La Paz Trip Report 2021 - Bluewater Dive Travel
La Paz Trip Report 2021

La Paz Trip Report 2021

La Paz, Mexico Sea of Cortez Trip Report

La Paz, Mexico Trip Report – October 30 to November 06, 2021

Words by Mike Pizzi, photos by Mike Pizzi, Nirupam Nigam, and guests

Mike's camera gear: Underwater videos taken with Sony A7S III and a Nauticam A7S III Housing

Nirupam's camera gear: Underwater photos taken with Canon EOS R5 and an Ikelite Canon EOS R5 Housing


La Paz is a small coastal city situated towards the southeastern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. It is a protected bay of the Sea of Cortez where a mix of stunning marine animals reside and pass through. It remains most well known for its sea lion colony, which provides divers the opportunity to get up close and personal with playful adults and pups. Despite being just a three-hour drive from the bustling tourist destination of Cabos San Lucas, La Paz remains a tranquil place. For underwater photographers, La Paz is a wide-angle paradise. In addition to sea lions, divers can expect to encounter mobula rays, turtles, and even whale sharks at certain times of the year. Orcas are also known to pass by the area. Macro enthusiasts also have the opportunity to see jawfish, signal blennies, and different types of nudibranchs.

La Paz Trip Report 2021

 Photo 4: A School of Grunts at La Reina

With international travel becoming more restricted during the pandemic and travel to Mexico remaining open, our yearly Bluewater Photo Workshop to La Paz was the perfect trip for the current traveling climate. Getting to La Paz is easy from the west coast of the US, with a quick two-hour flight from Los Angeles to Cabo and a three-hour drive to La Paz from the Cabo airport. Our accommodation at the Hyatt Place was conveniently located next to the marina and the dive shop. The Hyatt Place is a first-rate hotel situated a couple of miles from downtown La Paz with extremely friendly staff. 


Our trip leaders had the pleasure of getting to know 22 divers who came to La Paz to work on their underwater photography skills. We dove daily with Fun Baja – our favorite dive operator in the La Paz area. Every morning, we quickly ate breakfast at the hotel and then walked 50 meters across the hotel parking lot to the dock where the boat was waiting for us. Dive days generally consisted of a 60-minute ride out to the offshore islands in the Sea of Cortez. We would do three dives, eat lunch on the boat in between, and come back in the late afternoon. After a relaxing dinner at the hotel, our trip leaders gave presentations on underwater photography, video, and Lightroom…rinse and repeat. 

 La Paz Trip Report 2021

Photo 1: Trip leader, Nirupam Nigam, gives a lecture on strobe positioning in the field. 


Day 1: Shipwrecks

Our first day of diving entailed a shallow reef check-out dive and exploring around some beautiful shipwrecks. The wreck of the Fang Ming, an artificial reef created from a seized Chinese fishing vessel, was the highlight of the day. Several divers in the group got to meet a very photogenic turtle who had made the center deck of the ship its napping area. We also encountered baby moray eels hiding in the cracks of the ship wall.

La Paz Trip Report 2021

 Photo 5: A friendly turtle feeding next to a shipwreck

Day 2: La Reina 

Our second day of diving provided much more wide-angle action! We heard there were orcas in the area so the crew at Fun Baja were kind enough to bring us way out to the remote rock named “The Queen”, or La Reina, to look for them. La Reina is a natural wonder and a top contender for our favorite site in the Sea of Cortez. The ride out to the seamount was beautiful as well. Halfway out, we saw a fin sticking out of the water so we jumped in for a better look. It turned out to be a thresher shark!! A few divers ended up getting amazing wide-angle shots of the thresher shark, which is extremely rare to see. The divemaster said he had never seen one in 25 years of diving in the area, which led us to believe the thresher shark may not have been healthy.

La Paz Trip Report 2021

 Photo 7: A rare thresher shark photographed by Adam Poliquin

After getting back in the boat and arriving at La Reina, we quickly realized the visibility was absolutely perfect and the water was a deep pelagic blue. The highlights at La Reina were massive tornadoes of fish and large bull sea lions, along with females playing together in an underwater canyon. We could hear dolphins communicating off in the distance but no orcas or other dolphins graced us with their presence underwater. Watching the sea lions interact gave us plenty to focus on, however!

