Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper
Located at the southern tip of the Baja California Sur, where the desert meets the sun and sand, is Los Cabos, Mexico, with its quaint towns, interesting geography, and celebrity fans. The city – once just a fishing village – is home to three distinct areas now geared toward tourists: San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, and the resort corridor that separates the two. San Jose del Cabo and Cabos San Lucas have two distinct personalities but are only a half hour drive away from each other, great for travellers looking to experience a bit of both.
With its cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, and historic main plaza, San Jose del Cabo is known as the authentic Mexican town. It’s the more cultured side of the city, boasting small restaurants with organic cuisine, independent boutiques and art galleries, a Thursday night art walk, and a slower pace. On the other hand, Cabo San Lucas is known as the party town, with nightclubs, beach parties, conga lines, and plenty of activities as the drawing factor. Water sports like banana boating, jet-skiing, parasailing, snorkeling, kitesurfing, and diving are abundant. In the middle, the 33-km long Corridor is where most tourists flock to, with luxurious seaside resorts, holistic spas, championship golf courses, and some of the beach beaches for water sports, fishing, and whale watching.
Who should go?
Those searching for a relaxing Mexico vacation will find their paradise in Los Cabos. With a mix of 3 to 5-star resorts, there are vacations for different budgets and preferences. One of the best draws to this Mexican destination is the vibrant city life off the resorts.
If you wish to experience Mexican culture (though it is more Americanized than other parts of Mexico due to its proximity to California), there are two very interesting areas to visit: San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Whether you want to experience a quiet Mexican village or dance all night long, there is something for you here.
A popular destination for spring breakers, Cabo San Lucas attracts those wanting to hit the town on their tropical holiday. There are a handful of adults-only resorts that exude romance for couples or those celebrating special events like honeymoons and anniversaries. There are some good diving spots with marine life and strong currents.
Some people do nothing more than order a cocktail and lounge by the pool on their Los Cabos vacation – and that’s okay! But there is so much more to see and do in Los Cabos. We highlight some of the most popular day trips and excursions in our Los Cabos, Mexico travel guide:
Whale watching: From October to March, whale watching in Cabo San Lucas sees the migration of gray whales in the Sea of Cortez. Watch from the shore or take a guided boat tour to get up close and personal with these beautiful mammals, capture photos, and learn about their families and habits from a marine biologist. Excursions to swim with the dolphins are also available in Cabo San Lucas.
Watersports: Surfing and deep sea fishing are best in the Corridor. Year-round fishing in the Sea of Cortez is known for its marlin fish as well as yellowfin tuna, yellowtail, and red snapper. Private sport fishing tours in Cabo San Lucas can be arranged to do both shore and deep sea fishing. Los Cabos is also a good place for scuba and snorkeling. The Sailing and Snorkel Cruise brings you to the Bay of San Lucas to jump off the boat and snorkel in Santa Maria Bay, before sailing past the Los Cabos Arch, Lover’s Beach, and the various rock formations.
Trip to Todos Santos: The delightful town of Todos Santos is just 90 minutes from Los Cabos at the foot of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains. The artsy coastal village is home to charming palm and mango orchids and fantastic surfing. A 6-hour guided tour of the town is available, which will take you around the historic downtown, to the central plaza to see the mission church, craft shops and art galleries, and a trip to the Hotel California made famous in the Eagles’ song.
El Arco, The Arch (AKA Land’s End): The majestic rock formation at the tip of the Baja Peninsula is the iconic symbol of Los Cabos and a much photographed attraction. It attracts sea lions, sunset lovers, divers, and glass bottom boats to enjoy the view and peace and quiet. Some people take a kayaking trip to the bay to see the Arch or opt for a full day trip of Los Cabos with an expert guide to see the Arch, Lover’s Beach, tequila tasting and glass blowing demonstration before heading to San Jose del Cabo for an authentic Mexican lunch and shopping. Swimming is not advised here because of the rough currents created by the Pacific Ocean meeting the Sea of Cortez. The Arch is accessible from Medano Beach or Cabo San Lucas marina.
San Jose del Cabo’s Thursday night Art Walk: Explore the narrow streets surrounding the historic main plaza from November to June and stumble across live music, paintings, sculpture, jewelry and free snacks. You’ll discover the area’s sophisticated art and dining scene –with restaurants featuring an extensive wine and tequila list – and mingle with locals, tourists and artists.
Golf: Golfers, delight: Los Cabos is recognized as one of the world’s top golf destinations with plenty of championship courses to choose from. Jack Nicklaus’ 27-hole Palmilla golf course is comprised of the Ocean Course, Mountain Course, and Arroyo Course. It boasts seaside views and the fame of being Nicklaus’ first signature golf course in Mexico. His newest is Club Campestre San Jose, in addition to courses El Dorado, and the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol hotel. Also located at Cabo del Sol is the Tom Weistkopf-designed Desert Course. Robert Trent Jones ll’s Cabo Real golf course is uniquely designed with views of the Sea of Cortez, landscapes of cactus and palm trees and the first 6 holes wind up the mountainside. Roy Dye’s course at Cabo San Lucas Country Club is the most forgiving of the bunch.
Playa Medano is known as the party beach where people come to socialize and partake in water sports like jet skiing, banana boating, and parasailing. This is the safest beach in Cabo with live entertainment and palapa bars and restaurants spanning several kilometers along Cabo Bay.
Lover’s Beach, located at the base of Land’s End, is appropriately connected to the more secluded Divorce Beach known for its great sunsets (with dangerous waves, so don’t risk swimming). Lover’s Beach is great for sunbathing, romantic strolls, snorkeling, and swimming. It is best to arrive by water taxi (approx. $10 round trip).
