Sportfishing and boating are front-and-center at the southern tip of Baja California – but there are plenty of other things to do in Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
LOS CABOS, Baja California Sur, Mexico—Picturesque sunsets, freshly caught seafood available at local restaurants, late night parties at the central business district, sandy beaches ideal for sunbathing and one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet – yes, such a place does exist, and it’s not as far away as you might think.
Of course we’re talking about Cabo San Lucas, which is one-half of the Los Cabos region, on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. Los Cabos (which also includes the more mellow San Jose del Cabo) has, in recent years, become a popular destination for Southern California boaters (and Hollywood types, just the same).
Modern-day Cabo San Lucas is known as a tourist attraction – and it’s quite evident, when you are here, how much the city caters to its (mostly) American audience. Most of what we see in Cabo San Lucas today began to take shape after World War II, what with the local sportfishing industry being a major attraction to anglers from El Norte (and points beyond).
The southern tip of Baja California was unknown to most of the world for thousands of years. The Pericú tribe, according to a few historical accounts of Baja California Sur, originally occupied Los Cabos (and nearby La Paz). Europeans (Spaniards) would arrive in La Paz in the early 1500s, setting the stage for Los Cabos to become a sleepy Mexican fishing outpost.
Fishing interests from the United States started to establish themselves in Cabo San Lucas (and the Los Cabos area, in general) in the 1910s. The commercialization of Los Cabos as a tourist destination – whether those visitors are anglers, boaters or resort-goers in general – has been steadily growing since the 1950s. A large chuck of the Cabo San Lucas economy is now based on tourism. It’s not uncommon to see the two marinas here packed with boats from other locales – mostly from outside Mexico.
Los Cabos is ultimately a playground – a place for boaters to come to town and enjoy the local beaches, some fishing, a little golf, a dash of culture and plenty of nightlife. Culinary delights are aplenty. The Log presents the first of an intermittent series of stories on Los Cabos. We start our series with a basic overview of the twin cape cities. Upcoming stories will delve into specific details about the life anglers and boaters can enjoy in Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, as well as some of the interesting initiatives local business and community leaders are pursuing.
In the meantime, here’s our quick overview of Los Cabos, a paradise for anglers and mariners alike.
Where to Dock
There are two places for boaters to find a slip in Cabo San Lucas: Marina Del Rey, which is near the harbor entrance, and Marina Cabo San Lucas (an IGY marina).
Marina Del Rey is the smaller of the two boating destinations, with 25 available slips, but the family-run operation certainly makes anyone who visits here feel like they are home. The marina has its own fuel dock. Many of the local rental companies also operate out of Marina Del Rey – so docking here means you’ll be close to some of the people who’d take you out on an excursion. All the waterfront dining establishments are also a short walk away from Marina Del Rey.
Marina Cabo San Lucas, meanwhile, features 380 slips and several amenities for its renters.
Don’t be surprised, by the way, if you cross paths with a sea lion – there are plenty of pinnipeds swimming around the harbor. Some of them will even follow you to your slip.
Where to Stay
There is a wide range of lodging available in Cabo San Lucas. One of the more upscale destinations is Hacienda Beach Club and Residences. The most basic room available at the Hacienda, which is a gated property with private access to the adjacent beach, is a one-bedroom suite (complete with a fully functional kitchen). Hacienda Beach Club and Residences has been completely re-done; one of the oldest and most recognizable hotel properties at Cabo San Lucas is now a modern five-star property overlooking the Sea of Cortez. The hotel is walking distance to the beach and harbor. A few of the restaurants mentioned in the section below are also walking distance from the Hacienda.
Hotels immediately nearby the Hacienda are Breathless Cabo San Lucas Resort and Spa, Cabo Villas Beach Resort and Spa, Marina Sol condos, Bahia Hotel and Beach Club, Casa Dorado Los Cabos, Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos Beach Resort and Marina Fiesta Resort and Spa.
Farther outside of town are Hard Rock Hotel and Nobu Hotel, both of which are located at Playa El Suspiro and Diamante Cabo San Lucas.
Boaters looking for familiar hotel chains can find a pair of Hyatt properties and a Holiday Inn at San Jose del Cabo; there is also a Fairfield Inn at Cabo San Lucas.
Where to Eat
Culinary options exist almost anywhere and everywhere in Cabo San Lucas. The question is not where you will go eat – it’s, which places will I save for the next trip!
