San Lorenzo Marine Archipelago National Park is a cluster of islands, as well as deep waters and shoreline of the Sea of Cortez in Baja California, Mexico. The park is home to an amazing wealth of biodiversity including several species listed as threatened, vulnerable, or endangered.
The total area of the park covers 50,442 hectares, but most of that is water.
Parque Nacional Marino Archipiélago de San Lorenzo is one of the youngest of Mexican national parks, having been created by decree of President Vicente Fox in 2005.
The park is mostly open sea with miles of rocky shoreline and five major islands. The islands that make up the archipelago are Las Animas, Partida, Rasa, Salsipuedes, and San Lorenzo. The islands are mostly barren and rocky with jagged crags. The highest point in the archipelago is the south end of Isla San Lorenzo.
Flora and fauna
Most life in the park can be found below the sea surface or flying overhead.
There's not a lot of flora on the rocky islands, nor on the rocky shoreline, but there are cactus and some scrubby desert plants. Below the sea surface is another story as nutrient rich waters flow through a narrow chokepoint in the Sea of Cortez supporting algae and other micro marine flora that feed whales and a other larger sea creatures.
Many kinds of whales migrate to the Sea of Cortez for birthing and nursing their young. Blue whales, humpbacks, orcas, and sperm whales are some of park's regular denizens. The waters are also a seasonal home to many kinds of turtles who may migrate elsewhere to lay their eggs, but who feed in the warm waters around San Lorenzo. These turtles include hawksbills, olive ridleys and green turtles.
The islands are critical nesting grounds for brown pelicans, gulls, and terns and other species. As many as a half million pairs of these birds nest each year on San Lorenzo, Las Animas, and Salsipuedes islands.
Despite being an aquatic environment, the park's climate is considered to be a desert because it's hot and gets next to no rain. Summer high temperatures regularly exceed 40°C (105°F) while the coldest winter temperatures rarely go below 12°C. Steady breezes and intensely bright sunshine can be brutal on exposed skin, so protect yourself from the elements, but remember that typical sunscreen products contain chemicals that are toxic to fish, shellfish, and marine mammals. Less toxic brands are labeled as "reef safe".
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out how the heck to get to the park. It's not easyǃ You are going to need to go where not even chicken buses go, and then you'll have to hire a boat (or bring your own boat). You can usually hire a boat at Puerto San Francisquito (but definitely arrange it before hand --- it's too far to go on a whim and a chance). (San Francisquito is a tiny village that will be your sole source of anything you need while visiting the San Lorenzo Marine Archipelago Park).
There is a private airstrip at Puerto San Francisquito if you have your own plane. Most people drive.
First, drive to Bahia de los Angeles (about 8 hours south of Ensenada). From there, it's 3 hours on a remote, unmarked, seldom maintained road to the village of Puerto San Francisquito.
Fees and permits
There are no fees to enter the park.
Use a boat, which you can arrange in San Francisquito.
Five islands make up the archipelago.
- Observe nature
Drinks are available in Puerto San Francisquito.
Rooms are available in Puerto San Francisquito.
Camping is not allowed on the islands. Beach camping on the mainland is generally allowed.
- Baja is sparsely populated and is easy to drive, but there have been reports of thefts and robberies along MEX 5 and other roads.
- Fishing can be spectacular in the Sea of Cortez. Know what you catch though. There have been cases of tourists catching pufferfish in shallow waters near shore and eating them, unaware that pufferfish can be toxic.
Ecotourists can find some spectacular places to visit in the Baja peninsula, including national parks, biosphere preserves, and wildlife sanctuaries.