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World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers

Gulf of California

Gulf of California

The Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California is a serial property including 244 islands and oceanic marine zones, described as "the world's aquarium".

This site in north-eastern Mexico is home to 39 percent of the world's total marine mammal species and a third of the world's marine cetacean species.

The protected area is located between Baja California and the Mexican State of Sonora. It encompasse the following protected zones:

- Upper Gulf and Colorado River Delta

- Islands of the Gulf

- Isla San Pedro Mártir

- El Vizcaíno Reserve

- Bahía de Loreto National Park

- Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park

- Cabo San Lucas Reserve

- Islas Marías Biosphere Reserve

- Isla Isabel National Park

- Islas Marietas National Park

- Archipelago de San Lorenzo National Park

Map of Gulf of California


  • Natural

Community Reviews

Nancy Graham American-born living in Mexico - 04-Jun-16

Where I am on the Gulf of California is a perfect example of why this is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In Kino Bay (Bahia de Kino), the desert meets the bay, forming a fascinating juxtaposition of habitats. This area is Eco-oriented, has a full-time Marine Science Center where classes for college students and community members are taught and research data has been being gathered on sea birds, whales and more for years now. The diversity of marine and land life is unique and it is so important to maintain this habitat for current and future generations. The Seri (Comcaac) Nation is just a bit north and this beautiful and talented group of people who have resided here for so long is In the process of passing on their unique language and songs. It is vitally important that this fishing village keeps its focus on the natural world, enhancing the surrounding habitats and providing education about the unique gifts this land offers. The value of this area lies not in being a vacation land and resort for those who wish to escape and play, but, rather, in standing in representation of all that is beautiful, mysterious and pristine on this Earth of ours. Thank you UNESCO. Now, let's the rest of us follow through to make sure this designation is honored.

Ashley Waddell United States of America - 19-Jun-06

Visit the Gulf of California's crystal-clear waters and you'll thank God you learned to swim. You won't know which way to look as hundreds of fish species swim around you, going about their day in this sunny stretch of water.

Bring your sunscreen -- we were sunburned even through the t-shirts we wore snorkeling -- and watch out for sharks; this is prime habitat for both hammerheads and great whites. You'll be grateful you took the plunge, though, and we recommend camping on one of the islands rather than staying in La Paz or (God forbid) one of those tourist traps like Cabo San Lucas.

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Community Rating

Community Rating 3.50. Based on 4 votes.

Site Info

Full name: Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

Unesco ID: 1182

Inscribed: 2005

Type: Natural

Criteria: 7   9   10  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2007 - Extended To include the Islas Marietas National Park and the Archipelago de San Lorenzo National Park
  • 2007 - Boundary change To include the Islas Marietas National Park and the Archipelago de San Lorenzo National Park
  • 2005 - Inscribed 


The site has 12 locations. Show all

  • Gulf of California: Archipelago of San Lorenzo
  • Gulf of California: Bahía de Loreto
  • Gulf of California: Balandra Zone of Ecological Conservation and Community Interest
  • Gulf of California: Cabo Pulmo
  • Gulf of California: Cabo San Lucas
  • Gulf of California: El Vizcaíno (marine and coastal belt in the Gulf of California)
  • Gulf of California: Isla Isabel
  • Gulf of California: Isla San Pedro Martir
  • Gulf of California: Islands of the Gulf of California
  • Gulf of California: Islas Marias
  • Gulf of California: Islas Marietas
  • Gulf of California: Upper Gulf of California - Colorado River Delta (marine portion)


The site has 20 connections.


  • Prison: Gulf of California Maria Grande Isle has had a penal colony since 1905



Individual People

  • Hernán Cortés: Gulf of California is called "Sea of Cortez" locally, because Hernan Cortes discovered Baja California in 1536
  • Cousteau: Jacques Cousteau Island


  • Miocene: The Gulf of California came into existence approximately 16.5 to 9.2 million years before present, when tectonic forces rifted the Baja Peninsula from the North American Plate. (EOEarth)

WHS on Other Lists

  • World Biosphere Reserves: Islas del Golgo de California (1995)
  • Ramsar Wetlands: Humedales del Delta del Rio Colorando, 1996; Laguna Ojo de Liebre, 2004; Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto, 2004; Parque Nacional Cabo Pulmo, 2008

World Heritage Process