Mar y Aventuras is a professionally run organization that runs water based trips in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, from snorkeling and whale watching day trips to multi-day kayaking trips. We booked the 9 day/8 night Baja Coast & Islands, Loreto to La Paz for mid-April of 2021. This is an excellent trip for those who are comfortable camping on the beach and are looking for a multi-day kayaking trip with plenty of wildlife viewing.
Starting in Loreto, Mexico, we traveled 140 miles down the coast of the Baja Peninsula to La Paz. Although we kayaked every day, most of that distance was covered by power boat. We averaged about a half day of kayaking with only one full 14-mile day. Other activities included opportunities to fish every day and snorkel and/or hike a couple of times. One of the highlights was snorkeling with sea lions. Camp was moved every day except one.
The first and last nights of the 8-night trip are spent in hotels while the other 6 are tent camping on the beach. The daily routine on the water starts with coffee at daybreak followed by an hour of fishing on the boat. Back in camp around 8 we had breakfast and then packed up and help load our luggage onto the boat. Sometimes we started paddling from camp but most days we took the support boat to the start of the kayaking portion of the day. Lunch was either in camp or at a stop at a beach. In the afternoons, if the paddling didn’t go too late were given opportunities to hike or snorkel. Happy hour was around 6 followed by dinner.
For a detail account of our day by day activities see the previous posts.
Part 1 – Day 1 and 2 – Arrival in Loreto, Camp Orientation, First Paddle
Part 2 – Day 3 and 4 – Whales and Blue Footed Boobies
Part 3 – Day 5 and 6 – Catching Fish, Kayaking through a Mangrove Estuary
Part 4 – Day 7 and 8 – Snorkeling with Sea Lions and Arrival in La Paz
Guides and Crew
We had two guides and 3 support crew – boat captain, cook and assistant. Everyone was friendly and eager to help. The guide, Carlos, was extremely knowledgeable in both kayaking skills and the wildlife of the region. If you are interested in bettering your kayaking he is a great person to learn from. Even though the guides spoke great English they happily encouraged those who wanted to practice their Spanish.
On our trip there were 5 expedition tandem kayaks and 2 solos for 12 guests. This may be because our group had a family of 5 and one single traveler. Generally the tandems are more stable. In fact, on our trip the only kayaks that tipped were the solos and for 3 different paddlers.
The amount of kayaking depends on the desires of the groups and the weather conditions. Although we kayaked every day, the time and miles spent kayaking were significantly less than the 8-20 miles suggested on the Mar y Aventuras website. We averaged about a half day kayaking with a couple of days with as few as 3 miles and one long 14-mile day. To my knowledge no one complained that we weren’t kayaking enough. In fact, on the one long day 4 out of the 12 of us took the support boat for the last stretch of the day.
Conditions were frequently windy causing Carlos to modify the plan for the day to avoid kayaking in choppy waters. We did have some choppy conditions across open channels but nothing that felt unsafe. Generally he tried to guide us along pretty coastlines with interesting rock formations and wildlife.
Most of the guests had some kayaking experience but it is not required for the trip. Carlos covered all the basics of kayaking on the first day and would give more information, tips and training as requested. He helped Don and I practice exiting and re-entering the kayaking on our own, a needed skill if you plan to do a solo trip somewhere.
Fishing from the kayak is also possible. See the section on Fishing.
Every morning after coffee is an hour-long fishing trip. It’s also a beautiful time to be on the water for photographers or those want to take a morning boat ride. Guests are expected to have a fishing license, which can be purchased the first morning, and bring their own lures. There was only one pole available for guests to fish. One person had brought his own and another bought line which he wrapped around a square of wood, which worked quite well for catching trigger fish and sea bass.
Fishing is also possible while kayaking. One of the guests, who had done this trip several times before, fished every time he kayaked using his regular fishing rod. And Don caught several fish while kayaking using the primitive fishing rig described above.
We only snorkeled once other than snorkeling with the sea lions. Unfortunately the afternoon we chose to snorkel the wind had picked up resulting in choppy waters and poor visibility. Despite the conditions we saw a ray, trumpet fish, schools of snapper and other little fish, and a group of 5 puffer fish. Others snorkeled more often.
Snorkeling with the sea lions was one of the highlights of the trip and I would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t done it before. It’s worth renting the gear just for that. The sea lions are friendly, especially the pups, and will swim around you and get in your face wanting to play. The adults, thankfully, keep a little more distance but are still sometimes uncomfortably close. If you do what the guide tells you, i.e., don’t try to pet the pups, they’ll bite, and stay away from the adults, you’ll be fine.
The water temperature for me was cold, low to mid 70s, in mid-April, especially when we snorkeled with the sea lions. I had a 5mm full wetsuit and was sometimes chilled. Others did fine with the rented 3mm shorty or nothing.
2 or 3 afternoons a short hike in the desert was offered. We didn’t participate as we had other things we wanted to do, either kayak training or snorkeling.
In mid-April we saw numerous brown pelicans; frequent cormorants, blue footed-boobies and frigate birds and herons; the occasional osprey and egrets in the mangroves. Turtles frequently poked their head out of the water and then quickly dove. On several days we saw whales – orcas and blue wales – and pods of dolphins in the distance. One pod swam through our group of kayaks.
