Essential Los Cabos
Where the desert, mountains and seas converge
Vacation paradise Los Cabos on the tip of the Baja Peninsula has been “discovered” at least twice in history and awaits new visitors to discover it anew every day.
The region of Baja surrounding Los Cabos was initially settled by Europeans around the 16th century when the Spanish established a trade route between the Philippines and Acapulco. This inevitably put them in conflict with other European trading powerhouses and the result was both competition and conflict. Dutch pirates committed to patrolling the coast were known to put into harbor in Los Cabos in between raiding Spanish merchant ships.
In years to follow though, the eyes of the world turned away from the remote paradise where the arid land meets the crisp waters.
But the area was in for another renaissance when, after World War II, Californians looking for a scenic getaway not already overrun with tourists found that they could fly to La Paz and then rough it along unpaved roads to the very tip of Baja. Not only had tourists not yet discovered the destination, but the offerings were immense: dry weather, world-class big game fishing and beautiful beaches, primarily.
This second “discovery” had more staying power than the initial interest from Spanish merchants and Dutch pirates. In a matter of just a couple of decades, development came to the Los Cabos area – as well as paved roads and an infrastructure geared toward a vibrant international visitor population.
Today, Los Cabos is an entirely contemporary resort tourist destination and one of the most popular in Latin America. Its appeal remains rooted in the natural environment – the sea, the sun and the shore. But with growth and development has come diversification and today this popular destination appeals to a broad range of diverse travelers.
Los Cabos consists primarily of two towns – San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, which are connected via a 20-mile corridor lined with world-class resorts, hotels and championship golfing sites.
Cabo San Lucas is renowned for its active nightlife and for The Marina, a massive, opulent facility with world-class service and amenities, which attracts yachts from around the world.
In contrast, San Jose del Cabo is more sedate, perhaps driven by the presence of Parroquia San Jose, an old Jesuit Mission dating back almost 300 years.
In between the two towns is, perhaps, the stretch of the region best known to travelers. Here, azure waters, quiet coves, rugged cliffs, desert landscapes and mountains merge to craft a distinctly beautiful setting. Sitting amidst this achingly beautiful expanse are many of the exquisite resorts and golf properties that have made Los Cabos internationally famous.
Getting There/Getting Around
Los Cabos is serviced by San José del Cabo International Airport (SJD) and is accessible through most commercial carriers from the United States.
It is quite easy to get around on foot if your trip takes you to just one of the towns of Los Cabos. Cabs, buses and bike and scooter rentals are readily available. However, to see both towns and for any potential side trips, renting a car is easy and affordable, the Corridor offers easy driving between the towns and attractions, and a special “highway patrol” monitors the Corridor for motorists in distress.
See/Do the Essential Los Cabos
Given its decades of servicing an international visitor population, Los Cabos has had time to benefit from the development of numerous attractions, including a host of those that are derived from the natural setting. Accessing sporting opportunities, activities, tours and visit to cultural sites is easy and can generally be worked out at hotels or businesses along the main beach area or in the towns. There is no shortage of vendors offering the chance to indulge in any of your interests catered to in Los Cabos.
Over 500 vessels service the internationally acclaimed sport fishing waters surrounding Los Cabos and for good reason. Here where the Sea of Cortes meets the Pacific, the waters are teeming with game fish. Plenty of sail and powered boats also provide scenic sightseeing, snorkeling, sunset cruises, sail experiences or just for yachting around the waters on an impressive craft. Charter de Los Cabos offers everything from catamarans to power boats while Josephine Charters offers full and half-day adventures on board an 80-foot yacht.
Specialty water sports opportunities abound as well. Via Cabo Adventures Team Australia and Team New Zealand offer their America’s Cup vessels for either sunset sailing or an adventurous demonstration of why America’s Cup competitive sailing is considered the best in the world. Cabo Adventures offers numerous other eclectic opportunities as well, such as the chance to be a dolphin trainer for a day and many others.
Meanwhile, the 96-foot Buccaneer Queen offers excursion opportunities on an authentic tallship that has been featured in movies.
While boating can be a component of a fishing excursion or can be a pastime in and of itself, it’s also often the precursor to some of Los Cabos’ other fine experiences – primarily snorkeling and scuba diving. There is no shortage of dive tour operators and equipment providers. Baja Wild offers kayaking, snorkeling and surfboards with snorkel and dive trips to the coral reef of Cabo Pulmo, the marine sanctuary Jacques Cousteau called “the aquarium of the world.” Cabo Dolphins puts you in the water with those amazing sea mammals. The Caborey, a sizable and popular ship, whisks snorkelers away to one of the best sites in the region at Chileno Bay.
Those fortunate enough to visit Los Cabos in the first quarter of each year could enjoy one of the most dramatic ocean-going experiences – whale watching. In January – March of each year, migrating whales pass through the coastal waters, prompting many operators to offer safe, breathtaking sightseeing tours of the amazing pods of traveling whales.
The array of sporting opportunities in Los Cabos is immense and richly diverse, with offerings from para sailing to horseback riding to on-location Scuba diving training and certification. From hiking to simply enjoying the miles-long stretch of beautiful beach, there is no end to the outdoor and sporting options in tis spectacular Baja setting.
