overlooking the sea of cortez from a field of cacti on a sunny day in baja california
Sandstone rock in foreground with a small expedition ship in the background on a sunny day in Baja during a Sea of Cortez small ship cruise.
group of adventure travelers in a zodiac skiff watch a dolphin jump out of the water on the whales and wildness spring in the sea of cortez small ship cruise
tails of two humpback whales sticking out of the blue water of the sea of cortez on a sunny day in baja california
sea lion starts to dive underwater in the sea of cortez on a sunny day in baja california with land in the distance
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North America Baja California Cruise

Exploring the Sea of Cortez: A Living Sea & Desert Isles

Cruise Baja, California, in April and December, a prime season for this stunning landscape. The 8-day Exploring the Sea of Cortez: A Living Sea & Desert Isles cruise includes a National Geographic crew with more than 25 years of experience in the region. Experience the best that Baja has to offer and take advantage of the consistently calm waters that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. In December and April, air temperatures are warm but not too hot and the occasional rains bring forth colorful cactus blossoms. 

Watch whales and dolphins from the deck of the 100-passenger National Geographic Venture. Activities for many levels, like hiking, kayaking and Zodiac rides, are the perfect way to view myriad seabirds and whales up close. Best bets are fin, sperm and Bryde’s whales, but other possibilities include the great blue whale.

Take advantage of the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Certified Photo Instructor on board every departure, to provide help to beginner and intermediate photo enthusiasts. Special Photo Expeditions feature award-winning photographers that have graced National Geographic pages. These special Photo Expeditions are designed expressly to move at a photographer’s pace so that you can take advantage of some of the most photogenic places on the planet.

Miles of uninhabited beaches and desert are ripe for exploration, with possible sightings of rare desert birds and endemic species. Swimming and snorkeling are great options to view reef fish and playful sea lions. This unique Baja small ship cruise is designed with a flexible itinerary, adding a stimulating sense of adventure to each day.

Read on for details about this trip, or learn more about AdventureSmith’s Baja cruises and Baja trips.


Exploring the Sea of Cortez: A Living Sea & Desert Isles Itinerary

This 8-day Baja California cruise begins and ends in Loreto, Baja, visiting islands, remote coves and a marine park.

Route map of Exploring the Sea of Cortez: A Living Sea & Desert Isles cruise, operating round-trip from Loreto with visits to Isla San Esteban, San Pero Martir, Isla San Marcos, Isla San Jose, Bahia Loreto Marine Park, Los Islotes & Isla San Francisco.
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Day 1
Arrive Loreto, Baja & Embark

Fly into Loreto and transfer to the ship to set sail on the Sea of Cortez.


National Geographic Venture



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Days 2 - 7
Exploring the Sea of Cortez

This cruise’s routing is designed with flexibility in mind, to maximize opportunities for wildlife sightings and includes the islands listed below, although the order may vary:

Islas San Esteban & San Pedro Martir: 
Enjoy a walk up a desert wash to search for desert birds and the endemic pinto chuckwalla, a harmless desert lizard. Later, visit Isla San Pedro Martir, a 1,000- foot-high, guano-covered island that is home to thousands of seabirds, including blue-footed boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, pelicans, frigatebirds, Brandt’s cormorants and California sea lions.

Isla San Marcos:
At Isla San Marcos there is a beautiful shoreline for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Again in rich whale waters in the afternoon, near the mouth of Bahía Concepción where there are excellent possibilities for sighting several species of dolphins – with common and bottlenose dolphins being the most frequently encountered species.

Isla San José:
One of the larger islands in the Sea of Cortez, San José offers several landing possibilities depending on conditions and the whim of the moment. Photograph the ochre cliffs of the island’s eastern shore, hike an enchanted, cactus-laden arroyo and visit the abandoned salt works to the west. Snorkel with sea lions and discover rare wildlife among desert islands.

Bahía Loreto Marine Park: 
Search for whales in the waters south of Isla Carmen, an area that has proven to be one of the best for finding blue whales and bottlenose and common dolphins. Visit one of the islands of Bahía Loreto Marine Park, with ample time for kayaking, snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding and possibly hiking, and enjoy a beach barbecue under the desert sky.

Los Islotes/Isla San Francisco:
At Los Islotes, snorkelers have one of life’s great opportunities—swimming with graceful and curious sea lions. At Isla San Francisco, enjoy a leisurely afternoon to swim, kayak or hike. Endemic yellow-footed gulls, brown pelicans and blue-footed boobies are all part of the landscape.


National Geographic Venture


breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 8
Disembark Loreto, Baja

This morning after breakfast, disembark in Loreto where you will have the opportunity to visit the first mission in Baja California as well as the nearby museum to learn more about what makes this town so special. Enjoy free time to explore quaint shops and vibrant side streets. After lunch, transfer to the Loreto Airport for flights home.




breakfast, lunch

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Inclusions, Terms & Notes


Accommodations aboard ship; meals as indicated; non-alcoholic beverages; excursions; services of expedition leaders, naturalist staff and expert guides; use of kayaks and snorkeling equipment; all port charges and services taxes.


