Want to see whales in Los Cabos? Go snorkeling at Santa Maria Beach, Cabo San Lucas. Seriously!
But let’s start this fishy-sounding tale from the beginning…
Santa Maria Beach, Cabo
There’s not a ripple stirring the sea. The water is so clear, we can spot tiny irridescent blue fish (damselfish?) at least 50 feet away, darting about the reef.
We love scuba diving in Cabo in October when the water is bathtub-warm. But even this December day (winter here, when daytime temps can sometimes be in the low 70s F.), the sea is warm enough for snorkeling.
So that’s what we’re doing – snorkeling in Santa Maria Bay in Cabo. Bumping fins with schools of colorful reef fish, and loving every moment!
Great snorkeling in Cabo
Santa Maria Beach, Cabo San Lucas, is one of the three top places to snorkel in Los Cabos.
The beach (“Playa Santa Maria” in local lingo) is also one of the best beaches in Los Cabos.
Having gone early (around 9:00 a.m.), we almost have the bay to ourselves. And good news, there are palapas that we can plop under for some welcome shade.
The only other souls are a group of Mexican workers raking the sand. The coarse golden beach is pristine – they’re not raking to collect any bits of garbage, but rather to make meticulous patterns of vertical and circular lines in the sand, presumably so snorkelers on the tour boats that will arrive later around 10:00 a.m. will gasp in wonder at this beautiful beach.
Look, there are whales!
Later, drying off in the sun after more than an hour in the water, we spot the whales. They’re about 100 feet away from us on the beach.
At first, we see only plumes of spray.
And then – we see the slick round humps of humpbacks as they swim on the water’s surface.
Admittedly, we’ve seen closer-up views of whales in Cabo on whale watching tours. But these whales are totally unexpected. And they just keep spouting and finning and showing us a whale of a time. A nice way to finish off a glorious morning of snorkeling…
Snorkeling at Santa Maria Beach your own way
Here’s the key. We didn’t take a tour to go snorkeling at Santa Maria Beach. (If we had, we’d be sharing our views of Captain Nemo with up to 100 other eager snorkelers jumping off their catamaran or sailboat.)
No, if you want pristine conditions, the best way to go snorkeling here is to do it on your own.
Practical tips for snorkeling at Santa Maria beach, Los Cabos
Getting there by car:
Drive along the Corridor highway connecting Cabo San Lucas with San Jose del Cabo to Km 12 (8 miles east of Cabo) and look out for a turn-off toward the ocean. Follow the dirt road for about 1/4 mile to the sandy parking lot.
Getting there by bus:
It’s easy to to hop on the bus if you don’t have a car (we took the bus). It’s not a “first-class bus” like we took for longer distances when visiting Mexico’s colonial towns. But it’s very inexpensive, and not a hardship, if you’re feeling a little adventurous.
Buses will stop along the Corridor highway if you flag them down. Tell the driver you want to get off at Santa Maria Bay for snorkeling.
Need to know – few facilities:
Bring your own snorkel gear, water and snacks, as there’s no gear rental stand or public restaurant/bar (the attractive, often-empty, private beach club/restaurant at the far side of the bay is for nearby residents and doesn’t serve the public, even if you’re happy to pay).
You also won’t find any changing rooms, so you’ll probably want to wear your swimsuit under your clothes. But there are a couple of (reasonably clean) porta-potties out in the parking lot.
Santa Maria Beach, Cabo San Lucas – map
See below for the location of Santa Maria Bay.
Photo credits: 1, 3, 6 and 7 Andrea Norrie, Janice’s sister-in-law
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We’re Janice and George Mucalov, professional award-winning travel writers, sharing tales of luxury travel with a twist of adventure.