The Beaches of Southern Baja

Cabo San Lucas, the Corridor, San Jose Del Cabo, the Pacific Coast to Todo Santos and the East Cape to La Paz

BY RICK CASTAGNER

Deciding which beach is the best beach in the Southern Baja area isn't an easy task. I have tried and always come to the same conclusion … there's simply too many great beaches to choose just one. Some are more picturesque than others, some offer safe swimming and exceptional snorkeling; some have solitude, some have a party atmosphere, while others have great surf breaks or tidal pools that make beachcombing a terrific way to spend a day.

Before you decide to jump in for a swim at any beach, please remember that many of the beaches in the Southern Baja can have powerful undertows and often treacherous waves, especially on the Pacific side. Every year folks make the mistake of underestimating the strength of Mother Nature. The bottom line is, be careful and never swim alone, even in what appears to be calm water.

I experienced this out my first year living in the Baja. This lake boy found out what an undertow was on a secluded beach in the East Cape, I luckily was there with a friend who helped me back to the shore.

 

Cabo San Lucas

Medano Beach

The safest swimming beach in Cabo San Lucas and is right in the middle of the action. Here you will find room to stretch out, calm water with designated swimming areas and a bounty of bars and restaurants right on the beach. This is one of the most popular areas to spend the day in all of Cabo and a terrific place to people watch. Water sports and other activities can be found here. Water taxis wait just off shore for quick and easy access to the Arches and the Marina area. The water is extremely calm here, and although you won't find any lifeguards in Cabo San Lucas, areas are roped off for safe swimming.

Playa Del Amor (Lovers Beach) and Playa Del Divorcio (Divorce Beach)

Lover's Beach, or Playa del Amor, is located on the Sea of Cortez side of Land's End in Cabo San Lucas. Access to this beach is by water taxi from the marina or Medano Beach. Average cost for a round trip is $15 if you bargain or $20 if you do not, and the taxis will arrange a pre-determined pickup time. Pack a lunch, bring or rent snorkeling gear and a towel and you're ready for a great day of sunning, swimming and sightseeing. Snorkeling at Pelican Rock next to Lovers beach is awesome. Beach vendors offer water, soft drinks and beer. This beach is world famous and has been the subject of many photo layouts so bring a camera (underwater cameras are a good idea if you plan on snorkeling).

Divorce Beach is found through the gap in the rocks that leads to the Pacific side of Land's End and is named for the harsh undertow and dangerous shore break. Swimming is only recommended at Lover's Beach.

Playa Solmar

Set on the Pacific Ocean side of Cabo San Lucas, only Divorce Beach is closer to Land's End than Playa Solmar. Like all beaches in México it is public by law, with public access. Solmar is definitely worth visiting for the sunset views, which are absolutely spectacular, and also for beachfront whale watching during the winter months. Enjoy the sunsets, but stay away from the water.

Pedregal Beach 

Pedregal Beach fronts the Pacific Ocean at the base of the Pedregal development. Access is through the main entrance of Pedregal off Boulevard Marina in downtown Cabo San Lucas. All Pedregal owners and visitors are able to access the magnificent exclusive Pacific Ocean beach on our western border. This beach is great for long walks and tranquil sunsets. A beautiful palm grove offers great shade. Enjoy the sunsets, but stay away from the water.

Cannery Beaches

The Cannery Beaches are known by several names: Playa Coral Negro, Playa El Balcon, Playa Balconcito and Playa Escondida. These beaches are the least used in the area, except by local families. They love it because they can keep a watchful eye on their children who can swim while mother and father fish. Some local fishing boats stop at the beach to the right of the entrance to the marina to sell their catch in the late mornings. Fun to haggle, great prices, but you need a little Spanish or a smartphone translation app. In years past these beaches flanked a pier (no longer there) belonging to the old abandoned tuna cannery. The beaches are easy to access by walking along the west bank of the marina.

