What to do about protecting some of Arizona’s formerly hidden gems.
Day 7: Drifting On The Sea Of Cortez
Read more about our travels on the peninsula.
The most striking of these natural works of art is Bahía Concepcion. At about 22 miles long, the turquoise blue water is dotted with numerous islands, white sandy beaches and dozens of coves to disconnect from the world.
We take a “lunch break” on the sand at Playa El Requesón. There is a sand spit that leads out to one of the islands, which also has wetlands. The water is filled with seashells and warm enough in February that I’m able to go for a swim, float on my back and possibly drift away to the other side. With my ears underwater, I hear nothing man made; just the gentle lap of tiny waves against my head.
The lack of development along the vast shoreline makes me wonder if this is what San Francisco Bay looked like before man developed it with docks, airports and cities.
Bahía Concepcion is about 90 minutes north of Loreto. This is the heart of new development on the Sea of Cortez. The government helped build an international airport, encouraged development of mega resorts and a new marina.
The pesos can also be seen in downtown Loreto. The old, historic buildings in the heart of the city are restored, including the old mission, which helped launch this town hundreds of years ago. Even the trees are landscaped to create green arches over wide esplanades. The malecón (waterfront) is torn up and being rebuilt.
This is all clearly being done to entice tourists to visit. But on a Monday in mid-February – which is considered high season for winter tourists – the streets are empty in the middle of the day. Storekeepers sit around with their heads in their hands with headphones on listening to music. Many other businesses are shuttered.
The marina at Puerto Escondido just to the south – which is part of the project I talked about earlier in Santa Rosalííta – is in pristine shape, compared to its cousin on the Pacific Ocean. It’s also devoid of boats. Some workers there say the Mexican government is pouring money into maintaining the facilities because it’s for sale.
What gives? The innkeeper at Coco-Cabañas says the American snowbirds who used to caravan down the highway to spend weeks getting away from the cold are no longer coming. He blames two things: the still slow U.S. economy and the dire travel warnings from the Department of State about visiting south of the border. The Mexican government has reacted forcefully to this last one.
On the way out of the Sea of Cortez, we stop in tiny San Ignacio. Literally, it’s an oasis in the desert, with tall, green palm trees and an ancient lava flow. Rocks from that long ago eruption were used to build the mission, which dominates over the town square.
Like Loreto, the historic square has businesses offering kayaking, whale watching tours and other tourist activities. Like Loreto, it is also empty. We saw three visitors on computers in an Internet café and a woman and her dog at the only restaurant that was open. The eatery served any taco you wanted, as long as it was chicken...
San Ignacio is several kilometers off the main highway, which is part of its charm. But you have to wonder if it will survive or end up like the many abandoned buildings that line the highway that once housed businesses catered to tourists. Now, the structures and fading signs are being consumed by nature.
Next, we return to Baja California and the wine-making region of Valle de Guadalupe. And, for the record, if I do any wine tasting, it will only be in the pursuit of a story.
I leave you with a video of the calm waters at Bahía Concepcion. Whenever I need a mental health break in the middle of the day, I now know where to turn.