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Snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo: an unforgetable adventure

In BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO by Isabella BiavaLeave a Comment

During my 15 days Baja California road trip, snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo was one of my priorities and it turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

I arrived in Cabo Pulmo on the second day of my roughly-planned itinerary, with the best intentions to stay about 4 days and do all the possible activities but I ended up doing only one, the snorkeling tour, and I couldn’t choose any better.

Spoiler alert: not that Cabo Pulmo was short of things to do. But I realized I had “only” 2 weeks of travel and wanted to fit in many other destinations in Baja California Sur. So I needed to optimize my time in each of those.

Cabo Pulmo snorkeling is certainly one of the most common activities you can do in the area and I am not sure whether by a stroke of luck or because it’s always like that, but I had a blast. If I have to complain about anything it might be that the water was very cold, but that’s a price I was happy to pay.

In this thorough guide on Cabo Pulmo I will tell you all about my trip and the highlight of the snorkeling tour, plus practical information on the other things to do, where to stay and to eat, but most of all I will give you important information that you will need to know before you travel there.

So if you don’t have time to read it all, skip the other chapter but go to the practical tips, they will save you a headache!

cabo pulmo snorkeling

Snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo

My adventure in Cabo Pulmo didn’t start in the best way.

The hotel where I wanted to stay was too expensive and I had a terrible headache which was about to spoil my plans.

Luckily, I found another cheap and clean place where to stay and right in front of the Dives hop where I booked my tour and the following morning the headache was gone.

And the magic began.

It was a bungalow complex called Bungalow Cabo Pulmo. Nothing fancy but practical and decent.

When I woke up the first morning in Cabo Pulmo, headache-free, I had very good feelings about the outcome of this trip and I wasn’t wrong at all.

Read on to know the details.

Excited for the day to come after a quick salute to the sun and some lovely shots, I wanted to secure my snorkeling tour for the day before going for the so much needed breakfast.

Cardamom dive shop was the place I looked for, as it had been highly recommended.

The Cardamon team turned out to be super professional and worth the 10 USD extra cost for the trip.

It’s normally 45 USD while with them 55. Well spent.

One of the highlights of the trip was that it was only 5 of us, and although there would have been space on the boat, they turned down another reservation, because, they say, it would be a much better experience for the 5 of us to be in a small group.

And it was indeed.

The tour consists of 3 snorkeling stops, of 30 minutes each, which is the maximum time allowed by the reserve.

The last one we decided it was shorter just because we were freezing cold.

The first snorkeling was delighted by a few huge schools of jack fishes and other solitary ones, bright tropical fishes, browsing around the lively corals.

The water was chilly and not even the double wetsuit could help to protect me from shivering.

But I was there and I wanted to make the most of it.

The second stop was in a spot where normally turtles hang out but there were none when we did our rounds.

Not a biggie for me as I have seen so many turtles in my life, I was ok.

And probably my relaxing mood attracted one of the best shows that mother nature could have possibly gifted us with.

A baby whale with his/her mother was jumping right in front of us our multiple times and for a few minutes.

It was incredible to watch.

Then on our third stop, right when we were being entertained by the funny sea lions, the same whale and mother started their jumps and tale flipping right in front of us even closer than before. They started when we were in the water and continued after we went back on the boat, ready to get back to the beach.

It was a fantastic show almost surreal.

And I am so grateful that the boat Capitan and guide were not in a hurry to go back and waited with us to enjoy the dance we were admiring just in front of our eyes at no more than 200 mt.

They must see them every day and yet they were just as excited as we were.

Mother nature is powerful.

I wished I had my professional camera at that moment, but I also enjoy to just watch and admire those magnificent giants of the sea.

humpback whale

I managed to take some footage with the phone camera and the GoPro.

The majority of the pictures here in this post have been taken by phone or the GoPro. So not very good quality. I apologize for that.

It was a short but amazing trip all worth the money. I was a little skeptical at the beginning because 55 USD for 3 hours snorkeling trip can seem outrageous, but you need to think that in Baja everything is more expensive than anywhere else in Mexico, and the level of service was world-class.

The 5 of us although all from different backgrounds and with different stories got along very well so much so that we decided to hang out for dinner as well, exchanging our own stories and lots of laughter.

This is one of the things I love the most about traveling. Mingling with total strangers as if you have always known each other.

And it always fascinates me to see the ability that we have to connect to one another but most of all,  how we are able to choose the people we want to connect just by a simple look or feel.

I am sure it’s the energy that we all have that brings us all together.

And traveling I believe, just make us more sensitive to choosing our mates.

Not only we know in seconds if we feel connected with somebody but we also become very selective and are able to avoid bad companies and even danger. 

