Reliably sunny weather, stunning resorts, charming nearby villages, activities galore (whale watching, sport fishing, off-roading, surfing), and plenty of fish tacos make Cabo a favorite escape. Of all Mexico’s resort towns, this one, located at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, probably has the most American influence, thanks to 50 years of expat culture, easy access from the West Coast, and a healthy second-home market. Whether you snub or take comfort in that fact (It’s safe! Everyone speaks English!), know that Cabo’s easygoing mix of Mexican and American cultures feels informed by the spirit of adventurers and escapists, hippies and tycoons. As a vacation destination, it’s very lovable. Here’s how to do it in a long weekend.
After landing at Cabo’s modern international airport, collect your bags and your pre-arranged transfer. Splurge for something private and avoid group transfers, which make multiple stops at different hotels and can make the already long drive feel interminable.
What is collectively and colloquially referred to as “Cabo” is actually two distinct towns: San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. San Jose, which is closer to the airport, has more of a “traditional” Mexican feel, with cobblestone streets and a plaza that hosts art walks against a backdrop of a gorgeous Catholic church. Cabo San Lucas, half an hour south, has a modern marina, mountains, popular Medano Beach, and a ramshackle warren of concrete bungalows filled with cantinas, clubs, and souvenir shops. Highway 1 connects these two main resort areas, bordered by car dealerships, granite-and-marble showrooms, mega-supermarkets, and seafront hotels in lushly landscaped developments. You can stay here, too, but unless you’ve booked at one the district’s major luxury players—One & Only Palmilla; Esperanza, an Auberge Resort; and Las Ventanas al Paraíso, a Rosewood Resort—you'll want to base in San Jose or Cabo San Lucas.
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For this itinerary, you’ll do a little of both. Since you’ll be itching to get to the pool after the morning flight, the first stop will be the Hyatt Ziva (rooms from $320), a family-friendly resort from Hyatt’s all-inclusive imprint. It’s not the sexiest choice, but it gets the job done with its comfy rooms (dark wood details, balconies), five pools, and surprisingly good food. You’re only here for one night, and it makes a convenient base from which to visit Flora Farms, a commune on the outskirts of San Jose that includes a restaurant, bar, grocery, boutiques, and design mag–worthy cottages—you have to be invited to buy one—woven through with organic gardens and mango orchards.
You’ll want to arrive early to catch the scheduled farm tour before dinner at Flora’s Field Kitchen (average main $30). Every well-considered detail—from the embossed coasters to the old-timey ice cream cart plunked in the middle of the lawn to the third-world-chic fixtures in the bathroom—seems designed to please the eye. The food is terrific, especially the pork chop cut from the farm’s heritage-breed hogs. It’s available in three sizes, and the small is more than enough to tide you over.
After dinner, cab into San Jose’s pretty downtown. On Thursdays (November through June), the town’s Art Walk brings dozens of painters, sculptors, and other artisans to set up stands in the plaza, but the place is hopping on Friday nights as well. Wander through the galleries, home décor shops, and jewelry stores on Calles Manuel Doblado and Antonio Mijares, then stop at La Tropical (southeast side of Plaza Centrál), a bare-bones plateria that looks like a garage lined with freezers and ice cream parlor paraphernalia. The best flavors are watermelon and pineapple. One pop should last you the mile walk back to the hotel.
After breakfast Saturday, catch a cab to the other side of Cabo and check in at Grand Solmar, Land’s End Resort and Spa (rooms from $380), a crisp hotel/time-share complex in an unbeatable location. The resort’s multiple infinity pools spill down to a deserted beach hidden on the backside of El Arco, the dramatic rock formation at the very tip of Baja. The road into and out of the resort leads right to the marina, making this the only place to stay in either San Jose or Cabo San Lucas that offers a quick walk into town, as well as a beach that feels exclusive. Just remember: You might be tempted by its deep cerulean color, but this sea is treacherous. Swimming is a no-go.
After spending the morning by the pool, toss a change of clothes in a duffel bag and head to Esperanza, which reopened last summer after a head-to-toe renovation necessitated by 2014’s Hurricane Odile. Head to lunch at the resort’s new Pesca Ceviche Bar (average main $17) for hamachi, avocado-and-apple tostadas anointed with habañero oil, and mackerel ceviche with passion fruit and jalapeno. After lunch, visit the Spa (treatments from $165), which floats in a koi pond, for a Cabo Thai massage. The massage therapists at Esperanza are the best in Cabo, and the amenities here are sterling, from the welcome drink (detoxifying aloe vera tonic, for example) to the toiletries in the locker rooms (Jack Black skincare line) to the lightweight, weather-appropriate robes. Before or after treatment, the Water Passage ritual awaits: a steam room, whirlpool, and waterfall circuit meant to stimulate the lymphatic system.
