San Felipe is blessed with lots of wind. There is rarely a day when we do not get at least a 5 m.p.h. steady breeze, however some times of the year are much better than others. here is a brief sysnopsis of conditions:
Winter (mid November through early March) - periods of very strong wind
Winds are predominantly from the North from around 9 a.m. through late afternoons. Typical wind speeds are in the 5-8 mph range. If Santa Ana conditions develop over Southern California (high pressure building over the Southwest USA) then it gets very windy in San Felipe. The Santa Ana conditions last for 2-4 days at a time and may follow one another at weekly intervals. These are the days when we can get 15-30 mph north winds for several hours at a time, sometimes they rage all through the night. Light breezes start at sunrise but may reach 10-15 mph by mid-day. They will blow strong and steady till late afternoon and often into the night. The sea is choppy and covered with wind-driven waves that can be 2-3 ft high. During very strong Santa Anas, wind gusts in excess of 30 mph occur and the sea is extremely rough with sand-filled breaking waves at the edge. This can be a time when a lot of beach erosion occurs. During the December-February period, water temperatures hover between 60-65 F.
Kitesurfers off the beach near the Marina Resort.
Winds 15 m.p.h. from the North. Sea 62F
Our weather station (see the weather page) gives a graph of the wind conditions over the past 24 hours.
Winter is the time of year when the town is taken over by snowbirds from Canada and the Northern states. In general, they have mobile homes and RVs and occupy the trailer parks that are in the wind shadow of the mountains surrounding the town (see the map below). Hotels are almost empty even on weekends and you can get some good bargains. One thing to remember is that you need to be away from the town center in order to get good wind. It is therefore a big advantage if you stay at places south of the harbor. The Marina resort and the condominiums at Las Palmas are good choices (see our Accommodations section in the Business Guide) - you have the beach at your doorstep and you also get good wind here. These are locations where you can get a good room with a hot shower for when you are chilled from a day out on the water. The wind is also more or less parallel to the shore which allows you to get good runs without having to tack way out into the bay.
The beaches north of town also get good wind but it is more directly on-shore. There are many campgrounds along the north shores but you will not find hotels on the beach. You will also have to cart your equipment down the cliffs to the water.
The beaches south of San Felipe are also great for wind sports. You need to go at least as far south as Bahia Santa Maria in order to get away from the wind shadow of the mountains at Punta Estrella. Watch for submerged rocks! The road south of San Felipe is good as far as Puertecitos, and there are campos catering to retirees all along the coast along this road. You can go to any of these campos and, provided you are courteous, you will be welcomed and will have no problems launching windsurfers. Boats are another matter. There are no good launch spots until you get down to Puertecitos (80 km south of San Felipe).
Spring (March - May ) - lighter winds
Winds moderate and become North to East. Again, the strong winds are caused by the developing of high pressure over California and we get Northerly breezes that will reach 10-15 mph during these episodes that tend to last around 3 days. When low pressure forms over California, then San Felipe tends to be quite calm but much warmer. Sea temperatures rise from the mid 60's to around 72F during this time. Town is crowded on weekends and there are a lot of ATCs that roar up and down the bay beaches on weekends.
Summer (June- September) - baby winds, except when storms come
Warm and humid. Sea temperatures rise to around 90F by August and the typical winds (also 90F) are out of the East at 5-10 mph in the late mornings to mid-afternoons. The sea has a gentle chop with occasional whitecaps. In late afternoons (4 p.m.) there is a sudden shift of wind and it blows strongly from the south for a couple of hours. This is a very dry wind and the air temperature may shoot up over 100F for this period. Out on the water it is no problem but sailors should be aware of this sudden switch in direction - it occurs fast, often shifting from East to South in under 10 minutes, then blowing quite a gale. Beach people have to grab their umberellas and bags and rush to their hotels to avoid being sand-blasted. Mornings can be dead calm and intolerably humid so you can plan to sleep late. You definitely need accommodations with air conditioning for sleeping during this season.
Hobie Cat close to shore in the bay, very light afternoon winds from the East. Punta Estrella is in the distance. Sea 90F
Late September brings the hurricane season. Low pressure centers move from the Pacific over the Baja peninsular and into the Sea of Cortez. This can result in big swells and significant on-shore winds. Watch our weather page for imminent storms. When it rains it pours and we do have flooding in town and also on the highways across the desert to Mexicali. After any major rainfall in this region watch out for water pollution.
Autumn (October - mid-November) - increasing wind
Fall is a very short season here. Generally it is clear, cloudless and relatively calm. Days start calm and easterly breezes pick up in the late morning. Typical conditions are to see 5 -8 mph breezes from mid-morning through late afternoon. Good for light sailing but not for extreme sports. Water temperatures cool rapidly from their summer highs to the mid 70's. Camping out along the beaches south of town is a good option.
The map below shows the typical situation when we have North winds. The area of the bay close to town is well protected from these cold, dry, winds (which is the reason that the town sprung up where it did). When the winds are from the East, the winds are generally moderate and pleasant. The bay is then a great place for Hobie Cats and windsurfing.
Boat launching. There is a boat launch ramp, shown below, next to the south breakwater of the harbor in San Felipe. It can handle pangas, Hobies and small craft that can be backed down the fairly steep ramp. Cost is about $8 dollars per operation. Check at the Singlar office or click on the website link for Fonatur below.
There is no crane facility in the San Felipe area for lowering larger hulls into the water. Ramps (fee charged) also exist at the El Cortez Hotel and at Club de Pesca (for guests only). The low spot in the terrain between the Marina Resort and the Las Palmas development (Estero de las Jaibas) used to be an access point for four wheel drive vehicles to tow Hobies and Skidoos from the road to the flat sandy beach for launching. This access point has now been blocked by construction and the placement of large boulders.
A small yacht marina has now been constructed in the harbor (picture below). San Felipe will also become one of the ports of the "escalera nautica" - the nautical ladder that will place new yacht marinas every 200 miles or so around the coast of the Baja peninsular and the eastern shore of the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California). This project is a priority in the Mexican government plan for bringing more tourism from the U.S.A. For facilities and current fees, see the Fonatur website here..>>
As noted above, there are no other launch ramps between San Felipe and Puertecitos. On the south beaches there are frequently steep drop-offs at the water's edge and backing in a trailer over the soft sand can be hazardous. Check with the residents at a campo to see if there are any locally safe areas. Also note that the coast gets quite rocky as you proceed further south. Puertecitos has a small sandy bay with a ramp that is sheltered from the wind and wave action. On the Gulf side of the small peninsular at Puertecitos (very rocky shore) you will find the hot, sulfurus, hot springs. At high tide, when the sea water mixes with the spring waters, the temperatures can be very pleasant. There is a nominal charge to enter the campo at Puertecitos. You will need some sort of footware to climb ovet the volcanic rocks to the springs.
North of San Felipe are the booming campos where retirement development is rampant. There are no good launch spots for boats in this area at this time.
The San Felipe region is not a great area for scuba diving because of the generally turbid waters. The bay and sandy beaches tend to have a lot of silt and clay carried down from the Colorado delta over thousands of years. If you can get out to deep water then there is much better visibility, but this will generally mean hiring a panga for a day which can be expensive. Further south, around Puertecitos, the coast becomes rocky and diving conditions are much better. Note that there is no approved facility for filling air tanks in San Felipe.
Last update 12/03/09