Sunday, July 21, 2024

Where to find the newest Blue Flag beaches in Los Cabos

The latest Blue Flag beaches in Mexico have been announced and as has become a custom over the past decade, a large percentage of them are located in Los Cabos. In fact, of the 78 playas certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) to fly the Blue Flag nationally for 2024 and 2025, 25 of them, or over 32%, are found in Los Cabos. That tally includes popular beaches in Cabo San Lucas, the Tourist Corridor that connects it to San José del Cabo, and the municipality’s picturesque East Cape. 

Notably, there were no new additions for the destination, as all 25 beaches maintained their Blue Flag status from the previous year. That means Los Cabos remains the leader in this category among all municipalities in México. 

El Chileno beach
Playa El Chileno, a Blue Flag beach beloved by locals. (Los Cabos Tourism Board)

What is a Blue Flag beach?

No, Blue Flags are not guaranteed for the long term, nor are they an aesthetic evaluation. Ocean views or the fineness of beach sand aren’t criteria for the FEE, the Copenhagen, Denmark based non-profit that created the Blue Flag program in 1987. Water quality is, however, as are cleanliness and certain signs and services. Blue Flag jury members check thoroughly the safety of onshore waters, to ensure no sewage or harmful bacteria is present. 

If a beach wants to receive a Blue Flag, it must also maintain essential services for visitors. These include clean restrooms, drinkable water for beachgoers, and trash facilities, with sortable bins for recycling. A map is also required showing where all these things are located, one of 33 individual criteria that a beach’s sponsors must meet before the coveted flag is awarded. Because sustainability is at the heart of the program, signs educating visitors on local flora, fauna, and ecosystems are also mandated. Free access to the public is also a prerequisite, but this is an unnecessary directive in México, where such access is guaranteed by federal law

Similar criteria – minus the free access – are used to judge marinas and tourism boats which are also eligible to earn Blue Flags from FEE. For 2024 and 2025, for example, México garnered 78 Blue Flag beaches, two marinas (both in Nayarit), and 40 tourist vessels (all in Quintana Roo).

How does Los Cabos compare to other Mexican destinations?

Los Cabos has for several years been the leader among Mexican beach destinations for Blue Flags earned. Even though Quintana Roo as a state now has more than Baja California Sur – where Los Cabos is located – that’s still true. Los Cabos accounts for all the qualified beaches in its state. Benito Juárez, the municipality home to Cancún and the closest correlation, has only 11 of its state’s 33 Blue Flags overall. That’s less than half the number garnered by Los Cabos. Riviera Maya municipality Solidaridad, with 15, is now its closest competitor.

What’s even more remarkable is that Los Cabos has built up its blue flag inventory in a relatively short amount of time. Only nine years ago, Los Cabos had but three Blue Flag beaches: El Chileno, Palmilla, and Santa María. This recent buildup is the case for Mexico, too. As recently as 2014, there were only five Blue Flag beaches in the country, including El Chileno in Los Cabos.

The Sea of Cortez and Montage Los Cabos frame the golden sands of Playa Santa María. (Montage Los Cabos)

Nowadays, México boasts more Blue Flag-certified beaches, marinas, and boats than any other nation in the Americas. It has 120, vastly outpacing North American neighbors Canada, with 26, and the U.S., with only two. Mexico 10th internationally, behind European nations Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany – and Turkey, which bridges Europe and Asia.

Which beaches now carry the Blue Flag banner in Los Cabos?

Here’s the full list of Blue Flag beaches in Los Cabos for 2024 – 2025:

Cabo San Lucas (14)

  • El Corsario
  • Hacienda 
  • Médano Breathless
  • Médano Casa Dorada
  • Médano Club Cascadas de Baja
  • Médano ME Cabo
  • Médano Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos
  • Médano Pueblo Bonito Rosé
  • Médano Riu Palace Baja California
  • Médano Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas
  • Médano Riu Santa Fe
  • Médano Villa del Arco
  • Médano Villa del Palmar
  • Médano Villa La Estancia

Tourist Corridor (8)

  • Acapulquito
  • El Chileno
  • Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos
  • Grand Velas Los Cabos
  • Las Viudas
  • Palmilla
  • Paradisus Los Cabos
  • Santa María

East Cape (3)

  • El Surgidero
  • La Gaviota
  • La Ribera
Playa Palmilla
Playa Palmilla is one of the best swimming beaches in Los Cabos, with a Blue Flag certification to attest to its water quality. (Los Cabos Tourism Board)

It makes sense that Cabo San Lucas is the local leader in this category. Its most popular beach, Playa El Médano, is more than two miles long, and hosts numerous Blue Flag stretches that front beachfront resorts. If you’re a local or traveling with pets, it’s important to note that dogs (unless designated service animals) are not allowed on the Blue Flag portions of Médano Beach. In fact, that stricture is in place for all local Blue Flag beaches.

Other flag colors of note in Los Cabos 

However, blue isn’t the only hue seen on flags flying over Los Cabos beaches. Several other colors are also commonly used to indicate water conditions, not just overall quality and available services. Green flags, for example, confirm calm waters and thus safe swimming conditions – an important qualifier given that some of the region’s beaches are not swimming-friendly, either due to steep dropoffs in depth or, particularly on the Pacific Ocean side, because of strong rip currents

Red flags, by contrast, warn against swimming due to adverse conditions. White flags indicate the presence of jellyfish in the water, which can inflict painful stings. Black flags are the worst, though. No, it doesn’t mean pirates are lurking about, but rather that the beach is closed, a rare occurrence but a possibility during hurricane season in Los Cabos

So green and blue are the colors to look for. The first promises a great beach experience on the day you visit, and the second assures it remains sustainable for the future. However, that could all change next year when the Blue Flag jury returns to have another look.

Chris Sands is the Cabo San Lucas local expert for the USA Today travel website 10 Best, writer of Fodor’s Los Cabos travel guidebook, and a contributor to numerous websites and publications, including Tasting Table, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, Forbes Travel Guide, Porthole Cruise, Cabo Living and Mexico News Daily. His specialty is travel-related content and lifestyle features focused on food, wine and golf.

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