La Paz Trip Report 2021

Photo 6: A large school of fish at La Reina

La Paz Trip Report 2021

Photo 9: A sea lion photographed by Heather Weeter


Day 3: Los Islotes

On our third day of diving, we headed out to the main attraction, Los Islotes, arguably one of the world’s friendliest sea lion colonies. We spent the entire day playing with the sea lions under the arch and inside a small cave where the pups hang out. The canyon under the arch provided a stunning opportunity to photograph sea lions with sun rays piercing into the darker areas. Our favorite part by far however was letting the sea lion pups in the cave nibble on our fins, our dive gear, and sometimes even our heads! Everyone on the boat was overcome with joy when the day was over.

La Paz Trip Report 2021

Photo 8: A sea lion in a cave photographed by May Mei Chong


Day 4: El Bajo and Los Islotes

On our fourth day, we decided to head out for some pelagic diving at El Bajo. This dive site is a submarine seamount in the middle of the Sea of Cortez, an hour and a half ride from La Paz. It’s well worth the journey if conditions are right, and a massive pod of dolphins happened to swim directly at our boat during our journey. El Bajo is known for hammerheads that congregate in the deep blue depths around the sea mount. When we dropped in, the current picked up and we were not able to find the hammerheads, unfortunately. The challenging conditions made it a bit difficult to stay on the seamount and find macro subjects, but some of the divers were able to spot some eels, turtles, and other small critters. After the first dive, we decided to leave the choppy conditions at El Bajo for some more relaxing diving with the sea lions, which didn’t fail to impress us once again!

La Paz Trip Report 2021

Photo 2

La Paz Trip Report 2021

Photo 10 Sea Lions Playing by Milada Copeland

Day 5: Los Islotes and Mobula Rays

Unfortunately for us, the whale sharks this year had not migrated to the bay yet. We were told they were unnaturally late due to wind patterns and potentially cruise ships docking during the pandemic. Because of this, we decided to try a macro dive at Los Islotes, and a mobula ray night dive. On the first dive, we explored the sandy bottom and rock piles below the sea lion colony. A few of the sea lions came and checked us out while we were down there and seemed to be playing around the anchor lines. We then spent some time looking at the resident jawfish popping their heads in and out of their dens while also searching for nudis. 

La Paz Trip Report 2021

 Photo 11: A beautiful shrimp on a seastar captured by Natasha Overbo

After diving at Los Islotes we headed over to a bay where the mobula rays use artificial lights from boats to feed. After watching a gorgeous sunset, our divemaster jumped in with a high-powered light to try and attract the small plankton that mobulas eat. Shortly after the first group entered the water, the small rays started swooping in and eating right in front of us! The mobulas were like mini airplanes flying through the water, it was truly a sight to behold.

La Paz Trip Report 2021

 Photo 12: Every species we saw on the mobula ray night dive in one photo! by Milada Copeland


Day 6: Swanee Reef

The last day of the trip was spent at the main coral reef in the area, Swanee Reef. We had perfect visibility and as soon as we dropped in we could tell it was a special dive site. Hundreds of fish were traveling around a vibrant and healthy reef. On the first dive, our group found sleeping turtles in the reef, signal blennies in the surrounding sand, and cormorants diving down to hunt in front of us. It’s always a strange sight to see a bird at depths of 50 feet, but I am sure they think the same of us! 

On the last dive of the trip, we were blessed with a giant baitball that was hovering just off the side of the reef. The cormorants and sea lions coordinated their attacks from above and below, and everyone spent time getting lost inside the wall of fish. It was an absolutely magical experience and was one of the top dives of the trip. A perfect way to end it! 

La Paz Trip Report 2021

 Photo 13: A cormorant hunting bait fish by Karen Tan

La Paz Trip Report 2021

 Photo 14: More baitfish at Swanee Reef by Nirupam Nigam

La Paz Trip Report 2021

Photo 15: A snowflake moray on Swanee Reef by Nirupam Nigam

La Paz Trip Report 2021

Photo 16: A turtle on Swanee Reef by Nirupam Nigam


After returning to shore, we all went out for tacos with the dive crew and owner of Fun Baja. It was great to see everyone’s photography skills improving during the trip, and we can’t wait to go back next year!!

La Paz Trip Report 2021

 Photo 17: A sea lion playing with a rock by Nirupam Nigam


Read about our 2022 trip:

La Paz Scuba Diving Trip Report 2022


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