SAN CARLOS, Mexico - About an hour-and-a-half drive from Sonora’s capital of Hermosillo, there’s a hidden gem right by the ocean.
It’s not California, and it’s not the South of France -- it’s San Carlos, a pristine, beautiful bay and beach within the port city of Guaymas, and it’s one of Sonora’s best kept secrets.
From Phoenix, it’s only six hours away by car.
During our visit to Hermosillo, we decided to check out San Carlos, not really knowing what to expect.
We knew about the bursts of violence that have rocked Mexico in the last few years and we’d also had heard about the kidnappings and the robberies. But on this day all went smooth and what we found was magical -- a stunning eco-habitat filled with some of nature’s most beautiful creatures.
We rented a boat and took a tour of the bay, enjoying the quiet and serene waters.
All of a sudden, we started seeing something popping in and out of the water. It was dolphins. The captain told us a pod of about 30 call San Carlos Bay home. These beautiful animals kept getting closer and closer to our boat -- so close, there was a moment where it looked as if they were looking up at us from underneath the water. The captain told us they are used to humans, which is why they’re not afraid to go right up to the vessels.
There are about 7,000 residents year-round, with many Americans and Canadians living in San Carlos during the winter.
Here, they can go fishing, scuba diving or just relax on the beach.
Back in Hermosillo, I asked Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich about San Carlos and why people should visit.
“The highways are monitored, there are first-class hotels, there’s tons of places to stay," she said. “Listen to those who’ve visited.”
And apparently, many people are visiting. Although I wonder if ultimately that’s a good thing. This place is truly beautiful, still relatively small and unspoiled by the masses.
PHOTOS: San Carlos Bay
Regardless, Hermosillo offers several other vacation spots, not just San Carlos. And while concerns for safety and security are understandable, Pavlovich said all you have to do is talk to someone who’s visited and, perhaps, you can begin to understand that just a few hours away from Phoenix, lies a beautiful paradise waiting to be discovered.
“Talk to those Arizonans who’ve crossed the border, who go to Rocky Point, to San Carlos, to Kino and Hermosillo," she said. “We have so much to offer. If you come, you’ll see that much of what is said isn’t true.”