No vacation to the San Carlos-Guaymas coastal resort area of Sonora, Mexico is complete without a stop at Perlas del Mar de Cortez, (Sea of Cortez Pearl Farm). The attraction is not only a tourist destination; it’s an ongoing research facility of pearl-producing oysters, a scientific enterprise of pearl farming and also, a kind of historical landmark.
Natural and cultivated, single- and multicolored pearls from two main regional species: the black-lipped pearl oyster and the rainbow-lipped pearl oyster have found their way to various aspects of culture, notably John Steinbeck’s, “The Pearl” and less notably, but more interestingly, “El Mechudo — the long-haired Yaqui.” Find more fascinating cultural and historical references on the Perlas del Mar de Cortez website.
If you tour the pearl farm at plan to spend at least two hours. You will want to either book a tour with your San Carlos or Guaymas resort concierge, or simply venture out on your own, to the location on Bacochibampo Bay. The tour includes a general history of pearls and New World pearls, especially those from Mexico. You will learn how they are created naturally, artificially and also get a lesson about different pearl varieties. You’ll also receive information about how this educational facility began and its current endeavors and challenges.
Sea of Cortez pearl pendant in sterling silver setting
Actually, there’s not a lot to do or see at the farm – it’s a small group of buildings and a boat ramp. However, your tour guide will spend most of the tour time (an hour) explaining the intensive and fascinating process underwater (the farm), in the lab and at the dock. You will be able to see the black floats, like buoys, out in the bay indicating the location of each submerged cage of young, growing oysters and other implanted oysters developing the pearls. In the submerged cages, or “pearl nets”, it usually takes about 18 months for a young oyster to reach the stage to be seeded and another 18 to 24 months for a seeded oyster to develop the pearls. During this time, workers remove and clean the oysters about every two months — a very tedious, but necessary task.
Dock facility at pearl farm (2004 photo)
After your pearl farm tour, a visit to the pearl gift shop is also a must, because, even if you choose not to buy, you will want to see the finished products – beautiful pendants, earrings, rings and individual pearls in all shapes, sizes and colors!
Tip: After a morning at the pearl farm, take a little detour to one of Guaymas’ many colorful shopping centers for souvenirs and lunch. Also consider visiting other Guaymas sights including Tres Presidentes Plaza, City Hall and San Fernando Church.
Black floats mark the location of pearl nets
Readers: Have you been to San Carlos or Guaymas? Can you tell us: What are your favorite activities and places to visit?
We last visited Guaymas in 2008. Please note that the farm photos are actually taken in 2004. I’m assuming the dock building was rebuilt following the September 2009 storm. Any reader updates or comments would be welcomed and appreciated.