Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo are both home to the international food festival Sabor a Cabo, a festival that showcases regional cuisine and wine from the Baja region of Mexico. While in town for the event, I explored the region tasting dishes from local chefs, international guest chefs, and local street food offerings (namely, tacos).
The region is known for its dedication to local ingredients with a heavy emphasis on using organic products and supporting local organic farms, such as Flora Farms and Los Tamarindos, whenever possible. Los Tamarindos is located just a mile from the Sea of Cortez and San Jose’s estuary, a property dating back to the nineteenth century. The farm once exported many of their vegetables and herbs to California, but now solely supplies local restaurants and hotels in Cabo.
There are many upscale fine dining restaurants in the region, but another reason to visit Cabo is to find some of the best tacos in the world. At El Gran Pastor in Los Cabos, my friends and I feasted on tacos made of chorizo and pork and la lengua (tongue), among others. We watched as handmade corn tortillas were warmed on the grill and as our meat was scooped on to every plate. The tacos were the freshest and tastiest that I’ve ever had and more than worth the entire $2 per plate that we paid for them.
Cabo’s exploding food scene is certainly worth trying, from fine dining to street food, there’s something for every palate to enjoy.
Ratatouille Tamales and Fish Veracruz at Los Tamarindos: One of the highlights of my culinary tour of Los Cabos came when I visited Los Tamarindos, a beautiful organic farm and restaurant that offers cooking classes for groups in its rustic, outdoor kitchen with an authentic stone oven. Our group spent time with owner Enrique Silva who taught us how to make some of the local dishes of the region, including tamales. After we stuffed our tamales and let them steam, we worked on fish Veracruz using the local catch of the day and a variety of fresh herbs, vegetables and olives. By the time we sat down to eat, the smell in the air was intoxicating. Once I put fork to mouth, I realized how special this meal, our own creation, really was.
Roast Chicken and Potatoes at Bar Esquina: Bar Esquina in Cabos San Lucas is an open-air restaurant with comfortable seating, a long and inviting bar, and an extremely popular chef’s table. The restaurant prides itself on serving both Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine. Most of the dishes promote vibrant Mediterranean flavors, while the wine list showcases the best of Mexican wines. The restaurant mainly utilizes organic and local produce and is known in town by the locals for its live music. The roasted chicken served with a side of potatoes was a simple and well executed dish with hints of lemon and rosemary.
Tacos at El Gran Pastor: My most authentic culinary experience in Cabo just so happened in the late evening hours where my friends and I had a hankering for tacos. We saddled up to El Gran Pastor where we ordered two of everything: some pork, La lengua (tongue), chicken, chorizo, and cheese. The corn tortillas, handmade onsite, were fresh off the grill and we were able to dress our tacos with a variety of toppings including salsa, fresh vegetables, and the like. While all of the tacos were outstanding, my ultimate favorite was the chorizo as it packed a nice, spicy flavor.
Chilaquiles at Baja Cantina: On one beautiful morning in Cabo, I wandered over to the Baja Cantina Beach Club for a little sun. While I was told the restaurant has some of the freshest seafood on the island, it was a touch too early for raw fish before noon. I perused the breakfast menu and found my favorite Mexican breakfast of champions: chilaquiles. I asked the waiter if he preferred red or green sauce on his to which he unequivocally replied red. Red chilaquiles it was, topped with freshly sliced chicken. While it wasn’t the most bathing suit-friendly item on the menu, I was certainly pleased by my choice while basking in the warm sunshine of Mexico.
Braised Short Rib at Mi Casa Restaurant: While on a Wine & Art Walk in Cabo for its annual Sabor a Cabo event (held November 30 through December 6), I strolled by Mi Casa where its chef was handing out samplings of braised short rib paired with Mexican red wine from the Baja region. The short ribs were so delicious and fell right off the bone. The next time, I returned to Mi Casa for another tasting where I tried a variety of fresh yet comforting Mexican dishes with vibrant vegetables and local ingredients. I once again tried the braised short ribs and it was just as I had remembered it from the night before.
