Scuba Diving Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point)
Wonderful camping areas, condos and hotels, there are great sites for open water training, coves, islands and a wealth of exotic marine life
Puerto Peñasco is a city and municipality located in the northwest of the Mexican state of Sonora, about 100 km from the border with the U.S. state of Arizona. It is located on the small strip of land that joins the peninsula of Baja California with the rest of Mexico and is located at the very north end of the Sea of Cortez.
Since the 1990s, there has been a push to develop the area for tourism, as it is already heavily visited by people from Arizona and California. Puerto Peñasco is often called “Rocky Point” in English, and has been nicknamed “Arizona’s beach” as it is the coast closest to the major cities of Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma, and many Arizonans spend weekends here. Condos and hotels are readily available as is a beach camping area.
Many residents here are American, most restaurants offer menus in English, and most businesses accept U.S. dollars.
During non-diving hours there is plenty to do in and around Rocky Point. Miles of gently sloping beaches lend themselves to serious beach coming and tide pool exploring when the tide is out. Other water activities include water skiing, parasailing, sport-fishing charters and sunset cruises. All-terrain vehicles can be rented for use in the sand dunes and on the beach.
SCUBA DIVING PUERTO PENASCO
Only 200 miles (322 km) southwest of Phoenix and the same distance west of Tucson, Rocky Point is the closest and easiest-to-reach saltwater scuba destination for Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.
Diving and snorkeling at local or remote sites in the Puerto Penasco area are as popular off the beach as by boat.
Tidal ranges are a consideration in Rocky Point shore diving. Beach entries are timed to coincide with high tides, as the periodic change in depth often measures 15 feet (5 m) or more. (Please note that the tide in Puerto Peñasco rises and falls every 6 hours).t As the flood tide reaches the northern end of the gulf there is no place for it to go and the restricted flow piles up on itself. With the delayed ebb, significant outgoing currents sometimes develop in exposed areas.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS
Sandy Beach Camping Area
The most popular of several beach sites frequented by U.S. dive center groups. Instructors set up a staging area just steps from a protected cove. Walk-in entries are easy and safe. At high tide, depths in the cove range from 3 to 20 feet (1 to 6 m), perfect for skill evaluations and students’ first exposure to saltwater diving. Just outside, the sand and rock substrate slopes gradually to 40 feet (12 m). Diverse Cortez sea life, especially invertebrates such as nudibranchs, sea stars, sea cucumbers and spiny urchins, entertain students as they acclimate in non-threatening ocean conditions.
Rocky Point Bluff
For certified divers and advanced training, the boulder-strewn face offers an exciting shore entry. Typically, scuba divers ride the outgoing tide past undulating sea fans and tropical fish swimming nonchalantly against the current. Spiny lobsters, jewel morays, roughjaw frogfish and Gulf octopus peer back at curious divers from their boulder sanctuaries. Near-shore visibility commonly peaks at near 25 feet (8 m).
Bird Island (Isla San Jorge)
Located 25 miles (40 km) southwest along the coast, this tiny island is home to 3,100 California sea lions, the largest colony in the Sea of Cortez. Barely three-fourths of a mile long and one-fourth of a mile at its widest point, its entire 150-foot (46-m) height is painted in the white guano of resident sea birds. Visiting boaters are serenaded by the continual squawking of boobies, pelicans and tropic birds accentuated by barking sea lions, in contrast to the relatively silent underwater ballet of the graceful marine mammals.
At Guano Pass Cove, snorkelers enjoy the fun as much as divers. Sea lions, especially the pups, cavort with visitors on the surface and underwater, seeming to gain as much pleasure from swooping in and darting away as the slow and awkward humans do from being teased.
Underwater, the island slopes to a depth of 60 feet (18 m), its rocky shoulders covered with white, red, orange and yellow sea fans. Nudibranchs are plentiful and common fishes include sergeant majors, yellowtail snapper, Mexican barracuda, Cortez angels, chub and various species of triggerfish, wrasse and damsels. Visibility can reach 60 feet (18 m) but averages 30-40 feet (9-12 m). Near Bird Island is a sea mount that drops to 130 feet (40 m), which is diveable only on calm days.
DIVING SEASON: Summer is peak diving season, but winter is a good time to experience temperate-water diving and still remain comfortable out of the water.
VISIBILITY: Near-shore visibility commonly peaks at near 25 feet (8 m). Near Bird Island visibility can reach 60 feet (18 m) but averages 30-40 feet (9-12 m). .
WATER TEMPERATURE: During the summer, surface temperatures hit a toasty 82F. It’s still cold enough below the thermocline that most divers opt for full 3mm wetsuits. In winter, surface water temperatures drop to 61 or 62, so you’ll need a 5mm or 6mm full wetsuit with hood and gloves.
WEATHER: Temperatures can soar to 110F in summer, but the average is more like 95F. In the winter, expect daytime highs in the low 70Fs. The sky is usually cloudless and the sun intense, so don’t forget the sunscreen.
MARINE LIFE: Yellowtail and grouper are more plentiful in the winter and spring. Deep-water migratory fish such as dolphin and marlin arrive in summer and fall. The invertebrate population stays more or less constant throughout the year. Whale watching season is January through March.
More information on Sea of Cortez
More information on Mexico
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