Hang around Esperanza after your massage—stroll the beach, have a cocktail, or browse the Vilebrequin bathing suits, linen button-ups, or animal-print caftans at the resort’s curated Solana Boutique. When your stomach starts grumbling again, hop in a taxi for dinner in town at Maria Jimenez (corner of Calle Narciso Mendoza and Calle de Revolucion de 1910), a cozy family-run spot where the corn tortillas are made to order and the pescado del dia is often snapper bathed in cilantro-butter sauce. The portions are generous, and the prices are low. You’ll eat way too much, but since you’re staying at the ideally located Solmar, you have the option to walk it off on the 2-mile hike back to bed.
There are so many activities available in Cabo, paralysis of choice can set in. Do you go deep-sea fishing or deep-sea diving? Is it better to ride horses or ride ATVs? Swimming with dolphins at the marina’s aquarium, five minutes away, or swimming with whale sharks in La Paz, two hours away? Around the marina, vendors will flock to tourists. Avoid them—if activities are your beat, book through Solmar’s concierge team for the best rates and most reliable operators.
However, the best full-day or half-day side trip you can do in Cabo involves none of these things. Instead, pick up a rental car at Playa Grande, Solmar’s sister resort next door, with a rental desk in the lobby. Set your GPS to “Todos Santos” and steer the car north, out of town, and onto Highway 19.
Todos, you’ll find when you arrive about 45 minutes later, is the picturesque Mexican town of your dreams, with cobblestone streets, roaming strawberry vendors, and stucco buildings draped in fuchsia and tangerine blankets of bougainvillea. There’s a plaza, a church and a community center, and plenty of restaurants. On the main drag, Calle Benito Juarez, you’ll find the Hotel California popularized by the Eagles song, as well as a string of boutiques selling damiana-leaf lotions, sugar skull-print pillowcases, tooled leather handbags, and some extraordinary art and sculptures. Todos has long been a haven for artists and expats, but so far has maintained a low-key, undiscovered vibe.
After working up an appetite, head to lunch at Boyitacos (Calle Juarez 4), the best place for fish tacos in Todos, followed by a perfectly calibrated margarita at the monastic La Copa bar inside the handsome Todos Santos Inn, a converted circa-1870 sugar baron’s estate. Then it’s time to get back to Cabo San Lucas to a catch a nap before dinner at The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, whose signature restaurant, Manta (average main $26), is helmed by Mexico City all-star Enrique Olvera (more recently of New York City’s Cosme). At the restaurant, whose glass walls overlook the sea, Asian ingredients meld with local seafood: chocolate clams with yuzu and soy, for example, or fish tacos slicked with black miso. The four-course tasting menu is a bargain at $66. The money you’ll save on a trip to Cabo this year, with the dollar so strong against the peso, may just be the best souvenir you’ll bring back.
WHERE TO STAY
At every budget and style point, Cabo offers a plethora of hotels. Whether you stay at a spring break flophouse, five-star editorial darling, or destination-wedding factory, location is key since a vacation here invariably involves driving. Unless you have the budget to stay at Esperanza (rooms from $550), Palmilla (rooms from $590), or Las Ventanas (rooms from $925) and don’t want to leave, pick a resort in San Jose del Cabo or Cabo San Lucas—or split your time between the two, as this itinerary suggests. Grand Solmar, whose design eschews colonial grandeur for neutral palettes and clean lines that mimic Cabo’s soberly beautiful landscape, has the footprint of a mega-resort (and the spacious rooms that come with it), but lacks the associated surplus of nap-ruining kiddos.
WHEN TO GO
While summer can see super-high temperatures, strong breezes and low humidity keep even the warmest times of the year comfortable in Cabo. Winter is popular with snowbirds for obvious reasons, as are the weeks surrounding spring break. Rain is rare; this is a desert after all. Nighttime always brings the possibility of light jackets and sweaters.
HOW TO GET THERE
American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest, United, Virgin, and Spirit all fly nonstop to Cabo from several major U.S. cities. Seasonal additions expand the number of airports with nonstop service. Flights from California and Texas are frequent and cheap. Midwest flyers can avoid connections by departing from Chicago or Denver. On the East Coast, fly out of Baltimore (Southwest), Newark (United), or Charlotte (American). For private airport transfers, Transcabo offers reliable service for about $30 per person round-trip.