Our Quintessential Warm Winter Getaway to Mexico’s Magical Sea of Cortes
When it’s snowing and cold during the long winter months, it’s the perfect time to plan a mid-winter escape. It was our mission to find a lesser-known paradise where you can endlessly cruise through inviting turquoise seas from cove to cove from island to island from port to port.
We were in search of authentic native culture, kayaking in glassy coves, and hiking the uninhabited brass colored desert mountains. Seeking out white sandy beaches, snorkeling with sea lions, and experience wildlife from both sea, land, and sky. The whales and a plethora of birdlife will be awaiting our arrival.
It was time to plan our warm-weather excursion down to Baja California Sur. We wanted to do a small ship adventure eco-cruise somewhere south of the border. We were looking for a winter escape to parts of the world lesser-known.
Video of the Sea of Cortes Cruise provided by UnCruise Adventures
Here is the video created by UnCruise on the Sea of Cortes Exploration on the Safari Endeavor!
Off we went in search of a journey that offered unique destinations harboring us in someplace warm and sunny, that is a bit away from the winter snowbird crowds. We were referred to Un-Cruise Adventures by several friends who happened to be repeat passengers and raved about it with huge accolades. We were intrigued and excited about their enthusiasm from their memorable experiences with Un-Cruise. We realized we had found the perfect choice as it offered just what we were in search of – “Small ships and BIG Adventures.”
Un-Cruise Adventures offers many select destinations around the world at different times of the year for their guests to discover a variety of untouched locales with off the beaten path explorations. They provide their adventurous passengers a journey over oceans, seas, bays, and rivers as a way to change the way you see the world.
In the winter months, Un-Cruise offers four different warm-weather destinations. The Hawaiian Islands, Central America – Costa Rica & Panama, the Galapagos and Mexico’s Sea of Cortes, which was our number one choice taking us to Mexico’s inland sea, also known as the Gulf of California in Baja California Sur.
With every Un-Cruise experience, one can expect to receive unparalleled service and impeccable attention to details. Each cruise offers relaxed and cozy accommodations, adventure and shore excursions, and an abundance of amazing food and beverages along the way.
The Map of the Cruise Route in Baja California with UnCruise Adventures
Once we made our decision to book in this adventure to Mexico’s Sea of Cortes with Un-Cruise, the rest of the planning was plug-and-play! Their team of travel experts was on top of everything from the moment we arrived at Los Cabos International Airport to the day we flew back home.
Barcelo Grand Faro – First Night in Cabo Before the Cruise
When we left the chilly snow-capped mountains and arrived in warm Baja California Sur, we peeled off our winter layers of clothes into sunny warm weather attire. Our first “Ah-Ha” moment. Upon arriving, we were graciously escorted to one of their partner hotels in San Jose del Cabo, the Barcelo Grand Faro Los Cabos.
That evening we dined on local seafood, fresh salsa, and guacamole and toasted to margaritas overlooking the sunset from the hotel’s outdoor restaurant. We also had the opportunity to meet many of our future shipmates who were just as thrilled as we were to embark on our upcoming small ship adventure cruise.
Day one of our Adventure – Arriving at the Port in La Paz
The next day our 8-Day/7-Night sojourn with the Un-Cruise Sea of Cortes Exploration began. In the afternoon, we boarded a bus to the docks in La Paz, where we boarded the 42-Cabin, 232-foot Safari Endeavor with our binoculars, cameras, and journals in tow. Upon stepping aboard, the week’s guests were shown to our cabins and given a tour around the different decks, the lounge salon, and the dining room. Early that evening over cocktails, and after introductions and an informative orientation by their experienced crew, our expedition set sail with the glowing sunset on our tail.
Just before dinner, we embarked from the port, as we gently cruised out of the harbor onto the sparkling moonlit Sea of Cortes for our week-long Island-hopping Un-Cruise Adventure. The numerous bays and islands along Mexico’s Eastern shores was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and also a Biosphere Reserve. We will be following the great John Steinbeck’s path into the protected waters of Cousteau’s “world aquarium.” At this moment, we knew for sure we were in store for a memorable experience and an adventure for the books!