Events in Cabo San Lucas & Los Cabos
1 – New Year’s Day (Año Nuevo), a national holiday. Banks and public government offices remain closed.
6 – Three Kings Day (Día de Los Reyes) is the traditional gift-giving day in the Mexican celebration of holidays when children receive toys and gifts in honor of the Three King’s visit to baby Jesus.
17 – Feast Day of San Antonio de Abad is a Mexican religious holiday during which the Catholic Church which allows animals to enter the church for their blessing.
From January to June: San José del Cabo’s Art walk
January, Todos Santos Music Festival
Visitors that come to Los Cabos during the months of late November through March will be treated to a spectacular sight of whales just offshore. Of the eleven species of whales found worldwide, eight venture to the waters off of Cabo. The ideal climate, shallowness, salinity and abundant food resources of the bays and lagoons north of town make this the perfect breeding and nursery grounds for the whales and their young. Breeding areas are primarily situated on the Pacific side, but some of these whales travel around the cape to the Sea of Cortez. Visitors on local whale watching trips are often rewarded with up-close encounters with these beautiful and gentle giants.
9 Day trips from Cabo San Lucas
Contents: Cabo day trips
6) Hot springs near Cabo San Lucas (El Chorro Hot Springs and Santa Rita Hot Springs)
For your stay in Cabo, you may want to rent a car from, for example, Hertz, so you have the freedom to go places at will.
But you probably don&rsquot need a car the whole time you&rsquore on vacation.
We like to take a transfer from the Cabo airport, and rent a car from our hotel or resort just for the time we want to do a day trip. Or we may decide to book a guided tour for the day trip, if that makes more sense.
By the way, if you&rsquore wondering if it&rsquos safe to drive in Mexico, rest assured that it&rsquos safe in Los Cabos (and the surrounding area) on the paved roads during daylight.
But we never drive on the highways in the countryside (for example, between Cabo and Todos Santos) after dark. We&rsquove been told that cows can wander the roads at night, so there&rsquos always a risk of a collision.
Here, now, are the 9 best day trips from Cabo:
When gassing up, pay particular attention. There are mostly PEMEX owned gas stations available, the national government-owned franchise. There are locations in Cabo San Lucas, in the Corridor, and in San Jose del Cabo, all easily identified by their distinctive green signs.
Most stations in Los Cabos are clean and modern with restrooms and convenience stores. Credit cards are now accepted. Gas is pumped by attendants, most of who speak little or no English.
All gas prices are fixed and should not vary from station to station. Tipping is discretionary. If you are paying in US cash, the exchange rate will be lower. I normally tip some 10 or 15 pesos when they go out of their way to help you with your car, clean the windshield or check coolant, oil levels and so on.
We aere in cabo over xms a few years ago and several people from our group were stung by jellyfish as they swam at the medano beach area.
How can we prevent it from happening again and is there any helpful remedies if it happens again
I've been swimming at Medano Beach for 11 years and have only been stung once. I used white viegar and it helped - but I could still feel it a little.
I have never been stung by one. When I'm down at the Gulf, I always hear to put Adolph's Meat Tenderizer on a jellyfish sting. Parman
tangled with a few jelly fish in my day but never in Los Cabos waters. I hope that what im going to say does not offend or seem too gross etc. but the best remedy for a jellyfish sting is human urine. I know it sound rude but it works non-the-less. Buena Suerte. jim
When we were in Hawaii several years back, they had a ton of the little guys. My sister got stung several times, and the locals told her to pee in a cup & put it on the stings. Sounds gross, but it worked! :) I guess the high acidic content of urine neutralizes the sting toxins. I'm sure that's why vinegar works well, too. Maybe even tomato juice-but that's just a guess.
