Exploring Remote Anchorages in the Sea of Cortez: Southern Region

exploring secluded anchorages. El mezteno. Sea of Cortez
Where Espiritu Santo kisses Isla Partida. Note the isthmus joining both islands. Our boat, the only one, is anchored in El Mezteno.

Exploring the Best Remote Anchorages in the Sea of Cortez: A Sailor's Paradise

Every time I scroll through Instagram and read another article about the Bahamas or the Caribbean, I reflect on the hidden gem called the Sea of Cortez and wonder why this untouched region remains somewhat invisible. Or, at least, it doesn’t capture the imagination of as many cruisers and sailors as I would think. 

In my first article about the Sea of Cortez, I explored all the reasons sailing nomads love this region. But after spending four seasons and over 4000 nautical miles exploring this Sea, I decided it was time to share the best anchorages that make the Sea of Cortez a sailor’s paradise. In this first part guide, I share the hidden gems of the Southern portion of Baja.

Traveling in Mexico: Perception vs. Reality

My friend, with a cute two-bedroom casita in Loreto, once said to me about Baja:  “People are so biased against Mexico–or fearful–that they can’t imagine living here, let alone staying for an extended visit.”

It occurred to me that when people think of Mexico, first of all, their minds mirror the worst news–the cartels, the kidnappings, the banditos, and the lawlessness captured on Netflix series. Most also do not recognize the entirely different regions that comprise Mexico cruising, the Baja peninsula versus mainland Mexico.These two regions may as well represent two different continents.

 The 800-mile stretch of Baja is a grayish-tan desert that seemingly holds no common DNA with its sister to the east, mainland Mexico, which showcases lush tropical jungle (at least along the coastline). And while the mainland side inhales the blue Pacific Ocean on its beaches, the body of water between the mainland and Baja covets turquoise blues and algae greens. The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, also offers breathtaking anchorages for those seeking the perfect blend of tranquility and adventure

Espiritu Santo. Exploring secluded anchorages
Ensenada de la Ballena, another beautiful cove at Espiritu Santo

1. Remote Serenity: Discovering Hidden Anchorages

From the untouched landscapes of Isla Carmen to the pristine shores of Espiritu Santo, sailors can drop anchor in hidden coves that are so remote, you might wonder whether time has simply stopped. 

Kevin and I have explored beaches where only the coyote’s pawprints or the distinct outline of a turtle’s nest mar the white silt sand. There is no evidence of human life; no plastic water bottles, no tangled fishmen’s line, and no sense of a defined calendar date. I can assure you that not seeing human debris and trash upon the shoreline is a rarity based on fellow sailors’ encounters around the globe. Not to mention, the Sea offers what most cruisers want when they undock the lines: blissful solitude.

View from 1535, the restaurant at Bahia de Los Muertos
View from 1535, the restaurant at Bahia de Los Muertos
the only restaurant at Bahia de Los Muertos
Good vibes & great food can be found at 1535. The restaurant sits slightly elevated, affording a beautiful view of the entire anchorage.

First Stop: Bahia de Los Muertos

If you have rounded Cabo San Lucas and are headed north toward the Sea, then this anchorage should be your first stop. Last season, Kevin and I anchored here after crossing the 250 nautical miles from Isla Isabel. And what a wonder we discovered. The bay is huge and can accommodate plenty of boats. But the healthy coral, pristine white beaches, and the thatched-roof, open air restaurant called 1535 invite cruisers to stay awhile. 

Honestly, I had no idea this gem existed. And most cruisers blow right past it because they’ve made La Paz their first destination after leaving Cabo. I should specify: if you’re heading down the western side of the Baja coast from San Diego, Cabo San Lucas is a normal stop for cruisers.

However, once you point your bow north and head toward Puenta Arena or Isla Cerralvo, you will find a hidden gem called, ironically, Bahia de Los Muertos (Bay of the Dead). I say ironic because this is the ONE place in the entire Sea where we saw healthy coral in abundance. And while there is not much besides a beautiful resort, one very good restaurant, and miles of white sand beaches, the calm anchorage offers a respite for weary sailors. 

In fact, I would guess that sailors move on too quickly, imagining this first stop as indicative of every other anchorage “up ahead.” But look at the map, and you will see that this anchorage offers protection from strong westerly and strong northerly winds, two things other anchorages just north at Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida cannot offer. 

