Espiritu Santo Island, Baja

Written by  Cindy Ross

LATIN MEXICOThe white tips of our kayaks slice through the three foot waves and we brace ourselves for the flop and the splash which come in quick succession. It’s like an amusement park ride here in the shimmering Sea of Cortez as we paddle up the island of Espiritu Santos in Baja California Sur. To my left and my right are my comrades, parallel, like a pod of dolphins. Our guide from Baja Outdoor Activities (BOA)
(, Mario Del Angel Alfaro, taps his head with his fist and we respond in kind. All is well on day 2 of our sea kayaking adventure.

The sun shines warmly on this January morning, the sea a startling mixture of cerulean blue and mint green. Rose colored cliffs flank our side, pelicans dive for a meal, and, we have rollers to surf. Paradise? You bet. Espirito Santo is the most beautiful island to kayak in the Sea of Cortez, the long body of water that separates Baja Peninsula from mainland Mexico, which lies directly beneath California. This long arm of land enjoys peace and safety and a quality of life that is unique to the entire country. Access to Espiritu Santos is via the town of La Paz, home of BOA. My husband Todd and I originally planned to rent a tandem kayak and go off on our own explorations. Upon investigation, however, we learned that independent trips even for experienced paddlers, without the proper support, are a tricky and risky thing to do. Severe winds can come up where no communication is possible, leaving paddlers stranded for multiple days. Paddlers must be extremely flexible and knowledgeable when kayaking here, know how to do a wet exit and perform a rescue. That’s a little too much for Todd and me to handle on a “vacation.” BOA is happy to take care of you, placing you in the best of hands, so sea kayaking the Sea of Cortez can become a wonderful memory.

With BOA, we have Alvaro, a full time fisherman who doubles as a chef for the company. He swings sweet deals with the fishermen we meet while paddling up the island’s coastline, mixing up delicious fish ceviche tacos, seafood chowder, and marlin tempura. And there is Edgar, who captains BOA’s motorboat which replenishes our water, shuttles us to a new beach campsite when the El Nino winds blow so hard we cannot get out of our protected bay. And of course, Mario, our guide, whose fabulous sense of humor, kind nature and spectacular knowledge of the area and skill at leading erases every care that may arise.

Land and Sea
Espirito Santo is a wild protected island with a circumference of approximately 40 miles (by meandering kayak) with over one dozen designated campsites. Sea kayaking here gives the paddler the opportunity to not only use their upper body, but also stretch their legs and hike, as well. Every afternoon, we climb to the surrounding desert ridgetops and get a cormorant’s view of the land and the sea. We see from whence we came, and where we are heading. This island’s western side is characterized by fiord-like islets that are deeply recessed, holding protected, sandy beaches at their ends. On our hikes, our group explores historic wells used by Native peoples, as well as the Spanish conquistadors, volcanic caves, rock formations made of volcanic ash, and peer into osprey nests.
The motor boat shuttles our snorkeling gear so we can watch schools of brightly colored tropical fish, sea turtles cruise by and best of all, sea lions. Directly north of Espiritu Santos is Isla Partida which you can kayak around, but north of this island is the tiny rockpile island of Los Islotes, protected land where hundreds of sea lions live. The climax of our trip is a swim with their pups, who love to twist and turn and perform for you and investigate snorkelers right up to their masked faces.
We head to our final camp in this 4-day quick escape trip - a sand bar between the two islands where a break occurs in the ancient volcanic crater that makes up these two stunning islands. The rollers thrust us forward, an energy, a “Holy Spirit” aiding us from behind, making our paddling effortless as our row of kayakers beam brightly like the Baja sun.


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