Tío Sports (tel. 624/143-3399; www.tiosports.com) on Playa Médano arranges a variety of land- and water-based adventure and nature tours; stand-up paddleboarding; parasailing; and kayak, catamaran, snorkeling, and diving trips. The website gives current prices.
Cabo's bays and cliffs are a marvelous backdrop for a kayak trip. The most popular excursion is a half-day, out from the marina to the sea lion colony at El Arco, stopping for snorkeling at Pelican Rock, for $70 to $85 (experienced kayakers can go without a guide, renting kayaks for $15/hour). If you've got a full day to invest, you can visit Twin Dolphin, Chileno, and Santa Maria bays for snorkeling and lunch, or go out to the coral reef at Cabo Pulmo marine park. Tours run $140 to $185 per person and include transportation, lunch, and gear. Tío Sports can set you up on Médano Beach; for out-of-the-bay tours, contact Baja Wild (tel. 624/142-5300; www.bajawild.com) or Baja Outback (tel. 624/142-9200; www.bajaoutback.com).
The meeting of the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez makes for amazing sea life here, from the teeming coral reef of Cabo Pulmo on the East Cape to the mantas and sharks of the Pacific. You can dive with sea lions right in Cabo's bay, float across a 180m (600-ft.) sand waterfall, and swim through a school of thousands of grouper forming a wall in the water -- all in a 10-minute boat ride from the marina. Nearby, snorkeling at Pelican Rock, right offshore near Playa del Amor, is easy and full of colorful parrotfish, angelfish, and anemones. There's also good snorkeling at Santa Maria and Chileno bays. Two-tank local dives go for $75 to $90 plus $25 to $50 equipment rental, while snorkel trips cost $25 to $45, including all equipment and a naturalist guide. With kids, consider one of the cheesy but fun pirate-themed snorkel tours of the Buccaneer Queen (tel. 800/745-2226 in the U.S., or through Cabo San Lucas Tours, tel. 800/822-4577; www.cabotallships.com).
Farther afield, the area's best dive sites are at Gordo Banks, Los Frailes, and Cabo Pulmo. Gordo Banks is an advanced dive site where you can see whale sharks and hammerhead sharks. It's a deep dive -- 27 to 30m (90-98 ft.) -- with limited visibility (9-12m/30-40 ft.). Most dives are drift dives, and wet suits are highly recommended. Los Frailes is often home to schooling white-tip sharks. And Cabo Pulmo, a protected marine park 72km (45 miles) northeast of San José, has seven sites for divers of all experience levels, the northernmost living coral reef in the Americas, and some of the most beautiful stretches of Baja beach; with tropical reef fish, rays, corals, eels, and sea turtles, it's a paradise for divers and snorkelers alike. Three-tank Cabo Pulmo and Frailes dives cost $175 to $235, Gordo Banks, a two-tank site, $175. Cabo's dive companies are all located in the Gali Plaza building on Marina Boulevard, right behind the marina. Manta Scuba (tel. 624/144-3871; www.caboscuba.com) has full-size two-engine dive boats, and factory-trained technicians maintaining their gear. Amigos del Mar (tel. 624/143-0505; www.amigosdelmar.com) has dive boats with toilets and a full-service dive shop. Manta offers hotel/dive packages with Bungalows hotel, two dives, accommodations, and breakfast for $100 per person. They're also the only company that goes to Cabo Pulmo by boat (2 hr.); the others travel by car and use local boats there.
Taking the plunge -- The proximity of dive sites to the marina, the high local standard of dive companies, and the incredible marine diversity here make Cabo a great place to try scuba diving. All of Cabo's principal dive outfitters offer PADI diver training courses in English. For beginners, a one-day Introduction to Scuba Diving Course (half-day, $100-$115) is a first taste of the underwater world; if you've got the time, Scuba Diver (3 days, $300 plus materials) or Open Water Diver (4 days, $425-$450 plus materials) certifications will qualify you to dive for the rest of your days. The first day of each course is spent learning how to use the regulator and vest to breathe underwater and control buoyancy, and going over safety questions. Then it's out on the water, where you'll dive one-on-one with instructors, practicing skills while you watch eels and mantas cruising by. You can watch study DVDs in your hotel room at night, so when it's time for your test, you'll pass with flying colors. Your certification allows you to dive anywhere in the world -- but you may be happiest with Cabo.
Fishing is Cabo's original claim to fame, and it still lives up to its reputation: Bringing in a 45-kilogram (100-lb.) marlin is routine. Angling is good all year, though the catch varies with the season. Sailfish and wahoo are best from June through November; yellowfin tuna, May through December; yellowtail, January through April; and black and blue marlin, July through December. Striped marlin, dorado, and mahimahi are prevalent year-round. Decades of overfishing in the Sea of Cortez continue to put pressure on populations; you can be part of the solution by practicing catch-and-release with big fish.
