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  • arch-Cabo-Mexico - The famous rock arch of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • beach-playa-amor-Cabo-Mexico - Playa del amor, a pretty beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • Carnival-Splendor-Cabo-3 - On cruises to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Carnival Splendor sails to the place where the Gulf of California meets the Pacific Ocean.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-Mexico-panorama - Beautiful Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is known for its beaches, scuba diving and marine life.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-boat-tour - Special boat tours allow you to see different areas of the coast of Los Cabos.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-ceviche - Hungry yet? Five types of ceviche and chips in Cabo.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-dolphin - Dolphin time in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-golf - Los Cabos, Mexico, features some of the most stunning golf courses in the world.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-Hanging-Bridges - Crossing hanging bridges near Cabo San Lucas.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-islands - Islands off of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-jetski - Jet skiing near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-kayak - Kayaking in Los Cabos, Mexico.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-Norwegian-Star - The fancifully decorated Norwegian Star calls on Los Cabos, Mexico.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-pots - Pots of enticing food in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-rocks - Rugged scenery near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-sailing - Sailing off Cabo San Lucas in Baja California, Mexico.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-Sea-Cortez - Sailing in the Sea of Cortez near Los Cabos in Baja California, Mexico.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-sheep - A desert big horn sheep near of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • giddyup-in-Cabo - An hourlong ride on a steed along the beach can be had for about $25 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • leaving-cabo - Passengers gather on the Lido deck of Ruby Princess as she departs from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • cabo-water-sports - You'll find plenty of water sports along the coastline of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-beachfront - Visitors from around the world descend on Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for its warm sand and carefree social scene.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-beachfront2 - Travel to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for miles of uncrowded beaches.
  • sailing-cabo-san-lucas.jpg - Sailing near the granite rock formations that extend to Land's End in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • national-geographic-sea-bird-sea-of-cortez.jpg - National Geographic Sea Bird cruises through the Sea of Cortez during a Lindblad-National Geographic Expedition.
  • sea-of-cortez-sunset.jpg - Take in incredible views of the sunrise while sailing the Sea of Cortez in Baja on a Lindblad-National Geographic expedition.
  • Gray-Whale-Spy-Hopping.jpg - A gray whale spy-hopping near whale watchers in the town of Puerto Lopez Mateos, Mexico, during a Lindblad Expeditions tour.
  • touching-gray-whale.jpg - Have a close encounter with a gray whale during your Lindblad Expeditions tour of Baja's Sea of Cortez.
  • touching-gray-whale2.jpg - Have a close encounter with a gray whale during your Lindblad Expeditions tour of the Sea of Cortez in Baja.
  • sea-of-cortez-cactus-at-sunset.jpg - Go on a hike and get incredible views of Loreto Bay National Park's landscape and giant barrel cactuses during a Lindblad Expeditions tour.
  • dolphins-national-geographic-sea-bird.jpg - Dolphins go airborne in front of the National Geographic Sea Bird during a Lindblad-National Geographic expedition to Baja's Sea of Cortez.
  • sea-of-cortez-kayak.jpg - Go on a restorative kayaking adventure in the Bay of Loreto National Marine Park during a Lindblad Expeditions tour.
  • pacific-coastline-waves2.jpg - Waves crashing to shore along the Pacific coastline in Mexico.
  • cabo-san-lucas-beach-scene-3.jpg -  Water and beach activities at Cabo San Lucas add up to lots of options for family fun.
  • cabo-san-lucas-busy-beach.jpg - The beach at Cabo San Lucas is made for kicking back and people watching.
  • Carnival-Paradise-in-Cabo-San-Lucas - Carnival Paradise in Cabo San Lucas. The ship now sails to the Caribbean.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-Arch-Rock - The famous arch rock at the tip of Los Cabos.
  • Cabo-San-Lucas-arches - Boats can float beneath the rock arches near Cabo San Lucas.

Cabo San Lucas travel guide: What to do & see

our guide

The vibe

Once a rough and rustic outpost, Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of the Baja Peninsula,  has morphed into one of Mexico’s most elite resort destinations and a thriving port of call on Pacific Coast cruise itineraries. With its large marina and gleaming bay, Cabo combines spectacular scenery with great weather, top-rate beaches, lots of adventure-oriented activities and a pulsing nightlife.

Cabo started its tourism career as a sport fishing haven promoted by Hollywood types, including John Wayne, Desi Arnaz and Bing Crosby. Today, it sports gorgeous resorts, thickets of time-share properties, a sizable population of American ex-pats and a very lively party atmosphere stoked in part by cruise passengers who alight for a few rowdy hours almost every day. It also still draws celebrities, from Sammy Hagar, Demi Lovato and Kevin Klein to Jennifer Aniston and Sofia Vergara.

