Baja California, Mexico. One of the most famous divers to ever strap on a scuba tank, Jacques Cousteau, has called this area “the aquarium of the world.” And so it is – the most diverse undersea location ever – anywhere. Here what lies beneath astounds, startles and shocks with marine life so rich and varied that Baja and its islands have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But for now, let’s start above ground – with the city of La Paz and the delightful CostaBaja Resort & Spa.
This southern tip of Baja California, Mexico is one of the most scenic, accessible, and safe (yes, safe!) destinations in North America. And while many visitors head straight to Cabo San Lucas, the real hidden gem is La Paz, founded in 1535, and the CostaBaja Resort & Spa, of a much more recent vintage.
La Paz is a delightfully relaxed city on the shores of the Sea of Cortez, with miles of beautiful bay front and a long malecón (waterfront walkway); its name translates to “the peace,” and relates beautifully to the subdued ambience of the place – thus a perfect setting for the CostaBaja Resort, a 5-star, 115-room property. The guest rooms include private, furnished balconies with views of the marina, surrounding mountains and the Sea of Cortez. There’s a palm-fringed pool, an adjacent kids’ pool, and a fitness center with a roof-top lap pool, as well. The Marina has 250 slips and offers the closest proximity to the Sea of Cortez.
In addition to a fine Gary Player Signature Golf Course, its restaurant, Steinbeck’s, takes its name from the prize-winning author who penned the book, “The Log from the Sea of Cortez,” from his 6-week boat expedition in 1940. Weddings celebrated here overlooking the sea can be dream-like and the CostaBaja wedding staff is dedicated to fulfilling that dream. Icing on the cake: guests of the Resort have exclusive use of a private beach club – elegance personified. I particularly enjoyed the Club’s unique in-pool cooling loungers and a sugar-white sand beach that goes on forever – very cool indeed. The next night I decided to sample Steinbeck’s wine-tasting dinner with some unique and memorable dishes: a roasted beet salad and a savory black bean and shrimp soup, each dish accompanied by a variety of wines – all Mexican, all superb; the Casa Madero Cabernet was a standout.
For my last day I knew I could not leave before spending time on the water experiencing the sea and its startling marine life. To help me do just that: the Cortez Club, a 5-star dive center offering a wide range of aquatic activities including scuba diving, sport fishing, and whale watching. I was thrilled when I learned I’d have the chance to see whale sharks, the largest known living fish species that can grow up to 66 feet and weigh 30+ tons. My two guides, José and Javier, said that if I was lucky I’d have the chance to swim with up to a dozen of these mammoth beasts. For once I was happy to be unlucky – quite content to peer over the edge of the boat and watch them swimming about – but not with me! We visited a sea lion colony and on the way saw a sight I’ll never forget – a humpback whale breaching – flying skyward, almost completely out of the water, spinning airborne and then plunging back into the sea. My good guides and I – all with cameras in hand – failed to capture the shot but, hey, we saw this phenomenal sight. What more can you ask?
This wondrous whale quite effectively brought my Sea of Cortez venture to a colossal close, but just for now. CostaBaja, I’ll be back!
If You Go