Los Cabos sightseeing permits a less active but no less fulfilling experience. The quintessential Los Cabos sight is El Arco, the perfect arch at the southernmost tip of the Baja, conveniently close to Playa Del Amor (Lover’s Beach). Numerous tour operators offer day and twilight sailings to see the natural wonder. The Estero, an estuary with an endless variety of colorful birds and wildlife is one of the main attractions in San Jose del Cabo, although the golfing locations have also seen massive expansion and improvement in recent years.
For true indulgence, Los Cabos is home to numerous spas, most operating in conjunction with the elegant resorts in the area.
Of course, shopping is another popular indulgence and merchants offer a broad range of goods. Whether it’s handcrafted goods made by locals using centuries-old methods, chic boutiques offering well-known brand names, fine art, t-shirts, sombreros, silver, diamonds or even Harley-Davidson accessories, shoppers are likely to find plenty to take home with them in shops in each town and along the Corridor.
With its combination of nature-inspired activities, sporting at multiple levels, sightseeing, shopping and even a vibrant local art gallery scene, Los Cabos’ evolution to international acclaim has been completed.
Available accommodations have been consistently on the increase over the course of Los Cabos’ evolution since the mid-20th century. Today there is as much capacity as the destination has ever had, with rich diversity, and the borders of the unofficial visitors area of Los Cabos are expanding all of the time with new construction. Still a few locations stand out consistently including those herein.
Las Ventas Al Paraiso. This desert beach resort in Los Cabos captivates its guests with expansive suites, a world-class spa, inspired cuisine and an intoxicating ambiance. A widely acclaimed resort, Las Ventas Al Paraiso offers impeccable service in an elegant atmosphere and even such amenities as “gourmet” pet services, activities and excursions and even a Department of Romance to help inspire guests. www.lasventanas.com/en/index.cfm
Esperanza Resort. Blending an exquisite private residence component with a resort component, Esperanza is one of the best known singular destination in Los Cabos, encompassing a 57-room resort, 60 privately owned villas, 36 private residences, a full-service spa and a signature restaurant, located on the bluffs overlooking two private coves at Punta Ballena near Cabo San Lucas. www.esperanzaresort.com
Marquis Los Cabos. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, Marquis Los Cabos is a spectacular luxury resort overlooking the crystal blue waters of the Sea of Cortes. Decorated with lovely contemporary Mexican furnishings and one-of-a kind oil-paintings, and dressed in rich imported linens, all 237 luxury suites here offer understated elegance in a deeply serene setting just feet from the shore. www.marquisloscabos.com
Dining and Nightlife
Created from the union of pre-Columbian and Spanish cultures nearly 500 years ago, today’s Mexican cuisine is known the world over for the combination of fresh ingredients from the land and sea with distinctive flavors of peppers, herbs and earthy seasonings. But Los Cabos is about more than just even the spectacular regional cuisine of Mexico. Fine Italian, European, American and pan-Asian fare thrive in diverse settings, and, of course as fresh seafood is the big draw.
In Los Cabos you can choose whether you want to dress up or wear beachwear, and whether you want quiet elegance or rowdy fun to go with your dining experience. All across the region, though, you will find plenty of good eateries no matter what your mood.
Edith’s Restaurant (www.edithscabo.com) is a vivid combination of the cuisine of Baja California with a Guerreran flair, featuring a regional fusion of steaks and seafood with local ingredients in one of the most legendary fine dining environments in Los Cabos.
Frida Fine Mexican Cuisine is known for its creative Mexican cuisine served in an elegant hacienda-inspired setting with ocean views on the luxurious Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Resort. True to its name, La Frida’s decor and artwork is inspired by the works of Frida Kahlo and contemporary flourishes abound.
Los Deseos Restaurant is located at the Cabo San Lucas marina and takes full advantage of the scenic setting, attracting locals and visitors both. A fascinating menu offers an eclectic assortment of traditional and regional dishes from cactus salad to Moles, fresh seafood and more.
Sunset da Mona Lisa and Sunset Point (http://sunsetmonalisa.com) have to considered some of the most romantic restaurants in Los Cabos. Located on the water with a panoramic view and with the soft lapping of the waves just feet away, Sunset da Mona Lisa offers exquisite hand-crafted Italian food, while Sunset Point offers more casual food in a decidedly relaxed environment.
Not long after the sun has set, dinners are being wrapped up and the evening breeze picks up in Los Cabos, its famed vibrant nightlife roars to life. Although largely situated in Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo has begun to pick up in recent years. Those familiar with the nightlife scenes of the US and/or of Europe are likely to feel completely comfortable in Los Cabos nightclubs. American rocker Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina is arguably Los Cabos’ most rocking club with loud rock and roll throughout the night. DG Lounge’s smooth jazz atmosphere and scenic views of El Arco lend it a distinctive feel. El Squid Roe is a local nightlife icon with its three stories of pulsating energy and one of the most popular dance clubs in the nightlife scene. Barometro is relaxed, minimalist but powered by cool video productions. A Hard Rock Café greets those seeking out the familiar; while The Passion Club Bar & Lounge will remind globe-hoppers of South Beach or SoHo.