Years ago when I was just a teenager I read the book “The Girl of the Sea of Cortez” by Peter Benchley (who also wrote Jaws). It was about a girl who was my age at the time. It was a beautiful story about her connection with the ocean and the sea life within it. She swam with manta rays and whale sharks and lived off the ocean. The book was a love story to the Sea of Cortez, and it weaved its magic into my mind decades earlier and would not leave. I wanted to swim in its warm waters, eat its fish, and swim with manta rays and whale sharks. It was calling me.
We started our time on the Sea of Cortez in San Felipe, a small town that seemed to be more focused on fishing than tourism in the winter season. The first thing I noticed about this part of Baja was the contrast between the dry red rock of the desert and the aqua blue waters of the sea. Northern Baja is so barren, driving across the desert from the Pacific coast there is almost no plant life. The drive takes you through stunning rugged desert mountain passes until you reach the salt flats on the other side of the peninsula and catch your first glimpse of the calm, startling blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. The harsh desert environment has made this area very unpopulated, and it feels like we are worlds away from California, not just hours.
In San Felipe we camped at a RV park called Kikis (our first amenity camp site in a very long time) that was right on the beach and full of snowbirds (retired people in RVs). They had two story palapas that looked out over the water, and we set up our chairs on the second story and caught up on blog posts, read and watched the sunrise. And we swam for hours in the crystal clear waters of the Sea of Cortez……
San Felipe, like most areas along the Sea of Cortez has huge tidal fluctuations, which totally change the look of the beach depending on what part of the day it is. In the early morning, the tide is in and that is when it is the best time to swim, because there is a sandy bottom and the water is calm and crystal clear. Later in the day the tide begins to pull out revealing the rocky parts of the beaches (and tons of beautiful shells). Fisherman can actually drive their trucks on the sand to fetch their boats that have been left stranded by the tides. It is amazing how much the look of one beach can change in just a 24 hour cycle.
In San Felipe we also experienced our first Saturday night in Mexico, where all the families and food stalls came out to spend the evening along the water front promenade. During the week the town was a sleepy fishing village, but on Saturday it came alive with energy. We ate delicious tacos al pastor (spicy BBQ pork with pineapple on a skewer and then shaved off into corn tortillas) for a dollar each, roasted corn covered in lime and salty cheese, and sugary churros hot out of the fryer that were just mouth watering. DJs drove around in vans with loud speakers, fire crackers exploded, kids ran around laughing, the energy was wonderful and we all new that we were just going to love Mexico.