Cabo Pulmo National Park: The Complete Guide

Beach, Cabo Pulmo.
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Cabo Pulmo National Park

Address
Cabo Pulmo, BCS, Mexico
Phone +52 624 192 1872

Cabo Pulmo is a 17,571 acre Marine Protected Area and national park in Baja California Sur. Visitors travel here to enjoy warm, crystal clear water, long stretches of sandy beach, and coral reefs that provide outstanding scuba diving and snorkeling. It’s also home to the only coral reef in the Sea of Cortez. The park became a reality due to the initiative and effort of the local community in coordination with scientists, academics, civil organizations, and the government to protect the natural area. The maritime environment has made a great recovery and is now a safe refuge for migratory species such as sharks, humpback whales, sea turtles, and whale sharks.

Although it is quite close to the tourist destination of Los Cabos, Cabo Pulmo feels like a completely different world, far from the large-scale resorts and touristy shops and nightclubs. The tiny community of Cabo Pulmo has just over 100 inhabitants, mostly living off the grid, with solar power providing their electricity. There are a few restaurants and small hotels in town and a few dive/snorkel companies along the beach, but otherwise little tourist infrastructure.

Things To Do

Located on the Sea of Cortez, which was famously referred to by Jacques Cousteau as “The World’s Aquarium,” Cabo Pulmo is a great destination for all kinds of water sports. Scuba diving and snorkeling are the most popular activities, and kayaking is also popular. The park has a colony of generally friendly sea lions, and many visitors enjoy swimming and snorkeling near them.

Rugged deserts and mountains surround the park. It rains very little here, so vegetation is sparse, and the landscape is stark but beautiful, with seaside cliffs and ocean views. There are a few hiking trails, but if you take them, be sure to protect yourself from the sun and carry plenty of water. Another way to appreciate the environs is by taking a jeep tour or an all-terrain vehicle tour so you can race over dirt paths while enjoying panoramic views. If mountain biking is more your speed, you can rent bikes at Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort or go on a guided three-hour mountain bike tour with Cabo Pulmo Travel.

Best Hikes & Trails

There are several trails in and around Cabo Pulmo, allowing adventurous travelers to explore craggy desert scapes and enjoy magnificent vistas. The best time to go is early morning before the day gets too hot. At low tide, you can hike along the shoreline from Los Arbolitos beach to Las Sirenas, where erosion from the elements makes the rocks look like eerie wax sculptures. (If you’re not up to the hike, Las Sirenas is also accessible by boat.) Cabo Pulmo Tours offers a hiking and rural tourism day trip.

Best Diving


Cabo Pulmo is home to a spectacular coral reef, the only one in the Sea of Cortez. An impressive number of marine species can be admired here including whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, dolphins, manta rays, tortoises, humpback whales, and many species of fish. Divers will find the best diving conditions between June and November, with the greatest visibility, warmest water, and longest periods of calm weather. From December to March, the water temperature is cooler, however, it’s the best time to spot humpback whales, grey whales, and Mobula rays, and you’ll also find increased sea lion activity.

There are over a dozen dive sites in Cabo Pulmo including the deep reef, the shoal, and an underwater canyon. There are two shipwrecks, El Colima and El Vencedor, the latter of which is the preferred spot to dive with bull sharks. Scuba divers must have certification from known associations on an international level, and it’s forbidden to come within 8 feet of the coral reef. There are a few dive shops in Cabo Pulmo, and several companies offer diving excursions. You can go out on the Cabo Pulmo Diving Tour with Cabo Adventures and Cabo Pulmo Divers also offers a variety of underwater experiences.

Best Snorkeling

With its warm waters and abundance of marine life, Cabo Pulmo provides great opportunities for snorkeling. The best spot for snorkeling from the shore is at Los Arbolitos, which is about 3 miles south of the town of Cabo Pulmo (there’s an admission fee of about 60 pesos per person), but for the best snorkeling, you’ll need to get out in a boat. You can join a snorkeling tour that includes transportation from Los Cabos, such as Cabo Adventures’ Cabo Pulmo snorkel expedition, or if you get to the park in your own vehicle, sign up for an excursion with Cabo Pulmo’s Sport Center. Snorkelers are required to wear a life jacket to prevent deep diving. Rangers may issue a fine to anyone found disobeying this rule. 

Swim with Sea Lions

There is a sea lion colony at Los Frailes, at the south end of the park. This is a popular spot for snorkelers and swimmers looking to cavort with the playful marine mammals. Just try to maintain a distance from them as, in general, they’re very friendly, but the bulls can occasionally get territorial.

Kayaking 

Exploring the Sea of Cortez by kayak is a good option. Besides taking in the wildlife and rock formations, you can also enjoy close sightings of the sea lion colony. Rental kayaks are available for those who wish to go out on their own. If you prefer an organized tour, Cabo Outfitters and Baja Wild offer day trips to Cabo Pulmo from Los Cabos that include kayaking.

Sport Fishing

Commercial and sportfishing are not permitted within the marine reserve. Still, there are sportfishing excursions on offer that take you outside the boundaries of the reserve, where you will find tuna, marlin, dorado, wahoo, and more.

Where to Camp 

There are three places in Cabo Pulmo where camping is permitted: Miramar, Los Frailes, and Los Arbolitos. Only Playa Arbolitos has services, including showers, restrooms, parking areas, and security. The other two are free to camp at; just be advised that these are wild campgrounds without facilities that allow you to connect with nature. Take what you'll need, including fresh water.

Where to Stay Nearby 

There are a few accommodation options in Cabo Pulmo, including some B&Bs and rental bungalows. Some options include:

  • Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort has a selection of bungalows, cabanas, and villas to choose from with kitchen facilities or a shared barbeque area.
  • Casa Cactus is a rental home that will sleep five people and has rooms that open onto an artful courtyard or a rooftop palapa patio. 
  • Bungalows Cabo Pulmo has five bungalows to choose from, which can sleep four or five people. Two of the bungalows have air conditioning.

How to Get There 

Cabo Pulmo is located in Baja California Sur, approximately 60 miles northeast of Los Cabos in an area known as the East Cape. The drive from Cabo San Lucas takes about two hours. Most of the trip is on a paved, well-maintained road, but the last 10 miles are dusty, bumpy, and unpaved. Rent a car (preferably one with good ground clearance) for more freedom but keep in mind that some rental agencies won’t honor your insurance if you drive on unpaved roads. Many tour operators in Los Cabos offer trips.

Accessibility

The services at Cabo Pulmo leave a lot to be desired in terms of accessibility for anyone with mobility issues. The terrain is very rugged, and the ground is sandy. For transportation to and from Los Cabos, contact Transcabo, which has wheelchair-accessible vans. Cabo Pulmo Divers offers an inclusive diving experience for people who use a wheelchair or who have disabilities.

Tips for Your Visit

  • There are many restaurants, a small grocery store, and several dive shops in Cabo Pulmo. You won't find an ATM or a gas station here, so be sure to prepare accordingly before setting out.
  • To protect the marine park, there are strict rules and regulations for all who use it. Read the details here: Cabo Pulmo National Park Rules. If you are caught breaking these rules, you may be sanctioned by the authorities.
  • Follow official recommendations to help conservation efforts, such as wearing only biodegradable sunscreen. Better yet, wear a rashguard and forego sunscreen altogether as the oils and residues it leaves behind are damaging to sea life.
  • There is a fee of 80 pesos (about $4) per person per day for use of the national park. When you pay, you'll be given a bracelet to wear for the day to prove that you have paid.
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The Complete Guide to Mexico's Cabo Pulmo National Park