Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge (ESB), located in the Mexican province of Quintana Roo, and is a new frontier flats fishing destination specifically designed for serious saltwater fly fishers. The newly-constructed ESB Lodge is located on a beautiful Caribbean beach in the southernmost part of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, just south of the sleepy lobster fishing village of Punta Herrero and within the massive 1.3 million acre Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, established in 1986. This is a remote wilderness flat fishing destination, 250 road miles from the mega resort metropolis of Cancun – the lost flats of the Caribbean!
ESB Lodge opened its inaugural season on April 2, 2017, and finally allowed saltwater anglers quick and easy access to the last frontier of Caribbean flats fishing – Espiritu Santo Bay. This fishery can provide fantastic action for all four of the Caribbean’s famous flats species – permit, tarpon, bonefish, and snook. This is “Super Grand Slam” country!
“ESB Lodge is an extremely well thought out operation run by and for all levels of fishing Anglers. This is not a 5 star resort, HOWEVER, Chiara and Dane have an absolute 5 star atmosphere and attention to fishing and lodging detail. All customers should be aware and expect the well water for showers to be Salty and there is no Laundry service. With that said, There is always plenty of delicious and pure Drinking water right in the rooms, held in Yeti Coolers or outside on the patio. Margies, beers, cocktails and wonderful appetizers are ready on the Palapa every day after arrival to the lodge from the airport or fishing. Self serve cocktails run on the honor system are available 24/7. The dinners are always amazing and way beyond what most anyone can expect. Any dietary restrictions are taken care of as long as the customers let the staff know in advance. The rooms are super clean and comfortable with Air Conditioning and private Bathrooms. Winds and weather come and go but this operation is destined to be here a very long time. The combination of a world class fly fishing location, incredibly well trained and knowledgeable guides, and an ownership committed to providing we the anglers with the best possible experience for such a remote location and you will perhaps understand why this is my 4th time back to ESBL. I cannot wait for number 5.” – Jamie Massion, 2019
La Bahia del Espiritu Santo (ESB) is the true gem of the Yucatan, and perhaps the last remaining wilderness fly fishing outpost along the entire Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. It has always been the “second sister” to its larger, more accessible sibling to the north, Ascension Bay, but that’s changed… For the dedicated saltwater flats fly fisherman, ESB provides the least pressured angling opportunities in the entire Caribbean.
ESB was first discovered in 1518 by Juan de Grijalba, just a few days after the discovery of Ascension Bay. Grijalba was the nephew of the famous conquistador Diego Velazquez. He followed Velazquez in the conquest of Cuba in 1511, and in 1518 Velazquez sent Grijalba to be the first to explore the Yucatan Peninsula. Grijalba set sail from Cuba with four ships and about 200 men, exploring the peninsula and mapping the bays, rivers, and estuaries that today are renowned sanctuaries for permit, tarpon, snook and bonefish. He discovered Espiritu Santo Bay on Pentecost Day (May 24, 1518), hence the name Espiritu Santo Bay, “Bay of the Holy Spirit”.
Before the Spanish brought colonization and “civilization” to these eastern shores of Mexico, ESB was already considered more remote and isolated than Ascension Bay, and seen as a wilderness outpost. During Mayan times, Ascension Bay was critical in providing food for the city of Tulum. The bay and the Boca Paila lagoon were heavily fished by the local Mayan communities, many of which remain today and incorporate important towns like Punta Allen, Muyil, and Vigia Chico. There were no towns or significant populations at ESB, however, and its fishery remained intact and un-impacted by harvest.
From a topographical and geographical standpoint, the bays are very similar. Both are shallow and create navigation challenges for vessels of any size. This is perfect habitat for the shallow saltwater flats that bonefish, permit, and tarpon and snook prefer, while prohibiting commercial navigation.