Let the adventures begin!
- Every day you can watch the sunrise as you begin your adventure-packed day with wellness and Yoga on the 400 Sundeck at 6:45 where all levels of flexibility and experience are welcome.
- The sumptuous breakfasts are always the perfect way to start your day at 7:30 am in the ship’s spacious dining room.
- 9:45 am after the daily activity orientations; you can sign up for your “Fun Day” of choice from the ship, whether it be a snorkel, a ride on the skiff’s, a hike, a guided paddle on the kayaks. There are two days with off-ship excursions, whether you are visiting the historic town of Loreto or off to Magdalena Bay in search of Gray Whales.
- Lunch on the ship is in Endeavor’s Dining room at 12:30, unless ashore on an adventure excursion.
- Happy Hour is Daily in the Salon at 5:30, where the guests mingle and share stories about their day’s adventures at sea or on land.
- Dinner is at 6:30 every evening in the ship’s dining room. Each evening presents delicious, specially crafted dishes created with locally sourced produce, seafood, and meats by the onboard chef. There are selections to delight in for every palate, and they can also cater to your dietary needs and food restrictions too.
Our Daily Itinerary for the Week at Sea
Sunday – Day 2 Adventures – Los Islotes
- Daily Activity Presentations – Route Talk with Mark
- Cruising and Los Islotes
- “Cruising for Critters,” as they call it on board, through the rolling seas such as blue whales and pods of dolphins
- Skiff Tours to the Surrounding Islands
- Snorkeling with the California Sea Lions, with a focus on interactions with juveniles, graceful, agile, playful, or known as “puppies of the sea.” All snorkel gear, wetsuits, and fins are provided onboard by Un-Cruise. Select your set-up for the week and get ready to explore a variety of marine life below the surface. There were many different schools of fish and plentiful underwater creatures.
- The birding is sensational – We set our eyes on Blue-footed boobies, Brown Pelicans, Frigate birds, shorebirds, and Cormorants.
- After our snorkeling expedition, upon return to the ship, we warmed up on the deck in one of the inviting hot tubs with a hot beverage.
- In the late afternoon, we went up to the bridge with Captain Bernadette to search for marine life in the waters ahead.
Monday – Day 3 Adventures – Bahia Agua Verde
- Daily Activity Presentation – Treasure with Ellie
- We met on deck three at 8:30 am for the shore excursion to Agua Verde – we experienced the real Baja on burro rides with the Romero family from San Cosme. This family is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Vaquero/Ranchero culture of Baja. They are horse-mounted livestock herders of tradition that originated on the Iberian Peninsula. They are traditional horseman cowboy ranchers.
- We cruised to shore across the brilliant blue-green waters of this Bahia Agua Verde on the skiffs from the ship to the sprawling shores of the Romero property. We were saddled up with our own burro and then headed up the trails where we experienced a gentle meandering ride up and down the rolling hills and untouched shoreline.
Our friendly burros had minds of their own when it came to which order they wanted to follow in along the uninhabited trails. Though when the guide stopped, we stopped, and when the guide started moving along the path again, our burros followed suit, keeping an even pace with their leader. Along the top of the ridge, we overlooked breathtaking views of the bay and learned much about the Romero family’s deep history ranching in this stunning remote desert terrain.
- We rode our mules through the arroyos of native cactus and an oasis of palms through the sand dunes and occasional streams. Sixteen of us from the ship went on the first round of trail rides. It was a good thing I had my waterproof windbreaker as we ran into an unexpected but short shower.
- After lunch, we took another cruise to other islands on the skiffs. We ran into a bit of unexpected wind as the seas pick up a bit. One of the other skiffs came out to the deserted island we had landed on to escort us back to the ship.
Tuesday – Day 4 Adventures – Isla Danzante & Loreto
- Daily Activity Presentation – Creatures of Culture with Lindsey
- Isla Danzante Snorkel and Honeymoon Cove. A stroll through Steinbeck Canyon and then off to the charming historic town of Loretto for lunch.
