Cabo Pulmo Marine Park
Founded as a mission in 1724 this charming seaside town boasts great surfing, excellent sea-to-table cuisine and enough galleries to keep even the most passionate art lover occupied for an entire day. The nightlife is also a very lively scene as bars and restaurants fill up with colorful locals and travelers alike.
Our first trip to Baja was not the 500 mile do-or-die breakneck race across the desert but a touristy trip to Cabo San Lucas. We stayed in a resort next to the noisy marina with party boats coming and going day and night. The cruise lines drop off passengers in the early morning to shop, dine and sightsee then retrieve them in the late afternoon sunburned and exhausted! Not being into rowdy crowds we rented a car the next day to break free.
We drove up the coast on the Pacific side to Todos Santos. A well known rustic town famous for its charm and surfing beaches. We had one of our best meals of the trip there. Santa Fe Restaurant is a hacienda-style building turned restaurant by an Italian family with a taste for restoration and a talent for good food. After lunch, we visited the town square galleries and hotels. We should have stayed here, we thought. Maybe on our next trip.
The next day we found the balance we were looking for when we drove to San Jose de Los Cabos on the opposite side of the coast. We were pleasantly surprised to find one of the cleanest and most charming towns we have visited in Mexico. This town is becoming famous for its galleries and thriving art community. We visited many interesting galleries and had instructive conversations with the gallery personnel about the international art community, the famous Thursday evening art walks and the lifestyle of the locals along with the best places to surf, dive and sail in the area.
The manager of one of the galleries, (Muvezi’s Shona), encouraged us to drive the dirt road to Punta Cabo Pulmo. She had recently scuba dove with whale sharks there and described the water as warm and clear with amazing visibility and color.
Great! We had our marching orders to go out and explore more. A few minutes into our trip we felt as if we were driving the real Baja 500 race. The road was not bad, just dusty and curvy and rather exotic. We had ocean views on our right and desert mountains on the left. The terrain became more interesting as more cacti filled the landscape and new mountains appeared breaking the horizon. We didn’t see other cars or people for hours.
Instead, we had one wild encounter with a family of burros that were ambling down the road. We stopped to let them go by, but instead of moving around us they stood by our window staring at us close up. They were hoping we would feed them! It was a surreal moment of mutual observation that can only occur in a place like Mexico.
Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park is the only live coral reef in the area located right on the Tropic of Cancer. It is naturally protected by about 8 kilometers of a deserted beach in the Sea of Cortez. There we found out a few facts worth sharing. Marine life at Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park increased by 463 percent between 1999 and 2009, according to a study led by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Travelers to the area can find several hotels, bungalows and even home rentals at amazing prices. A front row seat to the “Aquarium of the World” Beach House rents for $299.00 in the high season.
In recent years the area has attracted talented chefs from around the world who are taking advantage of the local fishermen, ranches, and farming communities. This growing movement results in a diverse range of international choices for breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktail hour.
There are few destinations in this region that can compare to the abundance of Cabo Pulmo Marine Park. In these brilliant blue waters divers can enjoy communing with whale sharks, manta rays and humpback whales. Divers are also free to explore on their own or hire any of the numerous PADI certified dive companies.
Summer offers good conditions for surfing. Offshore winds come from the west-northwest with some shelter from north winds. We were told by the locals that “groundswells are more common than wind swells and the ideal swell direction is from the south, with the beach break offering both left and right-hand waves” There are relatively few surfers here, even on good days. Watching out for coral and sharks is a must in these waters. We also found out the Cabo Pulmo has some secret hiking and biking trails and kayakers often experience up-close whale and dolphin sightings.
In total, we drove nearly 500 miles in the last 3 days of our 6-day trip. We didn’t get to sail, snorkel or scuba dive in Cabo Pulmo so we were happy to consider the trip a scouting excursion worth taking. Now we have a good reason to come back soon to test those beautiful blue waters of the Sea of Cortez.