With its reputation built on luxury pools, golf courses and buckets
of suntan lotion, Cabo San Lucas is often overlooked as an
eco-tourism destination. Yet the southern tip of Baja is an
ecological wonderland, full of adventures for even experienced
First and foremost, Cabo is a gateway to the Pacific Ocean and
the Sea of Cortes, the wonderland that has inspired everyone from
Jacques Cousteau to John Steinbeck. Fishing, diving and snorkeling
are part of Cabo’s foundation. But Cabo has far more to offer
eco-tourists than boat trips. The region is full of artifacts of
ancient man and unique eco-systems that thrive where the rugged
desert meets the sea.
You don’t necessarily have to be an experienced outdoorsperson
or a certified specialist to enjoy the natural riches of Los Cabos.
Great scuba diving notwithstanding, here are three eco-tourism
activities worth exploring:
Whale-watching. From December through April,
gray whales migrate to Baja to lounge and breed in the calm
To many, whale-watching is an activity best done from the deck
of a palapa bar. Many of Cabo’s best hotels, including the Hotel
Cabo San Lucas, the Hotel Finisterra and the Hotel Palmilla,
provide excellent vantage points from which to watch the passing
whales. In addition, whale-watching day trips depart Cabo daily
during the season.
Many travelers prefer to get up close for a spectacular
experience. As they lounge in the lagoons, many of the whales allow
the boats to come up close and pet them.
Magdalena Bay, one of the best locations, is about a
five-and-a-half-hour drive from Cabo, which means it’s usually best
to make a multiday expedition out of it. Baja Adventure offers
three-day road trips to Magdalena from Feb. 15 to March 30, when
there is the highest concentration of whales in the bay. A small
boat takes visitors into the lagoon to mingle with the mother
whales and their newborn calves.
You can also fly to the lagoon, which takes about 75 minutes by
Cessna. Aero Calafia, which offers air charters to a variety of
secluded locales, can arrange trips.
Desert treks. Several companies lead excursions
into the bleak desert landscape, home to secluded waterfalls and
cave paintings dating back to 10,000 B.C. With the sun blazing off
the rocky terrain, these trips are not for the faint of heart. But
many rewards come from exploring the arroyos, canyons and mountains
that meet the sea in one of the most environmentally unique areas
in the world.
Although the landscape looks desolate, it can be a surprisingly
lush trip. The stark mountains are full of desert springs, which
sustain the life of a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Many of the day excursions use four-wheel-drive, all-terrain
vehicles, which offer a fun way for a family to motor to secluded
spots on the desert (although the ATVs may offend some
conservationists). Xplora, based at the Westin Regina Resort Los
Cabos, organizes ATV treks into the Cabo Real nature reserve, where
a slow ride through canyons leads to a waterfall. Another itinerary
includes a stop at an old village and ends up on a secluded beach
on the Pacific Coast.
But there are many choices for those willing to brave the desert
heat. Baja Adventure organizes mountain bike trips. Other operators
use Jeeps and trucks.
Three days a week, Eco-Tours de Baja, a subsidiary of Cape Land
Tours, offers trips to an 18th century mission in a covered safari
truck. The journey also includes a stop in a secluded canyon in the
mountains, where travelers can swim in natural pools and hot
springs. Another trip focuses on fossil cemeteries dating back 5
For heartier hikers, Nomades de Baja organizes three night
expeditions to the rugged San Francisco de la Sierra region, north
of San Ignacio, to seek out ancient cave paintings. The scratchings
in the rocks provide evidence of nomadic tribes that wandered the
desert thousands of years ago. Nomades also offers one-day Jeep
safaris down the bumpy desert trails, which it markets to corporate
Kayaking. In sharp contrast to the area’s
tequila-laced party boats, kayaking is a quiet way to explore the
coves and lagoons that pepper the coastline.
A wide variety of spots are available, depending on the client’s
time and skill level. Many Cabo tour operators truck people two and
a half hours to La Paz and take a boat another hour and a half to
an island called Isla Espiritu Santo, which offers a dozen
stunning, placid coves of blue-green water set against the desert
island. But that excursion can also be boiling hot, so many
kayakers go to the rougher coves on the Pacific Coast.
While most operators in Cabo offer kayaking tours, some are
specialists. Among other trips, Baja Adventure, which is owned by
an experienced kayaker, offers a day jaunt to what it claims is an
“almost unknown spot” on the Pacific Coast near Todos Santos, a
quiet cove perfect for snorkeling. The company offers a variety of
customized tours, including programs for groups.
Closer to base, Estero San Jose, a 125-acre estuary neighboring
the Intercontinental Presidente, is a protected estuary that is
home to more than 200 species of birds, including a wide variety of
stately egrets and herons. For those who aren’t interested in the
view from the bay, there are public footpaths that make
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Several local tour operators in Los Cabos specialize in
eco-tours. Among them:
Aero Calafia: Air excursions. 011-52-114-34302;
Baja Adventure: Excursions include whale
watching and desert tours. 858-735-8687; www.bajaadven
Cabo Expeditions: Diving and whale-watching
trips. 011-52-624-143-2700; www.caboexpeditions.com.
Eco-tours de Baja (subsidiary of Cape Land
Tours): Inland excursions via safari trucks; pays 20%
Nomades de Baja: One-day and multinight land
expeditions. 011-52-624-148-1468; www.nomadasde baja.com.
Xplora: ATV treks. 011-52-624-142-9000 ext.
8316; www.allaboutcabo.com/xplo ra.htm.
Compiled by Kevin Brass