Diving in Cabo
Long before the rich, famous, not-so-much and wannabes discovered that they could drive south from California to a finger of land known as the Mexican state of Baja California Sur for the purpose of sunning, diving and more diving, Cabo San Lucas was home to primitive people’s inhabiting the land around 10,000 years ago.
Known as the Yenecamú settlement, the Pericu people had this little paradise all to themselves until European conquistadores happened upon the area and found a society that was so small, by May of 1842, only 20 villagers and two houses occupied what became an American epicenter of tuna fishing by 1927.
From fishing to fame
Has Cabo retained some of its charm despite commercial growth and assault on the land by celebrities who also began to colonize this area? Yes and no. Sometime during the 1960s and 1970s, the rich and famous began coming to this beach haven located just 930 miles south of Hollywood. Before long, Cabo became a trendy destination that remains just as popular today.
But since your objective is diving in Cabo rather than celebrity spotting (yes, you can do both), it probably matters not whether you spot any stars from stage or film hanging at hot spots like El Squid Roe, Pink Kitty or the Mango Deck Restaurant, Bar and Beach Club. All you need to grab your own share of glory is to get up early to catch (or captain) the boat that takes you a place that lands you beneath the waters.
How to get to Cabo
The San José del Cabo (SJD) airport has gone from sleepy runway with basic hangers to a modern, efficient transportation hub that has become so cosmopolitan, domestic and international flights welcome arriving visitors 24/7. Located less than 24 miles from the city center, SJD arrivals in 2017 alone topped 4,909,700.
While the airport’s original architecture reflected the region’s quintessential style, its design came from the great-grandson of Spain’s Queen Isabella, so it became an immediate homage to the royal house that first sent Columbus off to discover the American continent.
While some flight schedules are seasonal, Cabo’s terminals host direct and connecting flights originating in the U.S. and Canada. Carriers include American, Air Canada, Alaska Air, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United and smaller airlines peppering spots throughout the western hemisphere.
Rather drive? A great starting point is San Diego. Whether you drive your own car or rent one (either on the U.S. or Mexico side of the border), the 1049-mile drive can be done in under 24 hours if your crew insists on a marathon. Otherwise, enjoy the drive while taking in the scenery as you transport your pals, yourself and your gear to Cabo.
Where to dive in Cabo
The good news is that the hottest places to dive in Cabo happen to be located adjacent to one another, so if you’ve got plenty of time explore them all, you can start at one end and swim your way to the next. From north to south, popular hot spots are North Wall, Pelican Rock, Middle Wall, Neptune’s Finger and the aptly named Land’s End.
It’s the place divers go when they can’t wait an extra minute to get into the water. It’s also the place beginners often learn to dive, but it’s a favorite of veteran divers, too. You’ll spot seahorses during the summer months and meet spiny and slipper lobsters if you hang around the ocean floor. Depths range from 15 to 70 ft. Look for everything from Moray eels and puffer fish to flute fish as you explore these lush waters.
If you adore the shallows, you can inspect everything beneath the water along Pelican Rock’s 10-foot sandy bottom. Move further into the water and explore drops up to 70 ft until you get to the famous sand falls, a mysterious-looking canyon located 90-feet below the surface. Hospitable to divers of all skill levels, Pelican Rock hosts schools of snapper, sea bass, puffer fish, plus a variety of eels and rays. Pelicans? We have it on good authority that they visit, too.
You don’t have to be a middle-of-the-road to make Middle Wall your favorite place to dive in Cabo because this area’s vertical drop-offs (500 ft+ at places) offer big thrills you won’t find if you stick to shallow waters. Since the average depth for the area is 100 ft, divers eager to see how it feels to hit that 500-foot drop don’t have to leave their pals too far behind. Here’s more incentive to come here: proximity to the nearby sand falls at Pelican Rock.
This dive site consists of two coral reefs, a vertical wall, plus the single biggest sandfall in the region. You read that right. Consider Pelican Rock the place to start before you challenge yourself to Neptune’s Finger. Yes, there are shallows to be explored by less adventurous divers seeking close contact with turtles and reef fish, but you’ll also encounter yellowtail, amber jacks, manta and devil rays on your way to the 500-foot drop that rivals Middle Wall depths.
Leave the best for last? Perhaps. But when last did you dive into both a sea and an ocean at the same time? Head for Land’s End to conquer both the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean, where barracuda, tuna and baitfish swim. There’s a shipwreck near the rocks located 40-feet below the surface, but you may not care once you get a chance to swim with the colony of California sea lions who endear themselves to visitors.
Beyond your dive
You can stop reading now if you’ve already fallen in love with one of the aforementioned Cabo dive sites because you probably know what to expect when you arrive. But for newcomers, these tips can be as helpful when you’re out of the water as when you are in it:
- Yes, the water in this region is cold, but wet suits are optional.
- Bring your own gear or visit dive shops up and down the coast. Free advice is yours for the taking.
- Bring your sense of humor. It takes just five minutes to walk from Lover’s Beach to Divorce Beach.
- Love the Rolling Stones? Book a room at the affordable Hotel Finisterra where Keith Richards got married.
- Nobody leaves Cabo without a Medano Beach stop where quaint cantinas coexist with luxury resorts.
- You’ll be welcomed at the Hotel California–especially if you born before the Eagles recorded their 1977 hit.