Thankfully, CostaBaja’s sustainability isn’t atypical; the city’s dearth of natural resources means that, unlike the case in Cabo and other high-end tourist magnets, any new developments must have a viable sustainability plan.
It was almost enough to persuade me to try golf. But my abbreviated schedule afforded only one full day in town, and I was determined to spend that exploring the Sea of Cortez.
On a bright, sunny morning, I met up with Fun Baja, the tour operator based in the CostaBaja marina, for a six-hour trip out to Espiritu Santo, a small archipelago composed of five smaller islands that serve as bird rookeries and the 60-square-mile main island, a playground of cliffs, mangrove-fringed lagoons and small sandy beaches.
The ride out passed in a blur of whitewater caps breaking in front of the boat, the ridge of the mainland gliding off to the right in concentric sine and cosine waves. As we broke from the mainland and headed toward Espiritu Santo, the sun started to warm my skin.
We glided into a small cove sheltered from the unruly sea. In the distance lay Ensenada Grande, an unpopulated stretch of beachfront. We unlatched open-water kayaks from the boat’s front deck and took them to the beach, along with the chef, a robust Paceño with a warm smile.
We returned to the open water, motoring for 10 minutes to Isla Partida, a small isle that’s home to a huge population of sea lions. They were everywhere, basking in the midday sun, swirling in the breakers, eyeing us with mild curiosity. The sound of their barking was sonorous and deep, surprisingly loud.
Our guide, Lorenzo, jumped into the water first, and we all followed. The cold water was bracing — at first I regretted not wearing one of the provided wetsuits. But soon all else was forgotten as we swam into groups of playful sea lions, keeping a smart distance from the massive bulls.
Lorenzo executed long, agile dives, coaxing the pups to twirl around him in a playful dance. I attempted the same, and stayed down until my lungs started to scream.
The pups paid me considerably less attention, so I headed toward a narrow arch carved into the towering rock. As I swam beneath it, the clear water became a brilliant blue. It felt as if I was swimming under the vaulted ceiling of an aquatic cathedral.
Then we returned to the postcard beach, where the chef had prepared a simple meal of white fish tacos with a sour cream cilantro sauce served with rice and lime. Ice-cold Sol Beer went down far too easily.
The remaining two hours were ours. I plied the waters on a stand-up paddleboard, then hopped into a sea kayak and explored the cove’s porous walls, spotting puffer fish and candy-red sally lightfoot crabs.
On our way back, a pod of dolphins spotted our boat and played in the surf at the ship’s prow, surfing in the whitewater before diving back into the deep.
As we turned toward the harbor and left the dolphins to more natural distractions, I turned my face into the sun, closed my eyes, and thought about the day that had passed, and about what John Steinbeck had written about La Paz in his nonfiction book, “The Log From the Sea of Cortez”:
“It would be good to live in a perpetual state of leave-taking, never to go nor to stay, but to remain suspended in that golden emotion of love and longing; to be loved without satiety.”
The book was published in 1951, but those words still reflect today’s La Paz, from the calm waters off its shores to the mellow parade of locals on the Malecon each evening to the brilliant taste of the chocolate clams that I’d experience just hours before flying home.
Details, La Paz, Mexico
Borchelt is a Washington-based travel writer and photographer.