 

The Corridor

Monuments Beach Km 6

A great beach and a mecca for Baja bound surfers, thanks to a challenging left-hand point break. Scenic views of El Arco and the other granitic rock formations that stretch to Land's End in Cabo San Lucas are incredible. The sunset views have led to many developments here, most recently The Cape: A Thompson Hotel, a hip new luxury resort featuring retro decor and surfer chic. The beach is also next to a classic restaurant called Sunset de la Mona Lisa. The beach is open to the public, by law, and there is easy parking available. Take a right at the Misiones gate then drive toward the beach.

Whale's Head Beach Km 8

A safe swimming beach near another old lighthouse. This beach offers good snorkeling and a sandy beach for relaxing in the sun.

Shipwreck Beach Km 9

This is a great beach for swimming, snorkeling, relaxing in the sun and even surf fishing. Many tide pools offer the opportunity to explore marine life. Diving is also good here and many dive tour operators include this location in their destinations. Although swimming is generally safe, stay out of the water during times when the sea is rough.

Sheraton Beach Km 10

A secluded beach on the north side of the Sheraton Hotel: swimming, snorkeling, fishing, tide pools, beach hikes and relaxing in the sun. This beach has its own parking lot (first left after the Sheraton) and a safe swimming area on the right of the beach.

Widow's Beach Km 11

This beach is also a favorite of those seeking seclusion. With many coves and unique volcanic rock formations, it’s easy to find a private spot even when there are many people here. Widow's Beach is a long-time favorite of both local and visiting photographers, with tons of interesting volcanic rock formations. Swimming is not recommended here, mainly because of all the rocks, but this remains a great choice for privacy, pets, beach walkers and shell hunters.

Santa Maria Beach Km 12

This horseshoe-shaped beach is just plain beautiful. Part of a marine sanctuary, this beach offers outstanding opportunities for swimming and snorkeling and getting up close to myriad tropical fish. For a special treat, bring some bread or tortillas and hand feed the fish! As this is a marine sanctuary, the taking of fish is not allowed. There are a few vendors that travel this beach but it is best to bring what you need with you. One of the great features of this beach is the pinkish colored sand that is about the size of a grain of rice and not irritating like fine sand. Bring cameras, a photographers dream. Take only photographs, leave only footprints!

Chileno Beach Km 14

Great for families, snorkelers and divers. Kayaks, snorkeling gear and more are available. Several reefs run parallel to the beach and are home to over 80 species of marine life. Sea turtle sightings are common here. Public restrooms and showers are available as well as palm-shaded areas to give visitors a comfortable place to relax out of the sun. Weekends can get crowded.

Playa El Tule Km 16

A secluded sandy stretch of beach used mainly by locals. There are scattered boulders in the surf and driftwood can be found up on the beach. Access is at the Los Tules bridge. Be careful, a four-wheel drive vehicle is needed to get across the sometimes soft sand of the arroyo, stay on the packed roads. Local surfers and running enthusiasts flock to this beach, a rather secluded beach that faces the Sea of Cortés and boasts fun if not challenging surfing conditions thanks to a strong break that goes both ways with speed.

Tequila Cove Beach Km 19.5

This beach fronts the Melia Cabo Real and Hilton hotels. A man-made breakwater makes for very safe swimming beach and water sports. Jet Ski and equipment rentals are between the Melia and the palapa-dotted beach. Easiest access is through the Melia Cabo Real.

Punta Pamilla Km 27

Punta Palmilla beach is set on a long wide bay perfect for swimming with good snorkeling near the fishing fleet. There are no facilities other than shade palapas to the right and left of the fleet, this beach is great for families. Here you can enjoy the natural beauty and view the catches of returning fishing boats in the afternoon. The swimming conditions are so good, in fact, that Playa Palmilla hosts the swim leg of the annual Ironman Los Cabos half-triathlon. Snorkeling, fishing and kayaking are also good here, and the beach is likewise a congenial spot for sunning or scenic walks. Located at the Palmilla exit off the main highway, follow the signs to the main beach. Public parking is available and palapas are on hand for those seeking a bit of shade.

