Snorkeling rules in Cabo. Dazzling, colorful sea life; warm, clear waters; sunny days…awesome!
The Sea of Cortez teems with so much biodiversity. Its rich waters support more than 800 species of fish and thousands of invertebrate species—octopuses, shellfish, snails. Many are endemic, which means they’re only found here. For snorkelers, it’s heaven.
If you know where to go.
The right site makes all the difference. On the Cabo coast, not all beaches and bays are created equal. Some are boring, others not safe for snorkelers. Waves, currents, surges, and tides can rule out an area. The wonderful Medano Beach of Cabo San Lucas Bay, for instance, is great for swimming, but not snorkeling. It lacks the reefs that provide food, habitat, and cover for marine communities.
The best snorkel sites have:
- Calm, clear waters for people
- Rocky reefs and rich waters for fish and other creatures
At Cabo Expeditions, our experts are knowledgeable about the best bays for snorkeling. These spots are a boat trip up the coast from the marina in Cabo San Lucas. While they’re not “secret” to the locals, many visitors don’t know about them!
Santa Maria Cove
What makes these sites the best snorkeling in Cabo San Lucas?
Location, Location, Location
When it comes to location, these bays are triple winners. Why?
1. The Sea of Cortez is a hotspot for biodiversity.
Baja’s Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, is a biological wonder. Rich plankton blooms feed sea life from the huge, like blue whales, to the microscopic. Masses of red, shrimp-like krill earned it the name “The Vermillion Sea.”
Ecologists rank the Sea of Cortez #6 of the world’s 18 “biodiversity hot spots” (Roberts, Callum, et al. “Marine Biodiversity Hotspots and Conservation Priorities for Tropical Reefs.” Science 295, 1280 ). Only one other “hot spot” exists in the Western hemisphere—#12 in the western Caribbean! That makes the Sea of Cortez a must-snorkel spot!
2. The Baja Peninsula mixes the best of two worlds.
Cabo San Lucas shines at the tip of the 760-mile-long Baja peninsula. Here, the Pacific Ocean crashes into the Sea of Cortez, and a great mixing takes place. Sea creatures from the open ocean share the currents with unique sea animals found only in Baja. Variety and abundance—what more could a snorkeler want?
3. They’re safe.
Snorkelers seeking safe but active sites love Santa Maria Cove and Chileno Bay. They’re well oriented to the currents and waves, but from April to November, they’re calmer than most bays.
Comfort & Visibility
Warm, clear water in these bays brings great visibility and comfort. Water temperatures range from 65° to 75° F in June and July. By August, the water could be as warm as 86°! Even in winter, it’s in the 64° to 70° range.
Visibility changes with the seasons and the plankton. From August to November, you can see from 40 to 90 feet into the water in a vast world swirling with creatures of all colors.
What You Can See!
Santa Maria Cove
Santa Maria Cove provides large rocks and finger ridges that lead to deep canyons (Speck, Susan Diving Baja California, Chap.XI Cabo San Lucas). Large rocks and small caverns make the southern point ideal eel country. Corals and sea fans among the ridges decorate the reef.
Coral and longnose hawkfish are at home here. They perch on rocks above the action, watching the activity below. Vivid colors of royal blue and yellow damselfish and chameleon wrasses are like living jewels and ornaments for you to discover.
Chileno Beach is easy for newbie snorkelers. Long, protective “finger reefs” jut out into the bay for half a mile. Because it’s shallower, beginner snorkelers can feel confident.
The first fish you see are likely to be the lively damselfish and sergeant majors. They may rush to meet you! Sergeant majors—little ovals with dark stripes—dart about, and schools of silvery pompano jacks flash their yellow scissor-tails.
A very special fish to look for is the yellowtail surgeonfish. Though they are common in tropical waters, the variety that lives here is unique because of its spotted body.
Moray eels and other kinds of eels love the deep cracks in the reef. It’s always exciting to spot an eel with its elegant, winding movement. Also keep an eye out for collaborators: fish that follow a moray eel and help it flush prey out of its hidey-hole.
Other creatures that may top your list?
- King angelfish
- Guineafowl pufferfish
- Longnose butterflyfish
- Moorish idols
- Reef shark
- Sea stars
Become a Part of Their World
A famous naturalist, Joseph Wood Krutch, came to Baja in the late 1950s, and discovered snorkeling:
“I was introduced to the mild though extremely interesting activity called “snorkling”— which means no more than floating with one’s head a few inches or a few feet below the surface of the water while breathing through a tube.
“Among the rocks in warm subtropical water just off the shore…there are astonishing things to see, and it is amazing how intimately a part of a strange world one feels merely because one is under, not above, the surface…
“Conditions are ideal for sea life as well as for the snorkeler…. Marine forms cover the submerged rocks while absurdly gaudy fish swim between them.” (The Forgotten Peninsula: A Naturalist in Baja California)
What are you waiting for? These secret spots offer new worlds to explore and some of the best snorkeling in Cabo San Lucas!