Part of Cabo's appeal comes from its photo-worthy setting at the very point where the stark desert landscape meets the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. The town has long been known for big-game fishing, including marlin, sailfish, swordfish, dorado, tuna and wahoo. It continues to offer anglers fabulous sport fishing from private charters to huge party boats, though golf has become just as popular.

Stopping here on a shore excursion? With most cruise lines, know before you go that you’ll probably have only four to six hours ashore, so plan accordingly.

Cruise ships that call on Cabo San Lucas

Top reasons to go

  • Plenty of activities for all types of visitors, from party animals to cautious families
  • Enjoy the starkly beautiful desert and ocean scenery
  • December to March is whale watching season!
Beautiful Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is known for its beaches, scuba diving and marine life.
Radu Ursu / Courtesy of Carnival Cruise LinesBeautiful Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is known for its beaches, scuba diving and marine life.

Top things to do & see in Cabo

Top beaches

You can walk for miles along Cabo's main stretch of sand, Médano Beach, which in turn is walking distance or a short taxi ride from the marina where cruise-ship launches drop their passengers. It’s all here, from palapa beach bars and restaurants to elegant resort hotels, fresh-air massage studios, wandering hair braiders, water sports concessionaires, souvenir stalls, time-share sales booths and strolling vendors selling a huge variety of jewelry, bikini cover-ups and trinkets. The people-watching is top notch.

Kayak & snorkel tours

If you’re the active type, this is the shore excursion for you. Paddle tours get up close and personal with Los Arcos (the iconic rock arches at Land’s End) and make a snorkel stop at Pelican Rock or Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach), perhaps the most photographed spot at Cabo.

Take note: Sometimes the water in the bay is glassy-smooth, and sometimes it’s rough enough to pose a significant challenge for novice paddlers and children. Feel free to wait and see. You can easily assess conditions and book a trip at the marina upon arrival. Experienced paddlers may prefer to rent a kayak and go on their own from Médano Beach — but check tide tables first. If you get stuck on an outlying strand during a rising tide, you could be trouble.

A gray whale spy-hopping near whale watchers in the town of Puerto Lopez Mateos, Mexico, during a Lindblad Expeditions tour.
Michael S. Nolan / Courtesy of Lindblad ExpeditionsA gray whale spy-hopping near whale watchers in the town of Puerto Lopez Mateos, Mexico, during a Lindblad Expeditions tour.

Whale watching

Every fall, thousands of gray whales make their 6,000-mile trek from the summer feeding grounds of Alaska to the calving grounds of Baja. If you visit Cabo between  December and March, you'll likely be treated to gray whales spouting close to shore, along with some humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins.

Boat tours

Many types available, from party-boat catamarans to diminutive launches with glass panels in their flooring. Trips range from around 45 minutes to several hours, and all provide good photo ops of Los Arcos. Longer excursions include stops at Lover’s Beach and continue into open waters for whale-watching during the November to March migration season.

Shopping

The temptations start right at the marina and continue at in-town boutiques. Credit cards accepted? You bet! Look for distinctive apparel and beachwear; gorgeous housewares, works of art, leather goods — and, of course, the silver jewelry for which Mexico is so well known.

Playa del amor, a pretty beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Karen Blaha / Creative Commons BYPlaya del amor, a pretty beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Go ahead, explore!

This is one of few destinations in Mexico where a moderately adventuresome American visitor will feel comfortable renting a car. Spend your day exploring beaches and other attractions along the 30-mile “Corridor” between Cabo San Lucas and the quieter town of San Jose del Cabo (together referred to as “Los Cabos”). A modern highway connects the two. 

Tip: Spend a few dollars extra and take out full insurance. If anything happens, you’ll want to be able to board your ship and sail away, not be detained or involved in a bureaucratic tangle. Know, too, that rates for standard-shift vehicles are substantially lower than rates for cars with automatic transmission.

Other options

  • Whoop it up: The tequila starts flowing as soon as the first cruise-ship passengers arrive at round-the-clock hotspots including Cabo Wabo Cantina, Hard Rock Cafe and El Squid Roe.
  • Water sports: Parasailing, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing; you name it: Whatever you can squeeze into your timetable is available in tourist-savvy Cabo.

Family-friendly options

  • Resort visit: Your cruise ship can arrange for you and your kids to spend shore time in the cushy atmosphere of a high-end resort. Expect lounge chairs, pools, patio dining, fawning service, lots of kiddo activities and much relaxation and peace of mind.
  • Adventure tours: Zip-line parks, swimming with dolphins, desert excursions by dune buggy, surfing lessons and even camel safaris are among expensive activities marketed to families both on and off the ship.

Don’t miss

Fish tacos! Some say this is where they were invented. Look for a taco truck or a side-of-the-road food stall and join the locals in chowing down at locals’ prices. Of course, you can always order them in restaurants, too.