 

San Jose Del Cabo

Old Man’s Beach Km 28

Just west of Playa Costa Azul is a little stretch of beach called Playa Acapulquito, known as Old Man’s Beach. It looks like the local surf spot has migrated to this area. A surf school and restaurant make this small beach popular with the local surf crowd. Swimming is possible, but watch out for surfers. The beach is great for sun and surfer watching.

Blue Coast Beach (Costa Azul Beach) Km 29

One of the signature beaches in the San Jose del Cabo area, Playa Costa Azul offers sun, sand and surf, plus plenty of great food and drink at Zipper's Bar and Grill. The best surf breaks are found at Zippers and the Rock, with the beginner-friendly Middle Break frequently used for lessons. Zippers surf break is the site of the annual WSL sponsored Los Cabos Open of Surf, and gets crowded during the summer months. Despite the fact this is a good place for snorkeling and swimming, it's a good idea to be alert, otherwise you could be run down by a rogue longboarder. Located through the arroyo at Costa Azul bridge.

Hotel Beach

A long, open beach with great scenery but not recommended for swimming because of undertows. Surf fishing is a popular pastime as are picnics, beach walks (especially at night) and horseback riding. You can access this beach through any of the hotels located here or through several open spaces along the beach.

Estuary Beach

You'll find this beach at the north end of Hotel Row in San Jose del Cabo. It fronts the San Jose Estuary and offers up great bird watching, especially if you hike around the area. Swimming really isn't an option here as the waves and undertow is an issue, but a protected beach (The Little Beach) can be found just a short walk away, inside the jetties that protect the Puerto Los Cabos marina.

The Little Beach (Playa La Playita)

One of the newest beaches of Los Cabos—and easily one of its best—the Playita Beach at Puerto Los Cabos features a safe, roped-off swimming area inside the harbor entrance, as well as a natural beach, where you can swim, skim-board, surf, fish or buy fish from the local fisherman. This is a local hangout similar to the Cannery beaches in Cabo San Lucas.

East Cape

I took the coast road out of San Jose to Buena Vista and then rejoined highway 1. I only recommend the section from Playa El Rincon to Buena Vista for the very adventurous with 4WD. The dirt roads are not in good shape and multiple choices in the roads are very confusing. I recommend separate trips to visit the East Cape beaches, one trip from San Jose del Cabo to Playa El Rincon and a separate trip on highway 1 from Buena Vista to the Bay of Dreams.

I explored this area about 10 years ago and found dozens of easily accessible and wonderful peaceful beaches. Similar to the Pacific Coast area from Cabo San Lucas to Todo Santos, it has changed today. New development (especially private homes) has introduced fences and gates into the East Cape. Enjoy the limited access to the beaches while you can.

The Monks Beach

About 40 miles from San Jose you’ll come to Los Frailes. This is a very popular beach, with limited facilities. Lovely, gentle Bahía Los Frailes attracts both campers and yachtsmen. The cove is one of the finest anchorages on the coast; you can swim or row to the beach. Swimming is excellent, snorkeling and fishing is great.

Cabo Pulmo Beach

About 5 miles north of Los Frailes is Cabo Pulmo, another of the more popular beaches on the East Cape of Los Cabos, it even has a restaurant and plenty of space in a cove for RV’s, vans and campers. Cabo Pulmo is the only living coral reef on the Pacific coast. Divers and snorkelers will love the finger coral reefs extending offshore with water from 15 to 80 feet deep. I have sunned, snorkeled and dove here many times. Jacques Cousteau described Cabo Pulmo as “the aquarium of the world.”.

Playa El Rincon

One of the most peaceful, relaxing beaches I have ever visited. The beach is around 11 miles from Cabo Pulmo, the Tropic of Cancer crosses the beautiful beach here, it remains relatively isolated as very few people come here. The beach begins at a beach house called El Rincon, then runs south for several miles. A wonderful beach for camping, hiking and getting away from it all. I have spent many weekends here.

