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Visit Espiritu Santo Island: Remote and Pristine

Eat, drink, and be merry in Cabo – then take a total break from your life. From the town of La Paz (“Peace”), travel to the serene isle of the “Holy Spirit,” Espiritu Santo.

A dark pointed shape of a frigate bird may float above your boat, punctuating a cloudless sky. Or a long line of pelicans may coast by en route to their rookery.

Espiritu Santo, 12th largest island in Mexico, is one of 200+ islands in the Sea of Cortes. They make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of 31 in Mexico – the most of any country in the Americas. Known as the “Galapagos of North America,” the islands harbor species found nowhere else.

Three uninhabited islands make up the Espiritu Santo nature preserve, protected by Mexican law. Isla Espiritu Santo connects to La Partida. North is Los Islotes, a clump of volcanic islets colonized by sea lions.

Long arms of layered cliffs reach to the west, embracing twelve long, shallow inlets. Their safe and clear turquoise waters seem custom-made for kayakers and snorkelers.

The island gets less than an inch of rain per year, but it’s within one of the world’s richest marine ecosystems. The secret to the Sea of Cortes’s riches are the tectonic forces that ripped the Baja strip off the Mexican mainland and are still pushing the peninsula west, at two inches per year.

These grinding plates of the planet created the newest ocean on earth – a mere 5+ million years ago. (Dinosaurs had already been extinct for 60 million years.)

The basin is ravaged by sunken mountain ranges and grand canyons. Currents and tides whoosh over the rugged, uneven sea floor, churning up nutrients from the deep. Every being that has ever died, rotted and sunk to the bottom is stirred up.

This organic material feeds immense crops of microscopic plankton. It creates a soup once so thick with krill the gulf was called the “Vermillion Sea.” The Sea of Cortes feeds 891 species of fish, 90 of them endemic.

The abundance draws the largest and most varied population of whales in the world, plus dolphins and sea lions. Yet this multitude is usually hidden beneath the water’s surface.

On land, Espiritu Santo feels as quiet and holy as its name. You might hear only a canyon wren in the red rocks beyond the beach, with its shimmering aqua waters and immaculate sands.

Did we say quiet? There’s one exception, Los Islotes, the sea lion rookery. You haven’t heard a ruckus until you’ve snorkeled with sea lions! Some 300 raise their families under rocky towers. Their barks echo off the cliffs, white with guano from seabirds whose cries and dives add to the hullabaloo. Playful pups join snorkelers for the frolic of a lifetime – yours and theirs.

But when you leave the rollicking rookery, there seem to be one hundred miles of solitude surrounding Espiritu Santo. The island invites you to pause and reflect. And how often does that happen?

For a day of snorkeling, kayaking, bird watching and nature exploration on Espiritu Santo: