Mulegi Day Trips

Kayaking the Sea of Cortez
By Andromeda Romano-Lax

With thatched hut palapas, an estuary flanked by winding dirt roads and thick stands of date palms, Mulegi is the ultimate Baja oasis. Though far north of the Tropic of Cancer, the small town is nonetheless endowed with a sultry, tropical ambience, which has long attracted tourists. Too many tourists? Perhaps. But Mulegi is still very small, and manages to retain a character of its own, with little immediate danger of becoming either a San Felipe or a Cabo San Lucas.

Every time I've come to Mulegi, I've stayed longer than I'd planned. The pace of life here is slow, the river invites evening strolls along its banks, and a handful of fairly good restaurants and beachfront stands keep one well-fed and content. Especially in summer, when humid days and warm, breezy evenings dull and pacify the senses, there is little motivation to do anything rash, like embark on an overly long or difficult journey. Instead, a two-mile paddle up and down the river, preferably at sunset, seems like more than enough of a workout. If that proves too tiring, one can simply float.

Of course, if you are intent on being active, there are two more challenging trips north and south of the estuary's entrance. Both end at beaches, the one to the north being superior for shelling and fishing, the one to the south perfectly suited for more bikini-oriented activities: swimming, lying around, waiting for tamale vendors to amble by.

Whether or not an evening river paddle or a nighttime beach stroll makes you feel tropically somnambulistic, you may be convinced you are dreaming. The reason: a bizarre and startling phenomenon, particularly common to these parts in midsummer. Stamping one's feet on the damp sand elicits sparklike flashes. A fish darting close to the surface appears like a stream of light. Any moving creature, emerging from the depths, glows. The seasonal display, called bioluminescence, is caused by an abundance of dinoflagellates, a microscopic, unicellular species of phytoplankton, which light up whenever the surrounding water is disturbed.

Paddling is the perfect way to see Mulegi's environs: as a way of travel that is unjarring, rhythmic, and hopefully not too fast; on a sea that glistens at dawn, pounds the shore in late afternoon, and glows at night. There is not as much isolation here as on other routes, but the people one encounters are generally friendly and sedate. There is not much to do, but no one seems to mind.


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