Isla Espiritu Santo: A Boat Trip for Your Bucket List!Written by Ian Wright
No visit to La Paz would be complete without a day's boat trip to the island archipelago which lies to the north of the city, consisting of Islas Espiritu Santo and Partida as well as the isolated rocks known as Los Islotes.
This excursion is popular for good reason, as it shows off the best that La Paz can offer. Spectacular scenery ranges from dramatic rock formations to idyllic beaches. Wildlife encounters abound on and offshore in the place Jacques Cousteau dubbed "The World's Aquarium".
If you're staying in La Paz (or even as far away as Los Cabos) these excursions can always be booked though your hotel, but you'll always get a better deal if you arrange your tour directly with the operator. If you walk along the Malecon a couple of blocks south of the "Kiosko" until you're opposite Burger King you can arrange your tour with the boatmen there. English is spoken. If you want to do the tour the same day you arrange it you need to be there straight after breakfast. At 10:30am you'll be picked up in a small van for the twenty minute drive to Playa Pichilingue, the beach alongside the ferry port of the same name 18km north of the city. Once there you'll have the last opportunity to use a flushing toilet for nearly seven hours, as well as a chance to pick up a life jacket in your size and if you want to snorkel equipment. You should be on the water by 11.
After leaving Pichilingue you'll head across the 6km wide Canal San Lorenzo ("St Lawrence Channel") and up the western side of Isla Espiritu Santo ("Holy Spirit Island"), past the narrow isthmus which separates it from Partida ("The Island that Parted") and then on to the northernmost point, Los Islotes ("The Little Islands"). This route avoids the north-easterly winds which come from the more open Sea of Cortés on the east coast, as well as enabling you to see the alternating finger-like peninsulas and sheltered beaches which form the western side. You'll also see a number of islets, maybe an anchored yacht or two and groups of kayakers, like you taking in the views of the colourful layers of rocks formed by the volcanic activity which created the islands millions of years ago.
About an hour after leaving port you'll reach Los Islotes, and you'll gently circumnavigate them and maybe go through a natural rock arch or two. The rocks are spectacular, but their real appeal comes from their inhabitants - you can hear them before you see them.
After lunch you'll begin your return journey, but en route you'll be shown more of the fascinating features of Espiritu Santo, such as the rock formation La Mascara ("The Mask"). Is it natural? That's what they say! It is large enough for a grown adult to stand upright in its mouth.
Around the next inlet you can see more peculiar rock formations: known as Los Hongos ("The Mushrooms") they are reminiscent of "El Hongo" on Balandra Beach which is a symbol of the city of La Paz. Also the Medusa Tree, a type of fig which grows seemingly suspended on the side of cliffs.
Fortunately these weren't the malevolent crows of Hitchcock's thriller. There's a large colony of frigate birds here amongst the mangroves, and right next door the remains of a pearl fishing plant from the 19th century, a reminder of what was an important industry in this part of Baja California. In fact, the first colonial name for the island was "Isla de Las Perlas", a name bestowed by none other than Hernán Cortés himself on the first Spanish expedition here in 1535. It was not until 100 years later that the present name was adopted.
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