Punta Doble, San Carlos, Mexico

Punta Doble, San Carlos, Mexico. Photo by Bob Bowers.

Sitting on the Sea of Cortez, San Carlos offers tourists abundant reasons to visit. Multiple bays, coves and open water provide excellent kayaking for all skill levels. Just twelve miles northwest of the deep- water port of Guaymas, San Carlos is a year-round destination for tourists seeking sunshine and sparkling ocean. Available water sports include swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing, fishing, sailing, boating and kayaking.

The San Carlos/Guaymas tourist area

Surrounded by rugged, cactus-covered mountains and lying along numerous bays, coves, inlets and white-sand beaches, San Carlos is strikingly beautiful. This wide variety of water, which also includes a protected estuary, makes San Carlos an excellent choice for all levels of kayakers. Although San Carlos is more tourist- oriented, nearby (and larger) Guaymas also offers good reasons to visit. Together, the two towns provide wonderful restaurants, fresh seafood, and a variety of outdoor activities, including birding, hiking, biking and golf, as well as water sports.

Kayaking in San Carlos

Kayaking choices, which can be combined into longer outings, include:

  • San Francisco Bay
  • San Carlos Bay
  • Punta Doble
  • Playa Algodones
  • Estero Del Soldado

Kayaks can be rented from El Mar Dive Center, on the bay side of the main street, just west of popular Rosa’s Cantina. The English-speaking partners at El Mar will direct you to convenient entry points on San Francisco Bay as well as other locations, even if you have brought your own kayak. Double kayaks are available at El Mar for $45 U.S. for a 24-hour rental, including life jackets, paddles and kayak delivery/pickup at your entry point. For an additional $7 U.S., they will also move the kayak from one entry point to another, giving you access to multiple locations during the same day.

Kayaking San Francisco Bay in San Carlos

The main business stretch of San Carlos, from the entrance near the Fiesta Real Hotel to the Marina San Carlos, lies along Ensenada San Francisco (San Francisco Bay). This is a large, relatively placid body of water screened from the rougher water found along the western shoreline. Consequently, it is an ideal area for beginning and less-adventurous kayakers.

San Francisco Bay to San Carlos Bay

Following the shoreline southwest, you can kayak out of San Francisco Bay and around (or through) a rocky cliff Punta Las Cavas (Cave Point) that leads to a small bay where the Marina Terra Beach Club is located. An eroded hole through the cliff adds some excitement and a short cut into the adjacent bay.

After crossing the mouth of the Marina Terra Beach Club bay, another point is encountered with a second, narrower tunnel into San Carlos Bay, where the main San Carlos marinas are located.

Kayaking Punta Doble to Mirador

Continuing across the mouth of San Carlos Bay and around Punta Doble to the west, one encounters more chop, more wind and more power boats, and beginning kayakers could find this challenging. The water is generally less rough in the morning, before afternoon breezes kick up, and staying closer to the shoreline usually means easier kayaking as well.

After coming around Punta Doble, a series of beautiful small coves and inlets mark the coastline to El Mirador, the popular sunset viewpoint that towers 175 feet above the ocean. Mirador is about a six mile paddle from the mid-point of San Francisco Bay.

Kayaking along Algodones Beach and beyond

From Mirador, kayakers follow the coast around the point and past an azure resort bay to Marina Real. The beautiful white sand Algodones Beach sweeps north of the marina, past The Premier Vacation Club and The San Carlos Plaza Hotel to the Paradiso Resort. Although this is called a bay (Bahia Los Algodones), it has the look and feel of the open ocean. Low surf breaks along the beach and Baja California lies eighty miles across the sea to the west.

From the Paradiso Resort, where Venado Island lies offshore, the coastline continues north past the village of La Manga and beyond. Kayakers should note that strong breezes prevail here, an area popular with wind surfers.

Kayaking Estero Del Soldado

The Soldado Estuary is a protected area at the east end of San Francisco Bay. Access is available behind the Pilar Condominios, just south of the entrance to San Carlos, or at a gated entrance along the Delfinario road, which runs between the main San Carlos road east of town and Guaymas. The estuary consists of mangrove islands and a maze of shallow waterways. Kayaking is easy and relaxing, and the estuary is popular with birders. Kayakers should be aware of tides, however, since low tidewater can drop to non-navigable levels.

San Carlos, an appealing tourist destination for many reasons, offers a broad range of kayaking experiences in a spectacularly beautiful setting.