South to Playa Santispac

Kayaking the Sea of Cortez
By Andromeda Romano-Lax
  |  Gorp.com

This route provides moderately challenging paddling, eased by the consistency of landmarks and landing spots, most of them sand and gravel, all along the way. Highway 1 runs one to two miles inland, not merging again with the shore until Playa Santispac; hence, one can easily find some solitude en route, on stretches of shore unreachable by road. Squadrons of pelicans and dolphins are frequently sighted.

Launching at El Sombrerito, one crosses the mouth of the estuary and proceeds south. The shore is sand and gravel, backed by shrubs. Reddish hills form a distant backdrop.

At mile 3, Isla El Gallo (The Rooster), a level islet almost connected to the shore, acts as an easily sighted landmark. A small latticework light tower is perched on the islet. Punta Gallito rises as a prominent hill just opposite Isla El Gallo.

Small shacks are visible in a cove just after Isla El Gallo, followed by a second, sheer-faced hill. The coast is dominated by short bluffs from here south.

A scrub-and-cactus-dotted valley is visible at mile 4.5, followed by a large hill, Cerro El Tibursn, which supports the Estacisn Micronades Tibursn,"Shark Microwave Station," a radio tower, at mile 5.

Bahma Concepcisn
From here on, you are entering Bahma Concepcisn. To the east, Peninsula Concepcisn forms the rugged headland of Baja's largest bay. Along the length of the peninsular headland runs the Sierra Los Gavilantes, a range of red rock and pastel-ribboned peaks that provide a stunning backdrop for the bay's brilliant blue waters.

Looking at a map, one might expect Bahma Concepcisn to be sheltered by this range, creating a placid inner bay. Instead, the range and the mainland shore act like a funnel, intensifying wind from the north. I know of at least two people who have capsized here: the first was an absolute beginner, the second a seasoned kayaker. Afternoon winds spring up suddenly, and winter winds can be especially fierce; use caution.

Farther along the coast, the Cerro Los Machos is a triangular rocky point at mile 6.5. Punta San Pedro, at mile 8, is a small RV camp of seven to ten palapas and rotundas. The beach is rock and gravel; the waters offshore are very shallow.

At mile 10 the Cerro Magdalena, a giant, sheer-faced hill, protrudes between two arroyos. This area of sandstone bluffs, ledges, minor sea caves, and interesting formations makes for a good temporary haul-out. A few small niches and overhangs provide rare shade.

Between Punta Arena at mile 10 and the small camp of Playas Punta Arena, where the coast angles southwest, is a constantly changing area of shifting sand and shallows.

The coast rises to form the rocky point of Punta Piedrita, just past mile 13. Rounding this point, one enters Coyote Bay, an island-studded, popular bay at the heart of Bahma Concepcisn. A series of developed beaches, camps, and settlements ring Coyote Bay. The first of these is Playa Santispac, reached at mile 14.

Route's End
Playa Santispac is rimmed by fine white sands and bordered by turquoise waters. Palapa huts on shore are used as vacation homes by some, permanent abodes by others. A restaurant-bakery called Anna's provides refreshment for a steady stream of off-highway visitors, as well as water and a limited variety of canned goods. Sailboats and windsurfers cruise around Coyote Bay, and a kayak concession operates out of one of the palapas.

For those who'd like to stay awhile, camping is possible for a fee. Playa Santispac is directly off Highway 1, making for a quick return to Mulegi. Hitchhiking is the transport of choice between the two points; you may be able to arrange a ride personally at Anna's or on the beach.


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