Mexico's Sea of Cortés Experience Guide

The youngest sea in the world, the Sea of Cortés came into being over 5 million years ago when tectonic plates shifted, separating what is today Baja California from mainland Mexico.

Over 700 miles long, this narrow sea is a glittering turquoise jewel, dotted with many islands predominantly located along its western shoreline and outlined by the long arm of the Baja peninsula. A dramatic desert of soft, muted greens, golds, and reds, the land rises quickly from the sea along the Sierra de la Giganta — the peninsula’s mountainous spine.

On land, and on — or in! — the water, it’s easy to get lulled into the quiet, gentle rhythm of this sun-kissed state. But below the surface of the sea and in all the nooks and crannies of rocky red cliffs and high reaching cardon cactus, the land is teeming with life.

Wildlife Guide


Land Animals & Birds

More than 40 reptile and amphibian species, over 50 mammal species, and nearly 200 bird species call Baja California Sur “home.” While many are masters of disguise and concealment, here are some of the local residents you might spy:

  • Spiny-tailed iguanas
  • Lizards: horned, zebra-tailed, and worm
  • Coyote
  • Brush rabbits and jackrabbits
  • Boobies
  • Pelicans
  • Cormorants
  • Magnificent Frigatebirds
  • Sandpipers

Marine Animals

From the largest mammal on earth to the tiniest microorganisms, the Sea of Cortés supports an amazing array of marine life. Thousands of invertebrate species cohabitate with more than 900 species of fish as well as whales and other large marine mammals. You might see:

  • Gray, humpback, blue, and fin whales
  • Whale sharks and dolphins
  • Sea lions and mobula rays
  • Butterfly fish, parrot fish, oarfish, and starfish
  • Nudibranchs
  • Squid
  • Eels
  • Sally lightfoot and hermit crabs

Flora of Baja

Remarkably, the arid desert of the Baja Peninsula supports over 500 species of plants. An incredibly unique ecosystem, animal life is inextricably linked with cacti—a relationship that helps preserve diversity of both plant and animal life.

  • Cardon cactus
  • Cholla cactus
  • Pitaya cactus
  • Mesquite
  • Palo Verde trees
  • Mangroves
  • Elephant trees
  • Desert Globemallow
  • Prickly poppy

Seasonal Variations

It’s always a good time to visit the Sea of Cortés! In this protected body of water, conditions are mild and stable most of the year, with minimal variations.

The biggest changes are likely to be seen among migrating birds and marine life. Gray whales, for example, spend summers in Alaska and come to Mexico during winter months to have their babies in the warmer southern waters.

From migratory to endemic, there is always unique and astounding wildlife to see. The chart to the right gives you an overview of what, and when, you might see the fauna of the Sea of Cortés.

Seasonal Variations for Mexico

Mexico’s Sea of Cortés Slideshow

Get a glimpse of our Baja adventure cruise! Rugged red-rock landscapes. Picture-perfect coves. Wildlife and life on board

Click the image at left to view our slideshow. It will give you a visual taste of what you’ll experience along the western coast of the Sea of Cortés.

What to See & Do on a Mexico Cruise


On Board

  • Pause in “mountain pose” during morning yoga stretches to view flying mobula rays
  • Learn how currents, winds, and the inverted “U” shape of the sea affects navigation with a visit to the bridge
  • Gain new perspective with evening tequila talks (including tastings!) or presentations on local conservation from your expedition team
  • Relax in on-deck hot tub as evening stars shine, or watch for sparkling bioluminescence from the bow
  • Swap stories with your shipmates of the day’s adventures, over a glass of wine from the self-serve casks at the wine bar

In the Water

  • Kayak with guides or on your own during an open-paddle along rocky landscapes and pristine bays
  • Paddle board in crystal-clear water and paddle board races
  • Snorkel in isolated coves and with young, playful sea lions—masks, fins, and wet suits provided onboard
  • Skiff and panga rides to remote bird rookeries and along rugged cliffs; seasonally, among whales sharks or gray whales and their curious calves
  • EZ Dock launch system makes getting in and out of the water easy


On Land

  • Guided hikes among desert cacti and into arroyos
  • Mule ride with a local ranchero to a desert oasis (your guide likely singing you Mexican cowboy songs too!
  • Sweeping panorama views from atop red-rock cliffs
  • Beachcombing walks reveal a subtle side of Baja—shells, tide pool critters, lizards, and hermit crabs
  • Relax on a tranquil beach—blankets, chairs, cocktails, and snacks provided for youAs conditions allow, beach bonfires and barbecues

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