Though the area is best known for wind sports, there is an activity for just about every weather condition: Calm seas mean short boat rides and good visibility for snorkeling or diving; windy days are good for sails—or a hike. Big swells are an excuse to head to the Pacific side to catch some waves.
Windsurfing and Kiteboarding
Windsurfers discovered the ideal conditions at La Ventana in the 1990s, but in recent years, the rising popularity of kiteboarding has brought many more adventure-seeking travelers to the area. Kiteboarders say La Ventana is one of the best places in the world to learn the sport, because the shoreline of the bay curves around to catch those who drift downwind on white-sand beaches.
Experienced windsurfers say the wind at La Ventana isn’t as strong as at Los Barriles but it tends to be more consistent. The wind typically picks up around 11 A.M. and holds steady until just before sunset.
Several schools certified by the International Kiteboarding Organization (IKO) rent gear and offer lessons for windsurfing and kiteboarding. (They’ll also come get you if you have trouble staying upwind.) Radio-assisted lessons are a great way to get minute-by-minute coaching. The student wears a waterproof helmet system, and the instructor gives directions from the shore. Watercraft-assisted lessons are another option for beginners. “Downwinders,” offered by many of the schools, eliminate the need to worry about staying upwind. Take a shuttle ride to the north end of the bay and enjoy a two-hour sail back to camp.
One of the first to set up shop in the early 1990s was Captain Kirk’s Windsurfing (U.S. tel. 310/833-3397, www.captainkirks.com), with headquarters in San Pedro, California. The shop also rents several vacation homes, ranging from US$60–300 per night. For example, there is a two-bedroom home with kitchen (US$275/night) and a casita with two double beds and bath (US$160/night). Rentals come with free use of mountain bikes, sea kayaks, and snorkeling equipment. Breakfast is included. A windsurfing or kiteboarding gear package is US$65 per person per day. Other activities include stand-up paddling and yoga.
With headquarters in Hood River, Oregon, the New Wind Kite School (U.S. tel. 541/387-2440, www.newwindkiteboarding.com, Nov. 15–Mar. 15) offers lessons for new and experienced kiteboarders (US$216–280/day, depending on the number of students; US$85 for a 1.5-hr session). Custom instruction runs US$89 per hour for one person, with a two-hour minimum. Board rentals cost US$39 per day, kite-only rentals are US$70 per day, kite and bar rentals are US$89 per day, and a full setup goes for US$119 per day. This school also has a beach house next door, Casa del Sol (beachfront suite US$150/night, courtyard room US$105/night, rates include tax). Store your gear and use the air compressor to inflate your kite for free.
British Columbia–based Elevation Kiteboarding School (Canada tel. 604/848-5197, www.elevationkiteboarding.com) offers private lessons for CDN$115 per hour (two-hour minimum), a full day (about four hours) for CDN$325 per person, and multiday kiteboarding camp packages. The school is located at Baja Joe’s Resort.
Sheldon Kiteboarding (U.S. tel. 707/374-3053, www.sheldonkiteboarding.com) maintains summer headquarters in Rio Vista, California, and winter headquarters at La Ventana. Owner Bruce provides beds and mattresses for camping, plus a shared kitchen, and bath with a hot-water shower. Bring your own sleeping bag. Bruce offers lessons, equipment, and repairs.
Baja Adventures at Ventana Bay Resort (tel. 612/128-4333, www.ventanabaykiteboarding.com) is a full-service operation that provides equipment rentals and lessons. It replaces its rental gear each season, selling the previous year’s equipment at reduced prices. Kiteboarding equipment is the latest lines from North Kites. You can also rent K2 full-suspension mountain bikes from the shop.
South of the campground, Kitemasters (www.kitemasters.com) offers six hours of lessons for US$600 or US$85/hour. Student use radio helmets and NAISH gear.
Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, and Spearfishing
Palapas Ventana (tel. 612/114-0198, www.palapasventana.com) has a certified PADI dive shop on-site that leads guided trips to Isla Cerralvo year-round. The 26-foot super-panga has a four-stroke engine and takes up to six divers per trip. Trips cost US$125 for a two-tank dive, including all gear and lunch. Snorkelers pay US$50, including all gear and lunch. Boats depart at 7:45 A.M. and return at 3 P.M. Scuba certification packages are available (six days/five nights for US$679 pp, min. three people). Captain Tavo is a shark fisherman and dive instructor. Several of the windsurfing and kiteboarding resorts dabble in scuba trips as well.