Hungry yet? Five types of ceviche and chips in Cabo.
Ricardo Espinosa / Courtesy of Mexico Tourism Board Hungry yet? Five types of ceviche and chips in Cabo.

Best bets for dining

  • You can’t go wrong at Mi Casa, a colorful venue on the Cabo San Lucas town square. Eye-catching décor is part of the experience, whether you eat indoors or on the shady patio. The extensive menu is focused on traditional and excellently prepared Mexican cuisine. House specialties include stuffed queen clams and chile en nogada, a stuffed pepper preparation topped with sauces the colors of the Mexican flag.
  • The Office on the Beach is another gringo favorite, and it’s easy to see why: a sea of tables tumble from the main building right onto Médano Beach, affording diners the luscious experience of wiggling their toes in the sand while sipping their morning café con leche, enjoying an afternoon cerveza or lunching on huachinango al mojo de ajo (red snapper in garlic sauce).
  • If you prefer to escape the follow-the-leader hoards but still stay within walking distance of the pier, settle into an ocean-view table (under a roof or in the sand) at Hacienda Cocina y Cantina, the signature restaurant at the Hacienda Beach Club & Residences on the marina end of Médano Beach. Stick to your diet (if you must) with a light but elegant lunch of shrimp-stuffed avocado and a house salad composed of strawberries, mango, jicama, goat cheese and spiced pecans tossed in a tamarind vinaigrette. Yum.

Best time to go

High season: November to May. December to April are primo months when rain is scarce, highs are in the mid-80s and whale watching is at its peak. January and February can be chilly. 

Shoulder season: June, September, October

Low season: July through September is hot, humid and the time when stormy weather is most likely to occur.

YOLO (You only live once!)

Make like Hemingway and treat yourself to a deep-sea fishing excursion in the “Marlin Capital of the World.” Los Cabos Fishing and Pisces Sportfishing are two of several operators that cater to cruise-ship passengers. Best time for billfish is October-November, but few boats come up empty no matter what the season.

Fun facts

  • The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18.
  • Whale-watching season runs from November to March, with several species hugging the coast on their annual migrations.
  • Many Americans and Canadians live permanently in Los Cabos, and the area also attracts thousands of snowbirds from northern climes.
Dolphin time in Cabo San Lucas.
Ricardo Espinosa / Courtesy of Mexico Tourism Board Dolphin time in Cabo San Lucas.

When you arrive

Docking information

All cruise ships anchor out in the bay and tender their passengers ashore, a process that can be quite time consuming on larger vessels. Passengers who have booked shore excursions through their cruise line usually get priority privileges. Tenders (i.e., lifeboats) dock at the marina, an easy walk to town or to the Médano Beach district. Taxis, excursion boats, activity concessionaires and shopping opportunities also are available at the marina.

Free Wi-Fi

  • Hangout Cafe, at the corner of Zaragoza and 16 de Septiembre
  • Oasis Bar & Grill at Marina Sol, Camino al Hacienda
  • San Francisco Coffee Company, Boulevard Marina #39

Getting around

Foot, taxi, rental car, public bus — they'll all do the job. Be aware that taxis are pretty expensive.

Need to know

Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport.

Language: You’ll hear as much English as Spanish spoken in Los Cabos.

Currency: You don’t have to change money if you stick to the tourist areas, although you’ll get better exchange rates on almost everything if you go to an ATM machine and withdraw pesos before starting out.

Store hours: In general, businesses are open between 9 am and 7 pm – sometimes even until 8 or 10 pm. Be prepared that stores are only open in the mornings on Sunday.

Tipping: Most service employees in Mexico count on tips to make up the majority of their income. Waiters get 10% to 15% of the bill, depending on the level of service. In Mexico, it is not customary to tip taxi drivers.

Safety: The U.S. Department of State has long been warning Americans about travel in Mexico due to the country's crime level. All travelers are advised to be careful in Mexico and stick to the tourist areas. Please check http://travel.state.gov for the latest and see Cruiseable's safety tips for cruise passengers

ShoreFox contributed to this guide.

Your take

Have you been to Cabo recently? What are your tips, what were the highlights? I'd love to know! Please share in the comments or write your own article or review.

See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

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Janet Fullwood
Janet Fullwood is an editor, writer and photographer-at-large specializing in travel and hospitality topics.

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Overheard

“If you order the fish taco (from Tacos Gardenias), you will be given a flat filet of flounder fried crunchy in a light batter and served on a homemade tortilla. It’s up to you how many condiments you pile on top.”

PeterGreenberg.com

“Little has changed at Esperanza's signature restaurant, Cocina del Mar, perched atop a cliff jutting out into the Sea of Cortez. You can see all the way down to the Arch. The resort has added Pesca Ceviche Bar, a casual, circular space where you can sample fresh local fish like tuna and dorado, caught that very morning.”

Islands magazine

 

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