That Time I Was Head-Butted by a Sea Lion Snorkeling in La Paz


Photo courtesy of CostaBaja Resort

Photo courtesy of CostaBaja Resort

At the southern tip of Baja Mexico is the peninsula’s gem, La Paz. The translation of La Paz is “peace” and this seaside destination offers an abundance of tranquility and beauty.

The crystal clear aqua waters provide great snorkeling opportunities, but if you are looking for a truly memorable snorkeling experience, head out to the protected waters of Isla Epiritu Santo Island, just off the coast of La Paz.


What better way to start a seafaring adventure than boarding a boat with local Captain Juan to zoom off and explore the horizon! Regaling us with humorous stories and antidotes to pass the time, we finally reached our destination – a craggy outcrop where a colony of sea lions live and breed. Let me emphasize that this is not one of those aquatic petting zoos — these sea lions are free, uncontained, and thriving in their natural habitat.


As the crew steered the boat closer to the rocks, I could hear the low growling of the males and the sight of dozens of sea lions sunning themselves on the jagged ledges. We anchored, and I excitedly squeezed myself into my wetsuit as quickly as I could manage, slipped on snorkel and fins, I hopped overboard into the chilly water.


“Make sure you go into that cave,” shouted Captain Juan, pointing from the deck. “That’s where the females hang out, waiting for a “dating opportunity!” he added with a bellowing laugh that echoed across the surf.

After taking a few minutes to observe the sea lions in my general vicinity, I cautiously approached the cave. It looked a little dark and ominous at the mouth, but once inside my eyes quickly adjusted. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an enormous dark form whizzed by, just a feet below me! A male sea lion can weigh up to 880 pounds, and this one looked every bit that size! I could not have stopped the scream that resonated out of the top of my snorkel if my life had depended on it.

I sheepishly popped my head out of the water. “Yay! There’s no one else around to hear me,” I said, though the female sea lions seemed unaffected.

photo courtesy of La Paz Tourism

Photo courtesy of La Paz Tourism

Relieved that my scaredy-cat, knee-jerk reaction would remain a secret (until now!), I returned to the swim to quieter waters where the curious pups have been known to swim right up to humans and face them with their huge, soft eyes. Sure enough, within minutes, two playful baby sea lions began to swim in circles around me. One pup softly bumped my side and I was able to reach out and gently touch the sleek coat. Does it get any better than that?


After climbing back on board, Captain Juan set sail for El Morito, a deserted beach with crystal-aqua water juxtaposed against rugged cliffs. The multi-talented captain doubled as our guide as we hiked to the top of the cliffs. In keeping with the natural, wilderness theme of the day, there isn’t a footpath, so there was a bit of tricky, hand-over-fist and find-a-foothold climbing. But once we reached the summit, the panoramic views of the Sea of Cortez from the top were well worth that sweaty struggle.


Back at the beach, I snagged a kayak and my friend Lisa Somme and I pushed it out into the glassy bay for a peaceful paddle while we waited for our late afternoon lunch. Freshly caught fish cooked over an open fire and homemade tortillas and rice, prepared by our crew and served on real plates, silverware and tablecloths, awaited us on our return.

8 SeaOfCortez

If there is a better way to spend a day than in the tropical paradise in and surrounding La Paz, I haven’t found it yet.


LaPaz, mexico


Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of La Paz Tourism and CostaBaja Resort during her stay in La Paz, but as always, the opinions, reviews and experiences are her own.


  1. Looks like you had an amazing time despite the head butting! Thanks for sharing your trip!

  2. Awww, you patted a sea lion. Very cool. That meal looks so fresh and healthy.
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  3. So cute! I wonder if those sea lions ever get aggressive though? The colour of that water is amazing!
    Shannon Colman recently posted…Escape to Portugal – Opening Eyes and Ears in SintraMy Profile

  4. This place looks absolutely stunning. I never knew that Mexico has such clear waters and beautiful beaches. The close-up of sea lion is awesome and more than that glad that you are safe :)

  5. What an amazing experience. i must admit that I would have had a very similar (if not worse) reaction. It would all be worth it to swim with sea lion pups though! Those guys are adorable!
    mags recently posted…Monster Hunting at Loch Ness; The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition or Nessieland?My Profile

  6. I was transfixed by your photo of the baby sea lion (pup?). I don’t think I would ever have had the presence of mind to snap a picture. The color of the water is also beautiful. Whenever I read/see your posts and photos, I swear I’m going to get over my claustrophobia enough to snorkel. I’m obviously missing a whole other world.
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    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Snorkeling with the sea lion pup was amazing. I think you could get over your claustrophobia if you do it in small amounts of time. If you feel a bout coming on, you just have to lift your head out of the water.

  7. Gosh, that water looks tempting. What an amazing experience. Just you and the sea lions swimming around having fun. I have to admit that I’m not much of an underwater person, so would probably opt to stay on the boat and sip a refreshment, but I admire and envy those you jump right in. Fantastic pics.
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    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Cathy, the water was pretty cold, so some people did stay on board and they actually really enjoyed just seeing the La Paz sea lions sunning on the rocks and swimming right next to the boat.

  8. Wow! What a terrific photo of that sea lion pup. I can’t believe you capturing that moment. Such an unforgettable and amazing experience for you. Looks like a perfect day to me.
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  9. Such an adventurous soul you are! Did you ever feel afraid of the sea lions, or were you just startled? What an incredible experience, and then to top it of with a fresh and healthy lunch. Sounds like a tropical paradise indeed!
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