Note: while we have described an itinerary that includes whale watching in Magdalena Bay, we also have a somewhat shorter and also wonderful itinerary without whalewatching, especially for those times of year when whale watching is not at its peak.
The Seas: Part 1 (Days 1 - 4)
The Sea of Cortez: Isla Espiritu Santo “Glamping”
The Sea of Cortez is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to 39% of the world´s total number of marine mammal species, a third of the world´s marine cetacean species, and 891 fish species. We'll spend the first night of the tour in a hotel in La Paz, and then transfer to our tent camp is on Isla Espiritu Santo’s Playa Candelero. The Glamp features safari-style walk-in tents, beds with mattresses, sheets, blankets and pillows, full kitchen and staff, sun showers and a composting toilet. From this base we’ll explore the incredible world that surrounds us. We’ll go swimming with the sea lions, experiencing the thrill and fun of playing tag with sea lion puppies at the permanent sea lion colony of Los Islotes.
We’ll kayak the shores and inlets of Espiritu Santo, checking out the phenomenal geology of the island and looking for the whales, dolphins, porpoises, whale sharks and manta rays that frequent these waters. We’ll go hiking, stand up paddle boarding, bird watching, and we’ll explore cave art, hidden lagoons, desserted beaches. Our bilingual guides are all great interpretive naturalists, so not only are all the activities a total blast, but you have a font of information on everything from marine mammals, to local ecology, to Mexican history and more at your disposal all day long. And our chefs – well, it’s just one delightful treat after another, with happy hour every afternoon as well. It’s an amazing few days.
Day 1: Arrival
Fly into Cabo or La Paz, and transfer La Paz. Welcome dinner and briefing. Explore this fun town, where the Mexicans themselves vacation. Overnight: Hotel Seven Crown, La Paz, or similar.
Day 2: Whale Sharks and Island Living
Today we pick up our snorkeling gear and - before heading to the island in high speed motor boats - we’ll make a stop in the Bay of La Paz to see if we can find some of the whale sharks who frequent these plankton-rich waters. Whale sharks are the largest fish on the planet, and they got their moniker because the whale shark is the only fish that is literally as big as a whale; mature adults can reach 60 feet in length and 50 tons in weight. After swimming with the whale sharks we’ll head to our camp for a delicious lunch, and an afternoon of doing whatever we desire – kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling, beach combing, or nothing! Sunset happy hour on the beach, followed by a delicious dinner and star gazing. Perfect. Overnight: Glamping on Espiritu Santo Island.
Day 3: Sea Lions and Los Islotes
After a delicious breakfast we’ll jump into the motor boat for the fast, easy trip to the permanent sea lion colony of Los Islotes, where we’ll swim and play tag with the incredibly playful sea lion puppies. It’s a truly joyous occasion. There is also a great array a tropical fish in the waters around Los Islotes so we’ll snorkel and play until we’re exhausted, then return to camp for a delicious lunch and siesta. In the afternoon we can do whatever we like – kayaking, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, reading… you’re on vacation! Overnight: Glamping on Espiritu Santo Island.
Day 4: Island Exploration
In the morning we’ll explore the island, hiking among its incredible lava formations up to some higher ground to get some truly spectacular views. In the afternoon we’ll have our final time to explore the beach and ocean around the camp. We'll savor our final night on the island. Overnight: Glamping on Espiritu Santo Island.
The Seas: Part 2 (Days 5 - 7)
Magdalena Bay (Bahia Magdalena)
Magdalena Bay is the largest wetlands ecosystem on the west coast of Baja and one of the most important in North America. The World Wildlife Fund ranks it as one of the most important coastal habitats in Mexico. The Bay is the prime calving ground for the gray whale, and January to March it is possible to see – and often pet - a large number of whales, including mothers and calves. Magdalena Bay also has mangrove forests, barrier beaches and sand dune islands, all of which contribute to the incredible scenery and biological diversity of the area.
Day 5: Whale Watching in Mag Bay
This morning we’ll drive the four hours from La Paz to Mag Bay, have lunch at one of the delicious local restaurants, then head out onto the water for three hours of interacting with – and possibly even petting - these incredible marine mammals. We’ll spend the night at the simple but charming Mangrove Inn http://www.mangroveinnbaja.com/ and enjoy a delightful seafood dinner. Overnight: Mangrove Inn, Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Magdalena Bay.
