Looking for a more off-the-beaten-path destination in Mexico, far removed from the crowds? La Ribera, Mexico is one of the few undiscovered jewels of Los Cabos, Baja California Sur.
Located at the southern end of the Baja Peninsula, this sleepy little town has a population of close to 2,000 people, made up of locals who work at nearby resorts, fishermen, ranchers, and farmers.
This up-and-coming area is starting to expand, so over the next few years, prepare for an influx in tourism! (The Four Seasons has already set up shop here, with their new property Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas–so you know it’s real.)
Already, even when much of the area hasn’t been developed yet, the La Ribera/East Cape Baja area offers attractive amenities for tourists and locals alike.
And while La Ribera may not be as popular as other cities in Mexico, don’t let that fool you. The East Cape is a hidden destination that’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for a tranquil yet exciting beach vacation!
La Ribera makes an excellent base camp to explore southern Baja and its many natural attractions. Continue reading to discover some of the best things to do in La Ribera and the East Cape region!
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WHERE IS LA RIBERA EAST CAPE LOS CABOS MEXICO?
To understand where La Ribera is, you’ve gotta first understand where the East Cape Baja region is.
The East Cape region is an area of white sand beaches that extends from the new marina of San Jose del Cabo along the Sea of Cortez to the north of Punta Pescadero, Los Barriles, and Rancho Buena Vista.
The town of La Ribera sits within this East Cape region. It is located a 50-minute drive away from the Los Cabos International Airport and 1.5 hours away from the popular resort town of Cabo San Lucas.
WHAT ARE LA RIBERA AND THE EAST CAPE BAJA KNOWN FOR?
First and foremost, the East Cape Baja region is a very popular fishing area.
Bluewater fishing is world-renowned in the Sea of Cortez. Among the most popular types of fish are blue and black marlin, as well as roosterfish, yellowtail, wahoo, and tuna.
Tourism in the East Cape area really started back in 1952 when the Rancho Buena Vista Hotel opened as a fly-in fishing resort. This became a regular vacation stop for people like the Hollywood elite. Over time, as the word about this remote vacationing spot, the East Cape area started gaining popularity.
Another reason why La Ribera and the East Cape region are unique? The underwater magic it holds! Here, you can find the famous National Marine Park of Cabo Pulmo, the only living coral reef in the State of Baja California Sur. Cabo Pulmo is one of the natural wonders of Baja California Sur, so if you enjoy marine life, you definitely can’t miss a snorkel or scuba diving visit in the park.
Lastly, La Ribera has some of the best beaches in BCS. If you’re a sucker for secluded white sand beaches that stretch for miles and miles, the beaches here will definitely impress you. Swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling are just a few of the activities that visitors enjoy doing when they’re vacationing here!
HOW TO GET TO LA RIBERA, MEXICO
If you’re visiting the La Ribera area, chances are you are going to be flying into the Cabo International Airport (SJD). From the airport to La Ribera, your total travel time will be approximately 50 minutes by car.
To get a better sense of where La Ribera is in relation to other attractions/towns, here is a list of La Ribera’s distance from other points of interest :
- 24 kilometers to Cabo Pulmo Nature Reserve (30 min drive)
- 30 kilometers to Los Barriles (30 min drive)
- 59 kilometers San Jose del Cabo International Airport (50 min drive)
- 72 kilometers to the center of San José del Cabo (1 hour 10 min drive)
- 102 kilometers to the center of Cabo San Lucas (1.5 hour drive)
- 135 kilometers to the center of La Paz (2 hour drive)
15 MAGICAL THINGS TO DO IN LA RIBERA, MEXICO
1. VISIT THE CABO PULMO NATIONAL MARINE PARK
By far, spending a day out in the Cabo Pulmo Nature Reserve is one of the most popular things to do in La Ribera, Mexico. Cabo Pulmo is a protected area made famous by Jaques Cousteau when he described it as the “Aquarium of the World”. What strong and impressionable words!
Because of its natural and pristine beauty, and the fact that it’s the only living reef in the Sea of Cortez, Cabo Pulmo Nature Reserve is protected by the government.
The marine reserve was established in 1995 to protect the reef, and in 2005, UNESCO recognized it as a World Heritage Site. There are eight separate fingers of the reef–four close to shore and four further out in the bay. Because the reef begins just a few meters off the shore, Cabo Pulmo is an extremely accessible diving and snorkeling spot.