The more you travel and the smarter you become, especially if you travel alone like me.

Things to do in Cabo Pulmo besides snorkeling

As I was mentioning, snorkeling is not the only activity available in Cabo Pulmo. There are many other things that you can do in this remote laid back destination, a small piece of paradise in Baja California.

Here I will list all of the things you can do in Cabo Pulmo.

1.Whale watching in Cabo Pulmo

Differently from snorkeling, whale-watching is an activity that you can only do a few months of the year, from January through the end of March, sometimes stretching up to the beginning of April.

Along the coast of Cabo Pulmo you can easily spot humpback whales flipping and dancing, most of the time with their newly born.

If you are lucky they even come close to your boat.

If you wish to go snorkeling as well and you don’t have much time you can easily skip this tour and just go snorkeling because you will still be able to spot them anyway, while on the boat.

However, if you wish to just photograph the whales and only that, you should better just go on a whale-watching trip.

humpback whale

2. Scubadiving in Cabo Pulmo

Many divers come to Cabo Pulmo just for diving and they consider it one of the best destinations in Baja to dive.

Diving in Cabo Pulmo is suitable for both beginners and advanced. While beginners remain closer to the coast where water is calmer, advanced divers can venture out towards the open ocean where major currents are normally present for a good drift diving adventure.

The marine park has a shape of a C which forms a protected area within the bay whereas just outside the C shape it is more common to find heavy currents.

Because it’s a marine park, all visitors must be accompanied by a local, approved guide.

When to dive in Cabo Pulmo

You can dive all year round in Cabo Pulmo, but obviously, every season is different.

August through November

This is hurricane seasons, with humid and cold weather, which makes it a low affluence season and when you can also probably get some deals.

However, it’s a great time for those who suffer the cold water, as the water temperature is around 80°F (27°C) and, it’s most likely that you find hammerhead sharks and, occasionally, whale sharks.

December through March

That’s when I was there and the water is indeed cold.  That’s why I didn’t dive, despite my best intentions.

However, that’s the best environment to dive with pelagics and the best time to spot Humpback Whales, Grey Whales and Mobulas in the park. You will also see more sea lions, and with some luck you might be able to spot  Bullseye Rays, Banded Guitarfish, and Octopuses.

The weather is generally much nicer than summer, with less rain and sunny days. The nights and early mornings can be chilly as well.

jack fish

April through July

June and July are not ideal for tourism in Cabo Plumo, both for the unbearable hot weather and also for the limited chances to see any pelagic species as they are not fans of such warm water. Hower diving is still good and available at lower rates.

What to see underwater in Cabo Pulmo Marine Park

Cabo Pulmo National Park is home to over 6,000 marine species.

Besides the sea lions that you can see also while snorkeling and swim with them, the area is also great for spotting pelagic species, as mentioned earlier, such as Humpback Whales, Mobulas and Whale Sharks.

You can also find large schools of jacks and giant groupers, eels, and turtles. Also, a wealth of colorful tropical fish and a huge diversity of macro life make this underwater garden a paradise for photographers.

dirt roads

3. Enjoy the beach and snorkeling from the shore

The beautiful protected area is also a spectacular place to visit for those who just want to relax and enjoy the sun and pristine waters without necessarily doing any outdoor activity.

You must have your own car though, and even better if you have a 4 wheel drive.

There are two lovely beaches right past Cabo Pulmo that you would love to explore.

One is Los Frailes. It’s just 9 km south, but it’s a dirt road that requires slow and careful driving.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it there because right before the bay there is a steep and very bumpy stretch of road that didn’t allow me to push through.

After three trials I just gave up because I was afraid to break the car.

So I turned around and stopped at El Arbolito

It’s a protected bay where you are allowed to camp for a small fee, or you can just enjoy the beach, have a swim and relax.

There is also a nice trail that you can walk along the bay and then swim back while snorkeling.

You are allowed to snorkel just for 30 minutes one time per day in every snorkeling spot.

RATES PLAYA EL ARBOLITO

60 MXN per person for camping

40MXN per person to hang out on the beach for the day

60 MXN mandatory life vest for  4hours

700 MXN snorkeling tour

Restaurant service only available from Easter week through October.

I didn’t have the time to enjoy it and the weather wasn’t very much appealing either, as you can see from the picture. But I hope you will.

Please let me know in the comments below.

On my way out from EL Arbolito, the security guy made me noticed I had a flat tire. Oops! Luckily he helped me change it and I had if fixed on my way to my next stop. I will write the full story in my next post.

entrance arbolito beach

4. Bird watching

I didn’t know before getting there that bird watching was a thing in Cabo Pulmo.

But thanks to my new friends that I met on the boat, biologists and passionate bird watchers, I could also have this amazing experience.