The primary differences between ESB and Ascension Bay are size and accessibility. ESB is approximately half the size of her more famous sister, but Ascension Bay has more than six thousand people living in the towns around her shores. There are nine official lodges plus several back country, “unofficial” guides that fish the bay, and as of 2015, one hundred and eighty boats with permits for fishing, snorkeling, bird watching, or tours of the bay. This creates a vibrant tourism-based economy centered around these communities, and a constant impact of pressure on the bay.
Espiritu Santo Bay, however, remains perfectly positioned in a remote wilderness, an area devoid of tourism and the impacts of population and people. There is a small community of approximately 95 lobster fishermen and their families that live in Punta Herrero, the only human settlement on the entire bay. Only seven boats have legal access to fish in the bay. This combination of remoteness, lack of human population, and limited access is what makes ESB unique, and one of the most pristine resources left in the region to target fish untouched by human influences.
There are simply very few places left in the world with the same sort of unspoiled natural resources found in ESB. Robust and healthy populations of bonefish, permit, tarpon, and snook abound in its flats, creeks, and backcountry lagoons. And nobody has better access to or more intimate knowledge of the bay than the guides at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge, who have spent years guiding there with the former Paradise Lodge.
Over the course of the past three seasons these guides have been on ESB nearly every day of the season, logging literally thousands of hours learning every nook and cranny of this remarkable, remote fishery. The lightweight, super shallow-draft Hells Bay skiffs can enter the shallow flats inaccessible with the heavier, larger pangas more common in the region.
For permit fishermen, especially, there may be nowhere else on the planet that can compare to ESB. The populations of fish are amazing; especially in the prime permit fishing months when water temperatures are ideal and schools of fish abound on the flats of ESB. Welcome to Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge.
Read a great article from Mike Thompson’s visit to ESB Lodge in 2018 – Read More
Reservations & Rates
The 7 nights / 6 days fishing package at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge runs Sunday to Sunday:
• $4,295.00 USD per person, Double Occupancy (shared room/boat/guide)
• $6,650.00 USD per person, Single Occupancy (private room/boat/guide)
• $4,445.00 USD per person, Double Occupancy (shared room/boat/guide)
• $6,800.00 USD per person, Single Occupancy (private room/boat/guide)
Your package at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge includes round trip air charter from Cancun to the nearby landing strip and subsequent auto transfer to the lodge (Sundays only), air-conditioned accommodations, all meals, beverages (soft drinks, juices, mixers, and bottled water) and Hosted "Happy Hour" beer and margaritas, fishing license, 6 days fully guided fishing, and 15% Mexico VAT.
Not included in your package at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge are personal tackle, air charter or ground transfers other than on Sundays if needed, gratuities, alcoholic beverages other than what is outlined in inclusions, items of personal nature and any lodging or meals not provided at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge, as well as the FBO Departure Tax.
The Fly Shop® is not in the insurance business, but we recommend Travel Guard coverage as a service with a desire to see your best interests protected. It is impossible to know when an unfortunate situation (loss of luggage, fly rods, illness in the family, or an accident) may occur. However, such things can and do happen, and this insurance can provide a means of recourse against non-refundable financial losses.
• Travel Insurance Information
Seasons at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge
There are many reasons to choose one season over another to fish ESB Lodge. Your considerations may include vacation schedules, winter relief from cold northern climes, business commitments, best time for your target specie, etc. No matter when you choose to fish ESB Lodge, the weather, more than any other factor will influence your success in shallow water sight fishing. Typically, 90 plus percent of the fishing at ESB is sight fishing in clear shallow water. During inclement weather, your guide may
suggest blind casting along mangrove shorelines, which is especially productive in the remote backcountry lagoons and cenote filled lakes. While not your classic sight fishing; it can be extremely exciting and very productive, especially on the overcast days that make sight fishing difficult. Snook often suspend in the shadows of overhanging mangroves, ambushing their unsuspecting prey. Tarpon swim in and out of the mangrove roots, flushing and attacking baitfish. Their explosive strikes are often startling, and the next move for the angler is to turn a determined fish away from their mangrove sanctuary. Flats fishing guides have tremendous eyesight, spotting fish in seemingly impossible conditions. When sight fishing becomes difficult it’s critical to work with your guide. You may not see the fish, but he does. Follow his directions for casting and retrieving your fly during challenging conditions, and you will increase your success.
