Bahia de Kino is on the Sea of Cortez about 100 km (62 mi) from Hermosillo in the state of Sonora, Mexico. The tourist economy booms during the summer when residents of Hermosillo flock to the beaches to escape the extreme desert temperatures inland.
There are two distinct towns here. Old Kino (Kino Viejo) is a fishing village. While it has a few motels and at least one RV park, it is not where most tourists stay or play. The new village (Kino Nuevo) is a strip of (wonderful) beach about a mile further down the highway. Here the beach is lined with villas and low-rise condos. The winter tourists are gringos and summer tourists Mexicans from Hermosillo. The new part of town is very comfortable for gringos and very safe. The old part has good old-style simple restaurants and basic shopping. No supermarkets or Walmarts here!
About 6,000 people live in Bahia de Kino (2010). The economy is based primary on fishing and associated services. During the winter a small but vibrant population of Americans and Canadians - mostly retired - live in RVs and modest homes in Kino Nuevo and Kino Viejo.
The coast and hinterlands are all part of the traditional territory of the Com Ca'ac/Seri people. At the beginning of the 20th century small groups of Mestiso fisherman - mainly from Baja - would camp intermittently on the northern end of the long beach. Visitors to the area in the 1920s report that there were two semi-permanent settlements; one at the north end of the beach and another at the present-day location of Kino Viejo. In the mid-1950s the dirt track to Hermosillo was replaced by a paved road. A rich aquifer was discovered at about the same time about 25 km (15 miles) inland. Bahia De Kino has been growing steadily ever since.
Bahia de Kino's sandy beach is one of the town's attractions. The beach is easily accessed every block via public access ways. To the south of town is the Santa Cruz estuary/lagoon then the coastline veers to the west to Punta San Nicolas. To the north west of town the coast is an interesting mix of rocky headlands and sand/gravel coves. Views of Isla Tiburon to the west abound. Interesting peaks with magnificent views all the way across to Baja dominate the landscape to the east and north. To the south flat desert scrubland continues all the way southeast to Estero Tastiota about 64 km (40 miles) away.
Topographic maps are available from the INEGI (the Mexican equivalent of US Geographic Survey) offices in Hermosillo.
Flora and fauna
Many birds nest in Bahía de Kino during the spring and summer. Birds often encountered include: Brown Booby, Blue-footed Booby, Frigate Birds, Brown Pelican, and Orioles. Alcatraz Island is protected and it is against the law to set foot there due to the unique population of birds, which is continually being monitored and studied. You can most effectively view the bird population from a boat. During nesting season, especially, please be careful to avoid disrupting the birds.
Bahía de Kino is part of the Sonoran desert. Winter temperatures are pleasant though winds from the north can make things feel chilly. Strong winter winds can be a concern in December, January and February. Mid-October to mid-November as well as March and April are ideal times of year to visit. Summer - July, August, September - is hot and surprisingly humid. An air conditioned room is a must during those months.
Like every city in Mexico, Bahía Kino has bus service that will take you wherever you need to go. The bus runs approximately once every hour in each direction from sunrise till sunset. The streets are navigable, though often unpaved, so bring your car should you want to explore.
Bahía de Kino has a vibrant new park in Kino Viejo where you can play pick-up soccer, bring the children to a playground, or visit the travelling circus.
Jump off of the pier.
The fishing is fantastic!
Walk the beach.
Talk to fisherman about the health of fish populations and/or hear harrowing tales of making a living off the sea. Better yet, offer to pay their gas and spend a morning out learning about what it takes to be a professional fisher.
Take a kayak/canoe to the quiet waters of the La Cruz estuary, now protected as a RAMSAR site. See Rosette Spoonbills and Reddish Egrets! Ask at Islandia Marina about where to rent kayaks.
Snorkel the north point.
Visit the Seri Museum in Kino Nuevo. Alejandrina, the curator, is very knowledgeable.
Climb the peaks behind town (the view to Baja is worth it).
Visit the protected Midriff Islands (all those islands you see from Kino). They are called "Mexico's Galapagos" for a reason. Ernesto Hinojosa and Cosme Damian Becerra are both excellent guides who speak reasonable English. They can arrange permits through the local CONAMP (park service) offices.
Drive the 26 km (16 miles) to the Seri community of Punta Chueca. Don't be put off by the trash: the Seri have a fascinating story to tell. They (and the Tarahumaras of the Copper Canyon area) are the ONLY indigenous communities not conquered by the Spaniards. The baskets and carvings are excellent. Want to camp on Isla Tiburon? You'll need permission from the Seri Governor's office located near the school.
