San Carlos, Mexico
Located in the Gulf of California, San Carlos is a popular resort community situated within the Mexican port city of Guaymas. Encircled by rocky cliffs and a mountainous desert backdrop, San Carlos’s orange landscape dramatically contrasts with the turquoise blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. Just 4 hours away from the United States border in Arizona, San Carlos is a popular destination for retired Americans, many relocating to community for months of the year to escape the northern winters.
San Carlos is also becoming a popular port of call for cruise liners. From deep-sea diving and snorkelling to kayaking and fishing, much of the fun to be had revolves around spending time out on the crystal clear waters of the Sea of Cortez.
There are also plenty of opportunities for visitors to indulge. Whether it’s a fresh seafood feast, cocktails in beachside cabanas, or a game of golf at the many country clubs, the varied activities available mean that despite largely being a retirement settlement, San Carlos is anything but sleepy.
San Carlos is located on the Sea of Cortez, also referred to as the Gulf of California, about 420 kilometres from the United States border at Nogales. Visitors arriving to San Carlos by cruise ship will dock at the commercial and industrial port of Guaymas, located approximately 10 kilometres to the south east of centre of San Carlos.
Guaymas Port can accommodate vessels up to 300 metres in length along its 200 metre-long and 10 metre-wide pier. Inside the terminal building there is a restaurant area, several shops and Internet and phone access.
How to Get Around
A taxi or bus is the best way for visitors to get to from the port at Guaymas to San Carlos along one the two major arterial roads, The Serdan and Highway 15 that run through the city. Taxis can easily be hailed outside the port complex. Buses to San Carlos also leave from the central market in downtown Guaymas, which is approximately a 30-minute walk along The Serdan from port.
Depending on travel plans, renting a car or booking organised shore excursions may be the best way to see multiple attractions in and around San Carlos as many of the best beaches and tourist attractions are spread out.
Travel times from the port:
- It is a 20 minute journey to the San Fernando Church.
- It is a 24 minute journey to the Dolphin Aquatic Centre
- It is a 32 minute journey to San Carlos Marina
- It is a 40 minute drive to Mirador San Carlos.
- Currency - Like the rest of Mexico, San Carlos uses the Mexican Peso. Coins are available in 50c, MXN$1, MXN$2, MXN$5 and MXN$10 denominations and notes come in MXN$20, MXN$50, MXN$100, MXN$200 and MXN$500 denominations.
- Time Zone - San Carlos runs on Mountain Standard Time (MST), which is 7 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
- Weather - San Carlos experiences a hot desert climate with dry weather throughout the year. A typical January maximum temperature is 23.9 degrees Celsius, while during July, the average day time high can be expected to reach 35.5 degrees Celsius.
- Mirador San Carlos - Ranked number 1 in National Geographic’s best ocean views around the world, at this lookout, expect to have sweeping panoramic views of the desert and the ocean. It’s also a perfect vantage point to spot dolphins and whales in the Sea of Cortez. The jagged twin peaks of the Tetakawi Mountain are a major landmark in the region and are particularly spectacular at sunset.
- Guaymas Pearl Farm - Farmed from the Sea of Cortez, the one-square hectare Guaymas Pearl Farm produces around 8,000 pearls each year, including the iridescent pearl, which is among the world’s largest and most valuable. There is a gift shop on site and because you are buying direct from the manufacturer, quality pearls can be purchased at very reasonable prices.
- Horseback Riding - See the location where the movie ‘Catch 22’ was filmed, with visitors able to choose to ride along white sand beaches or through the Sonoran desert. Horse riding tours usually range between 1-4 hours in duration.
- Diving and Snorkelling Tours - Gary’s Dive Shop is the largest local dive shop in San Carlos and runs a large number of nature cruises, diving tours and fishing and snorkelling expeditions out of the San Carlos Marina. Whales and sea lions can often be spotted swimming in the Sea of Cortez and dive tours that visit Seal Island are especially popular.