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Hold Your Breath – Top Ten La Paz Snorkeling Sites

Top Ten La Paz Snorkeling Sites – Breathtakingly Beautiful

“Le plus grand aquarium du monde.”
– Jacques Yves Cousteau

A quick internet search for La Paz snorkeling will produce pages of excursions offered by local tour operators. But, if you want to hang out at a beach and snorkel on your own, there isn’t a lot of information available.

Many tourists (and locals) don’t realize that beautiful beaches with clear and calm turquoise waters – perfect for snorkeling – can be found very close to the city. We have spent several months exploring La Paz and its beaches, and have compiled a list of our favorite snorkeling beaches.

They are in order of closest to furthest from downtown La Paz. The farther away from the city, the better the snorkeling is. There are fewer people, less trash, better visibility and more marine life.

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La Concha Beach Resort

La Concha Beach Resort is the first stop. It is 6km north of the city, over the hill and the very end of the Malecon. The resort rents fins, masks and snorkels and the restaurant and bar are available to non-guests.

The reef is accessible either from the beach or at The Cortez Club Dive Shop. You can easily swim from here to Caimancito – only 250m north of the resort – and back.

Scorpionfish at Caimencito near La Paz, Mexico

Scorpionfish at Caimencito

Caimancito

Take a picnic to enjoy after you snorkel as this small beach. It has several palapas (large thatched umbrellas) where you can leave your things and that provide a bit of shade. A jetty splits the bay in two, so you can snorkel the north side of the jetty. After lunch, you can swim to the rock by La Concha and back.

The visibility here is never optimal and everything seems grey, as there’s a fine layer of sand and silt covering the rocks and coral. There are plenty of fish to see here, but beware of stingers (jellyfish) during the summer months. It is a perfect spot for an easily accessible swim close to town.

Pichilingue

Don’t let the ferry terminal and plastic-strewn beach discourage you from visiting Playa Pichilingue, 17km north of downtown. Never judge a book by its cover, or a snorkeling site by its beach. There is parking at the boat launch, and at the main beach and restaurant.

Common fish species in the Gulf of California near La Paz, Mexico

Pacific Mutton Hamlet, Sergeant Major and Cortez Damselfish at Playa Pichilingue

Just past the boat launch, the overturned wreckage of old panga is teeming with life, and the north side of the bay is encrusted in coral. When it comes to fish, all the usual suspects are here. Angelfish, Trumpetfish, Damselfish and the ubiquitous Sargent Majors are guaranteed. The popping of Parrotfish crunching the coral is a constant sound. This spot is a little gem hidden in plain sight.

Tecolote East

Either end of this beautiful bay has interesting snorkeling. The east end (turning right through the sand at the restaurants) offers a quiet spot, often shared by a few octopus hunters.

Although there’s plenty of room for all and lots to see, we were saddened by the removal of the octopus. Swimming towards the point, the sandy bottom gives way to seaweed covered rocks and rocky outcroppings.

There’s not much coral here, but in among the seaweed and the rocks there’s a lot of life to be found. A keen eye will spot the signs of an octopus den and patience will be rewarded with an appearance.

Octopus at Playa Tecolote near La Paz, Mexico

Octopus at Playa Tecolote

A few dozen yards offshore the shelf drops down to about 15 feet where all kinds of fish hide under the adjacent rocks and in the crevices. A good return snorkel is to swim towards the point along the shore, circle back around the shelf, and come back to the beach.

Tecolote West

At the west end of the beach, a short walk past the Isla Partida Restaurant, there’s a lovely, little cove and the start of a wonderful snorkeling experience. This site is best done at low tide on a calm day, with little wind or swell, to be able to swim close along the rocky shore.

Take your time, and swim in and out of the jutting rocks, around large boulders and over the coral reef. Sabertooth Blennies poke their heads out of barnacles, while Sharpnosed Puffers seem to be in every nook and cranny.

Small Orange-Sided Triggerfish, Cortez Damselfish, Mexican Hogfish, and Panamic Fangtoothed Blennies are also everywhere.

Sharpnose Puffer near La Paz, Mexico

Sharpnose Puffer at Playa Tecolote

Snowflake Moray Eel at Bahia de Muertos near La Paz, Mexico

Snowflake Moray Eel near Gran Suenos

Octopus aren’t uncommon, as the hunters tend to stick to the east end of the bay. One day, an octopus – hiding rather poorly on a rock – squirted ink at us here.

It’s worth taking the time to swim the entire way around the point to the next beach – about a 45 minute slow swim. Haul out onto the warm sand and laze in the sun. There is no road access to this beach, so it is rarely visited. We’ve always had the place to ourselves.

Whale Sharks

Every dive shop will take you snorkeling with Whale Sharks on the other side of the Mogote Peninsula across from downtown La Paz. All operators require a permit and rules exist to minimize the effects of boats and snorkelers on the sharks. These rules aren’t strictly enforced or sometimes even obeyed. Boats will often move in front of the fish to keep them from swimming away from the tourists who struggle to keep pace.