Bug Bites in Cabo
Okay this is a new one for me. I have been going to Cabo for over 13 years and I have NEVER had a probelm with bug bites. HOWEVER this time was a nightmare for us! I remember reading about a lady that said she got bit by mosquitoes and I thought hummm I have never seen one there. Well I don't know what it was that bit us? I don't think it was sand fleas or mosquitoes but man did those suckers itch and tons of bites. Weird thing was that we did't get them until about 3 days into the trip. We were eating at a restaurant ( not one on the sand) and all of the sudden i started itching so badly that we actually had to leave because I had about 30 bites on me and I thought I was going to go crazy. Then 2 days later my husband was covered with them too.
On the good news of it. We didn't have anything but Aloe vera to use and my husband said "just try it" and all be darned the itching completely stopped. Never knew that aloe did a thing for itching but it worked like a charm.
So to all the nay sayers. Yes, cabo has some kind of bugs out there that can do a number on ya!
Yes I hear what you are saying and I think i have head that once before too, but this was bug bites as a matter of fact they were more like welts so were so large and one of the guys at the restaurant was itching too and I was like man you have them too? It is more like flea bites but wierd thing was that we were on the beach the first day so I can't figure it out but it was yucky !!
Must have been the food at Mi Casa?
I couldnt resist-And come to think of it i ran into someone at the airport who was also complaining of bed bugs-didnt get the resort.
Yep, we went back once again to MiCasa. I was really hoping that since the town was TOTALLY DEAD we might get better service then the last few times. Plus I love there Chicken Mole so what the heck lets try it one more time.
The food no doubt was good as always. I really have never had a problem with the food there. Its just the service. And I have to say after having a meal at Justo al Gusto and having such a great wonderful funny staff and loads fun and pretty much never had to ask for a thing. to Micasa where the waiters were extremely cold never broke a smile and seemed disappointmet that we weren't ordering a ton of drinks and appetizers and racking up a huge bill. NOW that is just my 2 cent. I never expect a perfect evening and I know all these waiters can't be on all the time and be happy but i have to say going from that one fun happy restaurnat to going to waiters acting like they were being bothered i really notice the difference. I think I have had my last meal offically at Micasa. It's so funny because that was the one restaurant that I would rave about for years.. But times change as so must I.
5 Bites of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo - Recipes
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The resort town of Cabo San Lucas , named for the slender cape extending eastward from Baja's southernmost tip, gradually developed into a tourist hot spot the last forty years. During the Spanish colonial era, its natural harbor was periodically used by passing mariners, but since it offered no source of fresh water and scant protection during the late summer storm season when chubascos rolled in from the southeast, it was largely ignored by the Spanish. Although English pirates used the harbor as a hiding place for attacks on Manila galleons, many of the historical incidents ascribed to Cabo San Lucas may have actually occurred near present day San Jose del Cabo, where ships often watered at the Rio San Jose estuary.
By the 1930s, a small fishing village and cannery occupied the north end of the Cabo San Lucas harbor, inhabited by approximately 400 hardy souls. The cape region experienced a sportfishing craze in the 1950s and 60s and due to the prolific billfishing, the waters off the peninsula's southern tip earned the nickname "Marlin Alley". Fly in anglers and wealthy pleasure boaters brought back with them glorious stories of this wild place which fueled population growth to around 1,500 by the time the Transpeninsular Highway was completed in 1973. Following the establishment of the paved highway link between North America and Cabo San Lucas, the town transformed from a fly-in/sail-in resort into an automobile and RV destination.
The construction of Los Cabos International Airport near San Jose del Cabo in the '80s brought the area within reach of vacationers who did not have time for the six day drive from the border to the Cape and back. The establishment of a water pipeline between San Jose and San Lucas further loosened the limits on development. Los Cabos, as the area became known, stretched from Cabo San Lucas through the Resort Corridor 20 miles to the northeast to San Jose del Cabo. Today, Los Cabos is booming and is currently the the seventh most popular tourist destination in Mexico and the second fastest growing resort community in the country. With a permanent population of only 40,000, many of them retirees, the tourist to resident ratio is quite high, especially during the peak Nov-Feb tourist season.