The small reef in La Ventana Bay provides a good introduction to the underwater life in the area. Watch for urchins during entry/exit and keep an eye out for the local frogfish on the reef. The best snorkeling from shore is at Las Arenas reef, a 20-minute drive. Follow BCS 286 east through Los Planes and turn left at the airstrip, before you reach Bahía de los Muertos. Follow this road about a mile, past several guard stations, until you reach an abandoned hotel at the coast.
For a more adventurous day of snorkeling, accompany researchers on a day of whale-shark observation in La Paz Bay (US$75 pp). Boats depart from the Costa Baja Marina near Pichilingue, north of La Paz. The drive along BCS 286 and the bypass around La Paz takes about 45 minutes from La Ventana. Palapas Ventana can arrange your trip.
For those who want to catch their dinner, Palapas Ventana offers spearfishing instruction and guided trips. Students learn to identify edible fish and test their aim on an underwater target (US$50 pp from shore, US$85 pp by panga).
Stand-up paddling has come to La Ventana, and you can rent or borrow gear at several shops along the bay, including Captain Kirk’s, Casa Verde, and Palapas Ventana, where rentals cost US$10 per hour or US$30 all day. Guided tours cost US$40 for three hours.
The waters surrounding Isla Cerralvo, Bahía La Ventana, Punta Arena de la Ventana, and Bahía de los Muertos offer more consistent fishing than Bahía de La Paz and the islands near the city. Many charters will drive BCS 286 from La Paz and launch at Punta Arena or Los Muertos, rather than traveling by boat across the choppy water. The Canal de Cerralvo is known for roosterfish and pargo colorado January–July and for marlin and dorado in the summer months. It is also a world-class spearfishing destination. The 88 bank area off Cerralvo is known for marlin, dorado, and yellowfin tuna.
Sportfishing with Lalo (tel. 612/114-0335, cell tel. 612/151-9921, www.fishlalo.com) offers fly-fishing, live bait, and trolling services. Run by Captain Nono, HOOKUP offers trips aboard a 23-foot (US$200) or 26-foot panga (US$250). Boats depart at 6:30 A.M. and return at 3 P.M., or earlier upon request. Contact Palapas Ventana (tel. 612/114-0198, www.palapasventana.com) for reservations.
You can launch small boats easily from the beaches at Bahía de la Ventana, Punta Arena, and Bahía de los Muertos. Fishing licenses cost US$15 per day.
In winter green sea turtles nest along the bay, and lucky visitors might catch the hatch on a full moon. Leatherback turtles nest later in the spring. Nesting areas are marked with hand-painted signs that give a zone number and read Cuida Los Nidos (Protect the nests). Nests are marked with tape. Needless to say, do not disturb them.
Inquire at Palapas Ventana about a six-mile loop trail to see a 1,500-year-old cave painting of a yellowfin tuna and wahoo. Your guide will point out palms, birds, and native plants along the way, and you’ll learn about the mining history of El Sargento. The trip takes about 4.5 hours and costs US$45 with a two-person minimum.
A shorter hike begins in a canyon just west of El Sargento, called Las Canoas Arroyo. Vegetation includes wildflowers and cacti. You might also spot gray foxes, iguanas, and many types of birds. Inquire at Palapas Ventana for directions and/or a guide (US$25 pp, two-person minimum).
Get a relaxing Swedish massage from Teresa or Marcela at Palapas Ventana (US$45 for one hour, reservation required), or book a massage, body wrap or mani/pedi at the new Spa Verde (tel. 612/114-0214, www.laventanaspa.com), located at Casa Verde. A 30-minute massage is US$25.
Several businesses in town arrange Spanish classes, cooking classes, and other group activities. Stop by the offices at Casa Verde, Palapas Ventana, Captain Kirk’s, or any of the kiteboarding schools to find out what’s going on during your stay.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition