Cabo Pulmo is a great location for snorkeling or diving in the Sea of Cortez. // © 2018 Getty Images
Feature image (above): Cabo Pulmo underwater // © 2018 Oscar Ortiz
It can take almost two hours to drive to Cabo Pulmo from Los Cabos, Mexico, though the isolated marine park is just 60 miles northeast of San Jose del Cabo. Blame the timing on the last 6 miles of rough, washboard dirt road — guaranteed to shake, rattle and roll all passengers. But, as it’s said in Spanish, the destination is vale la pena, or “worth the effort.” In a region undergoing major development, Cabo Pulmo remains one of the few pure, relatively untouched sections of Baja Sur’s lower Sea of Cortez coastline.
Why undertake the excursion, leaving behind all the cushy comforts of Los Cabos? Because Cabo Pulmo is home to one of only three hard-coral reefs in the Sea of Cortez, and it offers the best snorkeling and diving south of La Paz. On an average day, boat trips to prime snorkel spots include stops to see a colony of sea lions; hundreds of shiny silver jacks assembling in a swirling swarm; and the reef, which teems with colorful fish.
Less common, but frequently sighted, are groups of rays leaping from the sea, whale sharks slowly gliding just below the water’s surface and sea turtles making their way to shore to dig their nests. Explorer Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium,” and Cabo Pulmo lives up to that claim.
Until a decade or so ago, Cabo Pulmo was but a blip on the tourism radar. Fewer than 100 people resided in the small seaside village, with its bare-bones infrastructure. Adventurous travelers made their way along dirt roads to submerge themselves in the clear waters and appreciate the sparsely inhabited coastline.
Then, developers began surveying Cabo Pulmo, envisioning a marina, a golf course and thousands of hotel rooms. International environmental groups fiercely fought to protect the area, and the government declared the waters a national marine park in 1995. In 2005, Cabo Pulmo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and development plans finally fell apart less than five years ago.
Still, Cabo Pulmo abuts huge resort complex construction sites along the rapidly changing East Cape. At nearby La Ribera, a 1,000-acre Costa Palma Four Seasons Resort and Residences Los Cabos development, including a marina and a golf course, is underway. To the southwest, Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve complex with 115 hotel suites and villas and additional private residences, is scheduled to open later this year. These and other projects are sure to bring attention to Cabo Pulmo.
The very active community of fishermen, property owners and dive operators continues to vigilantly protect Cabo Pulmo’s delicate ecosystems while catering to tourists eager to experience the marine park. The laid-back Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort offers hotel rooms, bungalows and private home rentals, and several smaller hotels operate in the area, too. There’s a local dive certification program, as well as enough day-trip operators so that visitors can usually count on finding someone to take them out into the marine park for diving and snorkeling — but reservations are advised.
Cabo Adventures in Cabo San Lucas offers dive and snorkel day trips to Cabo Pulmo that include transportation, so you needn’t take a rental car down that rough road.
But however you go, be sure to get there soon.
Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort