Snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo: What to Expect

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

When it comes to escaping the hustle and bustle of life on land, many adventurers turn to the quiet of the ocean. For global travelers, one of these peak underwater experiences is snorkeling in Cabo.

Why Cabo? In addition to the year-round sunshine and warmth, the Baja California Sur region of Mexico serves as a unique resort destination that straddles the line between rustic adventure and luxury lifestyle. 

Boasting an international airport, robust nightlife, high-end shopping, vibrant arts and cultural attractions, cutting-edge spas, and world-renown cuisine, Cabo continues to attract those accustomed to the best things in life. After all, the East Cape is home to some of the biggest names in resort living like Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas

And while some outdoor enthusiasts head to Cabo for the golf, horseback riding, dune buggy tours and zip-lining, it’s the seaside living that keeps them coming back. Just imagine waking up to your choice of kayaking, scuba diving, fishing, jet-skiing, kiteboarding, whale watching, or swimming with dolphins. Where else can you indulge in water-based experiences nearly every day of the year?

But of all the options to enjoy the Sea of Cortez, snorkeling in Cabo might top the list. Here’s why: Cabo Pulmo.

The History of Cabo Pulmo

Arguably one of the best snorkeling locales in the world, Cabo Pulmo is a 17,571-acre Marine Protected Area located 60 miles northeast of Los Cabos. Home to one of the oldest and largest living coral reefs in the Western Hemisphere (and two other living reefs), Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park in the Sea of Cortez is considered the jewel of the East Cape. 

The water is incredibly clear, providing snorkelers with an unobstructed view of both flora and fauna. As you might expect from a 25,000-year-old reef, the habitat is rich with living creatures. From octopuses, rays, lobsters, moray eels, sharks, and sea turtles to more than 300 species of fish, snorkeling in Cabo provides swimmers access to a bio-diverse “hot spot”. Current estimates put the reef’s invertebrate count around 70 and marine species at nearly 6,000.

This wasn’t always the case. After extreme overfishing and poorly enforced regulations depleted the population of fish (and therefore larger predators), Cabo Pulmo residents grew concerned. They enlisted the help of scientists and a local university to lobby the federal government for more protections. 

In 1995, Mexico established Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park and eventually banned commercial and sportfishing within its borders. The efforts paid off. By 2011, a study reported that not only had the overall biomass increased by 463%, but the top predators had increased by 1071%. Better still, a 2018 survey discovered 69 new reef fish species in Cabo Pulmo, and the reefs have become a refuge for the endangered gulf grouper.

Snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo

Although you can go snorkeling in Cabo year-round, summer and fall provide the warmest waters and visibility—up to 100 feet. 

Because snorkeling in Cabo is so popular, there’s no shortage of options to take an excursion. Local businesses offer packages that typically include equipment, a guide, lunch and entrance to the National Park. If you’re headed to do some snorkeling in Cabo from outside the area, tours from San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas also include transportation fees.

Whether you’re looking for an all-day private excursion or a two-hour trip with other snorkelers, you can customize your experience to ensure that snorkeling in Cabo is a top memory from your stay.

If you’re staying at one of the luxurious resorts on the East Cape, you can take planning off your plate. At Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas, for example, an “Adventure Concierge” can arrange every detail for you to go snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo. 

For guests of Costa Palmas who have docked their own boat at the resort’s marina, it’s worth noting that you can’t anchor inside the No Anchoring Zone at Cabo Pulmo. You’ll need to anchor in Bahia Los Frailes or north of Cabo Pulmo. When in doubt, get a park guide in advance.

Tips for Off-shore Snorkeling

For those who prefer to drive themselves to Cabo Pulmo and snorkel off the shore, consider the following:

  • You’ll be driving on a dirt road, so take it slow. If you’re heading to the region during rain, take a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Gas up before you go as there is no gas station in Cabo Pulmo.
  • Snorkeling in the Marine Park requires a guide. If you want to snorkel on your own off the beach, head south a few kilometers to Los Aborlitos. Too windy at Arbolitos? Try Los Frailes at the north end of the beach.
  • Bring your own snorkeling gear or rent it before getting to the beach.
  • Pay your park-usage fee at the check-in tower at the Marine Park. You’ll be given a bracelet to wear for the day.
  • Consider taking your own snacks and beverages. There are restaurants and a small food stall at the beach, but take cash as some advertise “no cards accepted” and there are no ATMs in Cabo Pulmo.
  • Take plenty of biodegradable sunscreen and reapply liberally when you get out of the water.
  • Stay hydrated and don’t rely on post-snorkeling air conditioning, as not every indoor venue has it.
  • Even strong swimmers must wear a flotation device to snorkel at Cabo Pulmo. Rangers may issue a fine if you break the rules. 

While there are other places to go snorkeling in Mexico, you’d be missing out if you skipped Cabo Pulmo. The UNESCO World Heritage Marine Site will provide the most thrilling underwater adventure in the region. Knowing Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the aquarium of the world” means you shouldn’t pass up the chance to explore it.