La Paz Snorkeling: Wild Baby Sea Lion Encounter [updated 2020]

August 26, 2015


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 La Paz snorkeling experience, head out to the protected waters of Isla Epiritu Santo Island, just off the coast.

la paz snorkeling

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.

Isla Epiritu Santo Island

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.

la paz snorkeling

“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 few 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 erupted 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.

la paz snorkeling

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 La Paz snorkeling get any better than that? I think not.

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el morito island la paz

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.

la paz snorkeling

If there is a better way to spend a day than at the beach and snorkel La Paz, I haven’t found it yet.

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LaPaz, mexico

You may also be interested in:

10 Reasons to Visit LaPaz, Mexico

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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.

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer.

About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.”  Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.  She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.


  1. Comment by Richel

    Richel Reply October 10, 2015 at 10:38 am

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

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply October 10, 2015 at 10:55 am

      It really was a blast, Richel!

  2. Comment by Charles McCool

    Charles McCool Reply October 10, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Awww, you patted a sea lion. Very cool. That meal looks so fresh and healthy.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply October 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      It was an all-around great day, Charles!

  3. Comment by Shannon Colman

    Shannon Colman Reply October 10, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    So cute! I wonder if those sea lions ever get aggressive though? The colour of that water is amazing!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply October 10, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      I imagine like any other animal, they would if they felt threatened.

  4. Comment by Kanika Kalia

    Kanika Kalia Reply October 11, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    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 🙂

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply October 12, 2015 at 8:20 am

      Mexico has a ton of beautiful beaches and things to do!

  5. Comment by mags

    mags Reply October 12, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    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!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply October 12, 2015 at 11:11 pm

      It was definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

  6. Comment by Suzanne Fluhr

    Suzanne Fluhr Reply November 5, 2015 at 1:38 am

    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.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply November 5, 2015 at 9:13 am

      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. Comment by Cathy Sweeney

    Cathy Sweeney Reply November 7, 2015 at 12:41 am

    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.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply November 7, 2015 at 8:29 am

      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. Comment by Sue Reddel

    Sue Reddel Reply November 8, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    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.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply November 8, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      The La Paz boating and snorkel trip was an all-around fabulous day!

  9. Comment by alison abbott

    alison abbott Reply November 8, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    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!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply November 8, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      I wasn’t afraid of the babies… but that big one? Yeah, I was afraid of that big guy!

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