Island Hopping SUP Adventure in Baja’s Sea of Cortez

Beautiful sunrises and sunsets never get old.
Beautiful sunsets never get old.

Photos by Rebecca Parsons

Tranquility and adventure align in the Baja’s magical Sea of Cortez.

Sea Trek’s Classic Island adventure took our group to Loreto, Mexico – an old fishing village turned resort town – which is considered to be the first human settlement in Baja and the town is rich with history. The city backs up to the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, while its waters are part of the Bahia de Loreto National Park, making it the ideal destination for both land and sea adventurers. My week would be spent exploring the latter. 

A week spent exploring the Sea of Cortez.
A week spent exploring the Sea of Cortez.

The morning of our departure, we met in Puerto Escondido, a small port 16 miles south of Loreto, where we were greeted by a blue, cloudless sky and glassy water. We were given a brief safety rundown and completed a last minute gear check, before loading our belongings onto a panga that would accompany us on our journey. 

We bid the mainland goodbye and began the three-mile paddle to Isla Danzante, one of five small islands in the area. The crossing went smoothly and when we reached Danzante the magic of the trip began to set in: the water was electric blue and the island was quiet, save for our occasional chatter and paddle strokes.

Exploring sea caves never gets old.
Exploring sea caves never gets old.

Once we reached the island, we paddled north to our campsite where we were treated to a hearty lunch and given the opportunity to relax or don a facemask to explore the local waters. After indulging in a dinner of fresh fish tacos, complete with rice, beans and salad, we retired to our tents and fell asleep beneath a star-littered sky.

Sleeping on the beach.
Sleeping on the beach.

The next morning, we woke to cotton candy skies and after eating a simple oatmeal breakfast, we packed our things and prepared for our second crossing—this time to Isla del Carmen. The ecology of the island is astounding: jagged rocks, sea caves and a bustling reef make it difficult to know which way to look. After following the protected coast of the island, we pointed our boards toward Playa Blanco and battled the wind for three miles until we reached the island. Our reward: a wide, sandy beach surrounded by turquoise waters. 

After fueling up on a loaded salad for lunch, we hopped in the panga and motored over to El Faro, a nearby beach, to do some snorkeling. We swam amongst round rays, sea stars, needlefish, urchins, butterfly fish, and octopi that all called the reef home. Upon our return to Playa Blanco, Chef Coco had dinner ready and we gathered under the easy up for home cooked mole, rice, beans and a cake for dessert. 

Snorkeling and paddling all day.
Snorkeling and paddling all day.

Day three proved to be the most difficult. The paddle from Playa Blanco to our next destination was approximately five miles in length: the sea was rough and the wind was against us for the entirety of the paddle. A few of us opted to jump in the panga partway, while the diehards chose to battle the wind.

Upon arriving at Playa Colorido, everyone flocked to the shade for a quick siesta. We woke to a pod of common dolphin offshore and quickly hopped in the panga for a closer look. The dolphin raced to our boat, riding the bow and putting on an aerial display, making for the perfect end to a challenging day. 

Dolphins make any day better.
Dolphins make any day better.

The following day was our lay day, meaning we had the chance to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. A few chose to paddle, while the rest of us rode the panga up the coast to La Salina, a retired salt mine at the tip of the island. After a quick tour of the mine, we re-boarded the panga and motored to Arroyo Blanco, where we had the chance to cliff jump and snorkel. On the way back to our home base, we were surrounded by hundreds of pelicans in search of an afternoon snack and even spotted a long horn sheep.

Beautiful sunrises and sunsets never get old.
Beautiful sunsets never get old.

The morning of the fifth day, we rose to yet another spectacular sunrise, feeling refreshed and ready for the day’s paddle. We hugged the coast of Isla del Carmen before making the crossing back to Isla Danzante—along the way we spotted a handful of playful green sea turtles. We made camp at the Arroyo and once the sun dipped below the horizon, we paddled out to experience the bioluminescent plankton up close. The experience was like paddling through a sea of stars, the fish making jet trails of color through the water. It was magical.

A portal to paradise.
A portal to paddling paradise.

The final morning of the trip was bittersweet. We were sad to leave the islands behind but excited to return home to toilets and a warm shower. Shortly after eating breakfast, a pod of dolphins began feeding in the water just offshore.  We quickly packed up and paddled out—the dolphins stayed with us for over an hour and it was an honor to be given a glimpse into their world.

Take us back.
Take us back.

Six days on the Sea of Cortez was plenty yet far from enough—the islands were quiet and peaceful, the sea alive and active. It’s easy to book a trip to a resort and sip on margaritas poolside for a week but a week on remote islands enjoying fresh caught fish and cervezas amongst friends is far more rewarding. As French author Andre Gide once said: “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of shore.” I’m glad I did.

— See more on the Baja Trips offered by Sea Trek: seatrek.com

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The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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