You can call on a concierge or a travel agent, but it's more fun to make your own arrangements for a fishing trip. Just go to the marina on the south side of the harbor, where you'll find several fleet operators with offices near the docks. The panga fleets east of San José in La Playita offer the best deals; 5 hours of fishing for two or three people costs $210 to $450, plus a 20% tip (Gordo Banks Pangas; tel. 624/142-1147; www.gordobanks.com; Visa and MasterCard accepted). In Cabo, try Pisces Fleet, located in the Cabo Maritime Center, behind Tesoro Resort and next to Captain Tony's on the marina (tel. 624/143-1288; www.piscessportfishing.com; daily 10am-4pm; Visa and MasterCard accepted), or Minerva's Baja Tackle (on the corner of Marina Blvd. and Madero; tel. 624/143-1282; www.minervas.com; daily 6am-8pm; American Express, MasterCard, and Visa accepted). A day on a fully equipped cruiser with captain and guide starts at around $985 for up to six people. For deluxe trips with everything included aboard a 12m (40-ft.) boat, you'll have to budget around $1,500 and up. If you're traveling in your own vessel, you'll need a fishing permit, which you can get at Minerva's. Depending on the size of the boat, it will cost $37 to $109 per month. Daily permits (136 pesos) and annual permits are also available.
Letting One Get Away -- As fish stocks in the Sea of Cortez decline, sportfishermen and women are doing their part and letting go. "Catch and release" fishing allows you to reel in as many of the big guys as you can, provided you use equipment and practices that allow them to be released in good condition back into the sea. (You'll get a certificate to take home.) Green-thinking businesses are encouraging sustainable sportfishing by supporting captains who participate -- you can be a part of the solution, too.
Stellar surfing can be found from November through April all along the Pacific beaches north and west of town, and the East Cape is the ultimate North American surfing destination from May through October.
The areas to the east and west of Los Cabos, known as the East Cape and the Pacific side, respectively, have yet to face the onslaught of development that's so rapidly changed the tip. An hour-long drive up the western coast to the little towns of Pescadero and Todos Santos is a great surf journey, as well as a summer trek up the Sea of Cortez coastline toward Cabo Pulmo. Visit www.costa-azul.com.mx/areas_maps.htm for a detailed look at the different breaks, excursions, rental equipment, and lessons available for the time of year you're planning to visit.
Surf & Sleep -- If you can't get enough of the surf, stay where the breaks are.
The Cabo Surf Hotel & Spa (tel. 858/964-5117 in the U.S., or 624/142-2666; www.cabosurfhotel.com) has 16 beachfront rooms in a secluded, gated boutique resort. It's 13km (8 miles) west of San José del Cabo, across from the Querencia golf course, on Playa Acapulquito, the most popular surfing beach in Los Cabos. Along with a choice of rooms and suites, it's equipped with an oceanfront terrace restaurant, surf shop, and the Mike Doyle Surf School, which offers day lessons and more intensive instruction. Rates range from $265 to $375 for a double and $290 to $625 for suites and villas. Promotional rates are available during summer months, which is optimum for surfers who seek the Sea of Cortez's summertime swells.
Of course, if you're coming to Baja strictly for the surf, you may join the other hard-core wave-riders and camp along the sugary beaches of the East Cape in the summer and the Pacific in the winter. Most beaches -- especially the ones fronting secluded surf breaks -- are safe and accommodating for overnight stays.
From January through March, migrating gray and humpback whales visit Baja to breed and bear their calves, in one of the world's great wildlife spectacles. Practically every local tour company advertises whale-watching tours that range from an hour to an overnight. The difference is location: While you can see whales and their calves right off of Los Cabos and the Corridor, you won't get very close to them and they're likely to be on the move. The best whale-watching action is up the Pacific coast in the bays of Mid-Baja, where whale families come right up to your panga to "play."
If time is limited, whale-watching in the waters off Cabo is fun and educational. Options include Zodiac-style rafts, sportfishing boats, glass-bottom boats, and cruise catamarans, all of which depart from the Cabo San Lucas Marina and cost $35 to $70, depending on the type of boat and whether the price includes snacks and beverages. Baja Wild does a half-day trip for $70, $50 for children; Cabo San Lucas Tours offers all kinds of watercraft on half-day tours between $33 and $63 for adults, half-price for children. Cabo San Lucas Tours also offers a 14-hour day trip to Magdalena Bay twice a week in season, that includes van transfers, lunch, and two hours on a boat for $200. If money is no object, for $440 you can take Baja-based airline Aereo Calafia's (tel. 624/143-4302; www.tourballenas.com) tour, in which you fly 75 minutes from San Lucas to Magdalena, board a panga, and spend 3 hours watching gray whales and humpbacks loll around the coastal lagoons before returning the same day. You also can spot whales from the shore in Los Cabos; good spots include the beach by the Westin Resort & Spa, at Esperanza Resort in the Punta Ballena community, and along the beaches and cliffs of the Corridor.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.