Scuba diving

The Sea of Cortez

The Sea of Cortez (also called the Gulf of California) is a unique ocean environment formed millions of years ago when Baja California slid westward due to geological activity in the San Andreas fault.

Not quite tropical, but distinctly warmer than the cool waters of the U.S. Pacific Coast, this 1000 mile, long sea is home to an incredible menagerie of fishes and invertebrates. San Carlos environs have over 800 species of fish, 400 species of shell, as well as 3,000 species of marine animals - a truly unique compilation found nowhere else in the world.


Few marine habitats are any match for the numbers of fish that swim these clear and usually calm waters. Although lacking the coral reefs familiar to Caribbean and Indo-Pacific divers (except for some reefs in the southern portion), this dearth is more than accounted for by an amazing diversity and abundance of maritime life. The Sea of Cortez has been described as one of the eight premier dive locations in the world.

Sea lions

Eels and Octopi

An article by Daniel Stolte

A mountain rises in front of me - its slopes are covered in a dense thicket of shrubs I have never seen before. These "trees" are not plants at all but animals, and their branches are not green but yellow.

I’m diving at a seamount just a few miles off the shore from San Carlos, and the strange forest around me is black coral. As I take closer look, I discover that each branch is dotted with clusters of tiny polyps, waving their bright yellow tentacles into the current to filter out nutrients.I let myself sink down to the sandy bottom. A stingray flutters up from the sand with rapid, undulating wing beats. After a short glide, it touches down and covers itself with sand until only its watchful eyes tell of the creature that is hiding here.

Jacques Cousteou was so mesmerized by the rich marine life and biological diversity of the Sea of Cortez that he called it ''the aquarium of the world." This sea boasts more endemic species – animals and plants that occur only here - than any other body of water in the world. 6,000 species are known to call the Sea of Cortez their home, but scientists are certain that the actual number of specie is closer to 9,000!

While out on a boat on the way to one of the many local  dive sites you might be lucky enough to see a Blue whale. You are more likely to see a pod of Orcas or dolphin. These frequently race alongside the boat, jumping and flipping and spinning through the air.

An hour boat ride will get you to Isla San Pedro Nolasco, Where you will be greeted by the excited barking of Calfornia Sea Lions (Lobos del Mar), eager to play with snorkelers and divers.


Sometimes you can see one or more of the five species of sea turtles that occur in the Sea of Corte. In the fall you might get real lucky and see Hammerhead sharks. In the summer the mighty but harmless Whale Shark (Tiburon Ballena) are seen grazing plankton on the surface.

Nudibranchs and flatworms

Fishy friends

Odd shaped swimmers

Mantas and rays

Everything else

Local Dive Shops

El Mar Diving Center
SSI Dive shop
480-833-2971 US
Main street in San Carlos

Gary's Dive Shop
PADI Dive Shop
866-356-1236 US
Main street in San Carlos

Ocean Sports
SSI Dive Shop
520-887-2822 US
In the marina