There are various tour companies that lead half-day or even full-day tours to Cabo Pulmo, including snorkeling adventures and scuba diving tours.
A typical tour consists of all the gear you need (including wetsuits, masks, and fins) so you can comfortably and safely explore the reef. You’ll be able to swim alongside fascinating marine life including eels, giant groupers, big-eyed jacks, sea turtles, whales, sea lions, and more. Lunch is typically included as well.
If this sounds like a great time to you, check out some of these tours offered by Cabo Adventures:
- Cabo Pulmo National Park Snorkel Expedition from Cabo San Lucas
- Cabo Pulmo 2 Tank Certified Dive with Lunch
2. SNORKEL AT PLAYA LOS ARBOLITOS
Five kilometers (10-minute drive) south of Cabo Pulmo is Los Arbolitos, one of the best beaches in the area for snorkeling!
There aren’t many rental services out there, so it’s best if you rent snorkel gear in town before heading out to Los Arbolitos or bring your own snorkeling set from home.
If you’re planning to snorkel here, do check the tide schedule for higher tide opportunities, as the reef is very shallow at low tide. Off the main beach, there are lots of little private alcoves to enjoy.
There are primitive bathroom and shower facilities. You’ll need to pay 50 pesos (~$2 to 3 USD) to park your car and gain access to the facilities. It will cost another 50 pesos per person for a life jacket (required).
Pro Tip: Snorkeling is best done in the morning. We recommend getting to Los Arbolitos by 10 am to avoid stronger winds later in the day.
3. GO HORSEBACK RIDING
Horseback riding is quite common for locals in this region. Naturally, with so much wide open land, there are lots of horseback riding opportunities here! Baja’s Awesome Beach Rides is a local tour company that offers various rides on beautiful white sand beaches.
Their tours include Sunrise Rides, where you begin the day with the rising sun over the Sea of Cortez followed by fresh fruit smoothies and donuts on your return, Picnic Lunch Rides, and even a Horseback to Dinner tour.
4. GO ATVING
For travelers who want to get even further off the beaten track, literally, consider opting for an ATV Tour. Can-Doo Rentals is a tour company that offers a good variety of half-day tours including a La Cienega Waterfall Tour, San Bartolo & Plantation Tour, and Punta Pescadero Tour.
If you want a healthy mix of adventure, water activities, and scenic views, I’d recommend the Punta Pescadero Tour. This tour will provide you with the perfect introduction to the Sea of Cortez coast, featuring awesome natural rock pools and great snorkeling spots combined with an off-road adventure!
For ATV lovers and adrenaline junkies, Can-Doo also offers a more extreme multi-day tour called Baja 1000 Off-Road Tour, perfect for those truly passionate about extreme off-road racing!
5. GO SPORTFISHING
La Ribera is a perfect place to try your hand (or hone your skills) at sport fishing. Among these waters, fish such as marlin, wahoo, tuna, roosterfish, and dorado are plentiful.
Because there is no shortage of impressive fish here, La Ribera has been famous for its fishing tournaments.
Jen Wren Sportfishing, Victoria Fleet Fishing Charters, and Cuyuyo’s Sportfishing are all tour companies that will take care of all of your fishing and chartering needs during your vacation in the East Cape.
Some of these tour companies also specialize in other types of tours such as whale and dolphin watching, fishing and diving excursions, snorkeling experiences, and even trips to remote beaches.
6. WHALE WATCHING OR SIGHTSEEING
As mentioned above, a lot of the boating tour companies also specialize in other sightseeing excursions. Many of them will arrange whale watching, snorkeling, sightseeing, and sunset cruises upon request.
If you happen to be traveling during the winter season, you’re in luck! Between the months of November and March, it’s whale watching season! On any given day, you may be able to see California gray whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, pilot whales, orcas, and if you’re just that lucky, even the great blue whale.
If you’re looking for pointers on tour companies, check out Cabo Pulmo Eco Adventures. They offer whale watching tours and snorkeling tours as well.
7. HIT THE BEACH AT PLAYA LA RIBERA
If you’re looking for a day of relaxing and lounging, look no further than Playa La Ribera!