Whale Sharks are filter feeders and eat plankton (microscopic organisms). As such, visibility is usually terrible and the shark must be within a ten feet to be seen. Like all wildlife, finding a shark is never guaranteed, and you will likely spend most of the trip looking for one. Despite all that, swimming with one of these massive and docile creatures is an incredible experience nobody can ever forget.

El Saltito

This beach is on the other side of the Peninsula Pichilingue, in the Bahia de la Ventana. It is accessible through private property, and a guard waits by the gate to keep track of how many people are on the beach.

The northwest wall is easiest to access and explore. Moorish Idols, Chinese Trumpetfish and ocotpus are commonly found here. We even found a school of baby sailfish as soon as we got in the water. Large rock and coral formations extend away from the wall into the bay, and it is deeper than the other snorkeling sites in the area.

Chinese Trumpetfish at El Saltito near La Paz, Mexico

Chinese Trumpetfish at El Saltito

Bahia de Los Muertos

Traveling a little farther afield, Bahia de Los Muertos is our favorite spot – 60km southeast of La Paz on route 286. It is a scenic and easy drive over the mountains and down into a lovely agricultural plain surrounded by cardon cactus. At the very end of the highway is a restaurant beside a boat launch.

Jawfish at Playa Pichilingue near La Paz, Mexico

Jawfish at Playa Pichilingue

Plan to go in the middle of the day when the boats are out fishing rather than coming or going. Despite the occasional boat traffic, it is an excellent snorkeling spot. Follow the reef at the north end along the restaurant.

These waters are full with life of all shapes, sizes and colors. From Parrotfish to Angelfish and Gobies to Moray Eels, there simply isn’t enough space here to list all the beautiful creatures you will see there.

Swimming out around the point and the remains of the old pier, the terrain becomes a shallow shelf with many rocky outcroppings and small swim-throughs. Don’t be surprised to find a school of Gold-Rimmed Surgeonfish, like we did.

Grand Suenos Resort

Two great snorkeling sites can be found at the Grand Suenos Resort. At the end of the Highway 286, where the pavement ends, there is a dirt road and guard hut on the right. The guard will let you through when you tell him you are going for lunch and how many people are in your party. The mounds of cauliflower-like hard are filled with the numerous inhabitants that take shelter in them.

The first spot to visit is the last beach at the very end of the road. There is a reef on the north end of the beach and a wall at the south end. The reef is an interesting maze of coral and towering rocks teeming with fish, including Guineafowl Puffers and Moray Eels. The southern wall is a shallow swim over coral and is best explored at high tide.

Panamic Moray Eel at Bahia de Muertos near La Paz, Mexico

Moray Eel near Gran Suenos Resort

The other snorkeling site is right in front of the resort. Park at the restaurant and walk out to the beach. There are several palapas for those seeking shade. The reef along the south end of the beach is an extension of the coral garden at the beach to the south.

Guineafowl Puffer and Moorish Idol near La Paz, Mexico

Guineafowl Puffer and Moorish Idol

Peacock Razorfish, Juvenile Rockmover Wrasse, Moorish Idols, Spotted Boxfish are not uncommon. We were even lucky enough to have a large California Sea Lion take a swim by to check us out on one trip.

There is another reef to the left of the palapas worth exploring as well. And, the visibility at both beaches is usually crystal clear. Be sure to have lunch at the resort’s excellent and inexpensive restaurant.

La Paz Snorkeling Tours to Los Islotes

Every tour and panga operator offer trips to Los Islotes. This rock whitewashed with bird dung, just off the tip of Isla Partida, is a sea lion colony. It is one of the most popular tours in La Paz, and for good reason. The pups are born in the summer and weaned by September, when the rookery opens to tourists. The sea lions are mostly young pups and are extremely friendly and playful.

Surrounded by dozens of these elegant creatures, who nibble at you fins, blow bubbles at you and chase each other around is a wonderful and unforgettable experience. You won’t want to get out of the water. If you go, try to get there early before the wind picks up everybody else arrives.

Sea Lions in the Gulf of California

Sea Lion pups play and frolic in the Gulf of California

La Paz is a mecca for watersports on the Baja. The kayaking and scuba diving in the Gulf of California are world-famous. However, independent La Paz snorkeling is often under-played and we’re not sure why. We have done a lot of diving here over the years, and some of our snorkeling trips have been better than some of our dives. So, leave the regulator and BCD at home, grab your mask, fins and snorkel, and check out what lies just below the surface in “the world’s aquarium”.

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By |2018-12-28T00:51:19+00:00September 24th, 2018|Categories: Adventure, Mexico|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

About the Author:

Diane and Alex have spent their lives together in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. For 25 years, they have been trying to see and share as much of the world as they can.

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