By Justin Porter Biel

I’m driving along a one-lane road snaking through hills of dry foliage and fifteen- foot tall cactuses. In front of me, black pavement winds through the beige countryside heading out towards the Sea Of Cortez. The contrast in colors; green plants, brown hills, blue sky, and white clouds, causes me to stop and stare. I’m 20 miles southeast of La Paz, but here, the world is uninhabited and wild.

Pavement turns to dirt as I approach the coast. The road narrows and washboards shake the car’s frame. I dodge a group of cows grazing against the roadside, and two wild donkey’s scatter as I drive around a corner too fast. I pass through one security gate, and then another, before arriving at the hotel’s property line.

Rancho Las Cruces is massive and remote, home to 10,000 total acres and 7 miles of private, pristine coastline. I slow down to process the beauty, hoping the tranquillity of untouched nature will settle upon my busy mind.

Out in the Sea of Cortez, I see an idyllic island on the horizon. It’s the Island of Cerralvo, known to the Spanish Conquistadors as the Island of Pearls, and catching sight of it reminds me of this land’s historic past. However, in the Baja, time can feel deceiving. At first glance, not much has changed in the five hundred years since Hernan Cortez landed on this very coast.

Opposite the ocean, mountains rise upwards into the sky. The peaks are bold and steep, a rugged balance to the seas calming tides. The name of this range is traced back to the landing of Cortez in 1535. Believing he had discovered an island, the famous conquistador planted three crosses, baptized the land, and named it Santa Cruz.

This rich history comes full circle as I approach the heart of Rancho Las Cruces. There, atop a large hill, at the meeting point of sand and sea, are replicas of the three crosses. I continue towards check-in, under the shadow of the crosses, passing haciendas with white walls and red roofs. There’s a private beach leading to turquoise water, and on the sand sits lounge chairs, volleyball nets, sea kayaks and paddleboards.

Upon arrival, I’m invited to dine at the restaurant for lunch. It’s situated on the southern end of the resort, offering picturesque views of the sea. I sit inside to escape the heat, eating underneath a painting of a Spanish general, above an ornate, antique chest. I consume more food than necessary and drink a jalapeno Margarita. Outside in the courtyard, I watch guests enjoying a dip under the mid-day sun.
I drop my bags at the room, located in the newest building on the property. The house has a modern design, with high ceilings, large wooden doors, a central living room, and a plethora of windows to take in the jaw-dropping views. Plush rooms connect from side doors to the house’s main attraction, a pool overlooking the sea. I take a dip and then proceed to nap in a shaded lawn chair.

Near sunset, my better half arrives along with a few other friends, one of which is our host for the night. We have dinner under the stars and shoot a few games of pool before heading out to the private beach. It’s dark as we pull paddleboards down through the sand, and the ocean is overcast and misty. Closer to the water we begin to see it – the white-blue flickers of light. “This is normal,” says our friend, “bioluminescence occurs here during the summer months, just not all the time.” I step into the sand, a light show erupting beneath my foot, and consider how fortunate I am.

Paddleboards in the water, we head out into the bay, five of us coasting upon a dark ocean. Each paddle sends trails of underwater fireworks floating beside the boards. Diving into the warm black sea, we emerge covered in sparkling light. We glide up the coast, the beauty, and history of the land beside us, the crosses of Rancho Las Cruces watching over from above.