Day 6: Whale Watching and Transfer to Todos Santos
After breakfast we’ll head back out onto the water for another three hours of enjoying the amazing gray whales, then drive to Todos Santos -- artists’ colony, foodie mecca and surfing hotspot (four and a half hour drive). Our home for the next three nights is the lovely Los Colibris Casitas www.loscolibris.com, and tonight Los Colibris' Chef Iker Algorri will welcome the group with a gourmet taco dinner on the rooftop terrace, presenting a terrific and delicious array of fillings and salsas, complemented by a good selection of Mexican beers. Overnight: Los Colibris Casitas, Todos Santos.
Day 7: Surfing, Todos Santos Town Tour and Dinner at the Hotel California
Todos Santos boasts some of the best surf breaks in Baja and our instructors guarantee that you’ll ride the waves – at least for a moment! Surfing not your thing? No worries, we’ll have plenty of boogies boards on hand and there are miles of beach for walking too! When not surfing or otherwise playing in the water our guides will take guests on an exploration of tide pools at the beach. We'll wind down from a fun morning with lunch at one of a couple of terrific local "joints" such at Compa Chava's or El Pastorcito. We'll trade our wetsuits for walking shoes in the afternoon and enjoy a walking tour of Todos Santos' historic district, learning about the Mexican, American and Chinese characters and global forces that have shaped the town over the centuries. We’ll also meet some of our local artists in their studios, where they’ll share their work and talk about how Todos Santos inspires them. We’ll finish up the town tour with a sunset drink on the rooftop terrace of the Hotel Guaycura,followed by dinner at the famed Hotel California (we can already hear you humming the song). Overnight: Los Colibris Casitas, Todos Santos.
The Sierras (Days 8 - 10)
Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve and Ranchero Culture
The Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve is one of Baja´s most beautiful, but least explored areas. Part of an island off the coast of Baja 10 million years ago, the Reserve is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life, many of them endemic species - over 23% of plants and 10% of animals found in the Reserve are endemic to the area. The human culture of the Sierras is quite distinct from that of the rest of México as well. The forebearers of the current generation of rancheros were handpicked by Jesuit missionaries for their skills in farming and ranching, as well as for their qualities of honor, trustworthiness and focus on family. When the Jesuits were thrown out of Baja, these farmers and ranchers were given some of the Jesuit lands. The result is an egalitarian culture that values skill, hard work, family and hospitality.
Day 8: Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve Hike and Mexican Cooking Lesson
The Sierra de la Lagune Biosphere Reserve is one of Baja´s most beautiful, but least explored areas. Part of an island off the coast of Baja 10 million years ago, the Reserve is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life. Today we’ll do one of two guided interpretive day hikes:
Reaching for the Sky: We´ll hike as high up the mountain as we can and still get home before dark! Depending on the pace, the walk can take you through the selva Baja caducifolia – desert scrub - up through lush reserves of oak forest and pine. Recommended only for experienced walkers.
Riverbed Stroll: This is an easy, flat walk along a lovely riverbed in which you are surrounded by magnificent flora and fauna. At certain times of the year we encounter a waterfall. This can be as long or as short a hike as you like; we typically take about four hours with no climbing and just a small amount of walking over boulders.
We enjoy a Mexican cooking class in the evening with Los Colibris Chef Ike Algorri. First, learn to make the perfect margarita. Second, pay attention because you have to eat what you make! Dancing has been known to break out in between courses. Overnight: Los Colibris Casitas, Todos Santos.
Day 9: Ranch Life
We’ll spend our last day enjoying the hospitality of Don Cata, Doña Luz and their family on their working ranch in San Dionisio on the eastern side of the pensinsula. Don Cata and his son Rogelio will share many of the wonderful activities that make their ranch such a great place to live and visit, including traditional leatherworking, cheese making and candy making. In addition, there will be plenty of time to enjoy a hike to the waterfalls and more beautiful scenery. We’ll enjoy a fabulous ranch lunch prepared for us by Doña Luz. We’ll leave Todos Santos at 7:30 AM and arrive at the ranch around 10:30 AM. We’ll spend the whole day there, then depart around 4:00 PM. We'll arrive at Casa Natalia (http://casanatalia.com/), a chic boutique hotel in San Jose del Cabo, in time for an excellent farewell dinner at their restaurant, Mi Cocina. Overnight: Casa Natalia, San Jose del Cabo.
Day 10: Depart
After breakfast we'll tear ourselves away from this beautiful place with a 25 minutes from Casa Natalia.