– by Capt. Pat Rains
La Paz, Baja California Sur, is a beautiful historic port, a lovely beach resort city and the capital of Southern Baja – found at the south end of the Sea of Cortez.
For us yatistas (recreational boaters) La Paz (pop. 200,000) offers so many nautical services (five full-service marinas, five boat yards for haul out & repair, many marine chandlers) that nearly 6,000 liveaboard boaters from the U.S. now make it their home port away from home, staying 6 months and even 6 years.
By sea, we reached La Paz in late November, 2017, along with 120 members of the CUBAR powerboat rally and at least 200 Baja Ha Ha sail boaters. We had all just sailed or powered down the length of Baja, now heading up into the Sea of Cortez. We explored the town, feasted at its great restaurants, provisioned our galleys and filled out fuel tanks. Though I’ve visited La Paz by boat nearly 50 times, I’m still in love and find it difficult to leave its comforts.
Gateway to Adventure
La Paz is the Gateway to the Sea of Cortez – and that well-kept promise of pristine salt-water adventure is what’s calling me onward today.
Here are “Five Easy Pieces” – 5 small, remote, but rewarding stops – to help you plan your cruising itinerary between La Paz and Puerto Escondido. You’ll find yacht services on both ends, but none in between. Yet, I consider this remote 115-mile stretch to be THE most interesting cruising grounds on the Pacific side of Mexico.
Each of my Five Easy Pieces has overnight anchoring potential during winter cruising season, when prevailing conditions are from the north. So if you watch your weather, you can plan to spend at least a few days in each place, maybe a week or more. They’re all detailed and charted in “Mexico Boating Guide.”
Partida Cove on Isla Espiritu Santos
Only 27 miles from downtown La Paz, this 3-island chain is uninhabited yet provides 22 separate coves – all with dramatic geology, white sand beaches and good holding for overnight anchoring in multiple places. Partida Cove is the favorite first stop. The whole island chain is a Natural Marine Park, so your SEMARNAT permit lets you anchor, kayak, snorkel or scuba dozens of reefs and hike the easy trails.
To work your way north toward Isla San Jose, Partida Cove and Ensenada Grande make good stepping stones, as does “The Hook” anchorage on Isla San Francisco.
(1.) Amortajada on Isla San Jose
Amortajada Lagoon (23 n.m. from Espiritu Santos) is a triangular estuary that projects 2.5 n.m. west-southwest from the south end of Isla San Jose’s mountainous profile. Punta Ostiones (Oysters Point) Light marks the west corner, but the whole lagoon is bounded by a unique linear sand berm (about15-foot high) that allows entrance by dinghy or panga only at one or two cuts. Amortajada means Shrouded. Anchor in the commodious mile-wide Bahia Amortajada almost anywhere northwest the lagoon and east of the white pinnacles of Isla Cayos.
Inside are four square miles of shallow sheltered waters, 20-foot trees, mangrove marshes and a 1.25-mile channel ideal for exploring, bird watching, swimming and fishing by kayak or dinghy (quiet motor to protect wildlife). Vacate the lagoon at sunset when blood-thirsty “no see ums” show up. Alternates on Isla San Jose: La Salina or Cazadero Points.
(2.) San Evaristo Bay
Back on Baja, San Evaristo lies directly across the 3.4-mile channel from Isla San Jose. Evaristo villagers tend herds of goat, fish from pangas and operate the salt works on the north slope of the village (population 300).
Anchorage choices are (a.) off Village Beach so you can watch all the action if a pick up arrives via the newly graveled 65-mile road from La Paz, or (b.) nearby inside the uninhabited rectangular North Cove, where the tinkling of goat bells may start your morning. In case of south wind, choose Village Beach.
Evaristenos are friendly. School kids love to practice English with visiting boaters. They may greet you on the beach or zoom by your boat offering to sell you a fresh fish or half kilo of fresh goat cheese. I’d buy both.
(3.) Agua Verde Bay
Cristal turquoise water over white-sand bottoms and a choice of pleasant winter anchorages draw us to Agua Verde, 45 n.m. up from Evaristo. Anchor off the tongue-in-cheek “yacht club” beach in the bay’s northwest corner. Or, anchor east of Pyramid Rock.
Only slightly larger than Evaristo, the fishing villagers of Agua Verde also tend a few goats and pigs and operate Maria’s, a part-time grocery store. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes buy fresh baked “empanadas,” a tasty pastry, half-moon shaped and filled with cheese, fruit or mystery meat. If you plan to be here two or three more days, ask the matron of the store if she’ll make you a dozen.
Where’s the store? Land on the southeast end of the palm-studded beach in front of the village, walk 300 yards inland and ask anyone you meet – Donde esta la tienda? Or ask Se venden empanadas hoy? TIP: Don’t bring Fido ashore here; the pigs run loose and don’t like gringo dogs.
(4.) Isla Danzante Primera
The translation “Prima Ballerina” sounds pretty, but this island looks like a dragon or dinosaur swimming north with its snout just above sea level. At 20 n.m. from Agua Verde and only 2.5 n.m. outside Puerto Escondido, most folks use Danzante Island to avoid entering the complex harbor entrance after dark.
Honeymoon Cove on the northwest corner of Danzante Island is an easy in and out anchorage, so it’s also a popular day sail from Marina Puerto Escondido. Honeymoon Cove has three picturesque lobes each big enough for only two boats to swing, or you can drop the hook just outside the lobes. The warm water and pristine sand bottom are the perfect place for novice snorkelers to get comfortable. Tiny silver guppies may peek at their reflections in your dive mask or nibble cheese morsels from your fingers.
Alternately, the next two similar anchoring spots within a mile south of Honeymoon are ironically dubbed Denouement Cove and Divorce Cove. Or, six miles south of Isla Danzante, Candeleros Cove has shelter from south wind and a yatistas friendly hotel.
Finally we arrive at Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port). We can top off our diesel tanks, gas up our outboard, grab a mooring out in the land-locked Main Bay, or get a full-service marina slip, all from Marina Puerto Escondido. Or we can haul out for repairs or secure dry storage with the 65-ton lift.
The 2-story blue glass marina complex (formerly a Fonatur marina) houses a small grocery store, Pepergino’s wood-fired pizza restaurant, West Coast Multihulls charter office, a dive charter office, showers and coin laundry, cruisers’ lounge, library and the marina office. A mile inland is Tripui RV resort with a small hotel, restaurant and RV storage. For details about Marina Puerto Escondido, see my Mexico Report column in SEA Magazine’s September 2017 issue.
The town of Loreto is 15 miles north off Highway 1. Loreto has a busy panga basin and a passenger loading dock for small excursion ships, but no marina for yachts. The airport a mile south of Loreto has direct flights to the U.S. on Alaska, Calafia and others.