The Guaymas Pearl Farm
One of the most popular excursions in the Guaymas area is a trip to the Perlas del Mar de Cortez pearl farm. These pearls are grown in the indigenous rainbow lipped pearl oyster, Pteria sterna. Depending on a combination of genetics and foodstuffs, these pearls can range from a silvery grey and gold to black, green, blue and lavender.
This pearl farm is the first in the region that shows the possibility of continued commercial success and has stirred a lot of excitement. Begun in 2004 as an offshoot of research at ITESM, the company was subsequently acquired in 2005 by investors. The company now produces approximately 5000 pearls per year and these gems are considered to be some of the finest in the world.
Free, guided (in English) tours are available to the public hourly from 9am to 2pm on weekdays and from 9am to 11am on Saturdays. The farm is located in front of ITESM at Bacochibampo Bay. For those that want to bring home some pearls (and a lighter wallet), there is a retail outlet that is open 9am – 4:30pm Mon-Fri and 8:30am – 11am Sat. The store is located within the ITESM campus in the main building CECARENA.
The Estuary – Estero el Soldado de Cortes
Located east of San Carlos is Estero el Soldado, a mangrove lined estuary that provides a sheltered rookery for larval development of many of the prized species of San Carlos. This estuary’s calm waters provide for excellent kayaking.
Roads of varying quality exist around the estuary, but the most surefire route is by taking the road to Pilar Condominiums, and continuing past as the road curves to the left. Here you will see a parking area and mangrove trees ringing the western tip of the estuary with several nice areas to get to waters edge. The mouth of the estuary can be reached from the parking area by walking along the beach east from Pilar. Tides move a lot of water through this narrow channel, so caution should be exercised in wading, but there can be a lot of good beachcombing in the area.
The estuary is a focal point for birdwatching in San Carlos. Egrets and herons can be seen gracefully striding along the shore, plunging their beaks into the water in search of the abundant juvenile fishes. Boobies and sand striders gather at the mouth of the estuary as the water rushes past, and pelicans will gather in great flocks throughout the estuary – usually taking frantic flight, then splashing down a few feet from where they started.
Hiking, Mountain Biking and Horseback Riding
There are various opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and other “outdoorsy” pursuits in the San Carlos area, but most activities that are more strenuous than a stroll on the beach will be limited to October through May as the summer heat can be oppressive.
A favorite short hike is up Teta Kawi “mountain”. The signature landmark of San Carlos, this can be a short but strenuous hike. Taking 1-2 hours to climb to the 1300 foot summit will result in spectacular views, but take care along the route, as several improvised alternate trails have sprung up, and the last 200 feet can be downright treacherous. An unfortunate development project has begun at the base of this striking symbol of Sonora, so access to these trails in the future may be uncertain.
Nacapuli canyon is a small oasis north of San Carlos that is an unusual foothills thornscrub community dotted with palm trees, Brahea brandeegei . Accessible on foot, horseback, or most commonly by mountain bike, Nacapuli canyon is worth the effort to get there. The odd juxtaposition of a lush, semi-tropical canyon at the base of rugged mountains, sandwiched in by arid desert is odd indeed. It is made all the more unusual when a short scramble up the rocks will give views of the Sea of Cortez. Recently overtaken by partiers, Nacapuli is in dire need of a cleanup.
Various operations in San Carlos provide rentals of mountain bikes, horses, ATV’s and lead guided tours if desired. Jeep tours and naturalist walks are also popular activities and provide an excellent overview of what the region has to offer.