Popular since the 1950s, recreational boating remains one of the most pleasurable ways to experience Baja’s marine environments. Some people cruise all the way down from California, following the path of John Muir; but the vast majority haul their boats down the peninsula via Mexico 1 and launch from one of Baja’s many well-developed marinas. The Sea of Cortez offers safer conditions and more protected places to anchor than the exposed Pacific coast, which gets pounded with big swells and high winds. Types of recreational boats suitable for use in Baja vary from lightweight car-toppers and inflatables to large trailered boats and multimillion-dollar mega-yachts.
Charlie’s Charts: The Western Coast of Mexico (Including Baja) is a compilation of all U.S. nautical charts from San Diego to Guatemala, updated with anchorages, boat ramps, hazards, and fishing and diving spots. The 11th edition is available in many U.S. marine supply stores and from the company’s website (www.charliescharts.com ).
Other options include waterproof, tear-resistant, double-sided plastic charts published by Fish-n-Map (U.S. tel. 303/421-5994, www.fishnmap.com , US$8 per sheet) and Gerry Cruising Charts (U.S. tel. 520/394-2393, US$32–55). Gerry Cruising Charts also has tide tables for the Pacific and Gulf coasts.
Several Baja towns have port captain’s offices, where you must check in upon arrival by boat. These include Ensenada , Guerrero Negro , Bahía Magdalena  (San Carlos), Cabo San Lucas , San José del Cabo , La Paz , Puerto Escondido, Loreto , Mulegé , Santa Rosalía , Bahía de los Ángeles , and San Felipe . You don’t need to check out each time, except when leaving your port of origin.
Several full-service marinas are open year-round in Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, San José del Cabo, La Paz, Puerto Escondido (south of Loreto), and Santa Rosalía. Bring extra fuel containers in case you need to ask for fuel at a boatyard or fish camp when a marina is not in range.
Marine supplies and places for repairs are hard to come by in Baja. Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, and La Paz are your best bets. Bring plenty of spare parts.
The owner of Baja Coast SeaFaris has compiled a thorough list of FAQs for novice and experienced sailors that covers topics related to cruising in Baja at www.bajaseafaris.com/cruise.html .