Sandstone rock in foreground with a small expedition ship in the background on a sunny day in Baja during a Sea of Cortez small ship cruise.
group of adventure travelers in a zodiac skiff watch a dolphin jump out of the water on the whales and wildness spring in the sea of cortez small ship cruise
tails of two humpback whales sticking out of the blue water of the sea of cortez on a sunny day in baja california
In Baja, a mobula ray with white underside and gray top side leaps from the blue water surface into the air as if flying.
overlooking the sea of cortez from a field of cacti on a sunny day in baja california
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North America Baja California Cruise

Exploring The Gulf of California: A Living Sea & Desert Isles

Cruise Baja, California, in April and December, a prime season for this stunning landscape. The 8-day Exploring The Gulf of California: A Living Sea & Desert Isles cruise includes a National Geographic crew with more than 25 years of experience in the region. Experience the best that Baja has to offer and take advantage of the consistently calm waters that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. In December and April, air temperatures are warm but not too hot and the occasional rains bring forth colorful cactus blossoms. 

Watch whales and dolphins from the deck of the 100-passenger National Geographic Venture. Activities for many levels, like hiking, kayaking and Zodiac rides, are the perfect way to view myriad seabirds and whales up close. Best bets are fin, sperm and Bryde’s whales, but other possibilities include the great blue whale.

Take advantage of the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Certified Photo Instructor on board every departure, to provide help to beginner and intermediate photo enthusiasts. Special Photo Expeditions feature award-winning photographers that have graced National Geographic pages. These special Photo Expeditions are designed expressly to move at a photographer’s pace so that you can take advantage of some of the most photogenic places on the planet.

Miles of uninhabited beaches and desert are ripe for exploration, with possible sightings of rare desert birds and endemic species. Swimming and snorkeling are great options to view reef fish and playful sea lions. This unique Baja small ship cruise is designed with a flexible itinerary, adding a stimulating sense of adventure to each day.

Read on for details about this trip, or learn more about AdventureSmith’s Baja cruises and Baja vacations.



Itinerary

Exploring The Gulf of California: A Living Sea & Desert Isles Itinerary

This 8-day Baja California cruise begins and ends in Loreto, Baja, visiting islands, remote coves and a marine park.

Route map of Exploring The Gulf of California: A Living Sea & Desert Isles cruise, operating round-trip from Loreto with visits to Isla San Esteban, San Pero Martir, Isla San Marcos, Isla San Jose, Bahia Loreto Marine Park, Los Islotes & Isla San Francisco.
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Day 1
Arrive Loreto, Baja & Embark

Fly into Loreto and transfer to the ship to set sail on the Gulf of California.

Accommodations

National Geographic Venture

Meals

dinner

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Days 2 - 7
Exploring The Gulf of California

As writer and longtime Lindblad naturalist Stewart Aitchison describes it: “The Vermilion Sea—it’s a romantic name that conjures up visions of fiery sunsets, leaping dolphins, and deserted beaches.” It is all this and so much more. This cruise’s routing is designed with flexibility in mind, to maximize opportunities for wildlife sightings and includes the islands listed below, although the order may vary:

Islas San Esteban & San Pedro Martir: 
Walk up a desert wash to search for desert songbirds such as the handsome black-throated sparrow, listen for the cascading song of the canyon wren and search for the endemic pinto chuckwalla—a plump, harmless desert lizard. Later visit Isla San Pedro Mártir, a 1,000-foot-high guano-covered island that is home to thousands of seabirds: brown pelicans, magnificent frigatebirds, Brandt’s cormorants and California sea lions.

Isla San Marcos:
At Isla San Marcos there is a beautiful shoreline for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Again in rich whale waters in the afternoon, near the mouth of Bahía Concepción, be on the lookout for pods of dolphins—with common and bottlenose dolphins being the most frequently encountered species. With luck these beautiful animals may ride the bow wave, sometimes twisting and turning, and sometimes leaping from the water.

Isla San José:
One of the larger islands in the Gulf of California, San José offers several landing possibilities depending on conditions and the whim of the moment. Photograph the ochre cliffs of the island’s eastern shore, hike an enchanted, cactus-laden arroyo and visit the abandoned salt works to the west. Snorkel with sea lions and discover rare wildlife among desert islands.

Bahía Loreto Marine Park: 
Search for whales in the waters south of Isla Carmen, an area offering the possibility of encountering fin whales, which researchers have recently concluded may be part a resident population. Bottlenose and common dolphins are frequently encountered. In the afternoon, visit one of the islands of Bahía Loreto Marine Park, with ample time for kayaking, snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding and possibly hiking. In the evening, enjoy a beach barbecue under the desert sky.

Los Islotes/Isla San Francisco:
At Los Islotes, don your provided flippers, mask and snorkel, and swim with curious sea lions. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon to swim, kayak, or hike at Isla San Francisco. Look skyward for yellow-footed gulls, brown pelicans and blue-footed boobies.

Accommodations

National Geographic Venture

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 8
Disembark Loreto, Baja

This morning after breakfast, disembark in Loreto where you will have the opportunity to visit the first mission in Baja California as well as the nearby museum to learn more about what makes this town so special. Enjoy free time to explore quaint shops and vibrant side streets. After lunch, transfer to the Loreto Airport for flights home.

Accommodations

n/a

Meals

breakfast, lunch

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Details
Inclusions, Terms & Notes

Included

Accommodations aboard ship; meals as indicated; non-alcoholic beverages; excursions; services of expedition leaders, naturalist staff and expert guides; use of kayaks and snorkeling equipment; all port charges and services taxes. Gratuities for all departures of National Geographic Explorer, Orion, Endurance, Resolution, Sea Cloud, Jahan and Lord of the Glens. Complimentary beer & wine on National Geographic Venture, National Geographic Quest, National Geographic Sea Lion, National Geographic Sea Bird, with a complimentary full bar on all other ships (2023); beer, wine & full bar (2024).

