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The area in Baja California around Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo is famous both with celebrities as well as Spring Breakers and I think you know which type of guide to Los Cabos this is going to be. After the 2014 hurricane Odile that damaged so much of the infrastructure, Los Cabos has returned stronger than ever with luxury properties like a Ritz Carlton Reserve or Mar Adentro springing up and bringing a new wave of elegance and a great dose of understated luxury that the area so easily delivers. Let me bring you the best there is to do and see in Los Cabos in this savvy guide.
Things to do in Los Cabos
Rent a car and find your way around the well maintained roads to far away bays and beaches, farm to table restaurants and heritage towns. The best way to see Los Cabos is from the comfort of our own vehicle.
The best beaches around Los Cabos
If you are after the noisy and rowdy Spring Break crowd then you should probably not be reading this. The crazy parties can be found at Cabo San Lucas and in particular, Medano Beach. Trinklets, cheesy souvenirs that you will most likely throw away when back home, Mexican sombreros, locals selling all sorts of tours as well fishing boats ready to take you to El Arco all blend and mix at this crowded and crazy beach. Come night, the live music, the rancheras and the margaritas all flow fast and wild. People walk barefoot and parasols crowd the sand but it is a fun place to watch the bachelorette groups, the bachelor parties and the parents letting their hair down.
For a more refined slice of paradise you can head to the beaches in front of Gran Solmar Land’s End hotel which is public but only accessible through the hotel who will provide free access. The waves can be deceiving, as can the currents, but this strip of orange sand expanding from Gran Solmar all the way to the Resort at Pedregal, Cabo San Lucas’ most luxurious resort, is usually peaceful and pretty.
Famous Lover’s Beach and Divorce Beach, at either side of El Arco, in Cabo San Lucas, can only be accessed from the beach at Gran Solmar Land’s End at very low tide. Don’t risk it and just charter your own fishing boat for USD10-15 to take you there from Medano.
In San Jose del Cabo the beach is a long uneventful stretch with rather rough sand and beautiful sea in front of the many international hotels that line the sea shore. It is pleasant enough to walk closer to the water but, like other beaches in the area, it is not the white sand fluffy beaches of the Caribbean Mexico.
Out of town the beaches and landscapes can be dramatic and beautiful and you are most likely going to have them all to yourself. Driving from Cabo San Lucas to Todos Santos you will pass by several beautiful bays that are completely deserted. Take note of some of the small unmarked paths that deviate from the main road, grab a picnic and a towel and enjoy the surf and the waves. I have marked the road exit paths on the map below and also some of the nice beaches along the way, including Cerritos and San Pedrito which are a bit more developed.
Art walks and galleries
San Jose del Cabo is known for its heritage-rich downtown area and the many galleries that fill its Gallery District. A walk along the colonial cobblestone streets between Obregon and Morelos reveals a smorgasbord of galleries, from the most traditional Mexican art to the most innovative and interactive installations that display paintings, sculptures, installations, photography, fashion, prints and jewelry. There are free art walks on Thursday evenings from 5-9pm and from November to June (it is too hot otherwise). It is easy to wander into the galleries, have a look around and chat to the owners or curators to learn more about the artist or the pieces. Some of the galleries are open air and have no roof as it never rains in Los Cabos. This is a colorful and interesting way to spend a couple of hours.
Cabo San Lucas Marina
The posh marina is surrounded by enough fishing boats and luxury yachts to convince you this is the place for celebrities. On shore, things may be a bit different as high end malls with Louis Vuitton and Cartier are stationed next to Reggaeton bars serving cheap drinks to rowdy customers. It is nonetheless a fun stroll and place for a drink if you fancy one.
This rock formation that is Cabo San Lucas’ most famous landmark is best visited with a boat tour. Operators in the area offer all types of tours ranging from large conquistador-styled Spanish wooden galeras to small fishing boats. It is particularly popular as a day trip to the nearby Lover’s and Divorce beaches or a sunset cruise as the views are spectacular. Or see it from the Resort at Pedregal El Farallon Restaurant over romantic champagne glasses and a fresh seafood dinner. Be careful though, swimming in the area around El Arco is extremely dangerous as currents are strong and the water deceiving. Even from shore, when the wave hits your ankle, you can feel the rage and strength of the water, especially on the Pacific side. You can also spot whales in season and sea lions which inhabit the rocks around El Arco.
If you have your own car, you should definitively drive to the Pueblo Magico of Todos Santos for a dose of sleepy Mexican village life, more art galleries and a drink at the infamous Hotel California, the original one from the Eagles song looking much less seedy than the lyrics.
Aside from the hotel, Todos Santos church is worth a peek and don’t miss a chance to walk along its cobblestone streets. The town is small and can be seen entirely in a couple of hours. Wander into restaurants and old buildings and chat to the staff to know more. While you are there check out the town square too, busy with locals chatting, gossiping or simply people watching.
Take a boat tour in Los Cabos
As the waters of the Pacific ocean are pretty wild here the best way to enjoy the sea without putting yourself in danger would be to join a cruise. There are boat tours for everyone. Some include whale watching, others are at sunset and some are simply party boats. You will not be short of alternatives.
Play Golf at Los Cabos
There are so many golf courses here that your problem will be which one to play at. Golf courses were originally built to attract tourism and so they became part of the region’s DNA.
This is a place where the sea is so strong and wild and the swell so rough that surfers will feel in paradise. There are lots of surf schools to learn at and plenty of breaks pretty much on every beach, but be extremely careful. A guide to surfing in Los Cabos and a tour guide is all you need. Make sure that your airline allows you to bring your surf boards with you or rent them there.
Avid divers come to Los Cabos in search of the large creatures that fill the waters of the Sea of Cortez. The waters here, cold at times, teem with so much marine life that you may think you are in a real life aquarium. Scuba Diving has a detailed guide but expect to see whales, mantas, large pelagic, sharks of all types and just about anything. The currents built by the meeting of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean is what brings large amounts of plankton which in turn attract the marine life. Get ready to be mesmerised.
See the area from above
The best views are always from above. You can go parasailing, paragliding or get on a light aircraft and see the beaches and stunning desert landscapes from a bird’s eye view. There are also helicopter rides, something which I love.
Where to eat
You are in Mexico and by the beach, so the food is likely going to be great in even the smallest holes in the wall. Avoid the tourist traps which are so obvious and head to one of the best places to eat in Los Cabos.
The Office on the beach
This family run restaurant on Medano Beach has a couple other sister properties and is a real institution. Opened as a beach hut when the area was not yet on the tourist trail, it has evolved into an always packed and buzzing spot with families, bachelor/ette groups, friends and pretty much anyone who visits the area. Just take a seat, sip on a margarita, order some of their amazing food and enjoy the people watching. Then escape to Medano Beach.
This is Los Cabos’ most famous restaurant, farm and destination and with reason. We arrived straight from the airport at about 2,45pm only to find out lunch ended at 2,30pm but I am glad we returned, without a reservation, before heading to the airport on our last day. Accessed through a dusty off road with plenty of pot holes and mess, Flora Farm is an oasis in the middle of the desert. There is ice cream fashion, hand made soaps and body products, a large vegetable and fruit garden, animals and the restaurant, an open space casual farm to table dining with all the Mexican favourites served fresh. You could go to Flora and spend a few hours wandering around the property, doing your organic groceries, chilling on a bench, taking in the sun, learning something new and indulging in great food and treats. A visit to Los Cabos cannot be complete without Flora. The area is also home to some time share options that are currently for sale. As Flora is always packed, you should book ahead or go towards the end of the service (around 1,30-2pm) and wait for a table while exploring the area, chances are you will get one.
Stunned that Flora was closed, we followed a sign to Acre without knowing much what to expect and I could not be more glad we did. Acre is a future hotel opening in phases. Currently, the restaurant and pool are finished and the tree houses are almost done and can be visited. The restaurant is beautiful. Green, bright and shaded under local trees, it is a place to come and relax for hours. The General Manager is also a cocktail connoisseur and in charge of creating a cocktail program that brings back a lot of the Mexican liquors and ingredients. Weekend brunch is a great way to experience Acre.
As most of the fine dining restaurants in Los Cabos, El Farallon is at The Resort at Pedregal’s stunning cliffside location. This seafood restaurant and champagne bar has some of the most beautiful sunset views there are in Los Cabos. The panoramic views over the Land’s End beach, El Arco and the resort’s pools from the rocky outcrop of the Pedregal are simply breathtaking. In season, you can spot whales or see mantas jumping out of the ocean. Dinner is a set affair with three starters followed by a main to choose from the selection of grilled fresh seafood and meats. An extensive wine and cocktail list is available and there is live music to serenade you along with the view. Unforgettable and well worth the trip. Even if the restaurant claims to be full, go early, before sunset, watch the sunset from the champagne bar and wait for a table to be free.
Pretty much every guide to Los Cabos will recommend you check out Las Guacamayas. It’s traditional, open air and casual but offers some of the most authentic tacos and Mexican food.
A local seafood place in Cabo San Lucas started as a tiny hole in the wall and has grown into a well known destination. The area has some great fresh food so this would be a good place to enjoy it.
Contemporary fine dining Beja Sur food away from the luxury hotels and bang in the middle of San Jose del Cabo. Don Sanchez is the place to go for casual but refined Baja food from Chef Tadd Chapman made using local ingredients in interesting ways.
Where to Stay in Los Cabos
I have written an extensive guide on the best luxury hotels in Los Cabos but here are some of the favourites.
Las Ventanas al Paraiso
Arguably the most over-the-top property when considering The Mansion. Las Ventanas al Paraiso is Rosewood’s resort in Los Cabos and has some of the largest villas some of which are as big as 4,500 sq ft for the one bedrooms. Latest rates and availability here.
The Resort at Pedregal
The Resort at Pedregal is perhaps the most romantic given that all the rooms come with their own private plunge pools, sea views and stunning sunsets over the Sea of Cortes and the passing whales in season. The restaurant El Farallon and the champagne bar are not to be missed for that meal a deux. Latest rates and availability here.
If you are not so much into over the top but prefer design and form, Mar Adentro is a fantastic option with clean white lines and reflective pools that will make you feel like you are in a Philippe Starck dream. Latest rates and availability here.
The One & Only Palmilla
Fit for celebrities and golf lovers, this is a Los Cabos heritage institution now managed by One & Only and all the glamour that comes with the luxury brand. Latest rates and availability here.
Arriba de la roca
If you want to venture a bit out of town and have the deep feeling of being in a desert getaway by the sea, consider Arriba de la roca, on top of the rock. A hotel that is literally on top of a hill overlooking the sea near the heritage Pueblo Magico of Todos Santos. It does not get any more dramatic than this. Latest rates and availability here.
When to go to Los Cabos
The area receives 350 days of sunshine a year and some of the galleries in San Jose del Cabo will surprise you with open ceilings. There are two high points to avoid. The December Christmas rush and the Spring Break time. Between Christmas and Spring Break the area is quieter but it can also be cooler, so if you are looking to simply sun tan you may be disappointed with colder than desired temperatures. The best time would be May or June when it is not yet hurricane season and the temperatures haven’t hit the high 30s of the summer months.
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