Top Moments from La Paz to Loreto—Baja California Sur, Mexico


Paddle boarding at Playa Balandra, Baja California Sur, Mexico—M.Sharp

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.


Late day sun at Playa Balandra, Baja California Sur, Mexico—C.Helbig

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.


Isla Espíritu Santo, Baja California Sur, Mexico—C.Helbig

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 to a secluded beach on Isla Espíritu Santo—C.Helbig

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 Isla Espíritu Santo—C.Helbig

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).


“I’m coming in to play,” says the friendly sea lion at Los Islotes—C.Helbig

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.


A whale shark in La Paz Bay—

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!


The La Paz Malecon—C.Helbig

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 in Mesquite Canyon near Loreto—C.Helbig

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.


Misión San Javier near Loreto—C.Helbig

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.


Coronado Island, Loreto Bay—C.Helbig

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.


Sunset at Playa Pichilingue near La Paz—C.Helbig

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)!


Categories: Kayaking, Mexico, Places, Scuba Diving/Snorkelling, Wildlife Viewing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Top Moments from La Paz to Loreto—Baja California Sur, Mexico

  1. Stepahnie

    My family of four, 14yr old, 8 yo, husband and myself are planning two weeks at xmas. I am liking both la paz and Loretto but don’t want to do too much. Also the flight/ car rental thing has me a bit perplexed. How did you travel?


  2. Anonymous

    Thank you for the great recap of your trip! I’m inspired to go! Also note that we went snorkeling with sea lions in New Zealand – so perhaps there are more than two spots in the world 🙂


  3. Pingback: My favourite beaches from around the world | Writes of Passage

  4. La Paz is calling to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh yeah! What a fabulous vacation. I know the colour of the water, and the sunsets. We’re getting them here in La Manzanilla. Mexico is so amazing. That kayaking trip must have been fabulous, and now I want to go back to La Paz to find all the extraordinary places you found. Looking forward to your posts.


    • Every time we go to Mexico I’m reminded about what a great country it is (and so easy to get to from Vancouver). La Paz was a wonderful base to stage some amazing day trips as well as our kayaking adventure. I really enjoyed wandering around the city too, especially the waterfront. I’ve heard very good things about La Manzanilla and look forward to going there in the near future. Hope you’re having fun there!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Brian Foster

    Wow. It is so wonderful when a place can stun you so much. You guys have literally a world of experience so for this to stand out like it does, really says something. Look forward to learning more. B


    • I think this spot just has a lot of the stuff we really enjoy (great marine life, stunning desert scenery, lots of opportunity for active pursuits, and Alex would add Mexican food/beer to the list).


  7. Hi Caroline…wonderfull blog, and thanks for your friendship….I am happy for your good time in Baja Sur….. we keep in contact for our tours…..


    • Thanks Adriano! Baja Sur is a wonderful part of the world! Best to you with your tours. I love your new website. Keep in touch.


  8. WOW! I am totally blown away by this post! I’m sitting here scratching my head wondering why oh why is it that we have never been to Baja?! I had heard of the beaches, and they DO look stunning but the wildlife opportunities are what put this ” over the top.” After reading this I am putting it right at the top of my “must go to” list!

    How is it possible you did ALL that in only two weeks?

    I am totally looking forward to the photos of snorkeling with the sea lions ( oh how lucky you are!!!) and the kayak trip. Really sounds and looks amazing!!


    • Hi Peta, I must say I am a bit overwhelmed re-reading my post. It’s longer than I wanted it to be, but I just couldn’t cut down on any “favourite moments”. Although it was only two weeks, we never felt rushed. All the activities were really easy to arrange. Our animal encounters were really special, and our tour operators very responsible in this respect (more about this in another post). I still have a big smile on my face thinking about the sea lions!
      Baja Sur is an absolutely amazing place to go for nature lovers!!!
      Thanks for your enthusiastic comments.


  9. Ok So that worked. I will try again.
    Wow, Wow and WOW. I am a bit speechless trying to process all of the posts. I need to go away – read again, process and come back with w list of questions. in the mean time i await eagerly your more in depth posts. but don’t rush them savour them and then share when you are ready. WOW. Just as well you have a beautiful environment back home to come back to. Louise ( Wow!)


  10. just wrote a longish comment and it bounced back.


    • Hi Louise, glad you got through. Like I mentioned to Peta above, I overwhelmed myself too with this post, but I just got so excited “re-living” our great times in Baja Sur. While planning this trip, my objective was an easy holiday with lots of water activities that would “work” for the three of us. It turned to be so much more and the big bonus is that it’s only a 4 hour direct flight (and less expensive than flying to the other side of Canada!). I’m really looking forward to sharing more about this great place!
      I’m always happy when readers appreciate my posts, thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Anonymous

    Wow!! Sounds like you had such an amazing time here. Beautiful pics as always:)


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