Way down in the south of the Baja California Peninsula is a dreamy destination that’s long been a hotspot for vacationers: Cabo.
Although it’s become known for luxury and partying, this Mexican resort is first and foremost famous for its string of golden sand beaches.
Whale watching in winter and other water activities, along with lounging around drinking lime margaritas, are the order of the day.
The sparklingly clear waters of Cabo may be beautiful. But when planning a trip to Los Cabos, you need to know that many of its beaches aren’t safe for swimming.
So here’s a round-up of the best swimmable beaches in Cabo for you.
We’ve also thrown in some safety tips – and we explain the ins-and-outs of why swimming isn’t always a good idea in this Mexican wonderland.
Why can’t you swim in Cabo at many beaches?
Although the water sure looks inviting, sadly, not every beach is swimmable in Cabo – as we’ve already mentioned (and any decent Cabo travel guide will tell you). There’s more than just one reason.
But before we dive further into this, you should know what we’re talking about when we refer to “Cabo” (aka Los Cabos).
We’re referring to the whole resort area of Los Cabos, which includes the two towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
You might want to read our post on Los Cabos vs. Cabo San Lucas, which explains the difference between the towns and the Los Cabos area.
Be aware that beaches on the Pacific side of Los Cabos, in particular, are notoriously dangerous for swimming.
Strong undertows along the Pacific Coast are extremely powerful.
Don’t ever swim at beaches along this side.
Okay, so why is Cabo not swimmable?
The main reason is rips. They’re called “rip tides” but in actual fact, these are rip currents.
Not far from the shallow waters, these dangerous currents move water away from the shore, like an invisible undersea river. They’re powerful enough to put even the strongest swimmer in danger.
Rip currents are the number one cause of lifeguard rescues at U.S. beaches.
That’s why it’s really important to know where the safe swimming beaches in Cabo are.
Another reason why many beaches in the Los Cabos area are off limits is due to strong waves.
Steep drop-offs create monster waves which crash onto the shore and, obviously, don’t make for great swimming conditions.
The swell may look manageable from the shore, but don’t be fooled. The ocean is powerful and waves can carry immense power.
Lack of lifeguards
Although many Cabo swimming beaches do have lifeguards, a lot of them don’t.
This is because not all of the beaches are safe for swimming in the first place. They therefore won’t have lifeguards, just signs warning against swimming.
The waters may seem beautiful but steer clear if there’s no lifeguard. Not only does the lack of lifeguards mean you’re vulnerable, it may also be an indication that there are strong rip currents or other dangers.
The flag system on Cabo’s beaches
Thankfully, Cabo’s beaches utilize a flag system.
This handy method indicates the water safety to swimmers and beachgoers.
It’s important to know what the different colors mean. They can and sometimes do change more than once in a day.
It’s dangerous to swim in this area, so don’t.
Be cautious when swimming here. A yellow flag indicates a medium hazard.
The flag everyone wants to see: This beach is safe for swimming!
Take care when entering the water because of dangerous marine life (jellyfish, sharks, etc.).
You’re not allowed on the beach at all, let alone in the water – usually due to heavy rain, storms or hurricanes.
9 swimmable beaches in Cabo
So where can you swim in the ocean in Cabo?
We’ve sourced the best spots to take a beachside swim in Cabo and organized them according to the following locations:
- Cabo San Lucas
- San Jose del Cabo
- Along the Tourist Corridor
Swimming beaches in Cabo San Lucas
1) Medano Beach
Medano Beach is the best beach in Cabo for swimming. (And it’s one of the best places to stay in Los Cabos.)
Indeed, most hotels in Los Cabos with a swimmable beach are located on Medano Beach.
This super popular slice of sand hugs the Sea of Cortez.
It stretches for more than two miles from the east side of the marina, around Cabo San Lucas Bay, and all the way past Hotel Riu Sante Fe (the last hotel on Medano Beach).
There are no rocks in the sand and you can walk into the water without worrying about stubbing your toes.
The name translates to “Dune Beach.”
Here, you can relax on the golden sand with a whole lot of amenities within easy reach.
Think hotels, restaurants, beach clubs and bars (notorious for their day-long happy hours) and beach vendors by the dozen.
It’s not a tranquil beach, but a fun one!
Medano Beach is, as you might imagine, a busy tourist destination.
As a result, there are activities galore to entertain you. Parasailing, water skiing, jet-skiing – you name it, you can do it here.
The busy section
The buzziest part is closer to the Cabo San Lucas Marina.
Walk east along the beach, and once you get close to Tabasco Beach Bar, Medano Beach gets way less busy.
The quiet section
Beyond the Hotel Riu Sante Fe, there’s no development, and any footprints you see in the sand might be your own.
The safest swimming section
From the marina to Tabasco Beach Bar, Medano Beach is usually gloriously calm and safe for swimming.
