Sea Kayaking the Baja Peninsula [Part 2]: The Sea of Cortez

sea kayak on the beach sea of cortez baja

Theodore Tetrault continues his 3-part series on sea kayaking Mexico’s Baja Peninsula with Part 2, focusing on the Sea of Cortez:

(Did you miss Part 1? Click here to read it.)

Christmas Kayaking on Isla del Carmen

The beach was named El Quemado—“The Burnt.” We felt the reference as we packed our boats with gear in the blazing hot sun.

The east coast of the Baja Peninsula was very different from the prior week and a half on the Pacific side.

The water was clearer and warmer, the wildlife exponentially more abundant. Powerful swells on the Pacific never reached this side. Though sheltered, the Sea of Cortez—also known as the Gulf of California—is still subject to strong winds.

As low pressure systems move across the southwestern United States, winds that come in contact with the north end of the Gulf divert southward on a path of least resistance. That’s nearly 700 miles of unimpeded fetch, creating turbulent sea states mid-peninsula.

Our goal was to circumnavigate Isla del Carmen, the largest island in Loreto Bay National Park, and a Baja classic:

Baja Peninsula map

Isla del Carmen map

We were launching just at the tail end of a strong “Norte” wind. We could see the whitecaps and rolling swells just a mile offshore in the more exposed waters.

The bouncy waters were an absolute joy. Four to five-foot swells with the occasional breaker incoming at a left oblique made for exciting but easy paddling.

As we crossed the north end of Danzante, we began our circumnavigation of Carmen, hoisting our triangular kayak sails to harness the wind power we were paddling across. We zoomed down the southwest corner at nearly 8 knots (nautical miles per hour) and rounded the southern tip in just 15 minutes.

kayak and cactus

For the next four days we continued around the island with the fair weather that followed the storm. We paddled past the rugged northeast corner of the island in a nearly glassy sea. This corner is considered the “crux” in variable weather that often halts kayakers from making it all the way around the island.

We spent Christmas at a luxuriously beautiful beach aptly named, El Refugio. We made use of the natural cliff jumping spots, tropical swimming and our abundant taco supplies.

cliff jumper

Isla del Carmen and its neighboring islands, Coronados and Danzante, are clear sea kayaking classics.

Weather is fairly predictable, currents are not of much concern, the water is warm, the air is even warmer, the wildlife is abundant, and the beach camping is easy.
Things dry out so fast here! It’s the first place where I’ve ever had the thought that dry bags might not be necessary.

Top Tips for Sea Kayaking Isla del Carmen in the Sea of Cortez

You can fly directly to Loreto from Los Angeles (LAX) on Alaska Air.

Sea Kayak Baja Mexico offers world-class guided sea kayak trips around Carmen and the surrounding islands. All their guides are from Mexico, which offers a cultural experience you can’t put a price on.

They also offer sea kayak rentals and logistics services for those who prefer a do-it-yourself experience.

sea of cortez

(Part 3 coming next month: The Liquid Desert)

Need help finding a kayak paddle? Contact our Wisconsin-based Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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