Everything you need to know and will want to do.
Desert meets ocean at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, where rebellious Cabo San Lucas fights for attention against tame San Jose del Cabo. Connecting the two is the neutral middle child, The Corridor, with its 20-mile stretch of beachfront resorts, villas, shops, and golf courses. You can spend days basking on sandy coves where waters fade from sapphire into aquamarine. When cocktails and suntans lose their luster, there are endless activities that will leave you shouting, Hola Papi! Here are 18 ways to embrace a sandy escape south of the border.
Lose Track of Time in Todos Santos
This funky surf town is one of the last unspoiled treasures in Baja and one of Mexico’s best kept secrets—but probably not for long. Just one hour from Cabos San Lucas, Todos Santos attracts travelers with its colonial architecture, boutique hotels, art galleries, surf breaks, and coastal cuisine. Come before it changes.
When you arrive, prepare to have The Eagles 1976 classic “Hotel California” stuck in your head because, one, it’s such a lovely place, and two, there’s an 11-room property there operating under the same name. Despite heavy marketing, this little hotel is not the inspiration behind the song. Sorry.
Get Your Groove on
If you like to party, you’re in luck. If you don’t, wear earplugs or stay far from El Centro. Rowdy Cabo San Lucas seems to have a continuous buzz, free of hangovers since drinks are flowing from morning ’til … morning. Bars, nightclubs, and cantinas are around every corner in downtown Cabo San Lucas. By day, you can work on your tan without missing a beat at lively Playa Médano. Prepare for piercing whistles followed by shots of fluorescent liquor that we’re almost certain contain preservatives (but we’re not here to judge).
For a more refined night-owl experience, many of the resorts offer their own live music and entertainment. While San Jose del Cabo might not have the wild reputation of Cabo San Lucas, it still has its fair share of nightlife with sports bars, breweries, and music venues.
Hook a Big One
Los Cabos has Bing Crosby, John Wayne, and John Steinbeck to thank (or blame) for putting this world-class fishing destination on the map. Lured by its fertile waters, those legends inspired decades of fisherman to follow in their wake, sharing tales of massive catches of marlin, sailfish, swordfish, tuna, dorado, and snapper to name a few.
Today, it’s no secret that Cabo is ranked among the top fishing destinations in the world, and the leading location for striped marlin. International anglers cast their lines at Cabo’s numerous tournaments like Bisbee Black & Blue, which has a prize purse in the millions. However, you don’t have to be a competitive fisherman to hire a boat and a guide for a day out on the water.
Eat Famous Fish Tacos
Los Cabos is known as the birthplace of the original Baja fish taco. Mini-tortillas are piled high with fresh fish, cabbage, cilantro, and a concoction of mayonnaise, chipotles, and lime. Cabo’s best tacos de pescado can be found at local taco shops or street vendors. Whatever you do, don’t ask for sour cream or shredded cheese since you’ll be branded a “Taco Bell gringo.”
When you’re ready to take the menu up a notch, try local lobster, chocolate clams, or ceviche available at any of the fine dining restaurants that dot the coastline. There’s no shortage of daily catch for award-winning chefs who capitalize on this oceanfront location where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez.
Go Whale Watching
From mid-December to mid-April, these gentle giants off the western shores will swim right up to your boat. Numerous whale species frequent the area including gray, humpback, sperm, blue, and whale sharks. Gray whales typically arrive late December and head north come March. Some of the whale watching can be had on the Sea of Cortez, where humpbacks gather to feed in the calmer waters. These creatures can best be viewed during organized tours for around $100.
If you’d rather keep your feet dry, simply book a room with a view at a property near Land’s End, and you’re likely to see whales breeching on the horizon.
Shop Your Heart Out
In Cabo, there’s a store for every shopper. San Jose del Cabo’s thriving art district has dozens of galleries showcasing works by Mexican artists. This is your place to pick up jewelry and folk art. In the Corridor you’ll find Las Tiendas de Palmilla, a strip mall with high-end boutiques catering to resort guests and American expats. Cabo San Lucas has the most options, with massive shopping malls, touristy trinket shops, flea markets, and everything in between. For something traditional, keep your eye out for hand-painted talavera tiles, blown glass, pottery, hammocks, embroidered clothing, jewelry, and beaded-and-yarn works by the Huichol tribe.
