Experience the Wonder of Isla Espiritu Santo and Meet the Sea Lions of Isla Islotes!


Isla Espiritu Santo is the most beautiful island in the Sea of Cortez, or the Gulf of California, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site! It is a treasure located two hours by boat from La Paz, aka “the Pearl”. (There used to be a lively pearl fishery here, but it is now all fished out. Just another reminder of why we need to practice sustainability!) La Paz has a statue along the Malecon, aka Boardwalk in English, that has a pearl in a shell. The statue isn’t correct, the pictured shell doesn’t make pearls, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

isla espiritu santo, los islotes, sea lions in La Paz, snorkeling in cabo
The Pearl, or La Paz, on the Malecon

La Paz is the perfect place to be if you want to visit Isla Espiritu Santo. The island is a National Park as well as a Biosphere Reserve Unesco World Heritage Site, and is very well protected from poachers, hunters, and commercial pirates. The island was protected from a casino being built because Mexican donors, American donors, and World Wildlife purchased the section of the island that was for sale! It would be a travesty to inflict this island with a resort or casino. There are no settlements, no one lives here. It is a precious example of true, unspoiled nature. Isla Espiritu Santo was formed from volcanic activity, just looking at the colors and layers of this desert island is a wonder. The rules are supported and practiced by the people of La Paz, and the tour companies appear to comply willingly. I find that quite impressive.

isla espiritu santo, los islotes, sea lions in La Paz, snorkeling in cabo
Just look at the amazing colors of this island! From the dramatic blues and aquas of the ocean, to the reds and earthy tones of the island itself.

My trip in March 2019 was with Red Travel Mexico, an eco conscious tour company which concentrates on the magic of the Baja. I co-sponsored a trip with them in December 2017 as well, and that trip included diving in Cabo Pulmo. Our December trip to Espiritu Santo was cancelled due to high winds, but last month, I visited the island with Carol Guttery of Wayfaring Views, and her husband, Ken. The weather was much better, and we found ourselves off to Isla Espiritu Santo with Pedro from Red Travel Mexico to snorkel with Sea Lions in Los Islotes!

We headed to Los Islotes where the Sea Lion sanctuary is located, and we could hear the barking and ruckus from quite a distance. One stays away from the big males, or bulls, because of territorial behaviors on their part. Also, from June until the beginning of September, you cannot get in the water with the sea lions as they are mating, and therefore aggressive. You can see them, but you cannot snorkel with them at that time.

isla espiritu santo, los islotes, sea lions in La Paz, snorkeling in cabo
Carol and Ken on our way to Los Islotes!

Pedro gave us all the rules and regulations of snorkeling with the sea lions of Isla Espiritu Santo, and I was shocked (upset, really) when I found out that all people, except tour guides, must wear a life jacket. In most situations, like snorkeling with whale sharks or manta rays, you can wear a life jacket OR a wetsuit. Wetsuits are very buoyant, and it never occurred to me that I would be forced to wear a life jacket. I have to confess it was a huge disappointment to me to have to wear one, because I knew if I couldn’t dive, and goof around, I wouldn’t be able to really play with the sea lions. We all had some very fun encounters with the sea lions, they are too adorable, and fun to play with, but next time, I will dive it. I really don’t like wearing life jackets. I’m fairly experienced in the ocean with snorkeling and diving, so it does not enhance my experience to inflict a life jacket on me!

The sea lions in La Paz, or Isla Espiritu Santo, are playful and so cute. I’d been diving with them before, so I knew they would want to bite my fins and try to steal my GoPro Camera. I was right, I had to shoo a couple of them because of their insistence on wanting my camera!

isla espiritu santo, los islotes, sea lions in La Paz, snorkeling in cabo
Sea Lions are so FAST!
isla espiritu santo, los islotes, sea lions in La Paz, snorkeling in cabo
Cameras, strobes, and fins are of particular interest to sea lions! Curiosity is their middle name! Photo by Carol Guttery.

We snorkeled a little after we left the sea lion area, and it was pretty, but since we were already so cold, we decided to get on our way to our private beach for our private lunch!

The beach was surrounded by red rock and a clear, shallow cove. It was so beautiful.
isla espiritu santo, los islotes, sea lions in La Paz, snorkeling in cabo
I was trying to get close enough to photograph a really cool red crab, but I didn’t think he’d let me get too close.

Red Travel Mexico prepared us a yummy lunch of ceviche, quinoa, and pops (beer is available too!) I cannot endorse the company enough. Red Travel Mexico has expert guides for every trip, and they are always on time and thoughtful about what people on the tour want to do. While walking on the La Paz Malecon, you’ll be approached by many people offering trips to Isla Espiritu Santo and snorkeling with the sea lions, but I urge you to resist them and book with Red Travel Mexico instead. It is much better to go out in unfamiliar territory with those who are experts instead of folks who just want to run you out there and don’t really care about anything but your money. Caution, always caution!

We headed back to La Paz tired, but full of food and happy with our awesome snorkeling with the sea lions! Carol, Ken and I had a great trip, and we would all happily book again with Red Travel Mexico.

isla espiritu santo, los islotes, sea lions in La Paz, snorkeling in cabo
A beautiful sunset in La Paz!

After we were done with our day, I had a dinner date with a young man I did a volunteer trip with 7 years ago in Mozambique. Darren was in Mozambique doing a Master’s Thesis on Whale Sharks, and 7 years later he is a doctoral candidate and a daddy! Even though seven years had passed and our lives have taken different turns, I felt like I had seen him yesterday. I think when we share experiences with others who share our passions, that bond is quite strong. We had a great dinner and discussion, and after, we showed one another our babies, his son and my two grandchildren!

What is seven years between friends? Now.
And then.

I can tell you that the Baja has so much to offer you for a fantastic trip! Whale Sharks, Whales, Sea Lions, World Heritage Sites, and great food. When you decide to go, be sure and go with Red Travel Mexico!

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