Stray a little bit off the waterfront and you’ll find a trio of restaurants worth trying at some point during your visit: Edith’s, Tres Sirenas Cocina del Mar and Bar Esquina at Hotel Bahia. All three restaurants are within a stone’s throw of each other.
Edith’s is the heavyweight here, which fuses Baja California and Guerrero cuisines. Come here for the steaks, locally caught seafoods and handmade tortillas. Daytime eating will offer you views of Medano Beach and El Arco, while nighttime dining features a romantic atmosphere of candlelit tables and palapas.
Captain Tony’s at Fisherman’s Landing is one of the most frequented seafood destinations on the waterfront. The restaurant certainly offers traditional Mexican flair, such as chile relleno, fajitas and enchiladas. There are also soups, salads, pastas, and even a hamburger – but seafood is the name of the game here. Cabo Fish and Chips is beer battered yellowtail served with French fries, while Coconut Shrimp is a coconut-breaded shrimp served with mango sauce, rice and vegetables. The Captain Tony’s Fish item is a steamed fish served with shrimp, veggies and herbs.
Where to Play
There is no shortage of nightlife in Cabo San Lucas. Portions of the central business district, which is walking distance from the city’s marinas, feel no different than Miami’s South Beach or the Las Vegas Strip.
One place to visit in Cabo San Lucas’s central business district: Slims Elbow Room, which is known as the world’s smallest bar. There are only four stools at Slims Elbow Room. You can literally walk from one end of the bar to the other end within 2 seconds. Stand on the sidewalk at the bar’s entrance, take two paces in and you’ve walked as far into the bar as you can. Slims Elbow Room is located at Plaza Mariachis, Paseo de la Marina Boulevard.
Other bars in the business district include The Giggling Marlin, El Squid Roe, Mandala Los Cabos, Saloon, Harbard, The Jungle Bar and Cabo Blue Bar and Grill.
Cabo San Lucas, of course, is much more than a party town (even if some might tell you otherwise).
There are plenty of activities to do during the day, whether it is aboard your boat, at one of the many beaches in town or a short trip to areas on the city’s periphery.
Sportfishing is, hands down, one of the most popular pastimes here in Cabo San Lucas. There are several fishing tournaments happening here every year – the most famous one being Bisbee’s Black and Blue Tournament (which takes place Oct. 23-27 this year).
Walk anywhere along the waterfront and you’ll find no shortage of solicitors trying to sell you a fishing trip. Each solicitor will tell you they know where all the hot fishing spots are – only to find out they will take you to the same places as everyone else. Purchase a fishing trip from a solicitor, hop on a pre-planned charter or just navigate your own boat – whatever you decide, there are plenty of fish in the Sea (of Cortez). Some of the fish species anglers come here to catch include marlin, wahoo, amberjack, bonita, cabrilla, mahi mahi, roosterfish, sailfish, yellowfin and yellowtail.
Head slightly east (toward San Jose del Cabo) and you’ll find Bahia Chileno (which is also home to Playa El Chileno). Bahia Chileno is a perfect bay to drop anchor and float in place while you enjoy a meal on your deck or choose to drop a line in the water for some casual fishing.
Diamante Cabo San Lucas is a must-visit for anyone who loves to hit the links. This waterfront destination is more than a golf course and resort: there is also a Nobu Hotel and Restaurant on the beach (Playa El Suspiro).
Don’t forget to visit the most famous “playas” of Los Cabos: Lovers Beach and Divorce Beach, both of which are located next to El Arco, the famous arch-shaped rock formation at the farthest edge of Baja California.
El Arco, as it were, is also considered the official dividing line between the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez (aka Gulf of California).
Faro Viejo – an old lighthouse on the far edge of town – is worth checking out. The property itself can’t be accessed by land, but if you are on your boat, head out to the Pacific side of Cabo San Lucas and head toward Playa El Suspiro and the Diamante resort area. You’ll see Faro Viejo (which literally means “old lighthouse”) on the bluff overlooking the water, before you reach the Diamante resort area. It’s definitely worth navigating this way and viewing a rare piece of Baja California’s ruins.
Is art your thing? Then head to San Jose del Cabo’s Gallery District, where you can visit several galleries as part of the local Art Walk. Destinations include Casa Dahlia Gallery, The Sacristia Art & History, Ivan Guaderrama Art Gallery, Frank Arnold Gallery and Patricia Mendoza Art Gallery.