Submitted by : Stevs
Date: Jan 22, 2005
An E-mail special from American Airlines set me to thinking. As winter was setting in on a long year I made the decision that I couldn't make it to springbreak without warm sunshine and clear water. (We already had St. Maarten booked for springbreak) From Kansas City most good deals are to Cancun and the Yucatan but after many trips there I wanted something a little different. I had considered Cabo for a few years but the airfare during the times when I could travel always seemed high (My wife is a teacher which locks us in to traveling during peak periods).
The deal gave us a choice between Fiesta Inn in San José and Fiesta Americana on the hotel corridor. Both were all-inclusive packages but the Fiesta Inn was a little cheaper and near town which I thought to be a plus for my wife who is not a diver but fluent in Spanish and enjoys dealing with Mexican trinket dealers. Also in my Yucatan mentality I figured all the resorts in the area would have deals with the area dive shops.
I have to say I had already made two mistakes here. The first one, few resorts outside of the Cabo marina area have any dealings with dive shops and getting from San José to dive shops in Cabo would be easy. It wasn't. It is about twenty-five miles from San José to the Marina in Cabo and the road is a nearly new four lane highway and in retrospect renting a car would have been the easiest way to get around. (There is even a big gravel parking lot behind the Marina with plenty of spaces in the morning, although it does get a little full in the afternoon. Cab fair seemed a little high, again by Yucatan standards however I think most prices in Cabo are a little higher and most of the cabs in Cabo are modern full size vans unlike the little Japanese sedans I have become accustomed to. The price from San Jose to Cabo is about thirty-two dollars US plus tip each way.
I tried the bus to Cabo upon my arrival to check out how well it worked and to set up my diving for the next morning. First they have two bus systems in San José, inter city and town to town. To get to the bus to Cabo we had to walk nearly a mile up hill to a bus stop by the highway. Carrying my gear this could be a very unpleasant trip. Having just missed the bus we had to wait about twenty minutes for the next bus. Then with the stops the trip took about forty minutes. And then another long walk from the bus stop down to the Marina, where all the action is.
My wife, who is fluent in Spanish, found a young university student trying to earn extra money on Christmas break to be our driver for the week. He was also able to give us some personal insight on the area, since he grew up in Cabo and has seen it develop. I found him to be very helpful and reliable.
The Marina is sort of a lagoon on the western end of the Bahia (bay) of Cabo San Lucas. To the north and north-east side there are a few shops including the Hard Rock Café, a modern style mall and a couple of resorts. To the south there is a nice walkway with kiosk and sidewalk type vendors selling jewelry, large iguanas in Santa hats, glass bottom boat tours, fishing trip, and time shares. (I might add that most were not the overly pushy type I have met in other places, and after a couple of trips around the area they knew who you were and left you alone). South of this walkway was the large gravel parking lot. On the eastern corner was an area where tour groups meet and one of the cleanest public restrooms I have ever seen in Mexico. Beyond that there were a couple more souvenir shops and a secured area for duty free shops for cruise ship visitors. Then the area opened up into the bay and the long narrow peninsula known as Lands End with the famous Cabo's arch marking the end of the Pacific and the beginning of the Sea of Cortez.
On the west side is the Resort Plaza las Glorias. (It was in the process of changing their name to Costa Real) It has a long strip of property on the Marina that they have developed into kind of a super strip mall that they rent to various restaurants, timeshare, fishing and whale watching expedition vendors, T shirt shops, jewelry stores, and most importantly dive shops. This is the place to be for any water sports in Cabo. With Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo, The Hard Rock Café, and Squid Roe near by almost anything else, too.
On the Marina I located the dive shop I had chosen from the research I did on the Internet, although I didn't pre book any dives because of the uncertainty of my transportation. I was disappointed to find they didn't operate on Sunday which was to be my first day of diving on my short trip to Cabo so I took the short walk down the Marina to Lands End Diving were I made my plans for the next three days of diving.