Playa La Ribera is a very nice, quiet, and clean beach with palapas and bathrooms. You can expect calm waters for swimming, fine sand, and even enjoy parts of the water where you can walk 30+ meters towards the ocean and still have the water remain at waist-level.
The best part is that they do not charge for palapa usage or parking! However, you’ll have to come prepared with your own beach gear, picnic foods, and refreshments as they currently do not sell food/drink on the beach.
8. DINE AT PIZZERIA MOZZA
The iconic Nancy Silverton brings her legend of a restaurant, Mozza, to the East Cape! The acclaimed chef—known for Los Angeles eateries such as Michelin-starred Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza and chi SPACCA—is bringing her signature concept to Baja and adding an East Cape twist.
If you want to experience her signature flavors (and delicious pizza crusts and breads) with Baja vibes, this is the restaurant to go to.
Do not miss the pizza fritti appetizer, the squash blossom pizza, or the garganelli pasta. These were by far my favorite dishes at this Mozza location.
Not only was the food absolutely delightful, but so was the entire atmosphere and restaurant decor! Hands down the most adorable restaurant I have ever set foot in.
9. GO SCUBA DIVING
If snorkeling is not your thing and you’d rather go scuba diving, Cabo Pulmo is a great place to do that. Because there is a living reef here, scuba diving adventures are quite common.
10. DAY TRIP TO MIRAFLORES
If you’re looking to venture a couple of miles away from the coast, Miraflores is a great day trip option. Miraflores is a small town just 30 minutes inland from La Ribera and 45 minutes north of San Jose del Cabo along the Baja California Sur.
This town, founded in the early 1700s, is known for its friendly atmosphere as well as for the leather and furniture handcrafts! Common leather goods include belts, wallets, bags, shoes, huaraches, and saddles. If you’re looking to bring home some handcrafted items, this is the town to visit!
Shopping is only one of the attractions the town has to offer–other highlights include going out into nature for a refreshing dip in the nearby hot springs or taking an off-roading adventure via ATV.
Miraflores is also known for its pitahaya harvesting season. Pitahaya may also be more commonly known as pitaya or dragonfruit.
In fact, during the month of July, the Pitahaya Festival (Fiesta de la Pitahaya) takes place, where visitors can enjoy all types of goodies made of pitahaya–expect fresh drinks, gelato, salads, and even a pitahaya colada! (Move over piña colada, there’s a new drink in town!)
11. DAY TRIP TO SANTIAGO
Sitting at the midpoint between La Ribera and Miraflores is the little town of Santiago. Upon entering this town, you won’t be able to ignore the sheer number of palm trees here. The town is also really big on sustainable agriculture–and mangos!
Santiago is also home to leather makers and artisans that produce everything from jams, pastries, honey, fresh cheeses, chorizo, and pinole (a ground maiz mix combined with spices to make cereals, baked goods, tortillas, and beverages).
Start your exploration in the downtown area, or Centro. Enjoy the plaza, the colonial-style buildings, and the free museum that showcases giant fossils and marine remains like mollusks shells and whale bones.
Don’t miss the chance to grab some local cuisine in one of the restaurants within the picturesque plaza!
12. RANCHO ECOLOGICO SOL DE MAYO / FOX CANYON FALLS
Located in the Sierra La Laguna Biosphere Reserve, near the town of Santiago, sits the Rancho Sol de Mayo. This is the entrance to a not-to-be-missed reserve recognized by UNESCO.
Here you can visit the impressive waterfall surrounded by granite formations at the Cañón de la Zorra (Fox Canyon Falls). If you’re feeling adventurous, bring a bathing suit with you so you can swim under these falls pouring from the granite cliffs.
If you happen to be in the Santiago / Miraflores area, consider making a stop here!
Don’t have a rental car? Don’t want to deal with the logistics? Go hiking at Fox Canyon with an expert guide.
13. VISIT THE TROPIC OF CANCER
The Tropic of Cancer is one of the two imaginary lines drawn around the Earth’s sphere, parallel to Ecuador. The cool thing about it? It passes through this region of Mexico!
The plaza that celebrates this is located just outside Santiago and sits right near the 23.5 degree north parallel, which denotes the northernmost of the three important circles of latitude that cross the globe: the equator in the center, the Tropic of Capricorn in the south, and the Tropic of Cancer in the north.
