Nature’s Hot Tubs or Thermal Springs in Los Cabos
Daytrips to Nearby Areas of Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Throughout the years, the warm waters of the Sea of Cortéz have attracted generations of visitors to the Cape Region of Baja California Sur. Some have come for sport fishing; others are more interested in a relaxing vacation. During their visit, many vacationers are delighted to simply sit around the luxurious pools or lounge in a hot tub at one of our well-appointed resorts. But, others may want to find their hot tubs in a more natural environment, away from the busy tourist areas.
For these visitors, Los Cabos has some hidden gems close by where natural warm thermal springs bubble up from the ground.
Locals have known about these thermal springs for generations. In the early 1900s, a large spring was discovered in East Cape on a cattle ranch in the sparsely populated area of Buena Vista south of Los Barriles.
In 1940, General Agustin Olachea, the Governor of the Southern Territory of the Baja Peninsula, bought the ranch and built a large hacienda overlooking the sea of Cortez. He piped the water from the thermal spring into his home, creating his own private spa. It’s not surprising that the General’s hacienda became a favorite stopping place in the old days for family and friends traveling between La Paz and Los Cabos.
There are many thermal springs within the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere north of Los Cabos. The Mexican government has identified this large area as a “reserve” dedicated to protecting the environment. Although the Biosphere is not off limits to visitors, it is guarded against activities detrimental to the local flora and fauna. Many of the thermal springs are inaccessible. But, there are two that are easy to find, are located close together and are easily accessible by a regular 2-wheel drive rental car. If this sounds enticing, why not plan a day trip into the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna to find the El Chorro and Santa Rita Hot Springs. Along the way you will also be visiting some of our most historic rural villages.
We recommend that you plan your trip for a weekday since the hot springs are packed on the weekend. Bring a lunch, some snacks, plenty of drinking water and leave early. Oh yes, don’t forget your camera and a map! Your first destination will be the El Chorro Hot Spring west of the village of Agua Caliente. Head north from Los Cabos on Highway #1 and drive past the Los Cabos International Airport. About 14 miles north of the airport you will pass a sign for Caduaño. After another four miles you will pass the turn off to Miraflores. These two villages in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains were once rest stops on the original Baja Highway which took pioneer visitors on the 1,000 mile trek from the U.S. border to Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas. Eight miles further north, after you pass the monument for the Tropic of Cancer, turn left at the sign for Santiago. As you proceed through the village, you will be driving on the original Baja Highway.
Santiago is an agricultural town. Luscious mangos and other organic produce is grown here. The village also has a Pemex station next to the Plaza. The Palomar restaurant, located on the main street south of the Plaza, is a favorite “watering hole” for locals and visitors alike. Continuing on south of the Palomar you will see a beautiful church which represents the history of the mission era on the Baja peninsula. The original mission site was established nearby by the Jesuits in 1724. Turn right at the church. When you have gone a few yards you will come to a crossroad. Turn left and drive past the Santiago Zoo, the only zoo on the Baja peninsula. You are now 10 minutes away from the El Chorro Hot Spring. Continue on the well maintained dirt road for about five miles until you come to the small village of Agua Caliente. This is the juncture on the original Baja Highway between Agua Caliente and Miraflores. Continue through town, past the clinic and the school.
You will see signs pointing to the “El Chorro Hot Spring”. After you drive through the small village of El Chorro you will come to a gate where a member of the local Ejido will greet you, collect an entrance fee (about 20 pesos) and show you where to park. This attendant is also a member of the Biosphere preservation team that keeps the area clean.
The El Chorro Hot Spring is located in a tranquil setting at the base of the narrow Agua Caliente Canyon. Water flows down the canyon into a large pool of water located next to a steep rocky canyon wall. A small dam in front of the pool protects the farmlands below against flooding during the summer storms. Although the water behind the dam is warm, the bubbling hot spots closer to the canyon wall are even warmer. When you step in to the clear healing waters of the thermal spring, you can feel yourself begin to relax. The natural soft water of the El Chorro Hot Spring is a very different experience compared to commercially chlorinated hot tubs.
You may also enjoy taking an easy hike up the canyon on a wide unmarked trail along the arroyo. As you go further into the canyon, you will encounter several secluded pools and small waterfalls. You may also be treated to the mating calls of giant bullfrogs, reverberating loudly throughout the canyon. One caution: Do not drink the water. Cattle and other livestock occasionally enjoy the El Chorro Hot Spring after all the people are gone!
Your next Nature’s Hot Tub adventure is at the Santa Rita Hot Spring, around the corner from the small village of San Jorge. Drive back to Agua Caliente and look for a sign on your left directing you to the small village of San Jorge which is about 15 minutes north. If you don’t see one, don’t hesitate to ask someone! The local residents are always very helpful. After you cross the Agua Caliente and San Jorge arroyos, proceed up a hill which takes you into the village of San Jorge. Continue on until you come to a left hand turn in the road which will take you to the Santa Rita Hot Spring located in Canyon San Jorge. A member of the local Ejido will take your entrance fee. After you park your car and climb over a group of smooth rocks you will see a small pool of warm water. The tranquil setting of the Santa Rita Hot Spring provides a feeling of seclusion. It’s almost like you are in your own private paradise.
As a finale to your Nature’s Hot Tub adventure, instead of going back to Highway #1 through Santiago, take the original Baja Highway south to Miraflores from Agua Caliente. It’s really quite easy and you’ll still come out at Highway #1. When you come to the school in Agua Caliente, you’re at the crossroad between Agua Caliente and Miraflores. Since there may not be a sign pointing south to Miraflores, you may need to ask someone to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. The winding dirt road south to Miraflores is well traveled by locals. On the way you will pass a couple of old shrines located at the top of a small hill. Mexicans put shrines in lots of places, but especially on top of hills to bless the journey! After the shrines, it’s only a mile or two to downtown Miraflores. When you arrive, you will see shops that offer handmade leatherwork. Artisans in this historic village once made all of the saddles for ranches of the Sierra de Laguna mountains. The craft continues today along with handmade furniture and pottery. On your way east out of town, follow the signs to Highway #1. Here you will find another Pemex station, in case you didn’t fill up in Santiago.
We hope you’ve enjoyed your adventure to Nature’s Hot Tubs in the beautiful foothills of Baja California Sur’s Cape Region. Think how impressed your family and friends will be when they see your photos! They’ll probably want to come along on your next trip to Los Cabos. But then, maybe you’ll want to steal away on your own, leaving them to enjoy themselves next to the luxurious pool or lounge in the hot tub at their well-appointed hotel.
By JoAnn Hyslop – 17 October 2008
More Nearby Areas and Day Trips around Los Cabos. Pictures from Miraflores, Caduaño, Santiago and more.