San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas enjoy equal access to the great beaches along the corridor between the two towns, but because the Cabo San Lucas harbor provides shelter for a large sportfishing and recreational fleet, the majority of the Los Cabos visitors center themselves in Cabo San Lucas and the Resort Corridor rather than in San Jose del Cabo.
In spite of all the tourists, Cabo manages to retain something of a small town feel. Besides the full service marina, Cabo San Lucas's main attractions include an underwater nature preserve only a few minutes' boat ride from the harbor and the striking Land's End rock formations at one end of the bay, with a pristine beach right around the corner. Without the tenacity of a few of the town's original residents who demanded that this land be preserved, hotels and condos would probably fill the town's entire perimeter. Cabo San Lucas is the only coastal resort in Mexico with a nature preserve within its city limits.
Outside this area however, hotel, condo and golf development marches ahead. Pedregal, a fashionable hillside district to the west, the marina, and Playa El Medano to the east are all chockablock with condos and villas. Next to undergo development will probably be the large section of unused harbor front property near the inner harbor entrance, where the old cannery and ferry pier sit abandoned. Rumor has it that this will become a new docking area for cruise ships By 1993, five cruise lines: Princess, Carnival, Royal Cruise, Bermuda Star and Seaborn, featured Cabo San Lucas on their itineraries.
While Cabo nightlife is not on par with Acapulco's, the town attracts a young, energetic crowd that creates a more vibrant ambiance than is found at the relatively laid back city of San Jose to the north. All in all, Los Cabos offers something for everyone in a natural wonderland where the desert collides with the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez.
Los Cabos Arts & Culture
Los Cabos continues to embrace its endemic traditions and international influences to grow as a music, art, and culture hub. Los Cabos celebrates the eclectic, authentic and innovative with zeal, so it&rsquos easy to see why so many artists are inspired to call it home. Though the beaches certainly have their appeal, Los Cabos also offers vacationers a thriving arts and culture scene.
During March, Gala de Danza, an international event, presents different artists from around the world: dancers, musicians, and singers from 20 other countries share their talent in Los Cabos a few of these are Sammy Hagar, Jorge Viladoms, David Lomelí, Josie Walsh and many more. Every October, the Los Cabos Comedy Festival lines up stand-up comedians from across the globe for five days of hysterical entertainment. Though the beaches certainly have their appeal, Los Cabos also offers visitors a thriving arts and culture scene. Every October, the Los Cabos Comedy Festival lines up stand-up comedians from across the globe for five days of hysterical entertainment.
In November, the Los Cabos International Film Festival takes over the town bringing the Canadian, American, and Mexican film industries together and upping the glamour factor of the region even further. Each Thursday evening between November and June, the San Jose del Cabo Art District hosts an Art Walk to allow locals and visitors alike to experience the works of the outstanding fine artists and artisans who live in the region. The San Jose del Cabo Jazz Weekend Concert Series takes place in February, offering two days of exceptional Latin jazz performances in the heart of this vibrant town.
The brainchild of Peter Buck of the band REM, the Todos Santos Music Festival brings a long list of impressive performances to this magical little town every January for intimate, you-have-to see-it-to-believe-it concerts and jam sessions that raise much-needed funds for the local community.
Much like Los Cabos itself, all of these festivals are growing with every passing year and gaining recognition on an international level.
Many of Los Cabos&rsquo resorts and hotels will treat you to an evening of live jazz while you enjoy a few drinks at one of their establishments. These same properties often host an impressive roster of cultural activities. Besides its natural beauty and top-tier resorts, Los Cabos offers a wide array of cultural offerings that can please any kind of visitor. There are night-spots for dancing the night away and bars with cocktails of every flavor &mdash often mixed with Mexican libations like tequila and mezcal.