Refine Your Palate With Tequila and Mezcal Tasting
When in Mexico, tequila and travel seem to pair unbelievably well. For tequila tastings, head to Habanero’s Tequila Bar in downtown San Jose del Cabo, Pancho’s Tequila Bar in Cabo San Lucas, or the Tequila & Ceviche Bar at Las Ventanas al Paraíso. At Habanero’s you’ll learn the history of tequila and how to drink it the right way while sampling from over 130 selections lining the bar. At Las Ventanas, the resort’s tequila masters will tap into your tequila preferences during a blind tasting. Pancho’s near the Marina has the largest collection of premium tequilas from Mexico. The Glass Box at The Cape Hotel specializes in mezcal with a variety of other offerings in case the agave-based liquor isn’t your bag. Their mezcal cocktails, ranging from sweet pear to pineapple sage, make the powerful liquor go down oh too smoothly.
INSIDER TIPAt all costs, avoid the bottle with the worm inside since those mezcals are made from cheap liquor that leads to headaches and regrets.
Take a Trip to Land’s End
At the tip of the Baja Peninsula stands famed El Arco, the iconic rock arch at Land’s End that separates the Pacific from the Sea of Cortez. This jagged rock formation is one of Cabo’s top attractions, not to mention the most photographed image among tourists. For a close-up view, catch a boat to El Arco from the Marina or Playa Médano. You can disembark at Lover’s Beach on the tip of the Land’s End Peninsula. Don’t expect a romantic escape, since this cove gets crowded with snorkelers, swimmers, and couples walking through the gap between Lover’s Beach on the Cortez side and Divorce Beach on the Pacific side. Take note that true to its name, “Divorce” can be too rough and choppy for those wanting to just float under the sun.
Deep Dive at Cabo Pulmo Parque Nacional
Dive into the “Aquarium of the World” (to quote Jacques Cousteau), where you’ll find the only living coral reef in the Sea of Cortez. This protected marine park on the East Cape has 10 dive spots within a sheltered bay. Not only does the location protect the reef, but it keeps waters at a steady 70 degrees, thus promoting coral growth. Snorkelers and novice divers can plunge right offshore, or for those who want to venture farther, there are outer dive spots that drop 30-70 feet.
Book a Hotel
Get Pampered at Top Spas
Los Cabos has over 65 hotels with more than 16,000 rooms. By 2019, the destination plans to add 5,000 more hotel rooms within luxury-chain resorts. With this level of 5-star status comes 5-star spas, offering personal consultants, beauty salons, juice bars, fitness studios, and every type of treatment imaginable. Signature therapies integrate local ingredients like papaya sugar, coconut butter, and cooling aloe. Competition is high, which means you’re almost guaranteed to fall asleep during your treatment. Cabo Azul’s spa is inspired by semiprecious stones; Hyatt Ziva’s spa blends water, earth, and air; The Resort at Pedregal has treatments based around the moon and sea; and One&Only’s spa has 13 private treatment villas with outdoor showers, bathtubs, and thatched-roof daybeds.
Get Barreled Surfing
If you simply can’t vacation without paddling out, you’ve got three main areas to choose from in Cabo: the desolate East Cape with its right point breaks; the crowded Corridor with consistent reef breaks; and the stretch northwest of Cabo San Lucas near Todos Santos. Costa Azul Surf Shop in the Corridor has surf trips, rentals, lessons, and the best quiver in Los Cabos. Just across the street, Mike Doyle Surf School operates out of Cabo Surf Hotel where you can catch gentle waves right out front at Zipper’s surf spot. Intermediate-to-advanced surfers can paddle one break east to La Roca or head to the more challenging waves in Todos Santos. To escape the crowds, travel to the East Cape, where you’ll find consistent breaks like Shipwrecks and Nine Palms.
From late November to mid-May, swells hit the Pacific side, and from mid-May to late November they’re pumping in the Sea of Cortez.
