CABO WATER: The Myths and The Facts
One of the stigmas that used to be associated with traveling to Mexico was that it was not safe to drink the water. If you’ve travelled at all, or shared your excitement about your upcoming trip to Mexico, you’ve heard the word passed from traveler to traveler about mitigating the likelihood of getting sick while here. Not brushing your teeth with the local tap water, not drinking drinks or cocktails with unpurified ice cubes, and not eating fresh fruit or vegetables that have been washed with the local waters were three good ideas that made some sense. What this has led to is a near addiction to bottled water, which is probably one of the biggest unnecessary profit centers in all of Mexico.
But being ever on the defensive while vacationing is too much like work for most tourists and there were still some people getting sick even though they made efforts to avoid contact with the local water. Being a resort zone and one of the top visited locales worldwide, a better approach to the source of the problem was necessary.
Bottled water is one approach, and if you’re consumed with this form of self help, drink on, but consider this: Though there are still parts of mainland Mexico where drinking water from the tap is a risky proposition, the Baja Peninsula and Cabo San Lucas have never had the significant water quality problems that mainland Mexico has had.
This is because the drinking water in the northern parts of Baja, such as Tijuana and Ensenada, come from local underground aquifers and from local reservoirs. These sources of water are subject to various types of contamination which are removed from the water before it reaches the local population and the tourists, just as it’s done elsewhere.
That’s not to say there aren’t the occasional cases of intestinal problems for travelers who visited some parts of Baja and Cabo, but for the most part Baja waters have never posed a problem. In general, the further south you travel, the less of a problem the water actually is.
In the southern parts of Baja much of the water comes from the tall mountains that run along Baja’s spine, water that seeps into underground aquifers before being piped to the local towns. This fresh rain water has very little opportunity to become tainted before it reaches the local populations, so illnesses are even more infrequent.
Sitting at the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula, the fresh water in Los Cabos is some of the best of the Baja Peninsula. The local waters start thousands of feet above Los Cabos in the very tall mountains north of Cabo, drain down into local aquifers, are then treated locally and then often treated again at the hotel or restaurant level. Tourism is just too important to let bad water become a factor, which has led to an important tidbit of information for you, the incoming visitor. If you just look around (especially near the bar) when you walk into most any restaurant, dance club or bar, there’s a high probability you’ll see the familiar 5 gallon purified water dispenser bottle many of us use in the States and Canada. THIS is the source of your drinking water in most instances, and it’s FREE…simply ask for ‘agua de casa y hielo, por favor’. Bottled water is the immediate option if you simply ask for water. But at $1.50-5.00 per BOTTLE versus free purified water in a glass with ice that comes from the same purification plant in huge bags, why not pay that amount in tips instead?
Despite all of the precautions made to keep the water supply safe, there are still isolated cases of travelers becoming sick while vacationing. While some of these illnesses may be attributed to the local waters, a significant part of these cases are caused by tourists who spent too long breathing in recycled airplane air filled with a mixture of every germ on board, and pushing the body too far while trying to maximize valuable vacation time. Staying healthy in Los Cabos is possible, and even probable, for most visitors. Getting enough sleep, drinking in moderation, avoiding super-spicy foods, taking care to eat in restaurants on the touristic path, checking to make sure the water and ice you are consuming is purified, and generally being aware of your surroundings are steps that all visitors can take to minimize risk.
Should you be one of the unfortunate visitors whose system just can’t get in sync with the spices and minerals found locally, Lomotil and Pepto Bismol usually work wonders. But the best product for overcoming your discomfort may well be a not-so-well-known product many locals use every 6 months or so: Oxal. Found in most farmacias, these 2 little green pills will cost less than $10 and will eliminate the parasites and amoebas your body has not developed a defense against, but came in contact with in a foreign country in a few hours to a day or two. This is not an anti-biotic, and you should always speak with the pharmacist about interactions with any other meds you take regularly, but for the most part there are no side-effects other than RELIEF, and you’ll find yourself back on the vacation/party scene fairly quickly, so indulge yourself!.