Diving and Snorkeling
Cabo San Lucas offers a variety of unique opportunities for underwater exploration. A strategic location between tropical and temperate zones and the presence of a vast submarine canyon bring large pelagics such as giant mantas, hammerhead sharks, and amberjacks very close to shore, along with a colorful mix of tropical species.
Boat rides are relatively short (as little as five minutes to the closest sites), and the terrain is dramatic. There are wall dives, submerged boulder fields, drift dives, and a one-of-a-kind dive that begins in the Sea of Cortez, rounds the point at Land’s End, and ends in the Pacific Ocean.
Playa del Amor is a great place to snorkel on your own or with a guide. Just offshore from this beach, Pelican Rock is another good snorkeling site, though given its proximity to the harbor, it can get crowded during the high season. Boats out of San Lucas make the trip to Bahías Chileno and Santa María on the Corridor for snorkeling and shallow diving, but you can also reach these sites yourself by car.
Guided scuba dives tour many of the same sites as snorkelers, making it convenient to accommodate mixed groups (but also making it more crowded, both above and below the surface). Also, given the proximity of these dive sites to the harbor, the loud and constant rumble of boat traffic overhead makes for an annoying distraction.
The most popular dive sites in the Cabo Marine Preserve include Pelican Rock, Neptune’s Finger, and the point at Land’s End. Pelican Rock and Neptune’s Finger begin at shallow depth (6–8 m) and then descend over boulders or along a wall into a vast submarine canyon, as diver skill, air consumption, and visibility allow. All these dives take place in a protected marine preserve, an unusual feature to have so close to a town the size of Cabo San Lucas.
The Land’s End dive begins in the surge under a sea lion colony on the bay side of the point and ends with an underwater swim around to the Pacific side, covering varied underwater topography along the way. Guitarfish, schooling amberjack, green sea turtles, and countless other species are likely to make an appearance on this dive.
Cabo San Lucas dive shops can also arrange trips to Cabo Pulmo on the East Cape for reef dives in a protected marine park and the Gordo Banks, where advanced divers with experience in deep dives and strong currents have the opportunity to view hammerheads, whale sharks, and giant mantas, among other pelagics. The dive usually circumnavigates the top of a seamount at a depth of about 41 meters.
Dive Guides and Outfitters
Just about any local resort or hotel can arrange guided dive trips and equipment rentals for their guests. Some have their own shops on-site, while others book through one of the many independent shops in town. Dive operators typically organize two outings per day, weather permitting. Morning boats leave the harbor around 9 A.M., and the afternoon shift departs around 1 P.M. Mornings tend to be less crowded above and below the surface. In the afternoon, the wind kicks up and boat traffic increases, making water entries and exits a little trickier.
Manta (Blvd. Marina #7D Local 37 Int. Plaza Gali, tel. 624/144-3871, www.caboscuba.com) is a professionally run PADI shop conveniently located at Playa El Médano. Its custom-designed 35-foot boat holds 15 divers comfortably; additional 28-foot and 26-foot boats accommodate up to 10 divers each. All three boats are equipped with radios, first-aid kits, and oxygen. For local dives in the Cabo Marine Preserve, advanced and novice divers often share the same boat but have separate dive guides, since easy and advanced dives start at the same points. (Experienced divers go deeper and stay under longer than beginner groups.)
Knowledgeable boat captains and a friendly international guide staff make for a safe and enjoyable dive experience. An earlier morning start at 8:30 A.M. helps avoid the crowds. Rental gear is in good shape, with Sherwood regulators; Aqualung and Genesis BCDs; and Akona, Body Glove, and Scuba Pro wetsuits. In addition to standard 80-cft tanks, smaller (63 cft) and larger (100 cft) sizes are available. A two-tank dive costs US$85. The office has moved from Camino de los Pescadores to Boulevard Marina.
Underwater Diversions (tel. 624/143-4004, U.S. tel. 949/226-8987, www.divecabo.com) is another reputable shop in the Plaza Marina.
Local dive instructors prefer PADI-certified Eagle Divers (Plaza Embarcadero Local 3, tel. 624/125-0008, www.eaglediver.com) for advanced diving. A trip to Gordo Banks runs US$165. This shop also offers scuba courses for kids aged eight and older.
Amigos del Mar (tel. 624/143-0505, fax 624/143-0887, toll-free U.S. tel. 800/344-3349), next to Solmar Fleet on the west side of the harbor, arranges luxury liveaboard dive trips to the Socorro Islands, Guadalupe Island, Gordo Banks, Los Frailes, El Bajo, Cabo Pulmo, and other more remote sites aboard the 112-foot Solmar V (www.solmarv.com, US$1,795/eight days). The boat holds a maximum of 22 divers and 10 staff members.
Pez Gato (Camino del Cerro 215, El Pedregal, tel. 624/143-3797, www.pezgatocabo.com, tours 10 A.M.–2 P.M. daily, US$45) organizes four-hour sail and snorkeling tours to Bahía Santa María, along the Corridor, aboard one of three catamarans. The tour includes two hours of water exploration at Santa María, plus lunch and cold drinks. Kids under 12 are free.
SunRider Adventure (tel. 624/143-2252, U.S. tel. 619/240-8669, www.sunridertours.com; US$55, kids under 10 free) has three boats and prepares Mexican buffet meals onboard. A snorkeling lunch tour to Playa Santa María for US$55 per person includes the buffet and an open bar. Cash only.
Most dive shops rent snorkel and dive equipment in packages or à la carte, so if you forget your fins or your mask strap breaks, you’ll be able to borrow a replacement for the day. Repairs are a different story, however. If you’re bringing your own gear, have it serviced before you leave home; check your computer batteries and bring spare parts. Despite the number of dive shops, replacement parts are difficult, if not impossible, to come by in Baja.
Clinica de Especialidades (Lopez Mateos btw Morelos/Vicario, tel. 624/143-3914 or -2919) has a hyperbaric recompression chamber that is available to recreational divers for emergencies.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition