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Islas Marietas

Kevin and I each set our alarms for 6am this morning. Our charter was going to pick us up on the beach next door at 7am to go out to the Islas Marietas, do some fishing, and generally explore the bay a bit. On our first night here we met a cool lady visiting from Victoria, BC, who we’d invited to share the charter with us, so it would just be the three of us aboard today (plus captain and crew). The plan was for the boat to pick us up first, then get our new friend from the pier closer to the village where she’s staying.

Sleeping to the sound of the surf below our room here is lovely, however…it is apparently loud enough to mask the sound of BOTH of our alarms for over an hour! I opened my eyes, noticed the light, raised my head to look toward the water, then back to my iPhone, where it read “Alarm” — meaning it was going off right then (I couldn’t hear it at all). It was 7:20am. Curses were uttered as we quickly dressed, packed what we needed (well, most of it) and looked out to see if we could spot a boat. Nope.

I checked back a few minutes after we were mostly ready and saw our ride out in front of the beach looking for us. I waved big to see if I could get their attention, and I did. A wave back, a thumbs up, and we bolted down stairs to meet them. Whew!! After many heartfelt “lo sientos” we were on our way.

Sun coming up through some fog and clouds

We cruised the 15 nautical miles or so out to the Islas Marietas (saw a nice big humpback on our way), but we couldn’t even see the islands until we were less than a quarter mile from them due to some pretty thick fog.

Low visibility at the Islas Marietas

We figured swimming might be a little cold at this point so we opted to do our fishing first while we waited for the fog to burn off.

Fishing in the fog
More fishing, more rocks
Couple of sea lions making a racket on the rocks

We trolled four lines for quite some time with no luck in the fog, and for a while I thought “Man, what if we’re not going to get a good visit to the islands OR catch any fish on this outing?” but eventually we got into some mackerel and did really well.

Two of these were filleted and set aside for ceviche, and the other plus one more that we caught after this photo were filleted and put in a Ziploc for fish tacos tonight.

We kept catching, and catching, and eventually we called it at 13 mackerel.


We pulled in our lines and headed back to the islands to see how things were looking. Some of the fog had burned off and our captain Juan Carlos asked if we wanted to go to the beach, snorkeling, or swimming through the sea cave into the hidden beach inside the island. Um, number three please! No contest.

In the early 1900s these uninhabited islands were used by the Mexican government to conduct military testing. Many bombings and explosions took place here, but in the late 1960s Jacques Cousteau led an international uprising of sorts to garner protection for this area rich with sea life, and the park has been a national park since the 60s. No hunting, fishing, or human activity is allowed. The government allows only a few companies to bring passengers out for very limited landing in specific areas.

Once we had our official wristbands and helmets and were properly checked in with the park officials (which was basically just getting close to their boat and showing them we had required wristbands, helmets, and life jackets), we were given the okay to go in. (The cave you swim through has a rocky, crumbly ceiling of volcanic rock, and if a big wave came while you were swimming through….well, you might hit your head, hence, helmets.)

Juan Carlos and Arlene stayed back, while Jonas went with us to the island.

Kevin and I in the water (taken by Arlene):

The recommendation was to put the lifejackets around our waists to make it easier to swim. They ended up looking a lot like water wings!
None of these photos do this place justice. At all.

We picked up a little waterproof camera before we left Portland (a Nikon Coolpix S33, refurbished, for $65 on amazon), and although it’s not the best, it was certainly the only camera I was able to swim with so I could get any photos at all.

When we arrived, one large group of people were on their way out from the hidden beach and we were the only ones in there during our visit.

The tide was actually coming in while we walked on the beach, so we thought we might want to get out while we could!

Several other boats with passengers, waiting their turn.

Back aboard, Juan Carlos was hard at work making fresh ceviche for everyone.

Just-caught mackerel, red onion, cucumber, tomato, peppers, salt, shoyu, and some other secret ingredients = delicious! We brought a few cans of Pacifico to share and it went very well with the ceviche!

As we headed back to Yelapa, we spotted this bird hitching a ride on the back of a giant sea turtle!

So even with our rocky start, we got to do ALL OF THE THINGS today. We caught fish, swam through a sea cave to a hidden beach, ate fresh ceviche, drank cold beer, saw whales, sea turtles, sea lions, and a plethora of sea birds, and now we’re back at this beautiful casa in Yelapa with fresh fish to cook for dinner.

p.s. We highly recommend these guys at Garcia Charters! (So much so, that I think we may go out with them again while we’re in Yelapa!)