure otherwise than mega cruises. They’ve partnered with the Barceló Grand Faro Los Cabos, an all-inclusive seashore resort, for staging earlier than and after the voyage and labored it into the journey’s value, together with transportation.
A shuttle bus was ready for me on the airport, which took me on to the resort. We spent the night time on the arrival day, the place I had full use of the services, together with buffets, swimming pools, and a non-public seashore. We additionally returned to the resort mid-morning on the departure day. A number of individuals on my cruise deliberate their flights across the resort days so they may have time for off-property adventures. The Concierge desk on the Barcelo will fortunately prepare actions, like the journey parks, or you’ll be able to stroll 1/2 hour into downtown San José del Cabo (or seize an Uber) for some buying and Mexican tradition.
Do you do not forget that “Cruise Triangle ” between Cabo, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta? Right here’s the rub. Two of these three ports (Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta) aren’t within the Gulf of Mexico or the Baja in any respect. They’re on the mainland within the Mexican Riviera. The ocean ground outdoors Cabo drops shortly to 1200 ft, which isn’t excellent news for explorers of “the World’s Aquarium” since 90% of the fish reside above the continental shelf. Nevertheless, they’re included on most mega cruise itineraries, so we’ll cowl them right here. Plus, you’ll have an opportunity to see tropical jungles and totally different indigenous influences, reminiscent of Papantla Flyers.
Mazatlán is sort of 500 years previous and residential to half 1,000,000 individuals. There’s a plethora of excursions starting from climbing to the lighthouse (Faro Mazatlán) on a hill overlooking the cruise port to venturing into city to see the Plaza Machado, Malecon de Mazatlán, Cathedral Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepción, and different websites of this historic metropolis. There’s additionally a seashore tour to Stone Island, however that was the lowest-rated tour supplied, and also you’ll discover higher seashores at different stops.
Inland excursions embody a bus journey to the villages of Concordia and Copala to see life within the foothills of the Sierra Madres, together with adobe brick-making demonstrations, pottery, and historic church buildings. After all, there’s a zipper line possibility too, however the preferred and highest-rated tour is the salsa courses at a close-by resort. Which salsa? How about each? You’ll study to make the normal Mexican dish and dance the Latin dance. It’s excellent for individuals who can’t make up their minds, however its recognition and score additionally converse magnitudes in regards to the issues to do in Mazatlán.
Puerto Vallarta, or PV for brief, was a sleepy village till American vacationers found how stunning it was. Although its bay, Bahia Banderas, is among the largest bays on the Pacific Coast, the port up the coast in San Blas dealt with the vast majority of the site visitors due to overland routes to Guadalajara.
John Huston’s 1964 film, The Night time of the Iguana, launched PV to America, and the cruise strains had been enthralled with the pure magnificence, deep water port, and undeveloped land. At present, greater than 450 thousand cruise passengers go to PV yearly, they usually’re welcomed by a wholesome shore tour menu.
The preferred shore excursions in Puerto Vallarta are metropolis excursions the place you see some mixture of Elizabeth Taylor’s Gringo Gulch, the historic waterfront, church buildings, and tequila tasting.
There’s loads of journey available in PV. It’s house to Los Veranos Cover Tour, allegedly the biggest zip line tour on the planet. Their 19 strains by means of the tropical jungle sound like heart-pounding enjoyable with an unique view, however Banning Mills in Georgia holds the world document for World’s Longest Zip Line Cover Tour, with over 100 strains touring greater than 11 miles by means of the air. Nonetheless, 19 strains by means of the jungle cover is spectacular, plus e-bike excursions, climbing excursions, and river play make a day at Los Veranos good clear enjoyable.
It’s also possible to take seashore excursions from port starting from unique seashore resort getaways to boat excursions of distant bays like Playa Majahuitas and Playa Yelapa to snorkeling within the tropical waters off Islas Marietas.
