Drive about two hours northeast of Cabo San Lucas, and you come to wild wonderful Cabo Pulmo on the unspoilt East Cape of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula.
Visiting Cabo Pulmo is one of the best Cabo day trips!
No crowds… Just the desert, sea and nature in all its glory.
In fact, you might be so seduced by the isolation and bountiful marine species you meet underwater that you’ll want to stay longer! (We talk about Cabo Pulmo accommodations at the end of this post.)
Contents: Cabo Pulmo travel guide
Cabo Pulmo snorkeling, kayaking and other tours
Cabo Pulmo National Park
A living coral reef, Cabo Pulmo is a national marine park in the fertile Sea of Cortez.
Estimated to be 20,000 years old, it’s the oldest of three coral reefs off the west coast of North America. Extending from Pulmo Point to Los Frailes Cape, the protected area is about 27½ square miles in size.
What’s special about Cabo Pulmo is that the waters are incredibly rich in sea life. So rich, in fact, that Jacques Cousteau described the Cabo Pulmo marine park as “the aquarium of the world.”
John Steinbeck also wrote about the teeming marine life in his 1951 book “The Log from the Sea of Cortez,” after a specimen-collecting boat expedition with marine biologist Ed Ricketts.
More than 200 marine species live in and around the reef, including leatherback sea turtles, moray eels, bull sharks, tiger sharks, unique orange grouper, bat rays and galaxies of colorful fish.
In winter, humpback whales are seen. The months of April to June bring hammerhead sharks to the marine reserve.
A colony of California sea lions also resides by a jumble of huge boulders, and you can swim, snorkel and dive with them.
Cabo Pulmo wasn’t always so pristine, however.
Decades of overfishing led to concerns by locals, in particular the Castro family, who had lived in Cabo Pulmo for a century. They spearheaded a community effort to preserve the reef, and in 1995, the Mexican government designated the area a national marine park. In 2005, Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today, it’s one of the most natural, undeveloped and special places you can escape to.
Getting to Cabo Pulmo
The drive to Cabo Pulmo (about 62 miles north of Cabo San Lucas) is very scenic – past giant cacti, hundreds of years old, growing out of the red-brown earth, their thorny fingers reaching for the vivid blue sky.
From Cabo San Lucas, you follow Highway 1 north, past the Miraflores and Santiago turnoffs.
When you come to a fork in the highway, you take the right branch to La Ribera. (The left branch continues as Highway 1 to Los Barriles.) Drive past La Ribera and follow the Cabo Pulmo road until you’re no longer on a paved road.
The last 6 miles or so, you’ll be driving on a rough dirt road, wondering where in the heck you’re going!
When you reach a cluster of campers parked in the sand, makeshift houses and cool off-the-grid, solar-powered houses, you know you’ve reached Cabo Pulmo town (population just over 100). Imagine what the Mexican Baja must have been like back in the 1970s – the vibe in the tiny village feels like this.
You might want to stop at a store to fill up on warm freshly-baked empanadas (like a meat pie) before continuing on to the secluded five-mile bay of Cabo Pulmo.
Cabo Pulmo snorkeling and other tours
Snorkeling is one of the best things to do in Cabo Pulmo.
See huge schools of shiny silver jackfish swarming about plus other tropical fish. And keep your eyes peeled for eels, sea turtles and rays.
You’re not likely to see sharks when snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo, so don’t worry about them. (But you can expect to see sharks when scuba diving in Cabo Pulmo.)
If you’re staying in Los Cabos and want to do a day trip, a guided Cabo Pulmo tour – snorkeling, sea kayaking or scuba diving – is the best way to experience this natural wonderland.
You don’t have to worry about the drive and can just enjoy the day (which will be a long one, with an early start).
Tours often combine more than one activity, like kayaking plus snorkeling and visiting the sea lion colony.
Check out these good tour operators. We’ve taken Cabo Pulmo tours with all of them:
Cabo Outfitters offers a 9-hour, small-group day trip to Cabo Pulmo, with transportation from your hotel, kayaking, visiting the remote sea lion colony, snorkeling at two to three different spots and lunch. Here’s their best-selling tour.
Baja Wild offers a similar tour, combining snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo with kayaking in tandem kayaks and seeing the sea lions, followed by a Mexican food lunch at a local restaurant.
High Tide Los Cabos:
For a fun jeep adventure, go with High Tide Los Cabos. You get to drive off-road and also snorkel in Cabo Pulmo. Lunch is provided.
Manta Scuba Divers:
Explore the electric colors of the Cabo Pulmo reef on a fabulous two-tank scuba diving trip with Manta. Their 10-hour tour includes van transportation from Cabo San Lucas to Cabo Pulmo. Once there, it’s a 10-to 15-minute boat ride to the dive spot(s).
This tour is offered from May to November.
Best time to visit Cabo Pulmo, Mexico
Be forewarned that Cabo Pulmo is wild in more ways than one.
In summer and fall, the waters of Cabo Pulmo are warm, glassy-calm and ideal for snorkeling, kayaking and scuba diving.
The beaches are beautiful for relaxing on too.
