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After two days at sea, the sight of land was a welcome change. We slowly pulled into the huge bay, past the famous stone arch and beautiful sandy beaches. As our cruise ship made anchor, I was excited: we were getting off the boat! To explore a place I’ve never been! That place? Cabo San Lucas. But would we get a feel for this place or have any positive impact on the local economy by sticking to the cruise excursions offered aboard the ship?
For those who’ve read this blog before – and especially any of my cruise stories –, you know that I’m generally more skeptical about my experience the bigger the ship gets. So when I had the opportunity to spend a week sailing the “Mexican Riviera” with Princess Cruises, I was willing to give it a shot but simultaneously wary about any negative impacts the cruise might have (environmental, economic, etc.). In particular, I pay close attention to who I book cruise excursions with, since this is a critical part of supporting local economies when you cruise.
During our first port stop in Cabo San Lucas, I chose an excursion offered by Cabo Adventures – a major tour operator in Los Cabos. In this post you’ll find my review of the company and our specific experience. In the end, you’ll see why I support this company and believe that the specific excursion we did is one of the best cruise excursions in Cabo San Lucas.
In this post, I promote travel a destination that is the traditional lands of the Pericú peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Cabo Adventures Overview
Before jumping into my experience, I thought it might help to start with an overview of the company of Cabo Adventures – so you can know whether or not this is the type of company you want to support with your tourism dollars.
Cabo Adventures is actually part of The Adventures Group, a collection of tour companies across Mexico and the Bahamas. It has three sister companies: Vallarta Adventures (which we also used during our Majestic Princess Mexican Riviera cruise), Cancun Adventures, and Bahamas Adventures. The Adventures Group started in 1995, and claims to have over 1,000 employees (according to their LinkedIn) – which I think is probably an accurate statistic if you count all of the tour guides and other staff that support them in various locations.
A quick search on their site shows that they offer 46 different tours in the Los Cabo region (Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo), and they have a very strong brand presence in the tourist center of Cabo San Lucas near the cruise port docks.
I don’t know whether the company grew through acquisition or by coming in to offer tours that pushed out more homegrown operators; Cabo Adventures sits on the fence between being a local tour operator and a big tour company that loses its personal touch. Between my two experiences with The Adventures Group (in Cabo and Puerto Vallarta), I had very different experiences in terms of group size (6 on our tour in Cabo, 80+ in Puerto Vallarta), but the staff on each tour made both experiences incredible.
Cruise Excursions with Cabo Adventures
While Cabo Adventures undoubtedly has a small percentage of customers who are just visiting the Los Cabo region and book a tour, my guess is that their bread and butter is offering cruise excursions – which is how we ended up sailing with them during our port stop in Cabo San Lucas. In fact, I recognize many of their tours from the descriptions on the Princess Cruises shore excursions catalog. The alliance is mutually beneficial: Princess sends their guests on excursions with a quality operator, and Cabo Adventures gets a big chunk of the market. If you’re booking a cruise excursion in Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo, it’s probably going to be operated by Cabo Adventures.
However, not all of the tours offered by Cabo Adventures are targeted at cruise passengers; there are several that wouldn’t fit into a day-in-port schedule, or offer activities that likely don’t appeal to cruisers. Some of these include introductory SCUBA sessions, PADI certification, and diving tours, as well as boat and plane charters.
The rest of Cabo Adventures’ tour catalog has a good deal of variety: whale watching tours, snorkeling adventures, sailing, ATV tours, zip-lining, indoor skydiving, and a camel ride are some of the many adventurous or “adventure light” tours they offer.
Cabo Adventures’ Animal Encounters
I prefer my animal encounters in the wild, and from a safe distance for the animal.
One of the main draws to visiting Los Cabos is the chance to see incredible sea life like humpback whales, grey whales, whale sharks, and dolphins. As you might expect, Cabo Adventures offers tours to see all of these animals.
The main issue I have with Cabo Adventures is that they offer dolphin encounters that guarantee access to the animal – meaning they keep dolphins in pools. While the company says no dolphin works more than two hours per day and they are certified by the American Humane Association, I personally won’t do any tours that keep animals in enclosures and that’s something to keep in mind.
I personally feel much more comfortable with their other animal tours, where you see and potentially interact (in the case of grey whales) with animals in the wild. Yes, you might get skunked (not see anything), but this is a much more responsible way to travel and have animal encounters.
