Mexico – Cruising the West Coast of Mexico
By Captain Mark Drewelow
FROM 14 42 north to 32 32 north, the coast of Mexico dominates the mid latitude, Eastern North Pacific waters. Its coastline contains several weeks of world class cruising either on the way to San Diego while northbound, or after departing San Diego southbound. From Bahia’s Huatulco National Park in the south, to Isla Guadalupe Marine Biosphere Reserve in the North, Mexico has a broad range of natural beauty and culture to experience.
Mexico has a European influenced history dating back to the early 1500’s at which time it became part of the Spanish Empire when claimed by Cortez. Mexico is the second most populous Catholic nation behind Brazil and is ethnically diverse. Mestizos (a mix of European and Amerindian) and Amerindians make up about 90% of the population which is the most populous Spanish speaking country in the world. The remaining 10% is a mix of Caucasian European and other world regions.
Mexico is one of 18 mega diverse countries with over 200,000 different species, and is home to 10–12% of the world’s biodiversity. Mexico contains 707 known species of reptile, 438 species of mammals, 290 species of amphibians, and 26,000 different species of flora. There are 34 reserve biospheres, 64 national parks, four natural monuments, 26 areas of protected flora and fauna, 17 sanctuaries and four areas for natural resource protection.
Formalities for entry are simple requiring the standard set of documents (crew and guest list, registry, clearance from last port, letter of authorization for the Captain, proof of insurance) with normal agriculture and customs inspection. Immigration does require that visas are issued in advance for certain controlled nationalities. It is illegal to carry firearms into Mexico on a yacht. When southbound, in advance secure a Mexican fishing license for everyone aboard. Policy in Mexico from port to port can change, and it is always best to check port specific arrival details well in advance with an agent. The time frame for Mexican cruising is dictated by hurricane season, May 15 to November 30. Some insurance companies prohibit entry into Mexican waters during these months. The traditional winter cruising begins December 1st with yachts departing San Diego southbound to Cabo San Lucas. Northbound yachts arrive in Mexican waters during January or February, after spending time in Costa Rica and Panama, and arrive into San Diego by early to mid May. The winter and spring months offer clear skies, moderate high and low temperatures, and except for a few locations, mostly calm seas.
There are a few areas of concern regarding weather. The Gulf of Tehuantepec has frequent gales from the Northeast during the winter months while the Sea of Cortez can have strong winds or gales out of the North during the same time period. Another location that needs mentioning is Cabo Corrientes to the west of Puerto Vallarta where wind and sea are enhanced.
The northbound passage from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego can frequently be with headwinds the entire distance. All areas of concern have good forecasting and the prudent Captain will see a situation developing a few days in advance.
There are a number of ports that have good provisioning, bunkering, and a nearby airport that can handle a private aircraft. From year to year, most of the local infrastructure and businesses ashore that cater to yachts in these areas expand and improve. The major locations listed from south to north are: Bahia’s Huatulco, Acapulco, Zihautenejo, Ixtapa, Manzanillo, Barra De La Navidad, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, and Ensenada.
The coastline and inland Mexico have a broad range of sights to satisfy many interests. From the desert shores of Baja, to the peaks of the Sierra Madre de la Sur towering to 5700 meters, there are scattered cities, towns and villages. Some of these cater to tourists, while others seem untouched by the outside world. From the great metropolis of Mexico City to the tiny seashore fishing village on Baja, the people are warm and friendly.
Natural wonders and sea life are plentiful. The uncommonly beautiful beaches of Bahia’s Huatulco are sure to impress. Socorro Island and the Revillagigedos are famous for world class diving with clear water and large schooling sea animals. The Grey Whale migration along Pacific Baja will amaze. Fishing in the Sea of Cortez is sure keep the keen angler entertained while cage diving with Great White Sharks at Guadalupe Island will thrill and terrify everyone aboard. Mexico is a coastline that should not be missed. From cultural enrichment, to abundant sea life, to a multitude of activities for the sportsman, this is Mexico, something for just about everyone. The coast is populated with ports, marinas, and anchorages that have well established infrastructures to handle visitors. On the way to or from San Diego, be sure to make multiple stops in Mexico and allow enough time to enjoy all the festivities, food and sights that she has to offer.