Scuba Diving in Los Cabos

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Scuba Diving

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San José del Cabo and the Corridor

Expert divers head to the Gordo Banks (100–130 feet; also known as the Wahoo Banks), which are 13 km (8 miles) off the coast of San José. The currents here are too strong for less experienced divers. This is the spot for hammerhead sharks—which are not generally aggressive with divers—plus many species of tropical fish and rays, and, if you're lucky, dolphins. Fall is the best time to go.

The Corridor has several popular diving sites. Bahía Santa Maria (20–60 feet) has water clear enough to see hard and soft corals, octopuses, eels, and many tropical fish. Chileno Reef (10–80 feet) is a protected finger reef 1 km (½ mile) from Chileno Bay, with many invertebrates, including starfish, flower urchins, and hydroids. The Blowhole (60–100 feet) is known for diverse terrain—massive boulders, rugged tunnels, shallow caverns, and deep rock cuts—which house manta rays, sea turtles, and large schools of amberjacks and grouper.

Cabo San Lucas

Generally, diving costs about $60 for one tank and $85 for two, including transportation. Equipment rental, dives in the Corridor, and night dives typically cost extra. Full-day trips to Gordo Banks and Cabo Pulmo cost about $200, including transportation, food, equipment, and two tanks. Most operators offer two- to four-day package deals.

Most dive shops have courses for noncertified divers; some may be offered through your hotel. Newly certified divers may go on local dives no more than 30 to 40 feet deep. Divers must show their C-card (diver certification card) before going on dives with reputable shops. Many operators offer widely recognized Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification courses, which usually take place in hotel pools for the first couple of lessons.

At sites in Bahía San Lucas near El Arco you're likely to see colorful tropical fish traveling confidently in large schools. Yellow angelfish, green and blue parrot fish, red snappers, perfectly camouflaged stonefish, and long, slender needlefish share these waters. Divers regularly see stingrays, manta rays, and moray eels. The only problem with this location is the amount of boat traffic. The sound of motors penetrates deep into the water and can slightly mar the experience. Neptune's Fingers (60–120 feet) is a long rock formation with abundant fish. About 150 feet off Playa del Amor, Pelican Rock (25–100 feet) is a calm, protected spot where you can look down on Sand Falls (discovered by none other than Jacques Cousteau). The Point (15–80 feet) is a good spot for beginners who aren't ready to get too deep. The Shipwreck (40–60 feet), an old Japanese fishing boat, is close to Cabo San Lucas, near the Misiones del Cabo Hotel.

Amigos del Mar. The oldest and most complete dive shop in Los Cabos area is Amigos del Mar. Its dive boats range from a 22-foot panga (a small, open-air unmotorized skiff) to a 25-foot runabout and 33- and 36-foot dive catamarans. The staff is courteous and knowledgeable, and all the guides speak English. Blvd. Marina, Plaza Galicota, across from Finisterra Hotel, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, 23410. 624/143–0505; 513/898–0547 in U.S. www.amigosdelmar.com. Two-tank dives start at $85; euipment rental, $30.

Cabo Acuadeportes. A straw-covered palapa on Playa Médano in Cabo San Lucas, Cabo Acuadeportes is the largest water-sports outfitter offering snorkeling rentals and arranged boat dives for those with experience. Boat and shore dives can also be arranged at the sister shop at Chileno Bay in the Corridor. Playa Médano, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, 23410. 624/143–0117. Bahía Chileno, 16 km [9 mi] west of San José del Cabo, 16 km [9 mi] east of Cabo San Lucas, 23400.

Manta Scuba. This centrally located PADI 5-star outfit makes trips locally in the Corridor, as well as to Cabo Pulmo, Gordo Banks, and East Cape. Two-tank dives start at $90, depending on location, and equipment rental is $27. Plaza Gali, Cabo Marina, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, 23450. 877/287–1120 or 624/144–3871. www.caboscuba.com.

Solmar V. Find luxury on the über-comfortable dive boat Solmar V, which takes nine-day remote adventure diving trips to the islands of Socorro, San Benedicto, and Clarion, as well as to the coral reefs at Cabo Pulmo. There are also five-day trips out of Ensenada, northern Baja. Twelve cabins with private baths serve a maximum of 24 passengers. This is one of Cabo's top diving experiences, so book well in advance. Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, 23410. 866/591–4906 toll free; 310/455–3600 in U.S. www.solmar5.com. from $1,795 to $3,299.

East Cape

Cabo Pulmo/Parque Marino Nacional Cabo Pulmo, a 25,000-year-old coral reef, has been legally protected since 1995 and is home to more than 2,000 different kinds of marine organisms—including more than 230 species of tropical fish and a dozen kinds of petrified coral. The area is renowned among diving aficionados, whose favorite months to visit are June and July, when visibility is highest. The park isn't difficult to access. Head southwest from La Ribera and it's just 8 km (5 miles) from the end of the paved road; it's bordered by Playa Las Barracas in the north and Bahía Los Frailes to the south. It can also be reached by the well-maintained dirt road running along the coast from San José del Cabo. It'll take you three hours or more this way, but the coast along this route is unmatched. (Though, if it's raining, stick to the paved route.) There are two main dive centers offering full gear rentals, kayaks, snorkel gear, and sportfishing tours.

Parque Nacional Marino Cabo Pulmo. This 25,000-year-old coral reef has been legally protected since 1995 and is home to more than 2,000 different kinds of marine organisms—including more than 230 species of tropical fish and a dozen kinds of petrified coral. The area is renowned among diving aficionados, whose favorite months to visit are June and July, when visibility is highest. The park isn't difficult to access. Head southwest from La Ribera and it's just 8 km (5 mi) from the end of the paved road; it's bordered by Playa Las Barracas in the north and Bahía Los Frailes to the south. It can also be reached by the well-maintained dirt road running along the coast from San José del Cabo. It'll take you three hours or more this way, but the coast along this route is unmatched. (Though, if it's raining, stick to the paved route.) There are two main dive centers, Cabo Pulmo Dive Center and Cabo Pulmo Divers, offering full gear rentals, kayaks, snorkel gear, and sportfishing tours. Hwy. 1, Km. 31, San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, 23400. www.cabopulmopark.com.

Cabo Pulmo Dive Center. Cabo Pulmo Dive Center is a full-service PADI dive shop offering a variety of trips and dive lengths. It also has the best accommodations in the village, starting at just $49 per night for the econo-option. Hwy. 1 at La Ribera turnoff, Baja California Sur, 23500. 624/141–0726 or 562/366–0722. www.cabopulmo.com.

Cabo Pulmo Divers. Cabo Pulmo provides some of the more exceptional dives in the area, and Cabo Pulmo Divers has everything you need, including certification classes (multiday). This local family-run shop is right on the beach and offers full diving services, as well as cheap rooms from $49 to $99 dollars per night. Hwy. 1 at La Ribera turnoff, at the end of the road, in the palapa right by the water on the beach, Cabo Pulmo, Baja California Sur, 23500. 624/141–0726. www.cabopulmo.com.

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