La Paz is a a lot much less frequented vacation spot for mega cruises than the “Cruise Triangle.” It noticed 21 cruise ships arrive throughout 2022, which is fewer than dock in Cabo San Lucas each month! Nevertheless, that can quickly change because the newly expanded Pichilingue Cruise Port good points recognition.
For now, there are restricted excursions, together with scenic drives, artisans & buying, and highlights of La Paz, together with the Cathedral Nuestra Señora de La Paz and Baja California Sur Regional Museum. It isn’t arduous to think about these experiences getting extra synthesized and nature-based excursions rising, together with whale shark watching, snorkeling with child sea lions on the nursery off Los Islotes, and exploring the pure paradise of Isla Espiritu Santo
The environmental influence of the La Paz cruise port might perpetually change a pristine pure sanctuary, or it could possibly be a window to the world the place individuals study and follow ecotourism. At present, 244 islands and related marine areas kind the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Web site, probably the most biologically various website beneath UNESCO safety. We should always always remember that these rugged islands and coastal deserts contrasting with the encircling turquoise waters are usually not solely strikingly stunning however an irreplaceable a part of our shared world.
La Paz is a pure departure port for boutique cruises. We traveled on a scenic bus switch from San Jose De Cabos to La Paz, the place we boarded the Safari Voyager on the Muelle Fiscal pier in downtown La Paz. I noticed 30 or 40 humpback whales from my bus seat, which was a great day of whale watching by any measure!
Professional Tip: We wrote a full UnCruise evaluation of the Safari Voyager if you happen to’d prefer to study extra in regards to the boat and its crew
Isla Espiritu Santo / Isla Partida / Los Islotes
A collection of islands sit 5 miles off the mainland outdoors of La Paz, together with Isla Espiritu Santo, Isla Partida, and Los Islotes. Isla Espiritu Santo is the biggest island, with 31 sq mi of land and hills rising to 1,844 ft. 31.183 sq mi). It’s a lovely world of contrasts with white sandy seashores, crystal clear aquamarine waters, and sheer rocky bluffs. It’s exceptionally biologically and ecologically various and precariously near a quickly creating metropolis.
Espiritu Santo is the one identified habitat of the black jackrabbit and Espiritu Santo antelope squirrel. It was slated to have a resort on line casino till a coalition of conservation-minded eco-adventurers raised funds to buy and shield the land for future generations. There are a number of layers of designation and safety for this area, together with:
Islas del Golfo de California Flora and Fauna Safety Space (APFF-IGC)
Archipiélago Espíritu Santo Nationwide Park
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
UNESCO World Heritage Web site
One of many largest attracts for the archipelago is a sea lion nursery on Los Islotes dubbed La Lobera, the Wolf’s Den. Child sea lions are generally known as the puppies of the ocean as a result of they like to work together with snorkelers by grabbing their fins and doing methods. Ensenada Grande seashore, on Isla Partida, was voted probably the most stunning seashore in Mexico by The Journey Journal, and the El Cardonal Path takes you by among the largest cacti on the planet. Sea kayaking across the chain of bays is a well-liked exercise, which you are able to do proper from boutique cruises or as a multi-day glamping journey from the mainland.
This space might be reached by small boats leaving from the cruise port, however that shore tour isn’t at the moment supplied. Boutique cruises sail out from La Paz and discover the archipelago for a day or two. The anchorages across the islands are notably sheltered, a lot in order that they’re a part of the emergency response plan for the Pichilingue Cruise Port in case of utmost climate. Small ship captains can modify the journey’s itinerary for the protection and luxury of the company. We spent an additional night time in a sheltered cove off Isla Partida, exploring the seashores, hills, and arroyos, ready for the climate to clear.
Isla San Francisco
Isla San Francisco is about 20 miles northwest of the Espiritu Santo Archipelago. It’s a well-liked vacation spot for small boats due to an beautiful crescent-shaped bay on its southern tip that kinds a pure anchorage known as Half Moon Bay. Populr actions embody snorkeling, kayaking, and SUPing within the bay and exploring the mile-long seashore. Nevertheless, the hike to the Mirador de la Isla San Francisco overlook is value it. Maybe extra of a scramble throughout rock flats than a correct climbing path, however you’re rewarded with a postcard view of Half Moon Bay.
