The first three days of the cruise I was on I kept thinking “Why the Sea of Cortez? What’s so special about it? Why should people come here as opposed to all the other great places in the world?” Sure – this burnt-orange landscape without trees and clouds is stark and stunning, and the turquoise waters are practically begging you to jump in, but why go to the Sea of Cortez?
I’m a bad traveler – mainly because I’m pretty hard to please. After spending nearly a decade constantly traveling, I’ve seen a hell of a lot. And it all starts to look and feel the same. I have a serious “been there, done that” attitude that I wish I could get rid of – but I also have about 10 pounds I’d like to get rid of and that isn’t going to happen either. For the last two years I’ve really been focused on exploration travel. I want to find places that are off the beaten track, that aren’t in people’s vocabulary yet, or that may be near another popular destination but is overlooked.
This is why I was mulling over this question constantly – “Why go to the Sea of Cortez?” What’s special about it? I realize people choose travel destinations for many different reasons, they aren’t all travel snobs like me; each person has something different that turns them on about travel. Here were a few answers I came up with after spending seven days cruising through the Sea of Cortez on an Un-Cruise Small Ship.
Go for the Animals
I listened to our guides overuse the word endemic constantly and was getting slightly turned off by it. I kept hearing the quote “The aquarium of the world; ” words uttered by the great explorer Jacques Cousteau. Yes, yes, there are many endemic plants, birds, and marine life in the Sea of Cortez, and for many people that feeds their travel cravings. Biologically speaking, the Sea of Cortez is the richest body of water on our entire planet – rare sea life flock here for the abundance of food in the waters. This diverse sea supports more than 900 varieties of fish and more than 2,000 species of marine invertebrates.
A Humpback Whale escort in front of our ship
A baby sea lion takes a nap
Go to the Sea of Cortez because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Yes – the Sea of Cortez and it’s islands were deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. And to some people, those 6 capital letters are enough to make them get out their passport and travel to a destination! UNESCO status doesn’t come easily and should tell you how unique this environment is.
“The site is one of striking natural beauty in a dramatic setting formed by rugged islands with high cliffs and sandy beaches, which contrast with the brilliant reflection from the desert and the surrounding turquoise waters. It is home to 695 vascular plant species, more than in any marine and insular property on the World Heritage List.”
Go for the Landscapes
Imagine if Arizona had ocean access – and you have the Baja Landscapes on the Sea of Cortez. The treeless inland was a rough, rugged, hot environment, but it had a desert beauty like no other. The flowers and cacti that survive this land were remarkable and had adapted to the environment. The islands in the Sea of Cortez also satisfy the landscape lovers with rockier terrains with white sand beaches, salt flats, and volcano craters.
Safari Endeavor pulls in to anchor at Los Islotes
Salt Flats on Isla San Francisco
Go Because Steinbeck Went
If you are a literary type, then you’ll want to go to the Sea of Cortez because Steinbeck went of course. In 1940 author John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts, sailed through the Sea of Cortez documenting their findings. They had planned a specimen-collecting expedition, which also provided them with a chance to relax. Steinbeck escaped the controversy mounting around The Grapes of Wrath and it allowed Ricketts, suffering as a result of the breakup of his long-term relationship was glad to get away too. After their voyage, they co-authored The Log from the Sea of Cortez, a detailed study of hundreds of tideland species, spiced with a few philosophical digressions.
Go Because you Need a Winter Escape
Tired of the blustery, cold winter and longing for sunny warm days and white sand? For those people who are looking for a winter escape filled with turquoise waters that is more unique than where all of your friends go (i.e. Cancun, Caribbean, Bahamas, Aruba), then Sea of Cortez is the answer. This place is empty, its best spots are hidden, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Plus – they have a good international airport at San Jose Del Cabo with airlines running winter deals all the time.
And for those of you who are looking for an all-inclusive winter vacation where you don’t have to do anything – you can even travel through the Sea of Cortez with the perks of all-inclusive by doing a small ship cruise on Un-Cruise’s Safari Endeavor. Only 80 total passengers and everything is included, drinks, activities, and food – yet you move around and actually see different parts of the area as opposed to staying in one place.
And the Best Reason – Go Because it’s Remote
We cruised into Aqua Verde at sunrise and I saw the 2 sailboats anchored around the green bay famed by the stark landscape and suddenly it became clear to me why I came to the Sea of Cortez; it’s hard to get there. You’ll only find a few roads that lead into the Sea of Cortez remote beaches and Baja Sur; most of them are dirt. Going by boat is really the only way to see these areas. Plus, there was little to no cell reception the whole trip. I had found MY ‘exploration travel’ sweet spot – remoteness. I like feeling like a modern-day explorer, seeking out remote pockets of the world to try to satisfy people like me who love to be different. That was reason enough for me to go to the Sea of Cortez.
One sailboat looks dwarfed by the mountains.
Sea of Cortez map
How to Get to the Sea of Cortez
- Fly into Los Cabas regional airport (SJD) and add traditional beach bum to your itinerary.
- Fly into Loreto (LTO) or La Paz (LAP) to dive right into the remoteness.
- Cruise the islands on an Uncruise Adventures Small Ship and don’t forget to tell them OTTSWORLD sent you!
- For the more Adventurous – drive a car down the Mexico Federal Highway 1 from San Diego to Los Cabos. This would be a great road trip full of local culture, beaches, wildlife, hiking, and local food!
Follow Sherry Ott @ottsworld