Best of Cabo San Lucas – Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula
Planning Your Trip to Cabo San Lucas
Cabo is a perfect getaway for someone looking to have great weather during the winter months, plenty of outdoor activities, top notch restaurants and beautiful beaches.
Cabo San Lucas is on the very tip of Baja California and one of Mexico’s best tourist destinations.
In this blog post I’ll give you a short history of Los Cabos, share my travel photos and list the best places to stay, eat & drink. Plus, a few essential tips and important travel information. There’s even two of my favorite Mexican drinks at the end of the story. Enjoy!
Many reasons! It’s crazy to think I can fly from Minneapolis during the freezing cold winter and in 4 hours be in sunny Cabo San Lucas. This year it was a 100 degree swing from -20 degrees to 80 and sunny.
Everytime I check into my hotel at Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos and walk through the lobby to see views of Land’s End (El Arco) it never gets old.
I come to Cabo to escape the Minnesota winter and relax around the pool or take a dip in the Sea of Cortez. If you get bored there are plenty of activities like sailing, boating, golfing, water sports, sportfishing, surfing, desert ATV rides and much, much more.
Where should I stay?
The best areas for travelers are Cabo San Lucas (beaches and nightlife), San Jose Downtown (famous art district), Paraiso Escondido aka Land’s End on the Pacific ocean side and “The Corridor” between San Jose and Cabo San Lucas (golfing, surfing, snorkeling). I’ll break it down for you.
Cabo San Lucas: Medano Beach, Downtown & Marina
Classic Cabo where it all started – Medano Beach on the Cabo San Lucas Bay is the southernmost beach and close walking distance to the harbor/marina and downtown San Lucas. The views of Lands End and El Arco don’t get much better than this.
The beach has restaurants and bars you can enjoy or you can walk to downtown and the marina for more options.
My favorite place on Medano beach is the The Office bar (look for the blue umbrellas) – grab a drink and app during happy hour.
Main hotels on the beach:
- Hacienda Beach Club & Residences
- Casa Dorada Los Cabos Resort and Spa
- Villa La Estancia Beach Resort & Spa
- Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos
- ME Cabo
- Booking & Reviews: Tripadvisor, Booking.com, Expedia
Pros of staying on Mondo Beach
- Swimmable beaches
- Water sports from the beach (Paddle boards, parasailing, wave runners, banana boat rides)
- Short boat ride to El Arco (the Arch) or Lovers Beach ($15 per person)
- If your into beach bars you can hit up The Mango Deck or The Office
- Views of Lands End
- Walkable to downtown and the marina
Cons of staying on Mondo Beach
- Touts selling their goods
- Busy beach during peak season (pro if your into people watching!)
“The Corridor” (Between San Jose and San Lucas)
The 33 mile corridor that connects San Jose and San Lucas are for quiet getaways. Almost everything that you do outside of your resort will require transportation. This is a good option if you like All-Inclusive Resorts or plan on renting a car to get about Cabo. Over the last 25 years The Corridor has been under constant construction with new resorts popping up every year.
Land’s End – Pacific Ocean Side (Paraiso Escondido)
This area is the very tip of the Baja Peninsula facing southwest. Hotels on this side sit on the Pacific Ocean and unfortunately the currents and drop-off make the beaches unswimmable. Depending on the resort you may be able to walk to the marina or downtown area. The beaches are quiet and most people tend to hang at their resort pool rather than on the beach. Each year between
December to early April you can watch migrating Humpback whales from the Pacific side beaches and around the Baja Peninsula. Whale watching tours are popular during this time and depart from the main marina.
Weather Tip: The Pacific winds keep it much cooler than the seaside, so bring a lightweight jacket or sweater for nighttime. I’d say it’s easily a 10-15 degrees cooler when you factor in windchill.
Map of Cabo San Lucas and Playa El Medano
San José del Cabo – Traditional Mexican Vibe
Cabo San Lucas together with San José del Cabo is known as Los Cabos – two very different cities. San José del Cabo is a more traditional Mexican town known for it’s Thursday night art gallery crawl. Which is held every Thursday evening from 5-9pm between the months of November and June. This event was established, promoted and organized by the Gallery District Association. Find more information on their website: www.artcabo.com
Food and Drinks in Cabo San Lucas
The Baja California Peninsula is full of great restaurants and bars. Whether you choose a delicious streetside taco stand or book the swankiest seaside restaurant, you’re sure to eat well in Los Cabos!
My Recommend Places to Eat – Nice Dinners ($100+ for 2 people)
- Roasted Grill & Bar (Open fire grilled seafood and meats, good value)
- Edith’s & The Office on the Beach (Seafood & steaks – owned by Edith Jiménez)
- Hacienda Cocina & Cantina (Fantastic views of Lands End, ambiance and service top notch)
- Sunset Monalisa (book for sunset, killer sunset views with dinner)
- Flora’s Field Kitchen aka Flora Farms (outside San José del Cabo)
Good Eats in Cabo San Lucas – Moderate Prices ($80 for 2 people)
- El Peregrino (One of the best casual restaurant in Cabo)
- Sunset Point (Pizza Wine Bar) located at Sunset Monalisa
- Tiki Sushi Bar (Good Sushi, value on Marina)
- Mariscos Las Tres Islas (Mexican & Seafood)
- Tabasco Beach (Right on Médano Beach)
Traditionally Mexican ($40 or less for 2 people)
- Las Guacamayas (Great tacos and affordable)
- Los Tres Gallos (nice outside courtyard restaurant)
- Mi Casa (delicious food in a colorful and friendly setting)
- El Jarro Cafe (Chilaquiles, Huevos Rancheros and fresh juice)
The Best Tacos & Taqueria’s in Cabo San Lucas ($1-2 tacos!)
- Taqueria El Zarape (Inexpensive and tasty, try the Queso Fundido)
- Tacos Guss (Street Tacos)
- El Gran Pastor (pork tacos)
- Tacos Gardenias (Fish Tacos)
Best Bars in Cabo San Lucas
- Happy Ending Cantina (Best Dive Bar)
- Cabo Wabo Cantina (Live Rock Music)
- El Squid Roe (Dancing)
- Giggling Marlin (Bar Games & Entertainment)
- Mango Deck (Spring Break Bar on the beach)
- The Rooftop At The Cape (views)
Things to Do in Cabo San Lucas
- Sunset Cruises & Sailing
- Snorkeling or Scuba Diving
- Whale Watching in Cabo San Lucas (In-Season)
- Visit Beaches (Lovers Beach, Chileno Beach, Santa Maria and Medano)
- Sport Fishing
- ATV Desert Tours
- Paddle Boarding, Kayaking
- Jet Skis, Parasailing
- Golfing – check out this article form Golf Digest: Golf in Mexico: The Best of the Best in Los Cabos
Essential Tips and Important Travel Information
Flights into Cabo San Lucas Today
To search for flights to Cabo San Lucas Mexico I recommend looking at Skyscanner, momondo or Google Flights for your best deals. The Los Cabos International Airport (Airport Code SJD) is located in San José del Cabo and takes about 30 mins (33 miles) via a taxi or shuttle to arrive in Cabo San Lucas. From Minneapolis (MSP) check out Sun Country Airlines for direct flights.
Cabo Arrival Tip: How to Avoid Timeshare People at the Los Cabo Airport
Once you have claimed your luggage and cleared customs, immediately in front of you will be two doors that lead in the same direction. No matter which door you choose, you will pass timeshare representatives who will try to make you stop or confuse you by saying they work for the airport or your transportation company.
This is a lie, do not talk to them and do not stop until you have completely exited the airport. After customs all people inside the airport are timeshare sales, my recommendation is to avoid the at all costs, don’t even look at them – ha! Once outside the shuttles and taxi lines will welcome you and rental cars. I just saved you 15 mins of your vacation time! Grab a beer or drink at the bar outside for the ride to your hotel or resort.
Transportation to and from the Cabo Airport
If your a budget traveler you can take the public bus to Cabo San Lucas. It’s a modern air conditioned bus that is safe for all travelers. The only con is it will stop frequently along what is called the Los Cabos Corridor the stretch or hwy between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas dropping off the resort workers.
For a VIP experience you can book a private transfer from Cabo Airport with a luxury Escalade SUV. The cost is expensive at around $185 for round trip. I’ve used All Ways Cabo many times with no issues and good service. The shared shuttle buses run you about $15 to $30 per person each way.
Is there Uber in Cabo?
Yes, however at the time of writing this they can’t pick up or drop off at the airport or inside bigger resorts. A lot of the resorts have contracts with either the blue or green taxi vans. My wife & I took a bunch of Ubers around town and to Walmart during our stay with zero issues. The Ubers were a fraction of the cost compared to the taxi vans. For example to Walmart in a taxi van from our hotel it costs $10. For the Uber it was $3.50. It cost an average of $3 for Uber around Cabo San Lucas. Tip: We walked outside the main gate of our resort to be picked up.
Things you should know before renting a car in Cabo
Obviously you can rent a car as well, but I recommend you think about buying the full insurance to avoid any issues with Mexican Law. In many ways, renting a car in Mexico is much like in the United States and is safe. You’ll need a credit card, valid driver’s license and passport. Book or reserve your rental car ahead of time online, it’s a good idea to pay in Mexican pesos. FYI – It’s not recommended to drive a rental car at night in Mexico. In Cabo if you do drive at night beware of dogs on the roads and even stray cattle!
The Los Cabos Corridor aka “The Corridor”
The Los Cabos Corridor once a sleepy highway with cattle and dogs roaming has become a vacation destination with numerous resorts and timeshares along the coast between Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo. One the the best luxury resorts is Esperanza. As always I recommend comparing prices on booking.com, tripadvisor.com and expedia.com.
Money: Can I Use U.S. Dollars in Cabo?
Yes, we use American dollars and most business will accept them for payment. However, you will be paying their exchange rate which is usually lower than a bank or resort. Hence, I recommend to use your debit card to withdraw pesos or exchange your US dollars to pesos to get the best rates.
You can exchange cash at your resort, a bank (bring your passport) or a cambio offering the best rate. At the time of writing this article the U.S. Dollar to the Mexican Peso is $1 USD to $19 Pesos.
Money Saving Tip: When a restaurants ask if you want your credit card charged in American dollars or Mexican pesos I always say Pesos to get the best exchange rate.
Tipping Guide: Treat it like the U.S. and tip 15% to 20% for good service at restaurants. Make sure it’s not already on your bill. Cabo taxi van pricing includes the tip and is fixed based on different zones you’re going to. Always confirm or agree on a price before getting into your taxi.
Bring Dollar Bills: I like to bring $50-$100 in new $1 bills for tipping bartenders, bell boys, housekeeping, etc…
Look up the current rate: USD to MXN
Best Times to Visit Cabo
The best time to visit the Los Cabo area is just after the American Spring break crowds leave around mid April to mid June. Granted if your from the midwest like me, I’ll be fighting the wintertime crowds to get out of the cold! October and November are also nice months for a vacation, but you’ll need to begin your hotel search early if you want to save money. Plus, the busy Holiday weekends include Easter, Christmas, New Years and Thanksgiving.
The weather is hot all year, with lower temperatures Dec–Apr. Summer (Jul–Sep) is wet. Hurricane season is Jun–Nov.
Cabo Weather – Average Monthly Temperature Chart.
What’s the weather difference between the Pacific Ocean (Lands End) or Medano Beach side of Cabo San Lucas?
I will say this about the weather in Cabo San Lucas – there is a big difference between the Pacific Ocean side and Bay of Cabo San Lucas or better know as Medano Beach. It’s much cooler on the Pacific Ocean side because of the wind and ocean breeze. It can even be cloudy on the Pacific side and sunny on the bay side. There’s definitely a micro client change between the two areas that are only separated by Lands End. I’ve experienced 20 degree swings from the Pacific side to the Bay side.