Cabo Adventures’ Luxury Half-Day Sailing
With so many options (even after striking out the many dolphin encounters), Mr. V and I found it tricky to choose which cruise excursion we wanted to do – until I saw their luxury half-day sailing tour with a sunset touring option. Mr. V loves to be out on the water and I thought the late afternoon tour would be better for helping us avoid sunburn on our pale it’s-winter-in-Cleveland skin.
Best of all, by booking a later tour, we had time to walk around the Cabo harbor before our tour began at 1:30pm. We were escorted to meet our guide at the docks which were literally right next to the cruise docks, and boarded our 50-foot sailboat with just four other guests – this tour can have 16-22 guests, so our 6-guest group felt wonderfully private.
My awkward stance is due to the boat rocking and feeling quite unsteady on my feet.
As we set sail, our guide Alex narrated views of the Arch, Cabo’s most famous sight, as well as Lover’s Beach. We enjoyed mimosas then noshed on fresh guacamole and pico de gallo as we motored south to Bahia Santa Maria, admiring the big houses, golf courses, and resorts along the coast. When we reached Bahia Santa Maria, we had about an hour to swim, snorkel, or use the boat’s stand-up paddle boards. While it wasn’t the most impressive snorkeling I’ve ever done (that would be at reefs and with honu (sea turtles) in Hawaii), there were some cool fish and the water wasn’t too cold despite it being February.
What you don’t see? Me freaking out about all those fish five seconds later!
Back aboard our boat, we were treated to a late lunch – and it was a huge spread of salad, pasta salad, fruit, ceviche, tortilla chips, and chocolate truffles. It was a lot of food, and surprisingly delicious; as someone who’s had their fair share of sandwich lunchboxes on tours, Cabo Adventures was exemplary in this area.
We then motored back up the coast for a ways, interrupted by a young humpback whale playing in the water with its mother nearby; this sailing + snorkeling excursion also became a whale watching tour, briefly!
The sailboat is not our sailboat, but is a very similar size to give you a sense of how cool we looked while sailing.
At a certain point, our Captain, Juan, decided the wind was good, and the crew set the sails for a short time. This was my favorite part of the day – I love being “under wind power” on a boat, and the sun was starting to sink lower, giving us some good golden hour vibes as we cruised through the waves. We tacked (turned) a few times and then the crew put the sails down to power us back into the harbor at the end of our tour.
Best of all, we opted to buy the photos taken by our on-board photographer, Eddie (I think!) so we have great photos of us enjoying the day. (Budgeting to buy the photos is a great way to support local operators directly, since the cruise companies get no cut of this!)
Cabo Adventures Review: Final Thoughts
Before and after our tour – we have some happy faces!
Overall, I’m very happy with the cruise excursion we chose – though we likely would have been on a tour offered by Cabo Adventures, no matter which one we picked! Our particular half-day luxury sailing experience had a lot of variety: motorized sailing, snorkeling, great food, whale watching, and wind-powered sailing. It sampled many of the activities Cabo Adventures does best, which I think makes it one of the best tours they offer.
Our crew was also awesome, which can make or break the tour; they got a sense quickly that our small group was not going to be Party People and adjusted the music to a much more chill playlist.
Aside from the dolphin tours, which I just can’t get behind (and I say this as someone who really wants to swim with dolphins as it’s on my bucket list and 40 Before 40 list!), I think Cabo Adventures is a company that’s worth touring with during your time in Los Cabos. They may not be local in that “guy with a boat and one crew member, only operates in Cabo” type of way, but they do specialize in Cabo tours (along with the other destinations they serve). Our crew was certainly local, and did a great job making us comfortable and happy during the fours we spent together.
While you certainly have plenty of choices, if you go with Cabo Adventures – and especially if you choose the Luxury Sailing tour – I think you’ll be as happy with your (brief) time in Cabo as we were.
Ready to book? You can likely book this Cabo San Lucas cruise excursion (and others) or your cruise ship, or you can book directly with Cabo Adventures and ensure they receive the greatest margin possible. Don’t forget cash for tipping your crew and budget extra if you want to buy the photos offered by the onboard photographer.
Have any questions about this Cabo Adventures review, the sailing tour we did, or anything else? Let me know in the comments.