Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of Baja California is one of the most lauded beach getaways in the Western Hemisphere. Famed for its nonstop nightlife, its heaven-minted sands, and rugged coastal scenery—including the famous pale sea arch called Land’s End—this hub at the meeting-ground of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) is also a prime jumping-off point for outdoors people, given the rich recreational pickings both above and below the water.
Here we’ll review some of the chief outdoor activities this Los Cabos city has to offer in its sun-splashed hinterland. As lively as the bars and clubs of Cabo San Lucas surely are, the real magic here lies in the glorious land- and seascape, where desert mountains tumble down to tropical waters teeming with undersea life. If you’re interested information on hotels and flights to Cabo San Lucas, check out TripAdvisor – it’s a great resource to help you book your trip.
Diving & Snorkeling
The gorgeous topside scenery of Cabo San Lucas is merely a prelude to its submarine glories. This is an absolutely legendary hub for scuba diving, with popular dive sites in the protected waters of the Cabo San Lucas Marine Park just a short boat ride from the city’s harbor. At Pelican Rock, for instance, you can admire snappers, parrotfish, puffers, moray eels, angelfish, and seahorses while marveling at the renowned sandfalls, where sand churns and cascades down reef crevices like water plunging down a cliff chute. Diving off Land’s End, you may just find yourself investigated by some of the sea lions that haul out there as you watch for fast-moving schools of eagle rays and barracuda.
Snorkeling sites abound, too, including at Pelican Rock, Santa Maria Cove, and Lover’s Beach (the waters of which can be a bit challenging for weaker swimmers).
Farther north up the Sea of Cortez coast, meanwhile, Cabo Pulmo National Park offers standout snorkeling and diving on the northernmost coral reef on North America’s Pacific coast.
There’s nothing like seeing a many-ton leviathan plowing through the Baja swells to humble you on your Cabo San Lucas idyll—and to set all those (admittedly pleasant) beachside cocktails and DJ-curated dance parties in their proper context. Particularly in winter, Los Cabos becomes a fantastic place for whale-watching in both the open Pacific and the Sea of Cortez.
Eastern Pacific gray whales migrate down to the coastal lagoons of Baja California to give birth, the first typically arriving in December. Mothers and calves have mostly commenced their northward journey by April, following the bulls, calf-less cows, and subadults that left earlier for summertime feeding waters off Alaska. This yearly round ranks among the great mammalian migrations on the planet, and getting the opportunity to view wintering grays in the waters off the peninsula is a special privilege. You may spot these barnacle-splotched giants on any winter boat excursion, but your best chances come aboard whale-watching charters.
And it’s not only gray whales you’ll be keeping your eyes out for. Some North Pacific humpback whales also make their own Alaska-to-Baja migration for winter calving. These rorqual whales are easily distinguished from the grays by their darker bodies and much longer pectoral flippers, which resemble huge gull wings. Humpbacks are also more acrobatic than grays—actually, they’re more acrobatic than any other baleen whale, commonly heaving their bodies out of the water in stunning breaches and slapping the surface with their pectorals or—in the spectacular display called “lobtailing”—their flukes.
Other baleen whales sometimes glimpsed by lucky whale-watchers off Cabo San Lucas include the biggest of all, the blue, as well as its close relatives the sei, fin, and Bryde’s whales. Among the toothed whales, meanwhile, dolphins are always a possibility, while orcas and huge-headed sperm whales are rarer sights.
Other Water-Based Fun
Given that Cabo San Lucas is one of the world’s great fun-in-the-sun destinations, it’s little surprise watersports fanatics have one blissful playground here. Year-round surfing, parasailing, windsurfing—you name it, Cabo’s got it.
Sportfishing is another popular pastime here. Anglers cast for such quarry as marlin, sailfish, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, and dorado (mahimahi).
A lot of Cabo San Lucas visitors are content to scratch their hiking itch with long strolls along the beach—and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that—but adventurous types might consider setting their sights inland. The Sierra de la Laguna, which anchor a biosphere reserve, form the rugged and biologically rich backbone of Baja California’s southernmost toe; they’re the southernmost of the Peninsular Ranges that begin in Southern California, part of the essentially uninterrupted belt of coastal hills and mountains fronting North America’s Pacific margin.
Whether you’re tackling an independent adventure or joining a guided trek into the Sierra de la Laguna, you’ll experience their fantastic ecological richness, their far-reaching views, and their delicious wildness. The ecosystem spectrum’s amazing, ranging from the cactus gardens of the desert foothills and palm oases in canyon bottoms through mid-elevation tropical dry forests to the pine-oak woodlands swaddling the high ridges and peaks. Keep an eye out for puma tracks in the sandy washes.
So explore Cabo’s spectacular beaches and fun-loving resort energy, for sure, but spare some time for adventures farther afield. Whether you’re pitching a tent under a flawless night sky in the Sierra de la Laguna, watching a humpback breach at sunset, or gaping at sharks and rays and sandfalls in the warm Pacific, this place easily gets into your blood.