Cabo? Sure. But Not That Cabo.

Cabo Pulmo

Aug 15, 2001
Outside Magazine

At the very tip of the East Cape, a few miles shy of Los Frailes, where cartographers have decided the Pacific and the Gulf of California meet, you'll find the tiny hamlet of Cabo Pulmo—population around 100, depending on the season. There's one general store, one cantina, no paved roads, no church, no school. (There is, thankfully, the ten-year-old Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort, with 22 clean, spacious cabanas.) The residents here dig wells or truck water in, get their power from solar panels or generators, and rely on a rough dirt track for contact with the outside world. The pioneer lifestyle, however, seems a small price to pay for living next to a Baja Sur natural wonder: a living coral reef, one of only three in the eastern Pacific. To protect the area, the Mexican government designated it a national marine park in 1995 and banned all offshore fishing.
Starting about a half-mile from the beach, eight fingers of reef angle into the sea. Divers here can see as many as 200 species of tropical fish, as well as sea lions, bat rays, huge oarfish, and columnar schools of Mexican hogfish. According to Pepe Murrieta, director of the marine park and owner of Pepe's Dive Center (011-52-114-10001), whale sharks have come as close as 100 feet from shore, and last season a school of hammerheads nested beside one of the reefs. The sites are never very crowded; even at the peak season around Easter you'll see no more than a dozen divers at once. And since most of the sites are shallow, snorkeling is also quite good here.

You can explore Cabo Pulmo's landscape via several other means as well. Experienced kayakers will want to paddle the series of small scalloped bays that terminates at Los Frailes Point and its sea lion colony. (Beware the strong currents that start a quarter-mile offshore during windy winter months; remember that you're quite near the open ocean.) If you've brought your own gear you can also windsurf; Cabo Pulmo was the big secret spot in the late eighties, before La Ventana was "discovered." Every fall during hurricane season, surfers hit town and head for the break at Boca de Tulas, about 20 minutes south of Los Frailes. Back on land, hikers and mountain bikers can wander among the willows, wild figs, and palms shading the foothills that rise between the arroyos curving down to the gulf. Stop by Pepe's, the first place you see as you enter town, to pick up maps. Many of the local trails start just behind the shop, which also offers a two-hour guided hike to an ancient Pirecue petroglyph site. Along the faint trails, test your recognition of herbs long harvested by the locals: oregano, sage, mistletoe, and damiana, the last used in lieu of triple sec to make "Baja margaritas."
In many ways, Cabo Pulmo is the East Cape in miniature: a little-changed land of rare beauty less than 90 minutes from the condo sprawl of Los Cabos. Sitting on the sand at Punta Sirena, a few miles down the beach, you can look out to where the gulf meets the Pacific, an invisible line of demarcation. Back in the village, everybody talks of the government-advocated paved road that will someday link the two worlds—and just about nobody is eager for the new connection. For now, at least, this is old Baja

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