San Carlos

Long considered an extension of Guaymas, this resort town—on the other side of the rocky peninsula that separates Bahía de Bacochibampo from Bahía de San Carlos—has a personality of its own. Whitewashed houses with red-tile roofs snuggle together along the water where countless yachts and motorboats are docked. The town is a laid-back favorite among professional anglers, golfers, and the time-share crowd, as well as wealthy Mexican families from Hermosillo and Chihuahua. There are several good hotels, as well as two marinas and a country club with an 18-hole golf course.

The overlapping of desert and semitropical flora and fauna has created a fascinating diversity of species along this coast. More than 650 species of fish exist here, and the marlin and sailfish keep the charter sportfishing business healthy. Dolphins and pelicans frequent the bays, as do blue and gray whales and orcas. The water is calm and warm enough for swimming through October. Scuba, snorkeling, and fishing are popular, too.

The quiet 5-km (3-mi) stretch of sandy beach at Los Algodones, where the San Carlos Plaza Hotel and Paradiso reside, was in the 1960s a location for the film Catch-22. (In fact, it's still called Catch-22 Beach on many maps.) San Carlos lies in the shadow of the jagged twin-peak Tetakawi mountain, a sacred site where native warriors once gathered to gain spiritual strength. The Mirador Escénico , or scenic lookout, is the best place in San Carlos to view the Mar de Cortés. Take the steep road up here for a great photo op or just to get an idea of the lay of the land. While you're here you can browse the numerous trinket and souvenir stands set up every day. Just north of the Mirador is Zorro Cove, a great place to snorkel. An interesting day trip (by boat) is the pristine Isla de San Pedro Nolasco, an ecological reserve where sea lions claim the rocks.

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