- Danzante means dancer because the high mountain peaks from the peninsula look like women dancing. This part of Isla Danzante is part of the Bahia de Loreto de Parque Nacional and is home to dolphins, whales, and pelicans. The city of Loreto is backed by the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, where trails lead to prehistoric cave paintings.
The Small Coastal Town of Loreto
- What a great afternoon, we had to explore the town of Loreto on our walking tour. We toured the colonial buildings and the Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto, a 17th-century church in the heart of town.
- Before heading back to the Safari Endeavor, we stopped for a tasty bite of regional cuisine and few yummy margaritas at one of Loreto’s favorite dining spots – Orlando’s Restaurante.
Wednesday – Day 5 Adventures – Magdalena Bay – Whales
- Daily Activity Presentation – Gray Whales with Mark
- Magdalena Bay Day – Our Gray Whale Adventure – After an early breakfast, we boarded the waiting Lopez Mateos vans for our ride across the peninsula to the Pacific side to Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, a municipality of Comondu in Baja California Sur. It is a small fishing town located on the Magdalena Bay coast, mainly known for its whale watching operations. We boarded several waiting white panga boats and headed out to the nearby lagoon, which has calm, warm waters perfect for Gray Whale calving. The bay is protected from the Pacific Ocean by the sandy barrier islands of Isla Magdalena and Isla Santa Margarita.
- The Gray Whales are sometimes known as the “friendlies” due to their tolerance and curiosity of the cruising small panga boats with people such as us. As it was our own friendly mission to get up close and personal with these charming and docile migrating creatures of the sea.
- We had only 5 or 6 passengers and a guide in our 20-person panga for our 2-hour whale watching adventure. It was absolutely exhilarating getting so close to these fascinating and grand gray whales. We had a mother and her calf spend almost an hour flirting with all of us between the surrounding pangas. They seemed to love the attention as they came close to our boats to say hello. We all kept in observance the guidelines of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
- Our lunch after the whale watch adventure was quite fantastic. We noshed on regional langoustine, prawns, fresh-caught fish with tortillas beans and rice at one of the local outdoor restaurants, and of course, a fresh cold Cerveza.
Thursday – Day 6 Adventures – Isla California & San Evaristo
- Daily Activity Presentation – Trivia with Marika
- Today’s excursion took us to San Evaristo and Isla California, where it is protected from the Northerlies. The water seemed a bit colder that day, so I went for extra warm with a shorty wetsuit over my long one. We had excellent fish sightings of Needlefish, Sea Cucumber, Puffer Fish, King Angelfish, colorful coral, and seastars. The visibility was excellent, around 50 feet, so we see could see an abundance of underwater marine activity.
- We also did a hill hike referred to as our “Bushwhack Hike,” 4.6 miles up into the arroyo through the chaparral and coastal hills. We had a fantastic view of the old salt flats, and the Safari Endeavor moored in the distance out in the bay. We passed through a tiny village of a few homes where only about 40 families still. Many of the area’s buildings appeared to be abandoned and falling down due to the hurricane damage from several years before.
Friday – Day 6 Adventures – Beach Party – Ensenada Grande
- Daily Activity Presentation
- It was Beach Party day in the protective cove of Ensenada Grande, which is part of Espirito Santo National Park. At 9 am, we boarded the skiffs on a short ride from the ship where we landed on a secluded, pristine white sand beach and where the staff had set up absolutely everything for us.
- They had brought food and beverages, and they even set up a beach picnic and beach bar for us. Also waiting for us was the fleet of yellow kayaks to take out with one of the expedition guides or on our own at our leisure in the calm waters of the aquamarine bay. We paddled about the rim of the island and the dynamic shoreline amidst sheltering rocky walls, volcanic ridges, and abundant birdlife.
- As a wrap up for the week, we all assembled in the ship’s dining room for our exquisitely prepared farewell dinner with our many new-found friends.
- After dinner, they followed with a fantastic slideshow of memorable photos taken by the expedition team during our weeklong journey cruising Baja California Sur.
