Towering boulders and cliffs rise above the shores of the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. For ample beach time, minus the party scene (for that, cue Cancún, on Mexico’s opposite coast), Cabo San Lucas is a bustling enclave with a marina, lots of shopping, chic restaurants, lively lounges, and art galleries, all with a stunning shoreline as the backdrop. Whale-watching season lasts through mid-April, a prime time to spot humpback or gray whales as they migrate north, from Mexico’s Baja coast to Alaska.
After landing at Los Cabos International Airport, make the half-hour ground transfer to Cabo San Lucas (Gray Line Tours provides shuttle service). Although whale-watching boat tours are plentiful, those hard-pressed for time can head to the new Whale Watching Club at Sandos Finisterra. The glass-enclosed bar here—Cabo San Lucas’s highest-elevation watering hole—serves cocktails (try the signature “Coconut Breeze”), Mexican beers and wines (produced in Baja California, Mexico), and espresso drinks. Kick back on comfy checkerboard-patterned sofas and plush, brightly hued armchairs. (Tip: At 1pm on Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays, the bar hosts mixology lessons.)
Downtown Cabo San Lucas is teeming with art galleries, perfect for an afternoon stroll. (Here on a Thursday night? Check out the art walk in nearby San José Del Cabo, between 5pm and 9pm, from November through June.) Score a beautiful Talavera-pottery platter at Mexican Pottery, or admire works by Mexican painters at Golden Cactus Gallery.
At 5pm, board a Cabo Escapes “Sunset Fajitas Cruise” ($69) from Marina Cabo San Lucas. Bottomless drinks and build-your-own fajitas are included in the two-hour cruise, which travels past the often-photographed rock formation El Arco de Cabo San Lucas, plus Divorce Beach (ironically connected to Lover's Beach). On the way back to your hotel, drop by Cabo Wabo Cantina, musician Sammy Hagar’s bar and the name of his branded tequila. Bite into items like "Sammy’s Shrimp," shrimp sautéed with garlic and Serrano chili, and glazed with lime juice and Cabo Wabo Tequila Rosado.
Hop onto an ATV and experience the Baja California desert with ATV Adventure Los Cabos. A three-hour guided tour ($80), starting at 9 am, is dusty and packed with adrenaline, with a coastal stop along the way.
Worked up an appetite? Stop for lunch at Pan Di Bacco, an Italian bistro in downtown Cabo San Lucas that's popular with locals and especially known for its artisanal breads, and for tacking on three wine pours to any order. Ingredients are sourced locally, resulting in Neapolitan-inspired pizzas topped with organic potatoes or rugola greens, or skewers of garlic prawns and cherry tomatoes.
Of course, the beach beckons. Fortunately, there are plenty of beds, chaises, and Adirondack chairs along Cabo San Lucas Bay, with roving bartenders offering up fruity cocktails.
After some lounge time, break for a dinner of traditional Baja cuisine at Don Manuel’s, located inside Capella Pedregal. Dishes like antojitos (Mexican-style tapas) and beef tenderloin with glazed plums and chocolate sauce are served on hand-painted dishes from Guadelajara.
Stones Club is an edgy, Union Jack-themed bar at Sandos Finisterra, and an ode to Rolling Stones’ member Keith Richards’ nuptials to Patti Hansen, which took place a few hundred feet away in 1983. With a backlit bar, upholstered armchairs, and old-school cocktails, it’s not loud, huge, or crowded—making for a perfectly refreshing spot to linger over a nightcap.
Start your day with the signature blue-agave body treatment at the 10,000-square-foot Spa Sandos (at Sandos Finisterra), built among boulders and offering luxury perks like a chromatherapy pool in the relaxation lounge. Soak up marina views while you’re being pampered in one of seven little cabins tucked among landscaped gardens of cactus and other desert plants.
Take in one of Cabo San Lucas’s best Sunday brunches at La Taverna GastroBar, overlooking yachts and boats parked at Marina Cabo San Lucas (it's set in front of docks 3 and 4), before relaxing on the beach. The menu features breakfast items with a Mexican twist, plus tapas and dishes flambéed tableside. Catches of the day arrive at the marina before they are ushered into the restaurant’s kitchen. Sip an espresso for extra energy to fuel your last day in Cabo.
Where to Stay
There are only a handful of hotels set along Cabo San Lucas Bay, within walking distance to downtown Cabo San Lucas and the Marina Cabo San Lucas. For a more resort-style stay, book a room at Sandos Finisterra. In May, the 253-room property was converted into an all-inclusive resort and added on a spa and new dining facilities. Most of the rooms are perched among huge boulders and boast views, via private balconies, of the Cabo San Lucas Bay, Pacific Ocean, Sea of Cortez, and Marina Cabo San Lucas. Although pricey, Capella Pedregal Resort and Spa is a worthwhile splurge; each of the 96 rooms and suites boasts its own private terrace and plunge pool with spectacular ocean views.
When to Go
Temperatures average in the mid-60s to high 70s during the day, dipping to the low 50s at night. Winter and early spring are typically free from heavy tropical rains, while whale-watching season extends through mid-April.
How to Get There
Flights to Los Cabos International Airport are available from hubs like New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (AeroMexico), Los Angeles (American Airlines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines), San Diego (Alaska Airlines), Dallas (American Airlines), Chicago’s O’Hare Airport (American Airlines), Houston (United Airlines), San Francisco (Alaska Airlines and Virgin America), Atlanta (Delta Airlines), and Phoenix (US Airways).
Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee where she reports on food, wine, and travel topics around the globe for Fodors.com, along with new hotel openings. She also writes for Wine Enthusiast, TIME, Whole Living, and American Way. In 2006, she coauthored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Coffee and Tea (Alpha Books/Penguin). You can follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen or through her web site.