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Lekeitio is a small fishing village in the Basque Country nestled in hills covered with eucalyptus trees. A few hundred meters from its shores, the small Isla San Nicolás, or Isla Garraitz, boasts some of the nicest snorkeling in the region. Snorkeling around the island, you’ll explore nice rocky beds where small fish, and exceptionally rays, can be spotted.

Isla de San Nicolas, Lekeitio
St Nicolas Island.

How to go snorkeling on St Nicolas Island?

The spot is located in Leikeitio, in the Spanish Basque Country, about a 1-hour drive from Bilbao, 1h15 from San Sebastián, and 1h50 from Bayonne. There is parking available near Playa de Karraspio (free, excepted during summer).

Isla de San Nicolas snorkeling map, Lekeitio

Water entrance for snorkeling St Nicolas Island

There are two recommended water entrance points:

  • Isuntza Beach, in the center of the village, from which you can reach the snorkeling area by walking along the paved path that gives access to the island at low tide;
  • Karraspio Beach, a little further south. At low tide, the island is sometimes connected to the coast and you can get close to the snorkeling area by walking on the beach.

It is recommended to explore this spot only at flood tide, when the sea is at its calmest. If there are surf or currents, postpone your session.

St Nicolas Island snorkeling exploration tips

The best way to explore the area is to snorkel all around the San Nicolás Island either from the west, starting from Playa de Isuntza, or from the east, starting from Playa de Karraspio.

School of fish at Isla San Nicolas
Schools of tiny silver fish find shelter in the shallow sandy beds.

The complete tour of the island, which represents a route of more than 1000m, should only be considered by seasoned snorkelers. You can also snorkel the island without doing the whole tour, preferably along its eastern shore, which is more sheltered.

From the beach, you will first explore sandy beds where schools of small fish are often seen. Approaching the island, the seabed starts being covered with rocks.

Grey mullet in Lekeitio
The thicklip grey mullet is fairly common around the island.

Covered in some places by different kinds of seaweeds, the rocks are called home by many fish, including sargo and mullets. San Nicolás Island may offer some exceptional encounters, such as the marbled electric ray spotted between the sandy and rocky beds by Hugzzzer.

On the east side, always stay close to the paved path or the islet shore, as there is important boat traffic around Lekeitio port.

Marbled torpedo ray in Lekeitio
The marbled electric ray is rarely seen at snorkeling depth.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

Lekeitio has a small town center built around the port where many good restaurants are found. There are also three small taverns where you can eat near Karraspio Beach parking lot.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Maximum depth10ft/3m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersBoat traffic, currents, tides
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersLow
  • Access costsFree

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.