- As our finale, we did some post-dinner stargazing on the top deck as we bid a melancholy farewell to the glimmering luminescence of the waters surrounding the Safari Endeavor. At the end of the evening, we all settled in with our journey’s home beginning the next morning, leaving with great experiences and memories.
The cuisine on board was an absolute delight. All of the meals presented to us were handcrafted and prepared by their experienced executive chefs. These innovative dishes are all created with local fresh, sustainable products. Their culinary program thrives upon the relationships they have built with the local farmers, local fishermen, and regional vendors. You can always expect field-to-table produce and ocean-friendly seafood direct from the waters where the Un-Cruise ships go.
Un-Cruise Adventures is committed to sustainability, and they are proud to be the first cruise partner of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.
Other than the days where there is a unique excursion away from the ship or a picnic on the beach, all three meals are prepared and served in the ships stunning dining room. And you don’t even have to dress up for dining as it is always a casual and relaxed dining experience.
What to expect with your Dining Experience
- Early-riser breakfasts of fresh fruit and baked-on-board pastries
- Full breakfasts with hot and cold options
- Lunches featuring salads, sandwiches, homemade soups, and regionally influenced dishes
- Varied hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour
- Dinners come with a choice of entrees including fresh, local seafood, meats, and vegetarian dishes
- Made from scratch desserts like tiramisu and lavender panna cotta
- Chef selected wine pairings that complement your meal
- Smoked Marlin Frittata, portabella mushrooms, spinach, dried tomatoes
- Omelet of the Day – Mushroom Cheese Omelet
- Berry Pancakes with Maple Syrup
- Breakfast Potatoes Choice of Bacon or Sausage
- Field Greens with fresh raspberries, caramelized chevre & champagne roasted shallot vinaigrette
- Fresh -baked rosemary focaccia finished with apricot and sweet onion glaze
- Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Beef Demi-Glace
- Baja Lobster with Lemon Butter
- Squash Napoleon layered with crumbled Boursin & pomegranate balsamic
- Cinnamon poached pear with buttery puff pastry and salted caramel
The bar in the salon area is open for your enjoyment. There is always one of the ship’s friendly staff members waiting to pour you a glass of wine, beer, or create your favorite libation from scratch. Whatever your fancy, you will find premium and small-batch craft spirits. Their cocktails are mixed with seasonal local ingredients like a house-infused cucumber vodka. The infamous Un-Cruise Bloody Mary is a must-try and when cruising through Mexico’s Sea of Cortes, don’t miss their Margaritas, they are sensational. We can vouch for that.
I forgot to mention that one of the other perks is that every passenger guest received a complimentary massage! That was a special unexpected treat especially after the long hike in the arroyo.
Weather in Baja California Sur
What’s the weather like in November through March when the Safari Endeavor takes to the waters of the Sea of Cortes?
Air temperatures are moderate and can vary from 74F to 83F degrees. Evenings can get slightly chilly with the off-shore winds.
Water temperatures vary from 66F to 77F.
What to Bring for your Adventure Cruise on the Safari Endeavor
- Don’t forget your passport
- Reef-safe Bio-degradable sunscreen and hats for shade
- Mobile phones or iPad for photos and photo sharing, though there is limited or no Internet onboard
- Cameras, Binoculars, chargers/power cords, memory card, extra batteries
- Collapsible Suitcase to fit under your bed
- Dress in layers throughout the day – sun protective fabric is suggested
- Hiking attire – hiking poles, hiking shoes, daypack
- Dry Bag for camera, binoculars, or anything that you don’t want to get wet.
- Comfortable clothes, casual attire, beach clothes
- Windbreaker, fleece or light jacket
- Any medications you may need during the week
Un-Cruise Adventures tagline “Unrushed. Uncrowded and Unbelievable”. And you can count on that!
Visit their website for more details on this cruise and their other destinations.
Photo credits: Dynie Sanderson; the expedition crew aboard the Safari Endeavor; Uncruise Adventures; Jean Cusick.