Isla San Francisco is just too far for shore excursions from La Paz, however it’s an excellent vacation spot for boutique journey cruises. Small cruise boats beneath 100 individuals can anchor within the bay and provide company a full day of journey, together with glad hour seashore events.
San Evaristo / Isla San José
A bit farther up the Baja coast sits Isla San José, the area’s largest island and the sixth largest island in Mexico. It measures just below 20 miles tip-to-tip. It’s a rugged, distant wilderness highlighted by crystal blue water and an arid desert panorama. San Evaristo is a sleepy little city throughout from Isla San Jose on the mainland.
Boutique cruises provide the same old menu of actions right here: climbing, SUPing, snorkeling, and skiff excursions, however pay particular consideration to the kayak choices round Isla San José. On the island’s south finish, you’ll discover a sand spit lined by a dense mangrove forest. If the tides are proper, you’ll be able to penetrate the tidal basin and discover a exceptional estuary full of reside and vibrant inexperienced colours. On the island’s north finish, right here’s a collection of sea arches you’ll be able to paddle by means of as you navigate sheer sea cliffs dotted with hidden seashores.
Bahia Agua Verde
Bahia Agua Verde is the subsequent port of name up the coast for boutique Sea of Cortez cruises. It’s a cherished cease for UnCruise due to their shut relationship with the Romero household, native rancheros who convey their mules all the way down to Agua Verde for guided path rides by means of the hills. Different highlights embody paddling the bay to Roca Solitaria, a rock pillar that “guards” the doorway to the bay and residential to many blue-footed b00bies.
Puerto Escondido is one other iconic cease for Baja journey cruises. Not simply because it’s a superior anchorage, however it’s the launch level for an epic overland journey to the grey whale birthing lagoons. Japanese Grey Whales journey over 2,500 miles yearly to one among three birthing lagoons on the Baja’s pacific coast for the winter.
Whale-watching excursions in these lagoons differ from anything you’ve ever skilled. As a substitute of chasing the whales as they’re cruising up and down the coast, you putter across the bays in 15-person pongas and let the whales come to you. The whales’ spy hop, fluke splash, and typically even method the boats shut sufficient to look into their eyes and picture what wonders they’ve seen.
It’s a full-day Baja highway journey journey over the mountains and throughout the peninsula to see the whales, however you may need sufficient time within the night to take a sundown nature cruise earlier than having fun with a quiet night time in a secure harbor.
Loreto is the northernmost port of name for Sea of Cortez cruises. Mega cruise ships use tenders to succeed in the city, and typically boutique cruises will use bus shuttles to journey up the coast from Puerto Escondido.
Loreto was as soon as the capital of all of California and California Sur. Its wealthy historical past hasn’t been spoiled by trendy growth and continues to be seen within the city sq. and 300-year-old mission and readily accessible to strolling excursions. Small boats journey out to Isla Coronado, the place white sand seashores stretch to crystal-clear turquoise water. These will appear remarkably stunning and pure if you happen to’re on a mega cruise and overcrowded if you happen to’re coming off a boutique cruise.
Remaining Ideas on Sea of Cortez Cruises
There are positively two distinct kinds of cruising the Sea of Cortez. Conventional mega cruises journey farther and quicker with extremely curated and synthesized shore excursions. Boutique cruises keep nearer to shore and journey by means of the protected islands and coastlines.
Nearly half 1,000,000 individuals take conventional cruises from Baja and the Gulf of California yearly, typically even crusing from San Diego and Los Angeles. However, if you happen to love journey and want a deeper expertise in a pure wonderland, you’d wish to journey much less and see extra on a small-ship journey cruise. You possibly can all the time add time to the back and front finish of your journey in Cabo for conventional shore excursions or extra adventures like scuba diving the drop-offs and sea mounts simply off Cabo’s shore with a great probability of seeing sharks and different pelagics.
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