I just got back from a family vacation in Baja California Sur, Mexico. We were only gone for two weeks but our experiences were so grand it felt like we were away for much longer. I checked off one of my top bucket list wishes—swimming with whale sharks. I danced an underwater ballet with friendly sea lions. I discovered the most beautiful beach on earth. I kayaked through impossibly turquoise water and camped on secluded, desert-backed beaches. I was seduced by the laid-back, friendly cities of La Paz and Loreto (see map at end). I’m sorting through hundreds of photos and have plans for at least four posts dedicated to special places and amazing nature activities. For now, I want to share a few of my favourite moments.
Discovering Playa Balandra—The most beautiful beach on earth
I know…that heading is quite the endorsement. For me, this beach (or more accurately, set of eight beaches collectively called Puerto Balandra) is perfection. The turquoise water, golden beaches, and red-hued mountains must be one of nature’s finest combinations. Only 25 km from the bustling city of La Paz, Balandra feels wonderfully isolated. The good people of La Paz have resisted development and Balandra remains pristine. Check out my Playa Balandra post.
Exploring Isla Espíritu Santo—Where desert meets ocean
Just a short boat ride from La Paz, uninhabited Isla Espíritu Santo is an island of sheltered bays, gorgeous beaches, and dramatic desert scenery. The marine life is spectacular—tropical reef fish, whales, dolphins, sea lions, turtles, and even flying mantas. Isla Epíritu Santo was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1995. We spent five days exploring above and below the water…lots to come on this.
Kayaking in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez)
With a bit of hesitation (hoping this would work for my guys), I signed us up for a 5-day kayaking trip to Isla Espíritu Santo with ROW Sea Kayaking Adventures. It was a phenomenal experience! Mike loved it. Alex, now 19, was probably a tad bored with our mostly middle-aged group, but I know he enjoyed drinking cerveza and chowing down on fresh fish tacos with our four young, fun Mexican guides (not to mention snorkeling with sea lions…I’ll get to that).
Camping on the beach at Espíritu Santo
What more can I say. The scenery is wow; the water is warm and crystal clear; the ground is soft; there’s a tarp a few meters away shielding a cooler of cold beer and a tray of ceviche; a full moon will come out a few hours later (and, there’s 0% chance of rain).
Snorkeling with friendly sea lions at Los Islotes
There are only two places in the world where you can snorkel with a colony of friendly sea lions: in the Galapagos, and at Los Islotes, a rocky outcropping just north of Espíritu Santo. Watching a group of juveniles perform graceful underwater acrobatics is absolutely breathtaking—my personal trip highlight. I’ll have photos from their underwater “show” and playful antics in an upcoming post.
Snorkeling with whale sharks in La Paz Bay
Cross a huge one off my bucket list! The largest fish in the ocean make their home in La Paz Bay during winter and spring. Their rich feeding ground is a mere 10 minute boat ride from the La Paz waterfront. The three of us and Maritza, a local marine biologist, had these gentle giants all to ourselves…incredible! I will post photos as soon as I get them from Maritza. Note to self: Get underwater camera!
Hanging out on the La Paz Malecon
The capital of Baja California Sur is an awesome city. Its crowning jewel is the 5km Malecon (coastal promenade). This beautiful seaside walkway is a favourite strolling, running, and gathering place for locals and tourists. I’m devoting a post just to the magnificent marine-inspired artwork along the Malecon.
Hiking Mesquite Canyon, Loreto
It may have been a break from the ocean, but it wasn’t a break from the water. The Mesquite Canyon trail, hidden in the Sierra de la Giganta, meanders through a gorgeous, steep-sided canyon. During much of the hike, we waded through refreshingly cool water, from ankle to chest depth. Totally fun. There’s not a chance we would have found this ourselves. Daniel, our guide from Loreto Sea and Land Tours, was great.
Visiting Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó
There’s an enigmatic quality about Misión San Javier. Founded by the Jesuits in 1699, it sits isolated in the mountains, 25 km from the coast. Its crumbling facade and decaying cemetery add to the austere beauty of the desert backdrop. Visiting San Javier mission and the tiny village of the same name makes a fascinating little excursion from Loreto.
Boating through fifty shades of turquoise—Loreto Bay
Coronado Island, part of Loreto Bay National Marine Park, is the most popular day trip from Loreto. And for good reason, the water really is this colour. It’s tempting just to spend the day on the glorious beach, but I recommend hiring a boat captain who will also take you around the island to view the outstanding rock formations and visit the sea lion colony. We saw lots of dolphins and more of our favourite flying mantas.
Ending a prefect day with the mother of all sunsets at Playa Pichilingue
After an amazing day at my new favourite beach, Playa Balandra, we were treated to an incredible sunset at Playa Pichilingue. Our La Paz hosts, at the fabulous Casa Juarez B&B, recommended that we enjoy margaritas and dinner at Restaurante Playa Pichilingue. This was the view from our table on the beach (no colour editing)!