So, you’re looking for some Los Cabos snorkeling? We don’t think you’ll have to look far. Ocean explorer and scientist Jacques Cousteau once dubbed the nearby Sea of Cortez the ‘World’s Aquarium’. On top of that, Cabo comes with the wild Pacific Ocean to its west, where sealions mingle with craggy cliffs, creating some pretty unique marine habitats.
Cabo might be best known for its wild party nights and come-sunbathe-on-be beachfronts, but watersports fans of all stripes have been returning here for years. Some come for the surf swells that run around the Baja’s rugged tip. Others come for the scuba sites and the sailing, which involves eye-wateringly wonderful vistas of the Mexican desert rolling straight into the sea. There’s also plenty for snorkelers…
This guide runs through a quintet of the top Los Cabos snorkeling spots. It ranges far up the wild coastline of the Sea of Cortez and out to the very tip of the Baja, where the untamed Pacific crashes in. All that’s in the hope of pinpointing the crème-de-la-crème of locations for getting under the Mexican water to encounter sealions and barracuda.
Pelican Rock at Land’s End
Probably the most iconic Los Cabos snorkeling spot of all is the Pelican Rock at Land’s End. It’s tucked into the huge headland that juts into the Pacific, cutting off the wild swells of the main ocean from the calmer Sea of Cortez. That has the effect of sheltering the whole of Cabo San Lucas bay, keeping the H2O on the Pelican Rock side of things calm enough for kayakers, wild swimmers, and – crucially – snorkelers.
The waters are famously rich in marine life, too. That’s down to the unique habitats and the mineral-rich currents that coalesce where the Cortez Sea rolls into the Pacific. They bring dolphins, sea turtles, big barracuda, and pufferfish to the area. What’s more, lots of those curious underwater beasts like to swim close to the surface in these parts, so it’s not unusual to spot them on one of the regular day-long snorkeling tours that can whisk you down from Los Cabos marina in just a matter of minutes.
Another fun feature of snorkeling at Pelican Rock is the fact that sealions like to laze in the nearby coves. Most organized snorkel tours here also include a visit to the Land’s End rock where those dogs of the ocean can typically be found. We’d say be sure to pack the GoPro because Land’s End itself is one darn dramatic sight to boot, soaring from the perfect turquoise sea in jagged peaks and chiseled cliff faces.
Best for: Staying close to Los Cabos itself
Chileno Bay Public Beach
Also known as just Chileno Beach, the Chileno Bay Public Beach is a famous coastal park on the shoreline of the Hotel Corridor that runs north-east out of Los Cabos. The area is inundated with lovely sand stretches and has scrub-clad desert hills rising to its back. But it’s not only the jaw-dropping setting that makes it one of the top destinations for Los Cabos snorkeling…
Facing eastwards, and with big stone headlands to its south and north, Chileno Bay is really well protected from the dominant westerly swells than churn up the Pacific. That keeps the waters in the bay consistently still and glassy; perfectly suited to snorkeling. The offshore area is also a veritable playground for those with the goggles and spout in tow. The reason? You won’t have to swim very far from the shore at all to encounter the bigger fish species. They often come into the nooks and crannies of the submerged rock reef to hide. There are also little coral blooms and oodles of smaller fish to spot just a stone’s throw from the sand.
To get to the Chileno Bay snorkeling spots, you’ll need to drive the 20 minutes up Highway 1 from Cabo San Lucas itself. Alternatively, there are regular boat taxis that go there from the Los Cabos marina, especially during the height of the winter-sun season.
Best for: Lots of marine life that’s close to the shore
Cabo Pulmo snorkeling requires a little bit more effort for anyone staying in the party-mad town of Los Cabos. That’s because it’s located up in the Cabo Pulmo National Park on the far east coast of the Baja California Peninsula. The drive in alone is around two hours, which means transfers totting up to four hours total if you want to do it in a single day. Thankfully, there are plenty of organized Cabo snorkeling tours that will take care of all the logistics, not to mention gear rental and lunches.
The rewards for making the extra push are clear to see. For starters, Cabo Pulmo is home to some of the last living reef sections in the whole Sea of Cortez. They’ve been around for a whopping 2,000 years, which means they’re complex ecosystems that the rock reefs down in, say, Chileno Bay can only dream of being.
There are also multiple Cabo Pulmo snorkeling spots to pick from. Popular options include the pretty beach at Los Arbolitos, which has rock gardens filled with strange eels, and the protected Los Frailes lagoons, where the waters frequently have the same visibility as an aquarium tank!
Best for: Seeing real coral reefs
Santa Maria Bay
A shell-shaped bay with that key south-east orientation (again, that equals good protection from the Pacific waves), Santa Maria sits on the Hotel Corridor some 15 minutes’ drive from downtown Los Cabos. As you might imagine, the snorkel action here is pretty similar to the nearby Chileno Bay snorkeling. The main difference is that there’s often just a few more people in the water because the spot is a little closer to the marina where the day-trippers go from.
That’s rarely an issue, though, especially if you drive up on your own and dive in nice and early before the winds pick up. There are enough bright blue damselfish and Nemo-looking swimmers under the surface to go around, after all. They tend to cluster around the small pockets of rock reef on either side of the bay, so look there first.
Santa Maria beach is also known as a great lookout point for migrating whales. Those big beasts of the ocean will often drift into the bay in months like January and February. Keep the eyes peeled for spurts of water on the horizon line – that’s usually the first giveaway.
Best for: An easy organized snorkeling tour with the chance of whales
Isla del Espiritu Santo
For the most dedicated snorkelers and scuba aficionados among us, there’s hardly a better spot to have on the radar than Isla del Espiritu Santo. It’s washed by the Sea of Cortez some five miles from the coast of the Baja near to La Paz. Yes, that puts it pretty far from Los Cabos itself – around two hours’ drive in a direct transfer, in fact. However, it also places it among some of the most marine-rich waters in the area.
There’s a pretty endless lineup of animals that make an appearance in these parts. In the corners and crevices of the rock reefs, you can see striped zebrafish and colorful parrotfish. It’s common for orcas and larger humpback whales to migrate through the channels here between January and March, though you won’t want to get too close to those colossal beasts! Then you’ve got the sharks, which occasionally prowl down. Yikes.
The real reason most folk put a snorkeling trip to the Isla del Espiritu Santo on their Los Cabos itinerary is to dive under with sealions. Some of the largest colonies in the Sea of Cortez are here, and it’s not unusual to spend the whole day in the company of playful pups performing somersaults and twists underwater.
Best for: Swimming with sealions
When’s the best time for Los Cabos snorkeling?
The prime time to go Los Cabos snorkeling is between September and November. That’s when the southerly swells drop off from the marine-rich Sea of Cortez coast around the town. Temperatures in the water remain high, but things become stiller in bays like Santa Maria and on the Cabo Pulmo reefs. If you don’t mind braving some chillier waters, you could also come in January, February, and March. They have arguably the best visibility and also add in the chance of seeing migrating whales.
What gear do I need for Los Cabos snorkeling?
You don’t have to bring along any gear to hit the Los Cabos snorkeling spots. Of course, you can if you want to. However, it’s normal for organized tours to provide everything you need, from the goggles to the breathing tubes and mouth fixtures. They’re also readily available from rentals in most of the popular spots, but will be harder to find in remoter destinations like the Isla del Espiritu Santo. Always check that all snorkeling equipment has been properly disinfected and cleaned before use.
Alternatives to Los Cabos snorkeling
You’re not limited to snorkeling tours if you’re eager to explore the amazing marine habitats that coalesce around this corner of the Baja California Sur. Not a chance. There are oodles of watersports that offer something similar. Glass-bottomed boats can be something more relaxed for those who aren’t great swimmers. They leave regularly from the Los Cabos marina to seek out the sealion colonies and tropical fish of Pelican Rock.
SUP boarding can also be fun in the low swell season from October onwards, letting you glide over the glassy surface of bays like Chileno and Santa Maria.
Finally, you’ve also got fully fledged scuba diving. That’s far more immersive than snorkeling, and there are loads of outfitters offering expeditions with the tanks in Los Cabos, often going all the way up to the UNESCO reserves of Cabo Pulmo!