Winter EscapesPaddling South in Baja, Mexico
Escaping the clutches of cold wet winter weather becomes critical to every paddler north of the Mason-Dixon line. Winter escapes are not optional for many boaters – they are necessary for combating incessant cold rains, snow, cloudy skies, and cabin fever. Warm water and sunny skies can heal any soul and paddling a boat sure beats the heck out of lounging on the beach getting fried.
Luckily for paddlers there is a plethora of national and international boating options to beat the winter blues. This Winter Escapes Series will explore some of our favorite places to paddle in the winter months. Hopefully it will encourage you to get out this winter and enjoy some warm water paddling.
We start this series on winter paddling destinations by traveling south of the border to Baja, Mexico. If Disney designed a kayaking ride for an amusement park it would look a lot like Baja. Sparkling warm ocean waters, endless sunny days, amazing wildlife, and a myriad of islands to explore spiced up with a little danger from ferocious wind storms. The peninsula bordering the Sea of Cortez offers so many paddling opportunities it’s hard to find a place to start.
One of the cheapest and easiest places to get to on the peninsula is Cabo San Lucas at the southern terminus of the peninsula. Daily flights from the states are available from many cities. Cabo San Lucas evokes preconceived notions of spectacular beauty. It’s hard to overstate the majesty factor at the end of the Baja peninsula: the natural stone arch like a buttonhole between the Sea of Cortez and the mighty Pacific, postcard beaches, sandstone cliffs abutting the ocean, and sea-going mammals frolicking around the hull of your kayak. Paddle through the arch and decide for yourself where dreams become reality. The tourist corridor is the shoreline connecting Cabo San Lucas with San Jose del Cabo. This is the most spectacular place to paddle in Cabo. A paddle through the arch is just the start of a book full of paddling memories from Baja.
Travel Specifics: Weather can change faster than you can say, “Man, what a beautiful day.” During summer months the thermometer can reach upwards of 115. Dramatic temperature drops are not uncommon when the sun goes down, even in summer. Take sunscreen, a hat, food, clothes, tent, cell phone, and an abundance of fresh drinking water. Call Tio Sports (tiosports.com) in San Lucas for kayak rentals when you arrive. For the best guidebook, pick up Los Cabos Guide (loscabosguide.com) at any hotel.
While You’re There: If you can’t get a boat or want something a little different, go surfing. Contact the Costa Azul Surf Shop (costa-azul.com.mx) to arrange rentals or lessons. Many beaches will be uninhabited, and you’ll have miles to explore. Hiking, fishing, snorkeling, and swimming midcourse at Chileno and Santa Maria beaches are best. Currents, riptides, and undertow can be hazardous. Remember, this is Mexico, so 911 doesn’t work. Dial 066 instead; speaking some Spanish and keeping track of your progress with the guidebook map of the beaches will also help. All beaches in Mexico are public, so you can camp anywhere. There are also dozens of hotels—including some of the world’s best—along the corridor. Eat, camp, and grab a beer or a margarita at Brisas beachside bar and RV park at kilometer 29, just past Zippers Restaurant when you arrive in San Jose.
Cabo Boating Details
- Put-In: Playa Medano (San Lucas)
- Take-Out: Playa Costa Azul, at Zippers (San Jose)
- Miles of Paddling: 25
- When to Go: Anytime, but winter is best. Whale watching is excellent from December to March.
- Local Shop: Tio Sports (tiosports.com)
Traveling the Canoe & Kayak Wayback Machine – useful articles on Baja Paddling published previously on our web site.