We recently unveiled our brand new sea kayak destination of Espiritu Santo off Baja's grand capital city of La Paz. This splendid island complements our classic itineraries out of Loreto, adding new adventures for our repeat guests and easier access through the major international airport of San Jose del Cabo. However, travelers new to SKA find themselves with an important decision: which destination should they pick, Loreto or La Paz?
First, a bit of geography. The Baja peninsula extends about 750 mi (1200 km) from the US border to the very tip of Los Cabos. It is divided into two states: Baja California Norte (North), and Baja California Sur (South). On the West side of the peninsula is the Pacific Ocean (home to the calving lagoons of the gray whales), and on the East side of Baja is the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) that divides Baja from mainland Mexico. All of our Baja sea kayaking takes place in the sheltered Sea of Cortez, away from the large swells of open ocean. Both Loreto and La Paz are in Baja California Sur, so near the bottom of the peninsula. The cities are about 100 miles apart as the crow flies. Consequently, there are not dramatic differences in wildlife or weather conditions.
- Fantastic sea kayaking at each location. You will paddle for about 4 hours per day, broken up by a long lunch break. The pace will be the same.
- Camping on the beach. You will change campsites almost every night and paddle by day to your next location. All of the islands feature exquisite sites for camping.
- Snorkeling and hiking opportunities abound. Each beach you stop on will have slightly different fish and wildlife. Some beaches in both locations have great hikes to beautiful vistas, or instead offer long walks on sandy strips looking out to the ocean.
- All islands in the Sea of Cortez are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and National Marine Parks, which means that they are undeveloped and preserved by the Park Service.
- Delightful, dedicated guides. Our fleet of experienced, bilingual guides, many of whom are also marine biologists, will operate out of both locations.
- Sturdy, top-of-the-line, handbuilt fiberglass sea kayaks and paddles are at both locations. Each location is outfitted with the same quality equipment you know you can expect on a SKA tour.
- Savory meals prepared for you from scratch... in the middle of the wilderness.
- Size of towns: Loreto is a fishing village with about 14,000 people. There are a few nice restaurants and coffee shops here, with a small shopping area, but the whole town is about 6 square city blocks. Loreto has a small malecon stretching about 1 mile down the waterfront. La Paz is the capital city of Baja California Sur, with a population of over 200,000. Every amenity you wish can be found, yet the city retains a very authentic and relaxed atmosphere. Restaurants and shopping opportunities abound, as well as many day tours. The malecon in La Paz is 6 km long and follows the curvature of the bay, so you can stroll for hours overlooking the ocean.
- Tour Length: In Loreto, you can elect to kayak for 3, 4, or 6 days. You will visit 1-2 islands. In La Paz, our tours are set at 5 days, which includes 4 days kayaking and a visit to snorkel with sea lions. You will stay on Espiritu Santo and explore her many coves and beaches.
- Airport access: Loreto features direct flights from Los Angeles on AlaskaAir, but the availability is limited and prices can be high during peak dates. La Paz is easily accessed through the major airport at San Jose del Cabo, which often means inexpensive fare, and is just a 2.5 hour shuttle ride away from La Paz (7-passenger van, air-conditioned with on-board Wi-Fi). La Paz also has its own small airport with a few flights from Los Angeles and Mexico City.
- Support boats and ocean crossings: Many of our tours include a support panga that will carry the heavier gear as well as real tables and beach chairs for added comfort. Because Espiritu Santo (La Paz) is too far to kayak to from the shore of La Paz, a support boat accompanies all tours to this island and will ferry you from the meeting place in La Paz to the island. This crossing can take 90 minutes or more, and can be bumpy if wind is present. In Loreto, you will kayak right from the beach just south of town over to Isla Danzante, and potentially to Isla Carmen, making 50 minute "open" crossings. The remainder of the time will be spent paddling along shore. You can elect to join a tour without a motorized support boat departing from Loreto, if you prefer an expedition-style tour.
- Geology: Each island in the Sea of Cortez is slightly different, so you will encounter different scenery at each location. This is one of the reasons that the snorkeling and hiking is so diverse. Each island we visit has stunning vistas and photo opportunities, so you will be richly rewarded with whichever place you choose.
- La Paz Highlights: Snorkeling with Sea Lions & Whale Shark Tours. Espiritu Santo hosts a colony of friendly sea lions at the very top of the island, which you will visit by motorboat. The sea lions are used to visitors and eager to interact, so you might find yourself playing "fetch" with a playful pup. The Bay of La Paz also reliably hosts gentle whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. Growing up to 60' (18m) in length, these peaceful plankton eaters are a marvel to behold. If the sharks are around during your tour (usually October-February), you can take a day tour to snorkel with them!
- Loreto Highlights: Private Island Escape. The Islands of Loreto Bay are high traffic areas only to whales, dolphins, and other marine life! Boats are few and far between, and even other kayakers are seldom encountered. A few coves are popular lunch sites for passing boats or local fisherman, but otherwise you may feel as if you're alone in the wilderness. The Loreto Bay National Park Service assigns campsites on these islands, and only allows one group per site. Barring mix-ups or weather emergencies, your tour will have the beach to yourself. On Espiritu Santo (La Paz), campsites are designated by the Park Service, but your group may share a beach with other tours or private campers. You'll find more boat and tourist traffic on Espiritu Santo, as this island is a popular destination as a recreational natural resource.
Which ever destination you choose, don't hesitate to book your trip! We are rapidly filling up for the season, and would hate for you to miss out on these sunshine-filled winter escapes!