Winter (January and February):
While snow and ice line the banks of your favorite river in Montana, you can fly south to the Yucatan and wet wade the flats in comfort. The occasional cold front crossing North America may still send a chill down from the north, but the water temperature on flats warms up quickly in the tropical sun, and the bite after the front can be off the charts. Snook warm themselves on the flats on sunny afternoons, and permit eat crabs and mantis shrimp like it’s their last supper.
Spring (March, April and May):
One of the most predictable seasons at ESB, with long sunny days and a shift towards the typical south east wind pattern. The cold fronts have all but disappeared, and if they do pass through, they are typically short lived. The warm south-east trade winds are the norm with sunny, clear-sky days, perfect for sight fishing. All of the flats fishes are fat and sassy by now. The lakes/lagoons should be clear with excellent fishing for snook and tarpon. There could even be some migratory tarpon moving into the bays and along the Oceanside between the shore and the reef. The permit are happy in the bays and are available in schools, singles and doubles.
This is saltwater flats fishing, and there will be wind. But please remember, the wind is your friend. It’s much easier to present your fly to a fish in skinny water when the surface is lightly ruffled by the wind, than to land a fly in front of a bonefish or permit in slick glassy conditions. If this is your first time to the flats, you will significantly increase your success by taking a casting lesson from an instructor who has saltwater experience, and practicing your double haul before the trip. This is a game of accuracy, and you should be able to place your fly on a dinner plate at forty feet in the wind with three false casts.
Spring is the most popular time for saltwater flats destinations, and making your ESB Lodge reservations well in advance is strongly suggested.
Summer (June, August and September):
Summer can be some of the best fishing of the year, with lots of daylight, consistent water temperatures, and generally mild south east winds. The bonefish and permit are feasting on the flats with far fewer anglers on the water. Permit in this region are in their post spawning phase during August and September, and anglers often post their highest success rates for this notoriously finicky gamefish during these months.
There can be strong winds, rain and clouds associated with localized tropical storm cells, but it usually lasts only a short time, quickly returning to light winds and sunshine. Hurricane season officially begins June first and continues through November. With modern forecasting methods, we will never be surprised by a hurricane. They begin to be tracked off the coast of Africa, monitored twenty four hours a day as they move to the west. We will always know well in advance if a hurricane threatens, and will take appropriate actions as needed. Trip insurance is always advised, especially during the summer season. That said, our salt water specialist, Eric Ersch, who lived there a couple of years while managing Paradise Lodge with his wife Lana, chooses this as his favorite season to fish ESB based on the terrific fishing opportunities.
Fall (October and November):
This season may be the most pleasant time of the year to fish, and the sight fishing for snook on the flats can be unbelievable. The air temperatures are very comfortable as the autumn sun slides toward the southern horizon. Sometime in mid to late October, the weather will start to change and begin to cool.
Snook spawn during the new and full moon phases in the mouths of bays and passes during June, July and August. Their post spawning phase sends them hungry and feeding on the flats of ESB. It’s not uncommon to find them in small schools on the flats, sunning themselves in very shallow water. Fall is absolutely the best time of the year to sight fish for trophy snook on the flats of ESB, and the numbers and size will amaze you. This is your opportunity to hook them in open water, without giving them the advantage of shredding your line and leader in the barnacle encrusted mangrove roots they typically call home.
The lakes and the bays are a joy to fish. There have been relatively few anglers on the waters and the fish are comfortable. The weather is the real key to this season. The fish are willing and the weather is good, and the fishing is great.
Getting to Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge
Cancun is serviced daily by nearly every airline with multiple flights daily to and from the U.S.A. Major airlines to consider include United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Aero Mexico, Virgin America, and Alaska Airlines.
Arrival to Cancun (Saturday):
On the day prior to your scheduled arrival date in the lodge, you should
plan on traveling to Cancun (CUN) and overnighting at one of the many fine hotels in the area.