Punta Arena

Dirt roads wander in various directions; avoid the one leading to the Punta Arena lighthouse as this is a military base so you can’t get near a beach. I would not recommend Punta Arena for sand beaches, mostly rocky.

La Ribera

Just a few miles north of Punta Arena, about 50 miles from San Jose del Cabo, you will come to the village of La Ribera where a paved road leads over to Highway 1. Most are probably ready to head back to San Jose del Cabo by this time if you made it thru Punta Arena. Highway 1 south will take you through Santiago and Miraflores back past the airport to San José del Cabo. I continued up from La Ribera to Buena Vista using the dirt coastal roads.

Buena Vista and Los Barriles

Highway 1 brings you in the twin towns of Buena Vista and Los Barriles, along the edge of Bahía de Las Palmas. Baja’s quintessential beach community, this area is made for ocean lovers and fisherman. There are many great beaches, several small resorts and RV parks, the Buena Vista Beach Resort, an expatriate community, and water sports galore. In the winter months windsurfers come from everywhere to play here. In the spring, summer, and fall, it offers the best in fishing, diving, snorkeling, kayaking and lately, pickleball. I rejoined Highway 1 here.

Punta Pescadero

North of Buena Vista and Los Barriles another 40 minutes along the spectacular coastline will land you in Punta Pescadero, a fly-in fishing resort with a few homes. Stop anywhere along the way and enjoy an unspoiled beaches all to yourself. Take a picnic and spend the afternoon.

Bay of Dreams

An hour north of Los Barriles by boat and 45 minutes east of La Paz by road is Bahía de Los Suenos, the East Cape’s new happening place. The plan calls for 600 upscale homes, a resort with golf course, and two marinas. Now, there are less than a dozen homes and the Giggling Marlin Beach Club. I spent time at the Beach Club about 5 years ago, wonderful beaches and total tranquility. Visit while you can,

I am not a fan of “new happening places.”  Cerritos Beach on Pacific Coast is now going thru this transformation.

La Paz

You will find that the La Paz beaches are more peaceful and safer, being located on the Sea Of Cortez side of Baja where the surf is smaller.

El Coromuel

This is the first beach of the tourist corridor of La Paz. Playa Coromuel is popular among locals given its proximity to the city known for hosting families who spend their weekends under the comfortable palm umbrellas. You can find palapas, bathrooms, and all the facilities to have fun.

El Caimancito

 Second on the scenic road, is Playa Caimancito, only 10 minutes from downtown La Paz. With white sand and sea like a large pool because the water only reaches the waist, makes it perfect for swimming. This is a great place to practice stand-up Paddle Boarding.

El Tesoro

It is the next beach on the tourist corridor of La Paz. El Tesoro is located within a bay surrounded by hills that makes the sea level reach very low levels of depth. Children can swim and play in the bay without any worries. It has playgrounds and a nice restaurant with palapas from where you can appreciate the views.

Pichilingue

This beach is located near the port, but still far from any noise or crowds. Pichilingue has two seafront excellent seafood restaurants where you can enjoy the typical chocolate clams. It is an ideal beach for wakeboarding.

Balandra

For those who love serenity and total relaxation, Balandra is the right place to visit. Balandra is world famous for its spectacular views, white sand beaches and pristine blue crystal clear waters. The only noise that can be heard in Balandra is the water splashing and the gulls that visit the seashore. Balandra is home for a rock formation famous for its structure and location, “El Hongo” has been eroding over the years and has become an emblematic monument of La Paz. In 2016 it was named the best beach in Mexico.

El Tecolote

El Tecolote is the last beach on the scenic road in La Paz and is at the tip of the bay. You can see Espiritu Santo Island to the north from the shore. You can find all kinds of places to rent water sports, 3 seafood restaurants and the walk on the beach seems never to end. Young people and families usually camp here for a fun weekend

Pacific Ocean Beaches

I explored this area about 10 years ago and found dozens of easily accessible and wonderful peaceful beaches. It has dramatically changed: the new freeway has limited access to beaches thru fencing and median barriers plus development (especially private homes) has introduced fences and gates. Enjoy the limited access to the beaches while you can.

Playa el Faro Viejo (The Old Light House)

El Faro Viejo, the old lighthouse sits high on the dunes along the Pacific Coast of Cabo San Lucas next to the Quivira Golf Course. The 7th hole is framed by El Faro Viejo, a 19th century lighthouse that also happens to be one of the oldest structures in Cabo San Lucas, founded in 1905. This beach is a good place to spend a few hours with a little history on the side although access is very difficult. My hope is that someday Cabo San Lucas appreciates the history of this beach location and provides easier access to the public.

Playa el Suspiro Km 121

This beach is along the Pacific Ocean near the Diamante development. The access road is just past the Police Station driving out of Cabo San Lucas. Look for the Diamonte sign. Turn toward the ocean and drive past the Diamante Golf Course.  Playa el Suspiro is one mile past the main entrance to Diamante. The beach is secluded and you will probably see a few shore fishermen.

Playa Pozo Cota Km 106

Turn off at the Amigos ATV rental center and proceed about 1 mile on the dirt road. This dirt road is home to ATV, dune buggy rental companies and horse ranches, very entertaining drive. This beach is peaceful and quiet but watch out for the soft sand. Make it a full, fun day; take an ATV, dune buggy or horse ride in the morning, enjoy the beach in the afternoon.

Playa Migrino Km 97

Playa Migrino, a great whale watching beach in the winter. Turn off the highway at either side of the bridge across the arroyo if driving south, watch out for soft sand. If you are driving north from Cabo you must go up to Km 90 to turn around (freeway median barrier). Pack a lunch and drinks because the only thing you’ll find at this beach is Baja solitude, the way it used to be.

A Bonus Beach Km 79-80

Three separate dirt roads go down to a great beach. This is a the beach to get away from it all. No services.

 

Todo Santos / Pescadero 

Playa Los Cerritos (Cerritos Beach) Km 67

 Located about forty-five minutes north of Los Cabos, just before the artist colony of Todo Santos, Cerritos Beach is a beautiful, sweeping expanse of pristine beach, famed for its surfing and whale watching. The surfing is great here on a year-round basis for beginners and experts. During the winter months when the Sea of Cortes surf scene goes dormant, surfers head to Pacific Coast beaches like Los Cerritos. This beach has always been my favorite over the years in southern Baja although changes are coming. A major resort is being planned for the beach.

San Pedrito Beach Km 59

In season, whales spout near the shore, and mangoes here ripen twice a year. The Golden Gate Bank is just 3 miles off shore, making it easily accessible for small fishing boats. A wonderful beach to spend an afternoon.

Next to Playa San Pedrito is a popular surfing beach called El Pescadero after the fishing village nearby.

Playa San Pedro Km 57

Also know as Playa Las Palmas. This area is a smaller quarter mile expanse of beach bordered by a reed lagoon and protected by rock promontories on both sides. Groves of palm trees frame this gorgeous small beach. Ruins of an old rancho are nearby. Excellent area for hiking, swimming and body surfing.

Playa Punto Lobos Km 54

Local fishermen launch their pangas in the waves at this local beach several miles outside of Todo Santos. Follow a dirt road from highway about 1.5 miles to Playa Punta Lobos. Great for hiking and history. There are several paths that will lead to different sections on the beach where you will spot the landmark rocky promontory, a lighthouse and a deserted cannery at the beach’s eastern end. This was also the port for the Todo Santos sugar era, until groundwater aquifers dried up in the 1950s.

Playa la Poza

Access out of Todo Santos via the La Cachora road. Suitable for walking, fishing, whale watching, relaxing or sunbathing. La Poza is not a swimming beach. La Poza has a large freshwater lagoon that is great for bird watching.

Playa la Cachora

Access out of Todo Santos via the La Cachora road. Suitable for walking, fishing, whale watching, relaxing or sunbathing. The La Cachora beach has become popular with skimboarders.

Life is short. Find that beach of your dreams.