The morning after snorkeling we went for a bird-watching walk and saw so many species of colorful birds, one of them even endemic of this region.

You don’t have to walk that far to see them.

Just take the only road that goes towards the mountains opposite direction from the beach and you will see so many colorful birds.

I even saw a beautiful tiny colibrì flapping his wings right in front of me at 2 mt, besides other species, woodpeckers, cardinals, Cactus Wren, Flycatchers, Oriole, and many more.

Did you spot anything else? Please share it in the comments below.

cardinal bird

Image

Where to stay in Cabo Pulmo

There is not much choice of accommodation in Cabo Pulmo, and if you are used to fancy resorts, forget about it.

I was hoping to find a nice cozy boutique hotel, but the one I wanted, Baja Bungalows, was too expensive for my budget so I opted for something cheaper, less fancy but very close to the beach and the shop where I booked my tour.

You cannot book through online portals except for one or two.

You need to contact them directly if you wish to make a reservation or just show up. In high season, which is normally Easter, and from December through February, you should book them in advance, to avoid sleeping on the beach.

baja bungalow courtyard

Baja Bungalow Courtyard

I went to explore a few of them and here are my suggestions:

Baja Bungalows

This was my favorite choice, but as I said, I didn’t want to exceed my budget so I gave up this time.

But I had the chance to visit the bungalows and it’s totally worth the money, which is around 120 USD+  tax per night.

The spacious bungalows are fully equipped for self-catering and they are nicely furnished with colorful tiles and Mexican pieces. Very cozy and comfortable. The top floor apartments have amazing views over the bay.

The garden is very well kept and you can park your car in. There is a nice common area where breakfast is served or you can just hang out and use free WIFI (which is not good in the entire area of Cabo Pulmo, just so you know)

Check out Baja Bungalow website for more info and rates

See reviews on TripAdvisor

home interior with windows

Interior of a bungalow top floor

El Encanto

Right opposite to  Baja Bungalow, you cannot miss El Encanto.

The beautiful flowery entrance, the bright orange walls, and red the arched wooden door make the hallway of a spectacular mansion surrounded by the lush vegetation of what will be your secret intimate garden.

The home offers only 3 bedrooms that they can be rented separately or as a whole.

Two units are simple hotel rooms and the big one is a full apartment with a fully equipped kitchen.

You can check out El Encanto website for more information and reservation.

El encanto hotel entrance

The entrance of El Encanto hotel

Cabo Pulmo beach resort

It’s very far from our common concept of “resort”. In fact, it’s like a little village made of many casitas, some of which are beachfront.

These casitas are privately owned but managed for rentals by the diving center and water-sport agency that serves also as a reception.

All of them are nicely decorated and well kept and surrounded by a little manicured garden.

It’s probably the most expensive accommodation in the area but it’s not that outrageous if you consider that they are fully furnished apartments.

Above the dive center, you can also find a nice restaurant open from breakfast through dinner.

You can check out their rates and reviews on TripAdvisor.

resort entrance cloudy sky and palm trees

Cabo Pulmo resort bungalow

Bungalows Cabo Pulmo

That’s where I was staying and if you are traveling on a not so high budget, this is probably the best option.

It’s decent, clean and close to the beach.

There are 5 bungalows, but only 3 have a kitchenette so, you need it to make sure to check in the bungalow description that you are getting what you want. 

Each bungalow has its own nice patio and the courtyard is surrounded by a glazing pink luxuriant bougainvillea.

Check rates and availability on Booking.com

boubainvilleas in front of a hotel room

Cabo Pulmo Bungalow

Cabo Pulmo Restaurants

Cabo Pulmo is a tiny village with very few lunching or diving options, even less for breakfast.

The ones I recommend are:

El Caballero

This is my favorite overall.

Don’t let the entrance misguide you.

Just at the entrance of the village right after the visitor center,  you see the sign on the left but you feel like you are entering a private home. It’s not like that.

Just keep walking around the house and you will find the lovely restaurant under a palapa and facing a beautiful garden.

That is the best option for breakfast but also lunch and dinner are served and you will find a variety of dishes.

I am afraid vegans in Cabo Pulmo are not very much taken care of.

You can get away with guacamole, as usual, or a plate of rice.

The atmosphere is very laid back and the staff very kind.

Check the reviews on TripAdvisor

view from La Palapa restaurant

La Palapa

This restaurant offers an unbeatable location right on the water. (see the picture here above, taken right from my dinner table).

It’s open for lunch and dinner only, though and they have basically a fish menu.

But some meat options available.

Check the reviews on TripAdvisor

Tacos & Beer

Open just for lunch, right on the water opposite to La Palapa, offers, as you can imagine, Tacos and only tacos, in many different ways.