If you’re in the mood for sailing with a view, charter a luxury yacht or book a sunset sailing cruise with any of the local service providers. All tours pass the famous Arch and Lover’s Beach, making for a romantic setting where you can drink champagne and blame the spillage on the choppy ride.
To blend two activities into one (whoa, slow down there), you can tack on an all-day fishing expedition or other ocean excursions like snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, or diving. Most sailing trips depart from the Marina in Cabo San Lucas.
Choose Your Own Adventure at Wild Canyon
Among The Corridor’s sand dunes is Wild Canyon Adventure, a 284-acre adventure park with adrenaline-junkie activities like ziplining, bungee jumping, ATV riding, and a giant swing suspended from a gondola 300 feet above the ground. Wild Canyon holds a few records including home of the largest zipline circuit in Baja, and the longest wooden hanging bridge in the world. Just in case Egypt was your first choice, you can still hop on a camel and saunter down El Tule Canyon. They also have Wild Canyon Kingdom, where you can interact with exotic animal species from around the world.
Sink Your Toes Into the Sand
Cabo’s beaches alone will make you wonder why you didn’t visit sooner. Rocky cliffs frame sheltered bays with water in greens and blues. Desert stretches are lined with barrel cacti, agave, and chollas that spill into the sea. Within the 50-ish miles of coastline are dozens of beaches, of which only six are swimmable.
For calm waters that are safe for the kiddos, head to Lover’s Beach, Bahía Santa María, Bahía Chileno, Tequila Cove (a small section at Playa Buenos Aires), Punta Palmilla, and Playa Médano. As Cabo’s most popular beach, Playa Médano is headquarters for motorized water sports and people watching—or depending on what you’re wearing, being watched by people. Every beach has its own character and unique activities, from surfing and snorkeling to swimming and tide-pooling. Unfortunately, isolation is hard to come by.
Explore the Wirikuta Cactus Gardens
At the entrance of Puerto Los Cabos, these botanical gardens have 1,500 species of cacti and nearly a million plants set in geometric patterns. Follow the Wirikuta trail past sculpture gardens where works by Jose Luis Cuevas, Manuel Felguerez, and Gabriel Macotela are on display. Don’t be surprised if you’re the only person here, since the gardens are relatively unknown, averaging just five visitors per day. Every Wednesday night, Wild Canyon Adventures hosts the Wirikuta Show, a sort of acrobatic-ancestral dance performance of the Huichol people.
Take a Walk on Marina’s Golden Zone
Stroll along the Marina’s Golden Zone, where you can shop, eat, drink, and repeat. As the launching point for fishing and boat tours, the Marina draws a post-sailing crowd with its boutiques, bars, and restaurants ranging from a sandwich shop to a steakhouse. At the heart of this tourist attraction is Puerto Paraiso Mall, an air-conditioned refuge with restaurants, shops, movie theaters, and a casino where you can spend even more money. Attached to the mall is Luxury Avenue for those who want to pick up a Rolex on their way to the Coach store.
Admire Artwork in the Gallery District
Behind San Jose del Cabo’s main square is the cultural center, where artists showcase pottery, paintings, sculptures, photography, and jewelry produced in Mexico. On Thursday evenings from November–June, the main street of Obregon transforms into a car-free pedestrian zone of open art galleries with exhibits, music, wine, and a chance to meet local artists. Over a dozen galleries participate in the weekly event, where you can talk shop with artists from the region.
Hit the Greens Golfing
This is your place to swing into action, or maybe just ride around in a golf cart because the fairway views are downright sublime. You can tee off next to the Sea of Cortez where manicured greens, desert landscape, and ocean blues lure pros like Tom Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones II, Tom Weiskopf, Roy Dye, Greg Norman, and Tiger Woods.
Named the golfing capital of Mexico, Los Cabos is home to seven of the best golf courses in the country including the famed Palmilla Golf Club. As the first Jack Nicklaus signature design in Latin America, this world-class masterpiece is made up of The Mountain Course, The Ocean Course, and The Arroyo Course. So many options, so little time.