Travel and Leisure — September 29, 2014 at 5:00 am

Secret Escapes – Snorkeling  the Sea of Cortez

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There’s a long list of reasons to pack your bags and hop the next plane to Cabo Pulmo—a sleepy solar-powered village in the Tropic of Cancer on the coast of Baja’s super relaxed Sea of Cortez.

Protected as a national marine park since 1995, it is home to one of the largest, most vibrant coral reefs in the western hemisphere. The sheltered bays also draw seasonal migratory animals en masse like whales, rays, and sea lions. As a result, it is quietly known as one of the world’s top snorkeling and diving destinations. But outstanding diving and snorkeling aren’t the only reasons to visit Cabo Pulmo.

There’s also an endless string of empty sand beaches, a desert landscape teeming with wildlife, and a near endless array of brightly colored North American birds—from fluorescent hummingbirds and yellow hooded orioles, to neon red cardinals and majestic golden eagles.

Since it’s a remote solar-powered village located entirely off the grid, Cabo Pulmo is also quiet, safe, and relatively inexpensive. You can even drink the water since it comes from a deep desert well. The living here is simple and rustic though. There are no posh resort perks, no catered swimming pools, or air conditioned interiors. There’s almost no one here in fact. And that’s the charm. Just a tranquilo little cluster of thatch-roofed cabanas crawling with geckos; hammocks swinging in the lazy desert breeze; palapas perched in peaceful rows on the beach, and more tropical fish than you can shake a GoPro at.

All of which makes it the perfect escape for anyone who just wants to unplug from the “real world” and escape to their own little slice of paradise.  Where the living is easy, the sea is sublime, and the mason jar pina coladas from the beach-side palapa are nothing short of perfect.

Getting there
Fly into San Jose del Cabo; rent a Jeep (buy your insurance at the counter—not online—or you’ll pay twice), purchase supplies at Soreana’s Market located three miles south of the Airport in San Juan del Cabo; then drive north up PCH 1, turning east towards the Sea of Cortez at the 92km mark. Follow the signs to Cabo Pulmo. It’s about a 90 minute drive.

Staying there
Baja Bungalows offer clean private bungalows of various sizes with a range of amenities—from outdoor balconies with grills and full kitchens to simpler cabanas with shared kitchens. Kent and Veronica are excellent (English speaking) hosts who provide everything you need for fun including snorkel gear, sea kayaks, and beach gear.  Cabo Pulmo Resort is a private development consisting of different sized houses and bungalows—some of which are seaside—located adjacent to the dive center.

Being there
The main dive center offers certification classes. There are also a number of other dive and snorkeling outfits in town—find the boat that fits your schedule and budget. At the very end of the village road is a simple beach palapa offering snorkel trips. The owners—brothers Juan and Javier—have been taking people out on Cabo Pulmo’s pristine waters for more than 20 years. They know what’s up. When you come back, you’ll find the restaurant next door (“La Palapa”) makes amazing pina coladas (the food is pretty great too). Internet connectivity in the village is highly limited as all data is carried in and out on mules 100 kilobytes at a time (*I made that part up—but that’s how it feels).

Story and photos by Johnathon Allen

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