I looked up at the twinkling Milky Way and soaked it all in. I was on a remote beach surrounded by limestone cliffs and a glowing bonfire. Waves gently crashed on shore providing a rhythm to my thoughts. The smell of mesquite wafted through the air as I contemplated my tiny little life engulfed in the giant Milky Way.
This is UnCruise Adventures.
Cruising is gaining popularity every year as people take off on behemoth ships through seas and rivers with thousands of people, activities, and calories. There’s a rigid itinerary and little room for your own personal exploration. And I want absolutely nothing to do with that type of cruising.
If UnCruise were a car, it would have the bumper sticker “We Brake for Whales”. And the best part is that there is no rigid itinerary when you are small enough to maneuver into shallow waters and don’t have a port schedule to stick to. Jeremy, our expedition leader on the ship, described the cruise as being “rigidly flexible’ since so many activities and even routes in the Sea of Cortez depend on the weather and winds.
What are UnCruise Adventures?
I had only taken an expedition cruise up to this point, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect on an adventure cruise, but at the very least you should expect some adventurous activities – right?! Since we had beautiful warm weather in the Sea of Cortez in February, this meant we had many water options.
Typical Day on a Baja Cruise with Uncruise
A typical day on the ship went something like this – wake up to a beautiful sunrise and do some yoga on the deck. After breakfast head off on a skiff (small motorized raft boat) to do an organized activity such as a guided hike, snorkeling, burro ride, whale watching, kayaking, or stand-up paddle boarding. After lunch head to another spot and anchor in a turquoise bay, take a skiff ashore, and enjoy a beach party complete with an open bar. UnCruise staff would bring out the kayaks, SUPs, and snorkel gear and you could go on your own to explore. Or you could just sit on the beach, read a book and have a margarita.
Read more about what makes Uncruise so unique and fun to travel with
The Difference Between Cruising and UnCruising
What to do When Cruising Baja and the Sea of Cortez
You could be as active and adventurous as you wanted with activities like these – it’s your choice every day. You can go on all of the excursions, or take it easy on the beach soaking up the Baja sun. It’s totally up to you!
I of course chose the activities because I love to explore and be active. Every day brought a new activity in Baja!
Hiking in Remote Baja Landscapes
Mother Nature was on our side the week I cruised the Sea of Cortez. The Captain said that we rarely have calm enough winds to stop at Isla Coronados – a volcanic island with a crescent-shaped white sand beach. We started early in the morning on the volcano crater hike covering 1000 feet in elevation and not a single tree offering shade.
Like most hikes, it started out easy, but then we started up the steep, jagged rocks, which took every bit of concentration that my brain had that early in the morning. Finally, the rocks gave way to the steepest section yet made of scree – which was like trying to climb a pile of sand. Needless to say, this hike (4 miles round trip) was challenging. But of course, the view at the top of the crater was worth it.
I did an easier hike later in the week, but what it lacked in technical difficulty, it made up for in temperature difficulty. We walked across the salt flats at Isla San Francisco, and I felt the water evaporating out of me just like the salt pools. This was an easy hike more about the flora and landscape rather than exerting yourself. And we also had some time to dig around under the rocks to see what sea critters we could find.
Snorkeling with Wildlife in the Sea of Cortez
With a mild water temperature of around 65 degrees, I appreciated the wetsuit that Un-Cruise furnished. They also outfit you with all the snorkel equipment you need so that you can go check out these crystal-clear waters full of colorful fish, eels, urchins, and sea lions.
At Los Islotes we had a chance to snorkel with baby sea lions. I opted to stay above water so that I could get wildlife photography shots of the Blue Boobies, however, my friend Kristin of Travel Past 50, donned her snorkel gear and camera and frolicked with the sea lions!
Kayaking in Aqua Verdes
The water was so clear that we could see the fish, clams, and eels right from our kayak! Kristin and I spent one morning on a substantial paddle around Aqua Verdes. The secluded bay was full of great rock formations and birds. Once again we were blessed with calm weather so we were able to kayak all the way out to Solitary Rock, which tons of birds use as a sanctuary safe from predators. And they also use the rock as their toilet. This was one case where guano made the rock more photogenic!
We also did some casual kayaking just to get out and explore an island near Los Islotes. It was fun to see the crabs scurry as we came close. But the best part was when one of our guides drove the skiff out to meet us and gave us a beer. Happy hour kayaking in the Sea of Cortez = perfection.
Burro Riding – a Real Baja Cultural Experience
Four legs are better than two in this desert environment. The Romeros live and ranch in Baja Sur. They brought their entire family and their 14 burros to Aqua Verdes to offer rides to people who were interested in exploring inland. I admired the beautiful leather saddle design as I hoisted my leg over my burro and into the stirrup. I watched intently as they looped up their ropes and got ready to take us out on a serious trail ride. Only a few of them knew English, but they told us stories of ranching and trying to make a living in a very harsh environment.
It was a fascinating ride through the desert and arroyos (dry creeks). At one point we even came across what appeared to be an oasis with palm trees and green plants which looked completely out of place in the orange, dusty desert!
Baja Whale Watching Experience Like No Other
As we exited the vans that had transported us to Magdalena Bay, our guide from Desert and Sea Adventures, Angel, talked about the boat we’d be going out on for whale-watching. It was then that I heard it for the first time “if you pet a whale…” Angel said and kept talking about the proper protocol for whale interaction.
However, my brain had stopped on the first part of the sentence; did he say “pet a whale?” I thought in astonishment. Yes, he did. At Magdalena Bay, the whales approach you so closely that you can pet them.
Why do they do it? Read about the Gray Whale Migration in Baja Mexico and see how you can pet a whale.
Free Time Adventures While Cruising the Sea of Cortez
With ample free time each day, we could pick and choose other adventures we wanted to do. From beach combing to kayaking, to SUP, it was pretty easy to stay active every day. You could even swim off the boat in the right conditions!
In addition to all of these adventures, the ship also offered free massages to every passenger, an open bar, and wonderful food.
As I lay on my beach blanket staring at the Milky Way at our private beach bonfire party, my eyes locked in on a satellite moving across the sky. I followed its path as it passed stars and planets. It always amazes me the speed at which they move. It was then that I decided I liked this thing called Un-Cruise adventures; it’s just my speed.
Cruise the Sea of Cortez -Come Early, Stay Late
Baja is such a beautiful region – of course, you’ll want to spend a few extra days there! Fly into San Jose del Cabo International Airport (SJD) a few days early, skip the resorts and see the historic Art town of San Jose del Cabo!
Where to Eat San Jose del Cabo
Since you’ll be burning calories doing all of those adventures, be sure to book a night at the newest farm-to-table restaurant creation in Los Cabos. Located outside of the city on a dusty little back road is an oasis of the organic hip called ACRE.
ACRE grows all of the ingredients used in its restaurant and honors all animals and vegetables by using every part – nothing goes wasted.
Kristin and I had dinner there the night before our UnCruise departure and it was a complete eating experience. Each dish full of complex flavors was beautifully displayed. And the cocktails made by their onsite mixologist, Dani Tatarin, were like little science creations in a martini glass instead of a beaker. The indoor/outdoor eating experience is a great start to your Sea of Cortez cruise.
Where to Stay in San Jose del Cabo
Casa Natalia – a cute boutique hotel (don’t even bother with the gigantic all-inclusive resorts that have no soul), that is cozily designed with open patios, a waterfall pool, and a lovely staff. Located in the center of the old town and the art district!
ACRE (mentioned above) is not simply a delicious restaurant, it also is a super place to stay and boasts 12 unique tree houses that you can stay in. These unique ‘rooms’ were even written up in Architectural Digest! This way you can stay and enjoy the good food, pool, games, and surroundings before heading out on your Baja cruise! Read ACRE reviews on Trip Advisor.
How to Get to the Baja and the Sea of Cortez
- Fly into Los Cabos regional airport (SJD) and add traditional beach bum to your itinerary.
- Fly into Loreto (LTO) or La Paz (LAP) to dive right into the remoteness.
- Cruise the islands on an Uncruise Adventures Small Ship and don’t forget to tell them OTTSWORLD sent you!
- For the more Adventurous – drive a car down the Mexico Federal Highway 1 from San Diego to Los Cabos. This would be a great road trip full of local culture, beaches, wildlife, hiking, and local food!
I was a guest of UnCruise Adventures on this trip, however all opinions expressed here are my own.