I don't want anyone to think I didn't like the Fiesta Inn or San José. In fact I liked both a lot. The Fiesta Inn, a beach front property, is a little small in the way of resorts with only a few of the typical amenities. Swimming pool/snack bar and they claimed to have an activities director although I never actually saw one, and that is about the extent of it. There is a nice indoor/outdoor restaurant over looking a beautiful well kept cactus garden with the Sea of Cortez as the back drop. Unlike many of the all-inclusive I have stayed at, they had a typical Mexican dishes on their buffets, and much to my surprise the pico de gallo actually had a little jalapeño in it. I can also say that the staff was very helpful and friendly as I've come to expect in Mexican resorts.
San José is a small quiet little town with a lot going for it. All you have to do is stand in front of your resort and wave an arm at the first bus that comes by and for about fifty cents they'll take you to town (similar to Cancun). The downtown is a very quaint strip of divided road with beautiful landscaping down the center and nice center and church at the end. There are many typical jewelry and souvenir shops with a few nicer more upscale shops. They even have a Cabo Wabo merchandising outlet. You can also find several pharmacies and liquor stores and a variety of restaurants, including Italian and Chinese. There is even a near by language school here if you want to study Spanish total immersion style.
The beaches in most of the Cabo area are very wide and although the sand is not the coral white of the Caribbean, very beautiful. Unfortunately there are only a few beaches in the area that allow swimming because of strong undercurrents. The swimming beaches are Playa el Medano, Playa Santa Maria, Playa Chileno, and Lovers and Divorce Beach. Playa el Medano is the closest to San José. Lovers and Divorce Beach are on the Lands End peninsula where most of the diving takes place and Santa Maria and Chileno are good snorkeling sights and offer some diving, according to my guide book, although I never saw anyone diving when I was there.
Although Cabo has some world class diving they don't seem to be the diving mecca, as is the Yucatan. Some of this may have been that I was there the week before Christmas, a time usually a little slower for tourism than just after, but the people who travel there just don't seam to be interested as much, as you could tell from the lack of involvement by the resorts. Also the time of year I was there may have been a factor, although the water temperature was between 73 and 75 degrees, the morning air was down around 60 and the highs were only about 80.
Diving in Cabo was unique in that by being so close to the dive sights that they where able to come back to the marina for each surface interval. This meant that they could customize your dive package as you went along. They began dives at 9:30, 11:00 and 1:30, all you had to do was pick the times you wanted to dive to make a one, two or three tank dive. Back at the marina you could strip off your wet suit, use the very clean public restroom, barter with the side walk vendors, have a snack with your spouse and make the next dive refreshed and ready. They also included night dives but because of transportation I was not able to try any. They also give discounts for multi-tank, and multi-days of diving and as usual an added charge for credit cards so it's best to bring cash.
I arrived early the next morning to get acquainted, and filled out the usual release forms. Then we stacked my gear on the cart with the rental gear and headed around the marina to Lands Ends divers slip. The small dive boat (El Guera) was well equipped for diving and had a large Yamaha engine. This setup proved very good for quickly maneuvering around the wakes of the large fishing boats, yachts, and whale watching party cruisers in the bay.
Soon we arrived at a small island near Lovers beach called Pelican Rock. Mauricio, our divemaster, signaled for the captain to set anchor on the southwest end and we prepared for the first dive, the "North Wall". Back rolling into the blue water we meet at the back of the boat where we made our descent to the sandy bottom 20 feet below. As soon as we reached the bottom we began to work our way around the island northeast quickly dropping of into about 85 feet.
