5 Easy Pieces

Between La Paz and Puerto Escondido are a handful of rewarding winter stops.

La Paz is a beautiful historic port city and the capital of Southern Baja. It’s a lovely elongated beach resort at the southeast end of the Sea of Cortez. For yatistas (recreational boaters), La Paz offers so many nautical services — five full-service marinas, five haulout and repair yards, many chandlers — that nearly 6,000 liveaboard boaters from the U.S. and elsewhere have made it their homeport away from home, staying for months and even years.

Since La Paz is the Gateway to the Sea of Cortez, what follows are what I call “Five Easy Pieces,” small and remote but rewarding stops that should be part of any cruising itinerary between La Paz and Puerto Escondido. Yacht services are available on both ends, but not in between. Yet, I consider this remote 115-mile stretch to be the most interesting cruising grounds on the Pacific side of Mexico.

Each of the Five Easy Pieces has overnight anchoring potential during winter cruising season, when prevailing conditions are from the north. Boaters who watch the weather can plan to spend at least a few days to a week or more in each place. I’ve included a few intermediate or alternate stops too.

Partida Cove
Only 27 miles from downtown La Paz, the three-island Espiritu Santos Islands chain is uninhabited yet provides 22 separate coves — all with dramatic geology, white sand beaches and good holding for overnight anchoring in multiple places. Partida Cove is the favorite first stop. The whole island chain is a Natural Marine Park, so a current SEMARNAT permit lets boat owners anchor, and then take out the kayak, snorkel dozens of reefs and hike the easy trails.

Day-excursion pangas and rendezvous from La Paz frequent this island’s San Gabriel, La Raza and Partida coves. To work north toward Amortajada on Isla San Jose, Partida Cove and Ensenada Grande make good stepping stones, as does “The Hook” anchorage on Isla San Francisco.

Amortajada Lagoon, 23 miles from Espiritu Santos, is a triangular estuary that projects two and a half miles west-southwest from the south end of Isla San Jose’s mountainous profile. Punta Ostiones (Oysters) Light marks the west corner, but the whole lagoon is bounded by a unique linear sand berm (about 15 feet high) that allows entrance by dinghy or panga only at one or two cuts. Amortajada means shrouded.

Inside are four square miles of shallow, sheltered waters, 20-foot trees, marshes and a one-and-a-quarter-mile channel that’s ideal for exploring, bird watching, swimming, and fishing by kayak or dinghy (quiet motor to protect wildlife). Vacate the lagoon at sunrise or sunset when blood-thirsty “noseeums” show up.

Anchor in the commodious mile-wide Bahia Amortajada almost anywhere northwest of the lagoon and east of the white pinnacles of Isla Cayos. Alternates on Isla San Jose: Salina or Cazadero points.

San Evaristo Bay
Back on Baja, San Evaristo lies directly across the 3.4-mile-wide channel from Isla San Jose. Evaristo villagers tend goat herds, fish from pangas and operate the salt works on the north slope of the 300-person village.

Anchorage choices are (a.) anywhere off Village Beach or (b.) nearby inside the uninhabited rectangular North Cove, where the tinkling of goat bells may serve as a morning wakeup call. In case of a south wind, choose Village Beach.

Evaristenos are friendly. School kids love to practice speaking English with visiting boaters. They may greet you on the beach or zoom by your boat and offer to sell you a fresh fish or half a kilo of fresh goat cheese.

Agua Verde
Crystal turquoise water over white-sand bottoms and pleasant winter anchorages draw us to Agua Verde, 45 miles from Evaristo. Anchor off the tongue-in-cheek “yacht club” beach in the bay’s northwest corner or east of Pyramid Rock.

The fishing villagers of Agua Verde tend a few pigs and operate Maria’s, a part-time store. Lucky boaters will sometimes find fresh-baked empanadas, which are tasty half-moon-shaped pastries filled with cheese, fruit or meat. Anyone who plans to stay two or three days can ask the matron of the store if she’ll make a dozen.

Where’s the store? Land on the southeast end of the palm-studded beach in front of the village, walk 300 yards inland and ask anyone, Donde esta la tienda? Or ask Se venden empanadas hoy? Tip: Don’t bring dogs ashore here; the pigs run loose.

Isla Danzante Primera
This island looks like a dragon with its snout just above sea level swimming north. At 20 miles from Agua Verde and only two and a half miles outside Puerto Escondido, Danzante Island is what most folks use to avoid entering the complex harbor entrance after dark.

Honeymoon Cove on the northwest corner of Danzante Island is an easy-in and easy-out anchorage, so it’s a popular daysail from Puerto Escondido. Honeymoon Cove has three picturesque lobes, each big enough for only two boats to swing; many boaters drop the hook just outside the lobes. The warm water and pristine sand bottom are perfect for novice snorkelers to get comfortable. Tiny silver guppies may peek at their reflection in a dive mask or nibble cheese morsels from divers’ fingers.

Two similar anchoring spots within a mile south of Honeymoon are dubbed Denouement Cove and Divorce Cove. Or, six miles south of Isla Danzante, Candeleros Cove has shelter from south wind and a yatista-friendly hotel.

Finally, Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port). Here, boat owners can top off diesel tanks, fill the outboard, grab a mooring out in the landlocked Main Bay, or get a full-service marina slip, all from Marina Puerto Escondido. They can also haul out for repairs or secure dry storage, thanks to the 65-ton lift.

The two-story blue-glass marina complex (formerly a Fonatur marina) houses a small grocery store, a couple of restaurants, showers, a coin laundry, a cruisers lounge, a library and the marina office. One mile inland is Tripui RV resort, which includes a small hotel, a restaurant and RV storage.

The town of Loreto is 15 miles north, off Highway 1, and has a busy panga basin and a passenger loading dock for small excursion ships, but no marina for yachts. The airport a mile south of Loreto has flights to the U.S. on Alaska, Calafia and other airlines.