Exclusions

Immigration fees; air transportation; extensions; meals not indicated; reserve wines & premium spirits; gratuities for all departures of Delfin II, Endeavour II, Islander II, Venture, Quest, Sea Bird and Sea Lion; personal items such as emails, laundry, voyage DVD, etc.; and insurance of any kind.

Payment & Cancellation

For expeditions departing prior to January 1, 2024:
In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of $750 is required per person at time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 90 days before the departure date. Special holiday payment and cancellation terms may apply. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person fees, based on number of days prior to departure:
120 or more days – $350*
119 to 90 days – 100% of deposit
89 to 60 days – 25% of total trip cost
59 to 45 days – 50% of total trip cost
44 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost

*$350 USD will be credited in the form of a Lindblad Expeditions Travel Certificate, valid for 12 months from the date of cancellation, and which only may be applied towards final payment on any future booking.

For expeditions departing January 1, 2024 onward:
In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of 15% of the total trip cost is required per person at time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 120 days before the departure date. Special payment terms apply for groups of 8 or more; inquire for details. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person fees, based on number of days prior to departure:
120 or more days – 100% of deposit**
119 to 90 days – 50% of total trip cost
89 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost

**Advance payments will be credited in the form of a Lindblad Expeditions Travel Certificate, valid for 12 months from the date of cancellation, and which may only be applied towards final payment on any future booking.

Terms & Conditions

This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A Traveler Information Form, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. Your Adventure Specialist will send you a unique link to complete this form along with a packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information upon booking confirmation.

Vaccination Requirement
To join this trip, all guests 5 years and older must provide proof of being fully vaccinated (at least 14 days after your final COVID-19 vaccine shot). There may also be COVID-19 testing or other requirements to participate; your Adventure Specialist will provide details of current policies upon booking.

Arrival & Departure

The Exploring The Gulf of California: A Living Sea & Desert Isles cruise begins and ends in Loreto, Baja, California (LTO). Embarkation time on Day 1 may vary based upon arrival of group flights from Los Angeles, California (LAX). Disembarkation is after breakfast on Day 8 of the outlined itinerary; departure times may vary depending on group flights to Los Angeles, California. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit ourBooking Flights resource page.

Activities

Whether you are looking for light activity options or more challenging outdoor pursuits, the ship’s crew can tailor most excursions to suit your skill level. Adventure activities may include hiking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, inflatable boat/skiff excursions, photography, whale watching and wildlife observation.

Room Configuration

In addition to listed Solo cabin rates, select double-occupancy cabins may be available for single occupancy with a single supplement fee. If you would like to share accommodations with another guest of the same gender, we will be happy to try to accommodate you in select cabin categories. This program allows you to pay the per person double-occupancy rate whether or not a roommate is found. Contact AdventureSmith for further details and availability.

Families & Children

Kids under the age of 18 at time of travel save $500, at double occupancy. Skilled staff members are trained in organizing activities that inspire curiosity in young people of all ages. Programming for kids may include activities like photo workshops, journaling, scavenger hunts, Zodiac-driving lessons, hands-on nature and science programming and kid-friendly menu options.

Travel Insurance

Protect your travel investment with insurance. Our partners at Travelex Insurance offer a variety of plans and policies to fit every trip and budget. Coverage for a pre-existing medical condition is also available if you purchase the Travel Select plan within 15 days of the initial trip payment; refer to plan details. Learn more about travel insurance or get a free quote.

Itinerary Notes

Use the itinerary as a guide only. Itineraries may be altered due to weather, wildlife, national park regulation or at the captain’s discretion. The ability to be flexible makes this type of small ship cruising unique. 

Rates & Dates

Cruise Rates & Dates

Rates are variable per remaining availability and are subject to change.

Apr 10 - Apr 17, 2023
National Geographic Venture • 8 days
From $7020USD
Per Person
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Dec 20 - Dec 27, 2023
National Geographic Venture • 8 days
From $7380USD
Per Person
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Dec 27 - Jan 03, 2024
National Geographic Venture • 8 days
From $7240USD
Per Person
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Dec 14 - Dec 21, 2024
National Geographic Venture • 8 days
From $7480USD
Per Person
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Dec 21 - Dec 28, 2024
National Geographic Venture • 8 days
From $7750USD
Per Person
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Dec 28 - Jan 04, 2025
National Geographic Venture • 8 days
From $7750USD
Per Person
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Accommodation

Learn About the Small Ship on Your Itinerary 

Expedition Ship
National Geographic Venture

The 100-guest National Geographic Venture is a state-of-the-art, purpose-built expedition vessel made for exploring coastal waters, shallow coves and fast-moving channels while sailing with the luxury of supreme comfort.

Deal

Current Deals on This Trip

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Offer expires April 30th, 2023
$350 Air Credit On Exploring The Gulf of California: A Living Sea & Desert Isles Cruises

Book your select Gulf of California cruise and join a National Geographic crew aboard the 100-passenger Nat Geo Venture. Receive a $350 air credit today!

Expert Review

Reviews from Our Experts So You Know What to Expect

Chris Harter • June 1st, 2008
Expert Review: Untamed Baja Cruise with National Geographic

An AdventureSmith Specialist reviews his 8-day Baja and Sea of Cortez expedition with National Geographic guides.

Book with the confidence that comes from experience.

100+ combined years of experience, 7 continents explored, decades of expedition cruising around the world & here to help you find & book your dream trip.

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Exploring The Gulf of California: A Living Sea & Desert Isles

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