We strongly suggest you overnight at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Cancun Airport for the night before you are scheduled to arrive at the lodge. The hotel is very close to the Cancun International Airport, provides free shuttles at half-hour intervals, has a great pool, bar, restaurant, and the rooms are modern and spacious.
Upon arrival into Cancun, you will clear Immigration first, then retrieve your luggage and go through Customs.
Sunday - Arrival Day at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge:
The entire group will be picked up from the Fairfield Inn & Suites Cancun Airport near the airport, at approximately 8:00 am on Sunday, for transfer to the FBO – Private Aviation Terminal to meet your air charter to the lodge. It is located approximately two blocks before terminal 3. If you need to pick up some alcohol, there is a liquor store the driver can stop at before.
8.15 AM clients arrive to FBO (private terminal)
9.00 AM departure Cancun to Pulticub
10.15 AM land in Pulticub
A Departure Tax will be collected at Private Aviation Terminal of approximately 160 pesos ($9USD). They accept $US dollars or credit cards for payment.
The flight from Cancun to our designated airstrip just down the coast from the lodge departs the FBO Private Aviation Terminal at approximately 9:00 am and lasts approximately 1 hour. You should be on the ground no later than 10:30 a.m. You will be met by the lodge staff and transferred by air-conditioned van to the lodge, an approximate 1 hour and 15 minute drive.
Upon arrival to the lodge, your baggage will be transferred by the staff to your room. You are welcome to relax and enjoy a cold beverage in our traditional Caribbean palapa and then make your way to your air-conditioned room to unpack and get organized. A delicious lunch will be served at 1:00 p.m. followed by a general orientation explaining daily schedules, facility layout, lodge policies and such. If you are unsure about some aspect of your trip, please be sure to ask questions – the staff is there to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.
There is no guided fishing on the day you arrive, but feel free to walk and fish along the beach. You can also use the lodge’s snorkeling gear to explore the reef, or just hang out and relax and re-set your clock to Caribbean time.
Full Fishing Days:
Each evening, during cocktail hour or after dinner, the angling options will be discussed with fishermen and a plan will be devised for the next day. Most commonly, anglers are up at 6:00 a.m. Fresh coffee, juices and a delicious breakfast buffet with cooked-to-order eggs will be ready to go at 6:30 a.m. You should be out the door and on your way to the fishing grounds no later than 7:30 a.m. The drive from the lodge to where the boats are moored takes no more than 15 minutes. The guides, who have left earlier in the morning, will be waiting at the flats skiffs, ready to go for the day. The fishing days at ESB Lodge are full, no less than 8 hours total. The most distant fishing areas in Espiritu Santo Bay are no further than a 45-minute boat run under normal conditions, with some areas as close as five minutes from the dock. Lunch is taken on the fly. The guides will have you back to the lodge between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. for a shower, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Dinner is normally served at 7:00 p.m.
If you have the will and stamina, there is usually a crowd that retires to the bar for after-dinner drinks, cigars on the deck, and plenty of fishing stories. The fly-tying table is available to guests that want to twist up some new flies for the next day’s fishing, and there is wireless internet ac¬cess in the lodge for those who desire to check in with their family or friends.
Sunday - Departure from Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge:
There is no guided fishing on the day of departure. Be prepared to depart the lodge for the local airstrip no later than 8:30 a.m. The charter flight back to Cancun is scheduled to depart at approximately 10:30 a.m. The night prior to your morning departure, please reconfirm your flight departure time with the manager to ensure proper transfer arrangements. Please also be sure to clear your lodge account and have your bags packed and ready for transfer to the airstrip two hours before your scheduled departure.
Make sure you book your flight DEPARTURE from the Cancun International Airport (CUN) back home NO earlier than 2:00 p.m.
Lodging at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge
ESB Lodge is a new beach front facility and will accommodate a maximum of eight anglers per week, in four double occupancy rooms comprised of two duplexes built off the sand on pylons. Each room is approximately 250 square feet in size and features a full bathroom, separate toilet area, shower, double sinks, two beds, two dressers and lots of shelving and hooks to store gear. Each room has its own thermostat controlled air conditioner, ceiling fan, and plenty of windows
to take advantage of ocean breezes. The duplex cottages share a common deck overlooking the ocean with chairs; a perfect spot to enjoy a cold beer or ready your gear for the day.
The main lodge consists of massive traditional thatch roof palapa where the bar, lounge and gift shop are located. Attached to the palapa is a spacious air conditioned dining room and modern kitchen. The main lodge faces the barrier reef and Caribbean and the large front deck, a popular gathering spot and where the day’s fishing stories are told.
Food at ESB Lodge is a blend of traditional Mexican food, with a Mayan flair, taking advantage of fresh fish, lobster (in season) fresh produce and regional meat dishes. Dinners are simple and delicious, often fresh off the grill and accompanied by locally grown vegetables, salads and plenty of fresh fruit. Breakfast is served buffet style with plenty of fruit, cereals, toast, juices and starches and meats. Cook to order eggs are available. For lunch you will fill out a form in the evening for the next day’s fishing. You can order a variety of different sandwiches, salads, fruit, chips, cookies, beverages, etc.
ESB Lodge Hosts:
Dane Emerson has been involved in the fly fishing industry for better than 12 years and resided in Gunnison County, Colorado where he was a partner in the Crested Butte Angler.
In the winter months, on behalf of Crested Butte Angler, Dane has travel throughout Mexico and Belize and hosts several trips each season with friends and clients to saltwater fly fishing destinations in the Caribbean. Some years back, Dane made a trip to Paradise Lodge to check it out and see if was a destination he was interested in taking his clients to. Dane’s week at Paradise was filled with incredible fishing, food, and graciously entertained and looked after by host/owner Alejandro de Tomaso. Coincidently Alejandro’s (Alex) daughter Chiara was also visiting that week and they have been together since. Great trip, Great Catch! Since that time Dane has been working with Chiara and The Fly Shop to make ESB Lodge a reality.
Dane is an experienced saltwater angler and guide with an incredible work ethic and genuine concern for his guest’s well being and happiness. Dane manages and orchestrates the fishing program at Esb Lodge, the guide team, as well as lodge support staff. First up, last to bed, always with a smile and warm handshake, you can count on him to make your trip everything you want it to be.
Chiara de Tomaso is the daughter of Alejandro de Tomaso and has a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering, with a major in Business Administration. She has worked in logistics for Multinational companies in FMCG industries in Argentina and Australia. Chiara will be in charge of the administration and finances of ESB Lodge as well as an onsite hostess. She helps with daily lodge operations and the staff and insure that the standards of hospitality well be met to the highest potential. Chiara is fun, always smiling and brings that “ladies-touch” and welcoming Argentina hospitality and spirit to this destination fly fishing lodge in remote Mexico.
Power comes from a generator. Electricity is 110 volts AC, 60Hz. American-style two-pin plugs.
Water & Ice:
All drinking water and water for ice is purified. The water from the tap and shower is from a well (don’t drink).
Liquor & Refreshments:
The lodge has local Mexican beer, tequila, vodka, gin, and rum for cocktails. If you enjoy any specialty beverages, such as single malt scotches or hard to find bourbons, you should bring your own. Cold beers can be packed in your cooler for each day you are on the water and delicious Chile and Argentine wines are available for purchase with dinner.
There is a hosted/free “Happy Hour” serving beer and margaritas, after fishing and before dinner. The lodge has a full bar where cocktails and beers are available for purchase between $3 and $5. You are welcome to bring your own spirits – the lodge has plenty of ice and mixers.
Centerpiece of the Lodge is the lovely dining room where your meals are served. Meals are an excellent blend of Mexican and international cuisine, with emphasis on fresh meats and fish, and fresh fruits & vegetables. Before or after meals, relax in the comfortable lounge area looking east to the Caribbean. Enjoy your favorite book or magazine or just contemplate the beautiful seaside scenery, or tie some special fly patterns. Long strolls on the beach or a swim in the Caribbean are yours for the taking. If you require a special diet, please let us know well in advance so your needs can be accommodated.
