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Take it to the Sea of Cortez - Boating in Mexico
by Anita Kaltenbaugh

Most boat enthusiasts are unaware how easy it is to travel with a boat to Northwest Mexico. Not by boat, but with boat! Yes, I mean hitching your favorite floating friend to your truck or SUV and hauling it across the Mexican border to the beautiful Sea of Cortez.

Crossing the border with a boat is not as difficult as one may think. In fact, quite the opposite is true; it’s a relatively simple task. To all those gringos who imagine they will lose their boat, wreck their boat or encounter foul play if they cross the border and sail on the Sea of Cortez, we outlined the skinny on how to cross the border with the boat and what to do with it once you arrive in Mexico. Checklist for a boat to cross the border:
  • Current boat registration
  • Title to the trailer
  • Owner’s passport (passport required as of June 9, 2009)
When arriving at the border, stay in the same lanes as any other vehicle. If you see the Green Light at the border, that means keep going nice and slow. If you receive the Red Light, there is room to pull over and they may ask you to pull the cover off the boat, show the boat registration and the trailer title. Very simple and quick as long as you have your paperwork, proper ID and are prepared. Numerous marinas exist in Northwest Mexico; typically larger towns have more than one marina where you can launch, dry dock, and rent a slip by the day, weekend or year. Additionally, most marinas will flush the boat out for around $5 and wash the boat for a small fee. This will clean the saltwater out and get your boat ready to return
back to the States. Puerto Peñasco, San Felipe, San Carlos, Guaymas, Puerto Escondido, Santa Rosalina and La Paz all have marinas on the Sea of Cortez with available slips, water, power, showers, fuel docks and boat launch. Ensenada and Rosarito Beach also have marinas on the Pacific Ocean. The best thing in many of these small villages (besides the clear blue, spectacular Sea of Cortez) is the proximity of the marinas to the condos, hotels and homes. There are not many affordable places left in the world where you can drive your boat in the slip, jump out and head to your condo or hotel, and be door-to-door in 5–10 minutes. Depending on where you are in Northwest Mexico will determine your boating adventure. Depending on the type
of boat, speedboat, sailboat or cruiser will determine how far you can travel. The weather, time of the year and your experience level will also determine what type of journey you embark on.

Regardless, whether you find yourself on a long overnight adventure or a short day trip, floating on the calming waters with the sun in the sky and the clear blue water below you should be on the top of your not to be missed list. One way to cross the Sea of Cortez is to travel from San Felipe to Puerto Peñasco, either direction 73 nautical miles across with full-service marinas in both ports. Depending on the speed of your boat will determine how long it takes you to cross the sea. My experience tells me with a cruiser or a sailboat plan on 6–8 hours across. If you have a speedboat and flat seas you’re looking at 2–3 hours. From either Puerto Peñasco or San Felipe you can head south and explore the Sea of Cortez. Puerto Peñasco to San Carlos/Guaymas will be a little longer trip, roughly 290 miles. Plan a week for this trip (one way) and get ready to take pictures and a journal, and be prepared. San Felipe to La Paz will provide a beautiful long sea journey through Bahia De Los Angeles, Santa Rosalina,
Mulege, Loreto to La Paz. And of course, if you would rather head down the Baja Passage, depart from Ensenada or Rosarito Beach and head south the hole way to Cabo San Lucas. It is exciting how many choices exist for cruising the Sea of Cortez. Obviously, plan ahead, be safe and be prepared.
In my opinion, the worst part about boating is getting off the boat. Leaving the crystal blue waters of the Sea of Cortez is the hardest part, not because of crossing the border with your boat, but merely due to the outrageously perfect weather you just boated in for the weekend and
now have to leave. Actually, besides the heartache that the vacation is over, crossing the border to reenter the USA is very simple. Follow
your standard rules of crossing and be prepared for a few questions from the U.S. border, such as:
  • Who owns the boat?
  • How long have you owned the boat?
  • Did you sleep on the boat?
  • Where did you go in the boat?
Pretty simple. So, if you have a fishing, cruising or fun-loving boat you’ve been hauling around to the lakes, try something new and enjoy the gorgeous waters of the Sea of Cortez with dolphins, sea lions and flying fish. This marine jewel, teeming with life, is a beautiful ocean with plenty of room for everyone.

Happy Boating Amigos!
Frequently asked questions about taking a boat to Mexico: 
What do I need to cross the border with a boat?
  • Boat title and trailer registration
  • Passport (required as of June 1, 2009)

Do I need to have a special vehicle permit to take the boat across the border?
  • No special permit or vehicle registration is needed to go into the State of Sonora or Baja Norte; it is part of the free zone.

Is there any cost to bring my boat into Mexico?
  • No cost or charge—it's absolutely free to enjoy the Sea of Cortez.

Where can I keep my boat once I arrive in Mexico?
Puerto Peñasco
San Felipe
San Carlos/Guaymas
Puerto Escondido
Santa Rosalia
La Paz4 marinas with over 500 slips and full services and fuel
  • Costa Baja Resort & Marina
  • Marina Palmira
  • Marina de La Paz
  • Marina Fidepaz Singular
  • Go to and click on Marina’s link for details on each marina
Rosarito Beach
  • Ensenada Cruiseport Village- over 198 slips full services and fuel provisions,

Is there gas at the marina?
  • Yes, both gas and diesel are available at Puerto Peñasco, San Felipe, Guaymas, San Carlos, Puerto Escondido, Santa Rosalia, La Paz, Ensenada and Rosarito.
Do I need to make a reservation prior to coming down?
  • A reservation can be made by calling any of the marinas; this is suggested for busy weekends.
What happens if my boat has a problem or needs repair?
  • Contact any of the marina’s and they will refer you to a local contact. Always know the VHF channels of the closest marina. A good guidebook will go a long way.
Where do I go cruising on the Sea of Cortez?
  • Anywhere and everywhere; how much time do you have?
  • Day trip to Bird Island (about 30 miles from Puerto Peñasco)
  • Enchanted Islands south of San Felipe
  • Various anchorages around the coast
  • Bahia de Los Angelas
  • Bahia Conception
  • Whale watching (seasonal)
  • Dolphin watching (play some Jimmy Buffet on your boat and watch them appear)

Can I go fishing on The Sea of Cortez?
  • Absolutely, there is more sea life in the Sea of Cortez than anywhere else in the world.
  • Dorado, grouper, flounder to name a few
  • You must have a fishing license (approximately $10 a day or $40 a year)

Do I need to watch the tide charts?
  • Most local newspapers or magazines have a tide chart. It is a good idea to look at one before your trip. Just be aware of high and low tides and reefs close to the shore. Visit or subscribe to the print edition of Mexico Living and receive one monthly.

What do I need to reenter the United States?
  • Passport (mandated as of June 1, 2009), boat registration and trailer title.

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