BONUS: check out Muertos Reef, a short dinghy ride north of the anchorage, which offers superb diving and snorkeling.

healthy coral at Bahia de Los Muertos
Amazingly healthy coral at Bahia de Los Muertos

2. Aquatic Wonders: Espiritu Santo & Isla Partida

Beyond providing a safe harbor, many anchorages in the Sea of Cortez double as underwater wonderlands. Just 12 nautical miles from La Paz, you will find two sister islands called Epiritu Santo and Isla Partida. Dive into the crystal-clear waters of anchorages like Bahia San Gabriel or Ensenada de Raza.

Cove after cove offers fingers that lead toward shallow beaches, caves, hiking, snorkeling, and diving. However, this stretch is exposed to Coromuel winds that can whip from west to east, toward the anchorages, so be prepared to weigh anchor quickly, if necessary. 

BONUS: the sound of Mobula Rays slap the water after they launch themselves up into the air and then smack the ocean surface at sunset, as repetitive as a see-saw on a playground; and green turtles quietly nest in the sandy bottoms under your hull, in numbers we have not witnessed elsewhere in the Sea.

sea cave at El Portico
Snorkle through sea caves at El Portico

3. Starry Nights: Overnight at Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida

Ensenada Grande, with its shallow-water beach and clear waters, is an anchorage that transforms into a celestial spectacle after sunset. Enjoy starlit nights aboard your vessel, creating unforgettable memories. Launch a paddle board on a quiet morning and simply follow the edge of water, which meets the red- and salmon-colored cliffs, forming a protective horseshoe around the anchorage. You are sure to see red, and pink, and yellow starfish clinging to the shallow rocks.

secluded anchorages at Espiritu Santo
Stand-up paddle boarding at Espiritu Santo

4. Coromuel Wind Protection & Sea Caves

Go against the grain and sail around to the East side of Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. Anchor at El Portico and take full advantage of the tidal swaps that allow dinghies to navigate the serpentine isthmus between two anchorages whose tips merge at a small landing; a handful of fishermen work from this stretch of beach (you’ll see a couple of shacks that house them between their fishing trips.)

The sheer cliffs protecting these coves offer good wind protection. But take advantage of the amazing snorkeling, even within the sea caves, just south of anchored boats at El Portico.

BONUS: take the dinghy through the isthmus to the other anchorage; at the far West of the cove, a reef abundant with fish offers another amazing snorkeling spot.

El Portico between Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida, a remote anchorage often overlooked
El Portico between Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida offers great protection from coromuel winds

5. Isla San Franscisco, north of Isla Partida

When you picture the word crescent and imagine a beach, Isla San Francisco captures it best. The photo says it all. Walking this beautiful beach at sunset, I couldn’t get over how stunning it was. Sometimes it’s a very crowded anchorage due to its beauty, but take the time to savor the simplicity of what it offers. 

BONUS: if there is a Norther wind event, you can tuck the boat into the far northern section of the bay and hide behind the cliff face. 

Isla San Francisco, another secluded anchorage in the Sea of Cortez
Isla San Francisco is a picture-perfect anchorage in the Sea of Cortez

6. Agua Verde, a Favorite Anchorage

Once you leave the southern most section of Baja to sail north, the next popular anchorage is Agua Verde. Of course, there are several stops you *could* make along the coastline before Agua Verde, but this one is a standout for several reasons: 

  1. There are plenty of anchorages available; sailors can choose the southern lobe, the most western section, or the northern lobe. All are beautiful and offer something slightly different. 
  2. You can access a diversity of hiking trails; some lead inland toward a small village, and others lead toward an unspoiled beach where one of our cruising friends found a perfect obsidian arrowhead as we walked along shore.
  3. There are two small restaurants, one of which only offers fried fish tacos under a small thatched structure. And just past the main restaurant is a small tienda where you can find a selection of produce and some general items like pasta and canned beans. 
  4. The best part of this large bay is the snorkeling and diving, including a rock pinnacle which juts out of the mouth of this bay like a welcome banner.
  5. Interaction with other cruisers and RVers means bonfires on the beach happen regularly. So despite its remote location, this anchorage truly has a little bit of everything.
remote anchorage of Agua Verde. Roca Solitaria
Agua Verde entrace with Roca Solitaria in the upper right corner
agua verde anchorage
Agua Verde anchorage

More to Come: Sailing Bliss in the Sea of Cortez

As you set sail on the tranquil waters of the Sea of Cortez, these carefully selected anchorages promise a perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and natural wonders. From hidden gems to practical work-friendly spots, the Sea of Cortez beckons sailors to explore its diverse anchorages and create lasting memories on the high seas.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Exploring Hidden Anchorages.” Part 2 will cover the myriad anchorages of the mid-section of Baja, each with a unique story waiting to be discovered.

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