I didn’t manage to try it because it was full at the time I wanted to check it out. But I guess it’s a good sign.

Check the reviews on TripAdvisor

The Reef Restaurant

I just went for lemonade as I wanted to find a nice place to work online. They probably have the best wifi in the area. The food looked promising too but I didn’t have the chance to try it.

It’s located on top of the dive shop from the Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort that I mentioned earlier. They have a nice terrace towering over Cabo Pulmo.

Check the reviews on TripAdvisor

sunrise from cabo pulmo

Things to know before you go to Cabo Pulmo

A little history of Cabo Pulmo

A few generations ago, Cabo Pulmo was a tiny fishing village whose community was dedicated to fishing pearls and fishes and turtles to eat.

Eventually, the fish started to become scarce meanwhile researches from the local university was warning about the fragility of the underwater ecosystem which was slowly starting to deteriorate. At the same time, tourists started to hear about this pristine destination and its beautiful coral reef and tourism started to flourish.

In 1995 the marine reserve was created, to protect the area from overfishing, and 10 years later, UNESCO  recognized the area as World Heritage Site. In 2008 it was also designated a Ramsar wetland of international importance, just like the other 145 Ramsar sites in Mexico, among which the Anillo de los Cenotes and Rio Lagartos.

Cabo Pulmo Marine Park Rules

Among all the oceans only 1% is part of a protected territory and Cabo Pulmo is one of the privileged elite.

Since then they have seen a significant improvement in the health and growth of the marine life, corals and fishes alike.

But that means restrictions and rules that we visitors and locals alike need to observe, such as:

  • no fishing permitted
  • all scuba divers must have certification from known associations on an international level. “During scuba diving, it is only permitted to conduct recreational tours with the objective of observation of marine life, and always under the supervision of a certified guide or instructor certified by recognized organizations”
  • it is prohibited to get closer to reef than 2.5 meters, use gloves or carry knives. 

For more regulations please refer to the park official page.

beach of Cabo Pulmo

How to get to Cabo Pulmo

There is no public transportation to get to Cabo Pulmo.

Therefore renting a car is the only option available, if you can get a 4 wheel drive it’s even better.

If you look at the map there are two roads from Los Cabos, one looks very appealing as it looks like a coastal road and even 40km shorter than the other, but I was told by locals that it’s very rough and dirty and not recommendable at all. it will take you forever to get there.

The other one is coming through Santiago on the internal road.

See the map here below.

It’s about 100 KM from Los Cabos and the last 15 or so are on a dirt road, but very much doable.

Make sure you fill your tank and have a spare tire before getting there.

cabo pulmo map

Grocery shopping in Cabo Pulmo

As mentioned before many bungalows provide a kitchenette or even full kitchen which is good, especially for those who have a particular diet.

However, there is only one grocery store, right by the restaurant El Caballero, and it only has the essential items.

If you wish to have your nice veggies and fruits or any specialty make sure you stock up before you get there.

If you come from Los Cabos, you can stop by San Jose’ al Cabo, while if you are coming from La Paz or Los Barriles you better spend some time shopping there before starting your journey.

Playa El Arbolito

WIFI in Cabo Pulmo

Although it is most common to find it now compared to a year ago, it’s still a challenge.

You can connect in many places, such as Caballero Restaurant, Coral Reef, or Baja Bungalows.

But if you have an online job and you must rely on wifi, I wouldn’t risk it as the connection can be slow or intermittent.

Cabo Pulmo is definitely a destination where you go when you are ready to disconnect from reality and connect with your surrounding nature.

How to help to protect the environment

In Cabo Pulmo, the local community is all engaged in ecological practice, and we tourists have the duty to follow along.

How can we do it? Let’s follow some simple practical rules that we should actually use all the time.

  1. use ecological sunscreen
  2. remember to turn off the lights when you leave your bungalow
  3. save the water, remembering not to let it run if you are not using it.
  4. do as little waste as possible, avoiding plastic bottles when you can
  5. don’t litter
  6. don’t touch the corals

Conclusion

Cabo Pulmo is a very secluded and tiny village.

It revolves around 2 roads and they are not paved, no fancy shops or cafes, no wifi, no nightlife.

Just you and mother nature.

There are many different dive centers where to book your tour, and they all know each other if they are not family.

It’s a very lovely and respectful community and they will make you fall in love with their home.

Go, disconnect, enjoy, and most of all respect!

If you have any more questions, feel free to shoot me an email or write in the comments below. I’ll be happy to assist where I can.


Where is Cabo Pulmo located?

Cabo Pulmo is located in the very South of Baja California Sur, at about 100 Km from Los Cabos international Airport and 170km from La Paz.

You can check my Baja California Map that I am sharing here for your convenience.

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