Every morning your boat’s cooler will be well stocked with complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. Boat beers can be ordered and cost $2 per bottle. Be sure to inform someone if you would like more or less of a specific beverage.
Dress Attire at the Lodge:
The atmosphere is very laid back at esb Lodge. You’re on vacation! Please feel free to wear whatever is comfortable during the day.
Maid & Laundry Service:
The lodge has daily made service. There is no Laundry service.
Fishing at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge
Each evening, during cocktail hour or after dinner, the angling options will be discussed with fishermen and a plan will be devised for the next day.
• 6:00 a.m. Wake-up - Most commonly, anglers are up at 6:00 a.m. Fresh coffee, juices and a delicious breakfast buffet with cooked-to-order eggs will be ready to go at 6:30 a.m.
• 7:30 a.m. - You should be out the door and on your way to the fishing grounds no later than 7:30 a.m. The drive from the lodge to where the boats are moored takes no more than 15 minutes. The guides, who have left earlier in the morning, will be waiting at the flats skiffs, ready to go for the day. The fishing days at esb Lodge are full, no less than 8 hours total. The most distant fishing areas in Espiritu Santo Bay are no further than a 45-minute boat run under normal conditions, with some areas as close as five minutes from the dock. Lunch is taken on the fly.
• 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. - The guides will have you back to the lodge between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. for a shower, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.
• 7:00 p.m. - Dinner is normally served at 7:00 p.m.
If you have the will and stamina, there is usually a crowd that retires to the bar for after-dinner drinks, cigars on the deck, and plenty of fishing stories. The fly-tying table is available to guests that want to twist up some new flies for the next day’s fishing, and there is wireless internet access in the lodge for those who desire to check in with their family or friends.
ESB Lodge Key Points:
• Comfortable lodging and great hospitality on a secluded Caribbean beach
• An experienced, well trained and friendly guide staff
• Super Grand Slam opportunity to land Tarpon, Snook, Permit and Bonefish
• Classic sight fishing on the flats, on foot or off the skiff
• A pristine flats fishing wilderness, protected within the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve
• Limited access, with only one other outfitter fishing ESB
Google Earth GPS Coordinates: 87°27'43.13"W 19°17'38.66"N
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• Each morning, you’ll have a short, 15-minute drive from the lodge to the Bay where the skiffs and guides will be ready, engines warm, and ready to start fishing. Run times in the boats range from a few minutes to a maximum of 45 minutes depending on conditions and target species. This all combines to mean that anglers enjoy more time on the water, and more opportunities for fish on the end of your fly rod.
• Espiritu Santo Bay lies within the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve. This vast region is a UNESCO World Heritage site, protecting the unique ecosystem restricting fishing access to just eight permits. This ensures very limited fishing pressure, and fish that aren’t used to the slap of a fly line or purr of a motor so they behave like fish are supposed to behave, readily and aggressively taking well-presented flies.
• Esb Lodge utilizes specialized Hell’s Bay Skiffs that silently float in inches of water. These boats are ideal for two anglers and their guide to access the seemingly endless flats of Espiritu Santo Bay, enabling anglers even more daily opportunities for tailing bonefish and permit – as well as marauding tarpon and snook – in the farthest reaches of the most remote fishing area in the Mexican Yucatan.
• The lodge is small and intimate, with a maximum occupancy of eight anglers per week. You won’t get lost in a crowd here, and it’s a perfect destination for a group of friends or family looking for a private fly fishing experience.
• Espiritu Santo Bay has healthy populations of all four of the primary flats species: bonefish, permit, tarpon, and snook. With all of these diverse species, anglers have a daily opportunity to pick their target species, or hunt for them all. Esb Lodge is easily one of the world’s top locations for you to score your Super Grand Slam!