Along the way we spotted many fish including longnose butterfly fish, Yellow tail Surgeon fish, Puffers, Groupers, Parrot fish, Round ray stingrays, and many of one of my favorites Moorish Idols. Only they were larger and a lot less shy than the ones I'm accustomed to seeing flirting around the reefs of Cozumel. Ascending back up to about 60 feet along the north side of Pelican Rock we came upon a "cave" of large boulders of granite and Mauricio pointed inside to the 4 foot white tip reef shark hiding inside. Upon being discovered he made his way through another opening in the rocks and quickly disappeared into the blue.
For our next dive we followed the peninsula to Neptune's Finger. At the eastern point where the currents of the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez meet. We again back rolled into the sea and began our decent to the sandy bottom at about 50 feet. We ventured a ways west to a small wreck where we were greeted by a large eel and a colony of reef fish, were I got a good photo of a Moorish Idol encircled by the incrusted wreck. I was also surprised by a small dark shadow that whizzed by. Once my gaze caught up to the figure I was amazed to discover it wasn't a fish but a bird. I never imagined that they could dive that deep. Working our way around the wreck we headed back to Neptune's wall and back south to the boat.
The next day we returned to Pelican Rock and began our first dive from the east side at a point called "Middle Wall". We worked our way around the other way and back to "Shark Cave". Again there was that four foot white tip and today he had a small companion. Upon being spotted they again headed off to the east but to our fortune another group of divers came around the bend from that way and they circled back to us giving me the opportunity for several photos.
For our second dive today we again headed east toward Neptune's finger only this time we stopped a little northeast of there where there was a community of sea lions sunning on a rocky area Mauricio called "the Crack". This is where we began our dive and worked full circle of the finger till we ended back at a narrow canyon that led back to the dive boat and the sea lion community.
There was a very strong surge here and the ridges in the sand were in neat rows about 18 inches high. We timed the surges and entered the canyon single file staying very close to the bottom till the surge reversed against us. At this point we gripped the sand ridges laying on the bottom till the surge again reversed and we shot through the canyon like we were riding the rapids. Then the surge reversed again and we held on waiting for the next ride.
After three shots we were back in open sea full circle from were we ascended making our safety stop then returning to the boat. I didn't spot any fish life different on this dive than any of the others and we were a little disappointed that none of the sea lions came to play today although I did get a photo of one in the distance and the ride was incredible.
On my last day of diving we started a little more northwest of Pelican Rock and made a deep descent to the famous sand falls. This is a place where sand builds up at about a 45 degree angle and falls back into the open sea as the tide comes in and out. The tide was wrong to see much action but there were some interesting formations and canyons. We worked our way back east to "the North Wall" of Pelican rock but then we turned south working our way back up to the shallow area were I started my first dive here. I discovered this shallow area off of Lovers Beach is popular for snorkeling and I enjoyed spending some time here in the shallow water exploring and photographing the abundant fish life.
Much to my disappointment three divers from a cruise ship joined us for our second dive, and none seemed to be very experienced. We again went out beyond Neptune's Finger but a little farther around to the Pacific side than before. We again made our descent and began working our way around the Finger and to the small wreck. Just beyond the wreck we came upon a school of fish so thick they blocked out the light as we swam through. Unfortunately none of my photos turned out.
Once we passed though the school of fish we circled back and followed the wall back to the dive boat. During the safety stop Mauricio singled me to stay back and he made certain that the other divers made it to surface safely for pick up and then we returned to "the Crack". After riding the surges through one side we circled the sea lions rock and returned through the other side that was narrower and even faster. My last dive in Cabo certainly left me wanting more.
As much as I love the Mexican Caribbean and as disappointed as I was in Puerto Vallarta I must say that Cabo was pleasantly more than I expected. The people were very helpful and friendly and the atmosphere was tranquil and relaxing. I was a little disappointed that I didn't see any of the large animals such as mantas, whales, and larger species of sharks that I have heard of in the area but the large and abundant reef fish and the beautiful and interesting terrain both above and below the sea more than made up the difference. I will definitely plan a return trip here someday. I hope soon! Steve
You have to register before you can post on our forums or use our advanced features.