Isla San Francisco
One of my favorite places that we’ve visited since we went into the Sea of Cortez has been Isla San Francisco. The water is beautiful, there are two amazing hikes, and great snorkeling spots. Isla San Francisco is definitely a must stop while you’re in the Sea of Cortez.
Isla San Francisco has one of my favorite hikes ever. There are actually two hikes and they aren’t too difficult, but also not too easy, and you get a beautiful view the whole way up. I highly recommend bringing a camera. On the north-eastern part of the beach, you can hike over the sand dune and across the salt flat towards the trail you should see snaking upward toward the ridge line (5-10 minutes). You then hike your way up a short and steep hill to a crossroad. The path to your right will take you, with some scrambling and hiking, to a beautiful vista at the south-eastern ridge of the island, with another steeper trail coming down the ridge back to the beach (30 min - 1 hour). The trail to your left, leads to a more gentle hike up along the rocky ridge, giving you a beautiful view of both bays. The trail then winds down and takes you to the beach facing the eastern anchorage. When you are done exploring the rocks in the water that are filled with sea life (30 min - 1 hour). You can hike back to the main anchorage through the salt flats (15 - 20 minutes).
Snorkeling and Spearfishing
Isla San Francisco also has great snorkeling. The first one to check out is on the northern point of the bay entrance. The water around the whole point can be shallow with large rocks for the fish to hide in. This means you can get right up to the fish without having to dive down (which hurts my ears). These rocks are full of Damsels, Sargent Majors, Angel Fish, little Jacks and so many other beautiful fish. If you’re looking for some fish to spear for dinner, however, this spot did not have many good eating fish when we were there.
The second snorkeling spot is in the south-eastern corner of the island near the framework light tower. The water was a bit colder in this spot, and the visibility wasn’t great with the water being quite green, but there are plenty of fishes swimming around to check out. If you want to spearfish, this snorkeling spot has tons of trigger fish swimming around that make great ceviche. This is also where I speared my first fish!
Anchoring in Isla San Francisco is, in itself an easy straight forward process on a nice sandy bottom. The SW anchorage we chose is large with plenty of room for plenty of boats. Unfortunately, that may be what you find; plenty of boats. On our trip there, there was a handful of cruising boats, couple of 100 ft yachts and even a 300 ft super yacht! We had no problem finding a spot and didn’t feel at all crowded. If the weather allows, and the anchorage is too crowded for your liking, the SE anchorage looks like a pretty great alternative, although I read reports that it can get rolly due to its exposure to the open sea.
In the SW anchorage with a forecast for westerly winds we were well protected in the perfect crescent bay. The island around the anchorage is quite low except to the north, so the wind is going to get in, but waves are held back. This means you get a nice calm night with enough wind to keep the temperature down and the bobos (pesky little flies) away.
When approaching the anchorage, be sure to give the southern point plenty of room. It shallows up quickly and the bottom is a conglomerate of large boulders that get close to the surface. The northern edge also has a lot of boulders but it is much deeper at the entrance to the bay. Stick to the middle and you’ll have plenty of water.