Visit the Prescott College Center for Cultural and Ecological studies at the end of the road in Kino Nuevo. Come prepared with questions about flora/fauna and local cultures. Resident researchers include a marine mammal specialist, a coastal bird research team, and various fisheries experts. The center has established weekly environmental education classes for kids in the local primary and secondary schools and has helped local kids start ecology clubs in Kino Viejo and Punta Chueca. Everyone at the center is bilingual.
Arrange to spend a day volunteering with the local Grupo Tortugero, a group of local fisherman involved in tagging and monitoring sea turtles in Estero Santa Cruz just south of town. Local conservation at its best!
Visit the fire station. These guys pay to be firefighters/rescue professionals.
Watch every sunrise and sunset.
Ask around in Kino Viejo for Don Shemo, the local hat maker. From him you can buy a beautiful handwoven hat to keep the sun off of your face.
Many vendors sell Ironwood carvings. The Ironwood tree population has been devastated by this cottage industry. Much of what is now sold as Ironwood is actually cheap wood polished black with shoe polish. What little real Ironwood there is has been illegally harvested. The Seri indigenous community to the north of Kino has many Ironwood carvers who go to great lengths to harvest the wood sustainably. Buying directly from them supports sustainable use of this limit resource. Better yet, buy figures made from the local rock - just as beautiful and rock doesn't appear to be in short supply locally.
Seafood is the specialty here. From Ceviche to Tacos de Pescado, you won't run out of options from the sea. Try the chocolate oysters, which you can find with a snorkeling kit, or buy from street vendors such as Terri in Kino Viejo.
La Palapa del Pescador, located in Kino Nuevo is your typical Mexican seafood fare. Try the Filete Seri, a large fillet of whitefish topped with crunchy sauteed vegetables. They offer several types of ceviche and tacos marlin. The restaurant is on the beach with a fantastic view of the sky-blue coast.
Jorges is located on the tip of Kino Nuevo and has spectacular views of the ocean. Try the filete con mojo ajo, a fillet of whitefish smothered with garlic, cilantro and pimiento, or the filete encebollado.
La Placadita deep in the heart of Kino Viejo across from the park and down the street from the internet café, this little taqueria opens at 6PM and specializes in delicious carne asada. On the menu, you will find tacos, quesadillas, and papas. The papas are baked potatoes stuffed with carne asada, onions, and melted queso blanco.
Supertacos is a very good and (like most in Kino Viejo) casual open restaurant. Basic menu: soft carne asada tacos. Chilli macho which is a taco with carne asada, cheese and a green chilli on a lightly grilled tortilla. Carmellos which is like a small carne asada quesadilla. Lorenzos which a hard shell small taco in a bowl shape with lots of meat and cheese. They also have beans and broth served in a small styrofoam cup. The staff and cook/owner are very friendly. The owner speaks English fairly well. They have soda and horchata. Like most restaurants in Kino if you want alcohol it is fine to bring your own. Seems to be open mainly for dinner. Weekday hours erratic.
Mexican Coke in a bottle. You know, the kind made with sugar not high-fructose corn syrup. It's ubiquitous in Mexico and the bottles are reused for decades, so you produce no extra waste by drinking one.
Water out of the faucets is safe but very saline. Better to pick up bottled water.
In Bahía de Kino there are mostly apartment complexes but some hotels exist. Be warned that during Mexican (and US) holidays, getting reasonably priced accommodation might be difficult.
- Hotel Hacienda, Blvd. Guaymas esq. Manzanillo, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A cosy little hotel in old Kino (Kino Viejo) with a relaxed, helpful staff and a nice little swimming pool. Not without its maintenance faults. Within easy walking distance of the beach and restaurants. M$750 (pesos).
- Eco Bay Hotel, Calle Guaymas y Tampico, Colonia Centro (in Kino Viejo), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Beautiful pool and outside lounge area. Rooms are very basic, but clean. Good air conditioning and a comfortable bed. Staff do not speak any English. Single bedroom: M$700, includes breakfast.
Departamentos Santos is an excellent place to become familiar with Kino Viejo and the local flavor. It is as you would expect for an apartment complex off of a dirt road in an underdeveloped city. Don't bring too many expectations and be blown away by the convenience, location, and hospitality of Félix Santos Flores. Félix will make your time pleasant by playing some cumbia and musica norteña while he works on his finances in the courtyard. A double room with cable TV and an A/C will run you M$400. Climb up the steep spiral staircase to the rooftop lounge for an amazing view of the city. There are a couple of pools on the property that you can enjoy.
Local ice is made from local water. People that come from first world countries may get travelers' fever but if you've been outside the U.S, Canada or the U.K. a lot, it will be very unlikely that you get infected.