Playas Chileno and Santa Maria are also beautiful beaches, offering safe swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Playa Chileno is known for its excellent water quality and is the most popular for snorkeling and diving. Palapas and rental umbrellas are available on this relatively quiet strip which caters to families, divers, and guests of the nearby hotels. There are no restaurants and bars, and not many, if any, vendors.
Playa Santa Maria is a horseshoe-shaped beach with golden sands. Its protected bay and marine sanctuary make it a popular spot for dive and snorkel tours. Playa Palmilla has calm waters good for swimming, sunning, snorkeling, diving, fishing, and kayaking. It has both a public area and a private area reserved for the One & Only Palmilla resort. Playa Las Viudas, or, Widow’s Beach, has volcanic rock formations, perfect for unique photos. Playa Monumentos, or Monuments Beach, has some of the best waves for advanced surfers.
Nightlife: The list of Top 10 Cabo Nightlife options (alphabetically):
San Jose del Cabo’s main attractions:
• Mijares Plaza
• Mission of San Jose del Cabo Church
• City Hall
• Casa de la Cultura (Cultural Center)
• San José del Cabo Estuary
• Puerto Los Cabos
• Art District & the Art Walk
Los Cabos is a higher end destination, not particularly catered to the budget traveller. Bars and restaurants are excellent in the hotels and along the small strip. Remember, you can opt for a hotel in the quiet, colonial San Jose del Cabo area, in the lively bar area of Cabo San Lucas, or along the pristine beaches of the resort Corridor.
Family: Royal Solaris, 4 star
This resort in San Jose del Cabo guarantees fun in the sun for all ages. Families can enjoy the tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts as well as amazing theatre performances. Kid will love the kids club with organized activities like arts and crafts, Noah’s Ark water park, and the junior club with arcade games and a pool table. Adults can retreat to the fitness center, spa, adult pool, or enjoy a quiet walk on the beach.
Golf: Pueblo Bonito Pacifica, 5 star
Located on a secluded beach in the tourist corridor, the resort has only 154 ocean view rooms and suites, and features five restaurants, a wellness spa, and two swimming pools. Stay and Play packages are available in partnership with the nearby Quivira Golf Club, a championship Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole course, exclusive to guests of the Quivira community and Pueblo Bonito resorts.
Nightlife: ME Cabo, 4 star
This lively hotel has lots going on during the day and night. ME Cabo is just steps from downtown Cabo San Lucas, making it one of the best spring break destinations and a favourite among celebrities who come to party on the famous Nikki Beach, a beach club with locations around the world. Head into the city to hit the nightclubs or stay onsite for DJ beach dance parties or a visit to the Passion Club and Lounge.
Value: Royal Decameron Los Cabos: 4 star
Situated in the peaceful San Jose del Cabo, the resort boasts a wide, sandy beach, an intimate 153 guestrooms, three bars and two a la carte restaurants and snack bar, a kids club, and loads of entertainment for all ages. Take a dip in the two swimming pools and enjoy the swim up pool while you relax under the sun or stay active with water sports or golfing nearby.
When to go and for how long?
A weeklong vacation is the typical duration for a Los Cabos vacation. October to June is the best time to travel, with temperatures ranging from 27C to 35C. High season takes place from November to April when snowbirds flea the cold weather. This time sees higher prices and more crowds. Spring break is also a popular time for students to get away with their friends between studying. Summertime sees a risk of rainstorms and hot, humid temperatures, but lower prices and less crowds.
Los Cabos is best experienced on an all-inclusive vacation where the cost of your hotel stay, flights, transfers, meals, and drinks are bundled into one package price. This way, most activities and entertainment are included at the resort, and you’ll have access to food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks without charge. There may be some activities such as spa treatments and motorized water sports that cost extra. If you’re looking for a European meal plan, some resorts offer that too.
We recommend saving a day to explore the city of San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas – or both –depending on your interests. For active travellers, activities like mountain biking, ATV adventures, horseback riding, and snorkeling can be arranged. If you’re more of a beach lover, simply lounging on the sands is A-OK, too.
Los Cabos is also a popular cruise port, usually paired with stops like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, or Mazatlan on cruises of the Mexican Riviera or Panama Canal. Shore excursions such as horseback riding, ATVing, and snorkeling are available.
The Los Cabos International Airport is 12 km north of San Jose del Cabo and 48 km northeast of Cabo San Lucas. If you purchased your Los Cabos vacation package through a tour operator, airport transfers to and from your hotel are typically included. Retrieve your luggage and board your bus with other guests heading to the same resort or area. If you do not have an airport transfer, round-trip airport transfers can be arranged in advance or group shuttles can be booked for approximately $13-25 one way, depending on your hotel location. Vacations to Los Cabos from Toronto and Western Canada are available year-round. Vacations from gateways like Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax are available during the winter season.
For the most part, visitors stay at their resort once they arrive from the airport, except for the occasional excursion or visit into the city. There is only one main highway in the area which spans the entire length of the Baja Peninsula, making it fairly easy to navigate by rental car. Taking a taxi between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo is about $50; $30 if you’re in the middle of the Tourist Corridor.
Price: Vacation packages range from $1000-$2500+ for a week-long all-inclusive vacation, depending on the time of year and the quality of resort. Tipping in pesos or American dollars is appreciated.
Language: Spanish, though English is widely spoken at the resorts
Currency: Mexican peso
Electricity: 110-120 volts