San Felipe to Puertecitos

Kayaking the Sea of Cortez
By Andromeda Romano-Lax
Cliffside paddling
Cliffside paddling

The sea is a living, shifting, changing beast, and there is no place better to learn that fact than on the San Felipe Puertecitos route. Twice a day this region experiences the second-highest tides in the world, up to 22 feet, and any coastal observer witnesses firsthand that interplay of moon, gravity, and racing water that hourly changes the landscape of the northern Cortez.

For almost any visiting boater other than a kayaker, this natural phenomenon would be a nightmare. But in the northern Cortez, the mobile kayaker has a crucial advantage. Unlike motorboats (or certainly, yachts!) the kayak can easily be hauled up to higher ground before a rising tide, or hauled down a beach and back into the sea when the tide has waned and left a long, dry expanse of sand. The kayaker is exempt from the serious problems of running aground, being landlocked, or needing to seek anchorage in a shifting sea. Of course, tidal calculations are still very important to prevent a campsite from being set up in advance of a tide or, more commonly, from necessitating a long (as much as half a mile in some parts) and backbreaking kayak haul to the water in the morning.

With proper planning and accurate tide charts, however, the tides are a spectacular feature of touring in this region. Twice a day the tides creep up, chasing man and beast to higher ground, and then reverse and wane, leaving behind shallow pools of the sea's orphaned creatures: sea stars, crabs, clams, sand dollars, and the occasional tiny octopus. The amateur naturalist or beachcomber is treated to a rare opportunity to study marine life just outside his or her tent. And, best of all, the kayaker truly learns what it means to live with the rhythms of the sea.


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »