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Winter sun: 3 warm weather destinations

3 of 3 3/3

Sea of Cortez

The Sea of Cortez, the 700-mile-long body of water between the Baja California Peninsula and Mexico’s mainland, “is a fabulous charter destination for many reasons,” says Ben Lyons, CEO of EYOS Expeditions. “First, it is one of the most amazing spots, anywhere, for marine mammal watching. The abundance of cetaceans of all sizes — from pods of hundreds (or even thousands) of dolphins to wonderful encounters with blue whales — is overwhelming and a must for anyone exploring Baja California by luxury yacht.

“Also, the desert landscape stretches right to the sea, producing a beautiful contrast of cactus and sand dunes with brilliant blue sea. And, of course, it is relatively unknown as a charter destination, so you won’t find yourself crowded in by other yachts.”

Begin and end your seven- to 10-day charter in La Paz, suggests Lyons. The city “offers easy air connections and facilities on shore; the more remote and wild destinations are only a short sail away; and it is infinitely more relaxed and welcoming than Cabo San Lucas.”

From La Paz, Lyons recommends setting a northerly course, first visiting Isla Espíritu Santo, which has lovely bays, protected beaches and rich marine life — an ideal place for kayaking, swimming and snorkeling, as well as hiking on desert trails. From here, proceed to uninhabited Isla San Francisco’s long beaches, which also offer swimming, walking and kayaking opportunities.

Then venture farther up the Sea of Cortez to Isla Santa Catalina, says Lyons, where cactus forests provide an opportunity for a morning leg stretch and the nearby waters beckon to be explored via kayak or snorkel. “And amid it all, keep your binoculars at hand while simply cruising these rich waters in search of its abundant sea life,” he adds.

*When to go: *“December can be a bit windy, so January to April offers the ideal mix of temperature, weather and wildlife,” says Lyons, because summer can be too hot and fall misses the annual grey whale migration. “Visitors then would miss out on the experience of possibly getting up close and personal to some of the friendly grey whale calves that return each year to certain lagoons.”

*What to do: *Snorkel or dive with curious California sea lions at Los Islotes, north of Isla La Partida, recommends Lyons. “They are playful and energetic, often swimming right toward snorkelers before veering off at the last second. Their underwater grace is beautiful to watch, and often, if you blow bubbles, you may find they come and play in them.”

*Must-see spot: *Many visitors spend a day or two in La Paz on either side of their trip, says Lyons. “The malecon, a tiled walkway along the shore, is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.” Walk or jog along its approximate three-mile length, checking out the sculptures that adorn it, and then pause for a beer and people watching.

Picture courtesy of iStock.com / Sam Camp

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