Snorkel in the Sun

Soak up the Northern Winter sun on the water in Baja California. We love snorkeling. Don’t know how? That’s cool – Snorkel 101 on the first day will get you comfy with the gear. Wetsuits (included, naturally!) will keep your body comfy as long as you want to stay out. Reefs, fish, and anemones are easily reached from shore. But you’ll also snorkel with playful sea lions – and if the season is right, even get in the water with the largest fish of the sea – the spotted whale sharks. Unbelievable! 

Top 10 Reasons to Cruise Baja California This Winter

by Megan Collier October 25, 2022

  1. Gray Whales
Gray whale excursion

In the winter, gray whales migrate (up to 12,000 miles roundtrip!) to the warm waters of Bahia Magdalena to give birth to their calves and give them an easier start to life. In this bay, the whales have developed a special relationship with people. During the time that they are in the area, we bring our guests across the peninsula to sail out in small boats to meet them. Boats do not approach closely to the whales – regulations are strict, and especially with baby calves, it is crucial to keep them safe. It is very common, though, for the grays to come up to the boats themselves, bringing their calves with them. Guests may well see the whales eye-to-eye and sometimes even touch them. Bring your cameras but most of all your sense of wonder.

  1. Whale Sharks
Whale shark in blue water

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea. We’re talking school-bus sized! While they are enormous, they are filter feeders. This is another rare opportunity to meet the largest species of marine life up close and very personally. Later in the season, when the gray whale migration is over, we bring guests to the bay in La Paz to meet the whale sharks. You choose – sit in the skiff, or don your wetsuit and fins and snorkel alongside them? The spotted whale sharks (each shark’s spot pattern is unique – like a human fingerprint!) deserve and receive our respect, but they often honor us with close encounters. As with the gray whales, this excursion only happens when the whale sharks are in the area – generally through early April, though it varies each year.  

  1. Sea Lions
Sea Lion

Now let’s talk about a wildlife encounter that isn’t seasonal – our trip to Los Islotes to see juvenile sea lions. These noisy, playful youngsters hang out in this area year-round. Basking on the rocks. Swimming in the waters. Playing with their cousins. They have been called the “puppies of the sea” because they are full of energy and never tire of new playmates. As with the whale sharks, you choose – ride in a skiff to take photos and enjoy the view from above? Or get in your wetsuit and fins and join in the play? Again, we get in the water, but they approach us. And they will – they are curious about everything! New York Times photographer Benjamin Lowy described snorkeling here as “a transformational experience”.  

  1. Dolphin Pods
Dolphins riding the bow wave

Unlike the grays, whale sharks, and sea lions, there isn’t one specific place to visit the dolphin pods of the Sea of Cortes – they come to us! Dolphins love to ride the bow-wave of the boat, so we are most likely to see them when we are underway. When you hear the call that they’ve been spotted, start in the bow to watch them dance through the wave and zip back and forth under the boat. Groups of six or eight are common – and if you’re lucky, you may see groups much larger than that. The super-pods can reach a hundred dolphins or more. Definitely won’t see that every week – but this is a region where it does happen, and it’s quite an experience!

  1. Mule Ride
Mule Ride

Now let’s talk about a land experience. Every week in Bahia Agua Verde, along with amazing kayak and snorkel experiences, we get to meet true rancheros. Ride mules up a ridge trail. Meet the ranchero’s family and see the handicraft that is special to the region. This is not your typical cruise “excursion”. Follow it up with a dip in the ocean to wash off the dust!  

  1. Snorkeling
blue reef fish with orange fins and white stripe

OK, we’ve talked about snorkeling with sea lions and whale sharks, which is pretty amazing. But the rest of the snorkeling in the Sea of Cortes is also incredible – which most people don’t expect. Snorkeling, you think Hawaii, the South Pacific, the Caribbean. But Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortes “the world’s aquarium”. The water is a bit cooler than in Hawaii (70 degrees Fahrenheit or so in January, up to 80 degrees in June), so we do carry wetsuits on board for guests to use. The reef and schools of reef fish are amazing. Unlike on the Hawaii cruise, most of this snorkeling is done from the beach, so it’s also a great place for beginners to learn.

  1. Winter Sun
woman lying on her back on the beach reading a kindle

Let’s talk winter sun. Come January, sun and sand beckon as we drive through the grey skies of Seattle or the wintry snow of the Midwest and East coast. While you are shoveling, AGAIN, imagine instead using those arm and back muscles in a kayak. Getting sweaty on a ridge hike. Wearing a swimsuit! Average temp in Baja in January is 75. Average temp in Seattle? 47. In New York? 39. In Chicago? 32. Brrrr. Baja, please, stat!

  1. Ridge Hikes
woman in blue tee standing on a ridge high over a blue water bay

It’s an UnCruise – of COURSE there’s hiking! This is a totally different landscape than the temperate rainforest of Alaska or the jungles of Hawaii, Costa Rica, or Panama. The above-mentioned temps in the 70s are perfect for hiking. Be sure to bring a hat and reef-safe sunscreen to protect your shoulders and nose from that southern sun. (We’ve got some on board if you forgot!) Hike past salt flats, through cacti of all kinds, and up the ridge for a spectacular view of the red rocks and the blue-green bay spread out below.  

  1. Kayaking
woman sitting on warm water kayak in baja

And of course, there are kayaks available to explore from just above the waterline. Paddles get you farther than your snorkeling does. See the reef and fish below and diving pelicans in the air. Float along or stretch your muscles, get your heart rate up, and skim the surface. Never been? We’ll teach you. Old pro? Open paddle is for you.

  1. Fellow Adventurers
Group of people learning how to snorkel

Face it, in the winter, it’s sooo tempting to hibernate. Stay inside, snuggle with your fur babies and a book, maybe a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Get stuck in home and work. More of us are even working FROM home, so there’s even less interaction with the real world. Winter vacations are the best way to get out of that rut and experience something new. Meet people you would never have seen otherwise. Many UnCruisers meet new friends for life and travel together again in the future.   

About the author

Nicola is the Managing Director of Micro-Cruising. Small ships great trips. Micro-Cruising sells trips on ships of 100 passengers or fewer. We are the specialists in small ships with over 700 vessels worldwide.