For those of you not too well-versed in geography, the Tropic of Cancer passes through Mexico, the Bahamas, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, and China.
The areas between the two boundaries and the equator are known as the “tropics,” where the sun is never too far away and the weather is always mighty warm.
The Tropic of Cancer site in Baja Sur California is marked by two sculptures, an oversized globe, and a small chapel covered in murals. Here, you’ll also find some educational info about the imaginary line and its significance!
14. VISIT LOS BARRILES
If you are looking for something more intimate than the hustle and bustle Cabo San Lucas offers, you’ll love the small-town charm of Los Barriles. This little fishing village is the kind of place where you can oh so very easily get off the grid!
Los Barriles offers a unique blend of local community vibes, beaches, restaurants, and activities that all come together to make this gem of a Mexican town the perfect off-the-beaten-path destination. The town is best known for its kiting spots, sport fishing and laid-back vibes!
Start at the town center, where you’ll get to enjoy the shops, cafes and taquerias running along the main street Calle 20 Noviembre. In terms of activities, renting an ATV, going kite surfing, or going fishing are popular things to get into.
Beginner to kite surfing? You can sign up for lessons at places like the ExotiKite Kiteboarding School. They also offer wave camps, SUP and yoga. Another option is Vela Baja Adventure Sports which operates out of the Playa Del Sol resort, and offers windsurfing, kiteboarding, free diving, SUP and kayaking.
Where to stay in Los Barriles: Hotel Palmas De Cortez – arguably the best hotel in the area!
15. TAKE A GUIDED TOUR OF THE EAST CAPE BY JEEP
Don’t want to deal with the logistics of exploring the East Cape alone? Opt for this Private Jeep Tour of Cabo Pulmo, where you’ll make stops at the following locations:
- Cabo Pulmo Marine Preserve
- Los Agaves
- Tropic of Cancer
- and more!
OTHER FUN DAY TRIPS NEAR THE EAST CAPE
- La Paz: La Paz is one of the best places in the region to swim with whale sharks! In fact, it’s one of the main draws of this coastal city! La Paz also features some really cool and colorful street art, a lively waterfront called The Malecon, and easy access to Isla Espiritu Santo, one of the world’s most abundant ecosystems.
- San Jose del Cabo: With a rich and colorful history dating back to the 1700s, this postcard-perfect colonial gem of a town is best known for its arts scene.
- Cabo San Lucas: This is Baja’s lively party and resort area. There are tons of fun activities nearby including ATV and camel rides, sailing trips to the famous Arch, luxury snorkel and sail trips, and more.
- Todos Santos: This magical town is filled with art galleries, open-air markets, fish tacos, farm-to-table restaurants, and laidback liveliness that’s hard not to fall in love with!
WHERE TO STAY IN LA RIBERA / EAST CAPE
Luxury Accommodations In The East Cape
Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas – This is where I had the pleasure of staying when I visited La Ribera. It is hands-down the most luxurious resort I’ve ever stayed at! If you have the means to splurge, let this resort be it for you!
And if you’re looking for vacation rentals for even more space, check out the below rental homes on VRBO:
Casa de la Playa – exceptionally beautiful villa with 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, sleeps 12, with pool, spa, and rooftop deck.
Casa Las Estrellas – modern and spacious beachfront vacation home with 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms. Expect high ceilings, glass sliders opening to the pool/beach, and a beautiful kitchen with high-end appliances.
Mid-Price Accommodations In The East Cape
Bungalow La Ribera – Private casita rental just steps away from a gorgeous beach on the Sea of Cortez.
Hacienda del Sol – Hacienda del Sol is a 3 bed/3 bath vacation home rental that was created to reflect the finest in authentic Mexican style, which is apparent throughout the house.
Hotel Boutique Vista La Ribera – A wonderful little place to stay; has a restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, a bar and garden.
Hacienda de Palmas Hotel – A little bed and breakfast located just a 10-minute walk from the beach. A continental breakfast is available every morning for hotel guests!
All in all, we hope you enjoyed my La Ribera travel guide! La Ribera and the East Cape are great for those looking to experience the beauty and majesty of the Baja peninsula without being forced to endure the touristy city of Cabo San Lucas!
Wishing you a wonderful travel adventure in BCS!