Each of the beach campsites was set up basically in the same fashion – a mess tent where the staff prepared the meal. Nearby was the dining area with a large communal table and plastic chairs shaded most of the day by a tarp lean-to. A toilet area and hand washing station was set up a short walk away.
Guests were expected to set up their own tents. Carlos gave a demonstration the first day on how to set it up. About half the days the tents were already set up when we arrived to camp. We had to move them to our preferred location and bury the wooden anchors into the sand to prevent them from blowing away.
The food was of good quality and well prepared. It was impressive what Alberto, the cook, could make, such as flan or a corn cake, in a beach side kitchen using only stove top burners. Meals were a varied selection of basic Mexican or American type dishes. We had fresh fish several times, including the fish we caught prepared as ceviche or sashimi. They served plenty of vegetables and there was always seconds for those that were still hungry.
Two portable toilets were set up either behind the bushes or in a small 3-sided tent. Guests were given instructions on the toilet usage and how to keep it clean. We were also instructed that we could urinate in the sea or along the water’s edge but not in the bushes. With very little rain, if guests used the bushes the place would soon reek of urine.
At some of the lunch spots there wasn’t always privacy to urinate along the water. Some went for a swim, others did their best to be discreet. I found that the kayak skirt made a good privacy shield, but in the end it’s just part of the camp experience.
The shower is a 5 gallon black bag hung on a pole with a gravity fed nozzle. The water is meant to be shared; therefore guests wash up in the sea and use the shower just to rinse off the salt water.
All the equipment we used – the tent, kayaks, PFDs -personal flotation devices- etc. were in good condition. In fact our tent was brand new. We didn’t rent the snorkeling gear or bedding – sleeping bags and pads, but everything looked fine and I didn’t hear any complaints.
Sleeping and Dining in Loreto
The Hotel Oasis is a mid-range hotel just off the beach. The tiled rooms are clean and serviceable but nothing special. Staff is friendly and the property flanks the sea with views from the restaurant patio. Wifi was adequate and varied between buildings.
Lunch Hotel Oasis – The menu includes a basic selection of fish and meats. We ordered the hamburger and fries and the grilled mackerel. Both were well executed.
We had dinner at La Palapa, recommended by Carlos, the guide. The seafood restaurant’s menu has a selection of both seafood and meat with typical Mexican preparations. Don’s sea bass filet, lightly breaded and panned fried, was well done. My fish tacos were heavily battered and fried, an ordering error on my part. The tortilla chips were thick and stale.
Sleeping and Dining in La Paz
Posada LunaSol is a mid-range hotel with minimal amenities – shampoo and soap but no hairdryer. There is a safe but the batteries went dead straight away. Good hot water but only OK water pressure. Decent Wifi. Hotel staff is friendly and helpful.
For dinner we met the group down stairs and walked 2 blocks to La Costa for the trip goodbye dinner. The dining room is a covered open air terrace facing the marina. Included in the price of the trip is 1 drink and select menu options – fish prepared various ways or beef. Both were served with rice and salad. No dessert. Well prepared and friendly service.
Booking the Trip
We booked the trip through oars.com, a US based company that specializes in rafting trips. Communications with Oars was professional and efficient. They responded to all my questions quickly, however, I didn’t realize that the trip was run by Mar y Aventura until we arrived in Mexico. Had I known I would have booked directly with the local company, only because I try to book with local companies to keep more tourist dollars in-country.
Mar y Aventuras had implemented Covid protocols, i.e., daily temperature checks, plated meals rather than buffet style and the use of masks when social distancing is not possible. The guests, however, quickly dropped the use of masks once we were at the marina outside of Loreto and didn’t put them on again until we arrived at the La Paz marina. The crew and guides continued to wear masks most of the time when interacting with the guests.
At the orientation meeting one of the guests asked who was vaccinated. All the guests had at least one shot, 8 out of 12 were fully vaccinated. The crew had been tested the day before, but not vaccinated.
We were able to arrange a Covid test for the afternoon we arrived in La Paz. (We needed a test for our flight back to the US the next morning.) The rapid antigen test was at Prime Lab, a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Bring your passport or a copy if you want the passport number on your test results, $45, test results in 1-2 hours. The results arrived on time as promised via email but the hotel clerk also printed a hard copy for us without us asking.
The weather in April was hot in the mid-day sun but pleasant in the morning and evenings and when we were out on the water. We slept comfortably with the tent air vents open allowing a breeze through the tent. I never needed more than a light long-sleeved shirt.
The sun is intense with very little shade. Some guests soaked up the sun; I covered up as much as possible, including – hat, neck gaiter, sun sleeves and gloves.
It was occasionally windy requiring the guide to modify the day’s itinerary to avoid paddling in choppy waters. It is supposedly windier in February and March.
They suggest that you bring rain gear. While it rarely rains enough for rain gear there can be considerable spray when riding in the panga in choppy conditions. Having a decent rain jacket does help.
The water temperature in April runs about 70-75°. I found it quite comfortable kayaking but was a bit cold snorkeling even with a 5mm wetsuit. Others comfortably swam in the sea without a wetsuit.
In the kayak I had an Olympus TG-5 water proof camera and, in a dry sack, a Canon 7D Mark II with a 70-200mm lens for shooting wildlife. This worked pretty well when I kept the speed up to at least 1/750, higher would be better. On shore I used a Fuji XT-3 for general documentation and landscapes.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Sea of Cortez page.