But between December and March, heavy winds can restrict water activities for days at a time.
Buffeted by wind, you could end up looking out at frothy whitecaps – and realizing that no one is heading out into the water that day.
For more information, see our post on when to visit Cabo (and why early summer and the late fall/early winter months are ideal for watersports and visiting Cabo Pulmo).
Hotels in Cabo Pulmo
So you think you want to chill in Cabo Pulmo for a little longer than a day trip. Good idea.
Now, where to stay in Cabo Pulmo? You have a few decent accommodation options:
Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort:
Backed by a family history in the area dating back 50 years, Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort offers accommodation in a collection of boho-cheerful casita rooms, bungalows and houses.
Some have outdoor showers; others have prime oceanfront locations.
The resort (a 5-star PADI dive resort) has a solar-powered, full-service dive center onsite and offers dive lessons and tours.
Its palapa-roof Coral Reef restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort: See the resort’s website
Baja Bungalows rents a few casitas and self-catered bungalows kitted out with kitchens, colorful tiles and Mexican decoration. Choose from a one-bedroom suite with hot tub and outdoor kitchen to a new palapa-roof house with tile floors and ocean views. The owner-operators live onsite.
Baja Bungalows: See the property’s website
Another good option for Cabo Pulmo accommodation is to book a house through Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner), which is like Airbnb. It lists some charming homes in Cabo Pulmo, with Mexican art and hand-crafted furniture.
La Ribera accommodation
As an alternative to staying right in Cabo Pulmo, you can also look at staying in nearby La Ribera.
A small, rustic, laid-back Baja town, La Ribera is about 15 miles (a 30-minute drive) from Cabo Pulmo. (You drive past it on the way to Cabo Pulmo.)
Sportfishing, SUP, kayaking, walking the area’s white sand beaches and getting away from it all – along with access to Cabo Pulmo – are the draw.
With the new 1,000-acre Costa Palmas development on the outskirts of La Ribera, the town is getting more tourism attention.
Hugging two miles of untouched beach, the Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas is the place to go for uber-deluxe digs. Choose from rooms (many with private plunge pools) to large suites to a 3-bedroom villa.
Apart from the Four Seasons, other (less expensive) hotels in La Ribera include:
- Hacienda de Palmas – A B&B with a handful of clean rooms at excellent prices
- Cabanas Vista La Ribera – A small resort with clean comfortable cabanas (with microwaves), tiny swimming pool, cute garden and great restaurant
Experience more of Los Cabos!
Read our posts on:
Whale watching | Between December and April, there’s awesome whale watching in Cabo! Check out the best tours here.
Where to stay | From One & Only Palmilla to Hotel El Ganzo, there are lots of beautiful boutique and 5-star luxury hotels in Los Cabos.
Recommended restaurant experience | In Cabo, do yourself a favor and eat at the beautiful farm-to-table Flora Farms restaurant.
Our top travel tips and resources
Here are our favorite travel resources:
Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)
Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).
Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out GetYourGuide and Viator.
Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.
Travel insurance: World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, with coverage for more than 150 activities, as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
Vaccines and meds: We follow CDC travel guidelines to see what medications and vaccines are needed for trips. You can get vaccines at your pharmacy, travel medical clinic or doctor’s office.
Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)
Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.
Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!
Photo Credits: 5, 6, 9 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 4 Cabo Outfitters | 8 High Tide Los Cabos | 10, 11 Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort | 12 Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos
About the authors
Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.
Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!
Wednesday 14th of September 2022
Janice and George, I wish you hadn’t promoted this place. The reef took forever to repair and now the crowds have ruined the town. There are three times as many dive shops as there were 10 years ago and they clog up the beach with their trailers. This is no longer a sleepy town but one ruined by an excess of tourists thanks to travel bloggers.
Janice and George
Wednesday 14th of September 2022
Oh, we're sorry to hear that. Like many other wonderful places (e.g., Venice, Capri, Phuket, Machu Picchu, Gili Islands in Indonesia), once word gets out, people naturally want to go there. It is a pity, though, when these places get over-run.
Tuesday 6th of April 2021
La Ribera, the town you drive through to get to Cabo Pulmo, has several hotels other than the very expensive Costa Palmas resort. Vista Cabañas and Hotel Jorge are two that come to mind. The Hacienda de Palmas is a B & B.
Janice and George
Tuesday 6th of April 2021
Thanks Joanne for the hotel suggestions! We've updated our post to include them :-). Thx again!
Monday 11th of September 2017
Were there outfitters in Cabo Pulmo? I'm thinking of staying there instead of Cabo San Lucas so I can kayak.
Janice and George
Monday 11th of September 2017
Cabo Pulmo is pretty teeny. You could check this site for outfitters. You could stay in Cabo San Lucas and still kayak in Cabo Pulmo, as outfitters offer day tours from there... Have fun!
Wednesday 2nd of October 2013
Looks like a fantastic area for kayaking and one I'd definitely visit when I finally make it down to Cabo. I have been caught with the winds in the winter - making for some very hard kayaking days.
Monday 22nd of July 2013
Would love to visit this part of the world! The water looks magnificent!