From Tabasco Beach Bar to the Riu Santa Fe, the beach may be safe. It often is.
Then again, there are also many days when it’s calm closer to the marina, but the beach is unsafe for swimming in front of the Villa Del Palmar Beach Resort and Riu hotels.
The unsafe section
Beyond the Riu Santa Fe, Medano Beach is not safe for swimming.
The surf can be strong here, with undertows and rips lurking beneath the water’s surface.
2) Lover’s Beach
This small crescent-shaped beach is located at Land’s End on the Sea of Cortez side of Cabo San Lucas (near the famous rock arch).
While it’s also one of the most popular swimmable beaches in Cabo, Lover’s Beach (or Playa del Amor in Spanish) has much more of a secluded feel to it than Medano Beach.
Main reason: The only way to get here is by hopping on a boat.
Most people opt to take a water taxi from the madness of Medano Beach or from the marina. Or you can paddle over on a guided kayaking tour.
Lover’s Beach doesn’t have any facilities – no washrooms or places to get a bite to eat.
It’s best to bring all the supplies you’ll need with you (especially water for drinking and snorkeling gear) if you plan on spending some time on Lover’s Beach.
As far as swimming goes, possibly thanks to the rock formations, Lover’s Beach offers up some prime snorkeling spots. Just make sure to swim in safe areas, as the water can get a little choppy.
Now, if you cross all the way over the expansive swath of sand, you’ll come to the Pacific Coast side – and Divorce Beach.
It’s beautiful to look at. But don’t be lulled into complacency. Divorce Beach is completely unsafe for swimming.
3) Cannery Beach
Set at the western entrance to the marina, Cannery Beach (Playa Empacadora) is named after the tuna cannery that was built here in 1929.
You can still see some remains of the old building.
The beach goes by many names: Playa Coral Negro, the Locals Beach, Old Peoples’ Beach. Whatever you call it, this quiet piece of shoreline is great for swimming.
The sand is fine, the water is calm and the snorkeling is decent.
Of all the Cabo San Lucas swimming beaches, this is one you might want to consider for a chill place to relax. (It’s much calmer than Medano.)
The few people who go here tend to be locals and groups departing for kayaking trips to Land’s End.
Bring what you need to be comfortable though. There aren’t any facilities on Cannery Beach – no beach clubs or palapas for shade.
Swimming beaches in Los Cabos along the Corridor
4) Santa Maria Beach
The horseshoe curve of Santa Maria Beach (Playa Santa Maria) around Santa Maria Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Los Cabos.
It’s located along the Tourist Corridor about 8 miles east of Cabo San Lucas (at Km 13 on the Carretera Transpeninsular or Federal Highway 1).
Santa Maria Beach is particularly renowned for its snorkeling. There are countless colorful fish, and the water is tequila-clear.
Because the water is like glass, especially in the mornings before the breeze picks up, it’s also one of the best swimming beaches in Cabo.
But you have to be a little careful in some places about where you put your feet down in the water. Wearing water shoes would be a good idea.
There are freshwater outdoor showers and clean toilets by the parking lot.
But apart from this, Santa Maria is another beach without any amenities for the public. So you need to bring your own food, drinks, sunscreen, snorkeling gear and whatever else you need for you to enjoy yourself here.
In high season, a local vendor usually arrives at about 10:00 am with umbrellas and chairs for rent. Otherwise, there’s no shade.
(At the far end of the beach, there’s a private beach club, but it’s only for the owners and guests staying in the luxury homes in the area.)
Feel like staying more than a day? The 5-star Montage Los Cabos overlooks this public beach and has everything you could desire.
Swimming beaches in Los Cabos along the Corridor
5) Chileno Beach
People who don’t like the bustle of Medano Beach might classify Chileno Beach (Playa Chileno) as the actual best swimming beach in Cabo.
A Blue Flag beach, it’s tucked along a tranquil cove about 9 miles east of Cabo San Lucas (at Km 14.5 on the Carretera Transpeninsular).
Like Santa Maria Beach (#4 above), you won’t find any tourist bars or restaurants on this portion of the Cabo coastline.
What will you find? Clean sand, sparkling waters, no beach vendors and not too many tourists.
If you have a car (or take the public bus), it’s not hard-to-get-to. Chileno Beach is actually even accessible for wheelchair users. It’s paved all the way down to the sand.
It also has public bathrooms, showers and a lifeguard. Usually, there’s a booth where you can rent an umbrella and loungers too. (But we can’t vouch for the quality of the gear.)
But again, be sure to bring drinks, snacks, sunscreen, towels and the like.
And don’t forget your snorkel and mask! There are lots of fish in the water here too.
Hot tip: Visit during the week for almost no crowds.
6) Tequila Cove
Paradisus is an all-inclusive resort for adults, so their serviced beach area is off-limits to outside guests.
