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El Arco: The Iconic Symbol of Los Cabos

El Arco: The Iconic Symbol of Los Cabos

There it stands at Land’s End, a rock of the ages, a natural sea arch and the unflinching backdrop for more selfies than any other landmark in Los Cabos.

It’s nearly impossible to page through a local lifestyle magazine or scroll through a destination-based website without seeing an image of this distinctive rock formation. Symbolically synonymous with Cabo, the arch is depicted on T-shirts, shot glasses, place mats, towels, even bottles of tequila. Call it a convergence of geology and marketing. According to local writer Chris Sands, the arch is as closely identified with Cabo as the White Cliffs with Dover or the Rock with Gibraltar.

The taffy-colored arch, roughly three stories high, is a splendid example of organic architecture. For all intents and purposes, it marks Land’s End (or Finisterra), the place where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. The arch and its neighboring granite pinnacles, favored by nesting sea birds, are the terminus of a land mass stretching from Alaska to the southern tip of the 800-mile-long Baja California peninsula.

Here’s a surprising fact: the arch was there before the sea. Roughly 30 million years ago, large-scale tectonic plate shifts began to split the world’s second longest peninsula (behind the Arabian Peninsula) from mainland Mexico. At only 5.3 million years old, the Sea of Cortez is a youngster compared to the arch, which has been carved over the millennia by wind and the same tidal forces that make swimming at Divorce Beach such a dangerous proposition.

Within a stone’s throw of the Arch of Cabo San Lucas is a colony of sea lions that can be seen basking on a flat, wave-washed rock known as La Lobera (The Rookery). Boats of all kinds—power boats, zodiacs, glass-bottom boats, kayaks and sailboats—bob in the water so the obligatory vacation photos with the arch in the background can be taken.

In addition to whale watching from mid-December through March, the arch is an ideal spot for snorkeling in the bay’s nutrient-rich waters. Resplendent corals and colorful reef dwellers, including angelfish, pufferfish, parrotfish and other marine species, make their home around the arch.

Spanning the dramatic headland at Land’s End, the arch, most beautiful at sunrise and sunset, stands adjacent to Lovers Beach on the calm Sea of Cortes side, with Divorce Beach on the rougher Pacific Ocean side. It’s possible to hike to Lovers Beach for a view of the arch, but the route over Mount Solmar is rocky and perilous. If the stars line up right in October, the sea level drops low enough so that visitors can walk beneath the arch and explore a rarely available beachfront.

While geologists describe Cabo’s iconic landmark as a heavily joint-fractured arch and warn that it is one big storm away from collapsing into the sea, this keyhole to the Pacific has remained intact for 30 million years, and likely will remain so for millions more.