Air transportation; voyage DVD; personal items such as alcoholic beverages, emails, etc. discretionary tips to ship’s crew; insurance of any kind.

Payment & Cancellation

In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of $750 is required per person at time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 90 days before the departure date. Special holiday payment and cancellation terms may apply. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person penalties, based on number of days prior to departure:
120 or more days – $350 of deposit retained (may be applied to future trip by trip operator)
119 to 90 days – 100% of deposit
89 to 60 days – 25% of total trip cost
59 to 45 days – 50% of total trip cost
44 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost

Terms & Conditions

This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A Traveler Information Form, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. Your Adventure Specialist will send you a unique link to complete this form along with a packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information upon booking confirmation.

Vaccination Requirement
To join this trip, all eligible guests must provide proof of being fully vaccinated (at least 14 days after your final COVID-19 vaccine shot). There may also be COVID-19 testing or other requirements to participate; your Adventure Specialist will provide details of current policies upon booking.

Arrival & Departure

The Exploring the Sea of Cortez: A Living Sea & Desert Isles cruise begins and ends in Loreto, Baja, California (LTO). Embarkation time on day 1 may vary based upon arrival of group flights from Los Angeles, California (LAX). Disembarkation is after breakfast on day 8 of the outlined itinerary; departure times may vary depending on group flights to Los Angeles, California. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit ourBooking Flights resource page.


Whether you are looking for light activity options or more challenging outdoor pursuits, the ship’s crew can tailor most excursions to suit your skill level. Adventure activities may include hiking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, inflatable boat/skiff excursions, photography, whale watching and wildlife observation.

Room Configuration

In addition to listed Solo cabin rates, select double-occupancy cabins may be available for single occupancy with a single supplement fee. If you would like to share accommodations with another guest of the same gender, we will be happy to try to accommodate you in select cabin categories. This program allows you to pay the per person double-occupancy rate whether or not a roommate is found. Contact AdventureSmith for further details and availability.

Families & Children

Kids under the age of 18 at time of travel save $500, at double occupancy. Skilled staff members are trained in organizing activities that inspire curiosity in young people of all ages. Programming for kids may include activities like photo workshops, journaling, scavenger hunts, Zodiac-driving lessons, hands-on nature and science programming and kid-friendly menu options.

Travel Insurance

Protect your travel investment with insurance. Our partners at Travelex Insurance offer a variety of plans and policies to fit every trip and budget. Coverage for a pre-existing medical condition is also available if you purchase the Travel Select plan within 15 days of the initial trip payment; refer to plan details. Learn more about travel insurance or get a free quote.

Itinerary Notes

Use the itinerary as a guide only. Itineraries may be altered due to weather, wildlife, national park regulation or at the captain’s discretion. The ability to be flexible makes this type of small ship cruising unique. 

Rates & Dates

Cruise Rates & Dates

Rates are variable per remaining availability and are subject to change. Please contact AdventureSmith for the most up-to-date pricing.

2023 departures available. Contact us for rates and to book your space.

See Deals section for details on flexible booking policies.

Apr 11 - Apr 18, 2022
National Geographic Venture • 8 days
From $6820USD
Per Person
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Dec 20 - Dec 27, 2022
National Geographic Venture • 8 days
From $7030USD
Per Person
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Dec 27 - Jan 03, 2023
National Geographic Venture • 8 days
From $7030USD
Per Person
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Learn About the Small Ship on Your Itinerary 

Expedition Ship
National Geographic Venture

The 100-guest National Geographic Venture is a state-of-the-art, purpose-built expedition vessel made for exploring coastal waters, shallow coves and fast-moving channels while sailing with the luxury of supreme comfort.


Current Deals on This Trip

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Offer expires February 28th, 2022
Save 10% On Two Consecutive National Geographic Expeditions

Save 10% when you book two consecutive cruises aboard a National Geographic expedition ship.

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Offer expires February 28th, 2022
Groups Save 5% On National Geographic Expeditions

Save 5% when traveling as a group of 8 or more on National Geographic expeditions in this special deal.

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Offer expires February 28th, 2022
Flexible Cancellation Available Up To 14 Days Before Departure on 2022 National Geographic Expeditions

Book or re-book travel departing by September 30, 2022, aboard the National Geographic fleet of ships, with confidence using these risk-free, flexible policy details.

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Offer expires January 31st, 2022
Receive 2022 Rates for 2023 National Geographic Expeditions

Book now for 2023 savings aboard the National Geographic fleet of ships.

Expert Review

Reviews from Our Experts So You Know What to Expect

Chris Harter • June 1st, 2008
Expert Review: Untamed Baja Cruise with National Geographic

An AdventureSmith Specialist reviews his 8-day Baja and Sea of Cortez expedition with National Geographic guides.

Book with the confidence that comes from experience.

100+ combined years of experience, 7 continents explored, decades of expedition cruising around the world & here to help you find & book your dream trip.

Extend Your Trip

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Experience the best of glamping Baja California Sur, from a secluded seaside camp on a quiet island, to bright casitas in an artistic town and a tented mountainside retreat. Meet excellent naturalist guides, hospitable rancheros, local chefs and more along the way.

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Exploring the Sea of Cortez: A Living Sea & Desert Isles

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