But the Hilton hotel is not completely out of bounds.
In fact, you can pay for a day pass to use its Enclave Beach Club for cocktails and delicious bites to eat – and the use of umbrellas and beach chairs – if you want to spend the day in style.
The beach still has a lot to offer even if you don’t want to spend money at the Hilton.
Not only is Tequila Cove great for swimming (thanks to the man-made breakwater), but you can also try your hand at jet skiing, among other water sports on offer here.
San Jose del Cabo beaches safe for swimming
7) Palmilla Beach
The Blue Flag-certified Palmilla Beach (Playa Palmilla) is found close to San Jose del Cabo.
The sand is soft and the water is clear. But it’s not awash with amenities, so it’s one of the more peaceful swimmable beaches in Los Cabos.
If you want more than just a day at this gorgeous Cabo beach, the One&Only Palmilla is a high-end resort located at the far south end of the beach.
8) El Ganzo Beach
The resort community of Puerto Los Cabos also happens to feature one of the best beaches in Cabo for swimming.
This 2,000-acre planned town is a 10-minute drive to the east of San Jose del Cabo. There’s a lot going on here – an 18-hole golf course, luxury resorts, eateries, you name it.
The small beach (El Ganzo Beach or Puerto Los Cabos Beach) is located at the southwest corner of the Puerto Los Cabos marina. It’s pristine and has a protected swimming area.
Best of all, there’s a beach club run by Hotel El Ganzo.
You can rent loungers under an umbrella or double daybeds under a cabana for 1,000 MXN (about $60 USD) p.p. (includes towels too).
You can use 800 MXN (about $47 USD) p.p. as a credit to buy all-important drinks and snacks, giving you a boutique-feeling day at the beach.
If you’re a guest of the hotel, beach club use is, of course, complimentary.
There’s also another newer beach club beside the El Ganzo Beach Club – Veleros Beach Club.
This chill beach is never usually too busy, and there’s lots of space for everyone to spread out nicely.
9) Playa Acapulquito
The sandy Playa Acapulquito isn’t exactly one of the most swimmable beaches in Cabo.
In fact, the water is littered with rocks, and can be a little rough, so it’s not great.
But when it comes to surfing, it’s the ideal place for starting out. Playa Acapulquito is actually one of the top surfing beaches in Los Cabos.
This clean public beach – also (inexplicably) called Old Man’s Beach – is located in front of the Cabo Surf Hotel (about a 10-minute drive from central San Jose del Cabo).
For a surfing lesson, the top-rated Mike Doyle Surf School is located inside the hotel. Or if you already know how to ride the waves, you can rent a board from them.
Tips to stay safe when swimming in Cabo
Swimming isn’t always a safe activity in Cabo, and especially if it’s your first time here, you should know what you’re getting into.
So it’s important to know how to stay safe in Cabo at the beach.
Know the signs
Many Los Cabos beaches have different signs and flags that signal how safe (or not) the beach is for swimming. These indicate dangers on the beach and in the water to be aware of.
Never enter the water if there are black or red flags on the beach.
Go where the lifeguards are
If you’re unsure about where to swim safely, then it’s best to do so in areas that are overseen by lifeguards. Better safe than sorry.
When you arrive at a Cabo beach, take a look around: What is everyone else doing?
Are they all just soaking up the sun on the sand? Is the sea empty? If nobody’s in the water, chances are it’s not safe for swimming.
Similarly, if there’s an area of the beach where people aren’t swimming, don’t take this as an opportunity to have a crowd-free dip – it could be dangerous.
Beware of sea critters
Harmless colorful fish aren’t the only creatures to populate the waters around Cabo.
Sea urchins and jellyfish also make their home here. (Jellyfish may appear in the warmer spring and summer months.)
It’s best to be on guard and check for reports of any in the area before you head out for a swim.
Be sun safe
Wear a hat, slather on sunscreen (waterproof, and reapply frequently), put shades on and make sure you stay hydrated.
With little cloud cover, the sun is strong in Cabo.
Sunburn isn’t fun, and heatstroke is downright dangerous.
The late spring, summer and fall months (e.g., October) are hotter than the winter months – so you need to be extra careful this time of year.
For sun protection in the water, we always swim and snorkel with long-sleeve rash guards.
Also be cautious of going overboard with the alcohol. Too many margaritas can really dehydrate you, no matter how refreshing they seem!
Last words on safe Los Cabos swimming beaches
Cabo has a whole lot of spectacular shorelines.
But not all of them are safe for swimming. And now (hopefully) you know why.
Some beaches should be treated simply as chill-out spots – or just beautiful scenery, palm-fringed backdrops to your vacation.
Others, however, can fully be a part of your Cabo adventures.
Photos: 4, 7, 9 © Janice and George Mucalov, Cabo Visitor