Baja California’s Espiritu Santo island is a magical place where the life is in the water, not the land

You never really know what you’ll find when you head out into the Baja’s Sea of Cortez, but that’s what makes it impossible to resist.

On a recent morning, we left our hotel at the bustling port town of La Paz, Baja California Sur, and took a boat tour out to Isla Espiritu Santo, one of the most popular ecotourism sites in Mexico.

Several companies offer this day trip from town, and you can also catch a boat there from Tecolote Beach, a lovely stretch of sand north of town. We were picked up at our hotel and taken to a small beachfront palapa at Pichilingue, a district north of the city, where we had the chance to pick up snorkels and fins, in case we wanted to swim with sea lions during the day.

Isla espíritu santo sea of cortes La Paz Baja California Sur. Mexico
Isla espíritu santo sea of cortes La Paz Baja California Sur. Mexico

Then, our captain, Loreto, and guide, Benjamin Duarte, loaded us into a small fiberglass motor boat, called a panga, used for fishing and everything else in Baja, for the short journey across La Paz Bay into the Espiritu Santo National Park, which comprises the islands of Isla Espíritu Santo and Isla Partida.

La Paz, along with most of the Baja peninsula, is in a desert. The volcanic mountains that rise from these islands’ desert floor are virtually barren and brown. But there’s life teeming here, and it’s all in the water around us.

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We were lucky that day, and within only a few minutes of shore we sighted a humpback whale, which was making a leisurely circuit of the area. We were able to hang out with him (or her) for awhile, just idling the motor and waiting for the telltale spout to blow to show us where he was located. Then, his back would rise sinuously from the water and, sometimes, the fluke of his tail.

Humpbacks live in this bay, but you can’t guarantee sightings, so we felt lucky to have seen him.

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