Is Cabo safe for a family vacation?
Cabo San Lucas is considered a very safe place to travel. The U.S. Department of State currently has no travel restrictions to Cabo.
My travel tips to keep you safe during your Mexican vacation:
- Use common sense. It’s that simple!
- Stay in the touristy areas.
- Take a cab or Uber at night.
- Keep your valuables locked in your hotel safe.
- Travel in groups of 2 or more.
- Exercise the same caution you would in any major city in the U.S.
- If you want travel alerts enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Is the water safe to drink in Cabo San Lucas?
The water is very likely to upset your stomach, which can make the rest of your trip unpleasant. Bottled water is sold almost everywhere, and you should always choose bottled water rather than drinking from the tap while you’re visiting Cabo San Lucas.
However, I always order a glass of “house” water with ice in restaurants and bars because they have to use purified water. Almost every single restaurant and resort in Cabo uses purified water both for cooking and drinking.
Hence, it’s safe to have drinks with ice or eat salads and raw foods. I’ve never been sick from eating in restaurants in Cabo or drinking their purified water or ice.
Explore Los Cabos Yourself
I hope this guide helps you plan your next trip to Cabo. Go for the weather, beaches, nightlife or simply relax. Salud!
A Quick History of Cabo Tourism
Starting in the 1950’s the Mexican government decided Cabo San Lucas would cease to be a cannery town and would instead be developed as a major tourist destination based on sport fishing. However, the real “boom” happened in Cabo much later and only about 20 years ago.
From a sleepy fishing village: Early Cabo from 1950’s to 1970’s was very remote with only a handful of small hotels with no paved roads to connect it to any major towns or cities. To reach Land’s End you needed to either fly in private planes or by boat. Fishing has always king in Cabo and the main reason to visit in the early days to catch Marlins.
In the 1960’s & 1970’s word spread about a very exclusive vacation spot on the tip of Baja. The rich and famous of Hollywood could fly from Los Angeles to Lands End in their private planes. Major Celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne and Bing Crosby.
By 1974 Mexican workers from hotel Hacienda started dredging the marina. At that time there was only two other main hotels Finisterra and Mar de Cortez.
The major expansion or the international airport in San José del Cabo and new parts of Mexican Federal Highway 1 started a relatively unchecked building boom along The Corridor and in Cabo San Lucas. Today Los Cabo is a top destination in Mexico with over 3 million visitors each year.
Flying to Baja in the 1970’s & 1980’s: Check out this story from Keith Peterman sharing photos and memories flying into Cabo.
Photos from Cabo San Lucas
I’m loving AirBnb or VRBO for Mexico Trips
In the last 6 months I have traveled to Puerto Vallarta (PV), Playa del Carmen (Playa) and Cabo San Lucas. Both my trips to PV and Playa I booked my stays with either AirBnb or VRBO. In PV my wife and I stayed at a newly built condo 2 block from the beach with a infinty rooftop pool with ocean views for $65 a night in November. My Playa vacation with a buddy we booked two different places both with 2 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and paid $100 a night. Both condos were very modern with rooftop pools and walkabout to the beach and 5th Ave.
Therefore, if you want to save money, dislike hotel stays or want to get away for cheap in Mexico check out AirBnb and VRBO for great deals. The time is now because I believe Mexican tourist destination have been over developed with condos so there is a ton of competition to drive down the price.
Try one of these Mexican cocktails
Are you tired of Mexican beer and traditional margaritas? If so, try one of these drinks – Paloma or Pineapple Mezcal Margarita.
The Paloma cocktail is most commonly prepared by mixing tequila with a grapefruit-flavored soda such as Fresca, Squirt, or Jarritos and served on the rocks with a lime wedge. Adding salt to the rim of the glass is also an option. Fresh juice Paloma recipe
Change up your traditional margarita with a Pineapple Mezcal Margarita. The sweetness of the pineapple balances the smoke of the mezcal. One variation to this drink: see recipe
Read my other travel blog post: Best 5 Days In NYC