This suggestion is a common (and awesome) answer to a universal question: “Where should we go on our trip?” But, increasingly, another question should follow – “Which Cabo?” When most of us hear “Cabo,” we think “Cabo San Lucas” but Cabo’s neighbor to the north, San Jose del Cabo, is quickly earning the attention of travelers looking for a more luxurious, cultural option away from the “Cabo Wabo” club atmosphere found 20 miles to the south in Cabo San Lucas.
I admit – I wasn’t very familiar with San Jose del Cabo prior to our recent trip there with my wife, Paige. We didn’t know about the 18 th century Spanish colonial architecture, laid-back vibe or the growing culinary, entertainment and resort scene there on the Sea of Cortés.
We began to find out what all the buzz was about almost immediately on arriving at the town’s newest luxury hotel, Viceroy Los Cabos. Water surrounds the entire 192-room hotel, wrapping around the stark white buildings which are connected by elevated walkways. It is one of the most unusual hotels we have ever stayed in – a perfect blend of modern amenities and minimalist design.
The rooms are as scenic as they are smart, combining a heavy emphasis on technology with encouragement to leave it behind via the Jacuzzi tubs on each balcony and short walk to the hotel’s two beach-front pools. General Manager Martin Kipping and his team have created a masterpiece that includes four restaurants and lounges, a rooftop bar, spa, kids club, world-class fitness center, movie theater, evocative local art and more.
Zedd & Calvin Harris played at OMNIA Los Cabos’ opening. The upscale day-club combines great energy and service with ambiance and awesome music. Courtesy photo
The next day we headed down the street from Viceroy to Vidanta Los Cabos, a bit closer to downtown San Jose del Cabo, where a familiar name in global luxury hospitality, Hakkasan Group, has transformed the experience to create a new entertainment and dining district as part of the launch of its first-ever venues in Mexico.
You may be familiar with OMNIA, which is one of the most famous nightclubs in Las Vegas, but you may not know that the OMNIA brand now extends around the world to a number of international day-clubs, including the latest to open, OMNIA Los Cabos. It is a beautifully-designed, state-of-the-art day-club built around a sparkling, central pool, featuring two-story VIP villas with private infinity plunge pools, private cabanas, and chaise lounges, not to mention a steady lineup of the world’s most in-demand DJ’s.
Sitting in the middle of the newly transformed interior at Vidanta, OMNIA Los Cabos was an absolute blast. It definitely has some Las Vegas in it but in my experience, mostly the good parts – particularly elite service, great energy, ambiance and awesome music. (Zedd & Calvin Harris played at OMNIA Los Cabos’ opening.)
Although San Jose del Cabo has long been known for its culinary prowess, Hakkasan Group’s new entertainment district is aiming to raise the ante a bit on existing options with the addition of three new venues alongside OMNIA Los Cabos within Vidanta, Casa Calavera, SHOREBar and Herringbone Los Cabos.
The eye-catching artwork at the bar in Casa Calavera. Courtesy photo
We had an opportunity to visit each of these three venues during our trip, beginning with lunch at Casa Calavera, which is next to OMNIA Los Cabos.
The first thing to catch my eye was the artwork, which is playfully designed with colorful and modern décor that was probably the most unique design tribute to Día de los Muertos I’ve ever seen. The official approach is a “creative take on authentic Mexican cuisine,” but that almost doesn’t do justice to what Executive Chef Alex Branch and his team have done with this menu.
Casa Calavera’s Black Shrimp is one of the many unmissable dishes on the menu. Courtesy photo
It was fabulous, beginning with Black Shrimp and Crispy Baja Oysters and continuing with out-of-this-world tacos that begin with homemade tortillas made with homemade masa. The Carne Asada tacos were probably the best thing we had on the entire trip. Add to that spectacular, informed service, craft Mexican cocktails and a view of the Sea of Cortés and you start to understand why I can’t recommend this new venue highly enough.
We were so impressed with Casa Calavera that we decided to go back to Vidanta the next day to try out the other two new Hakkasan Group venues, beginning with SHOREbar, which is a more casual setting for cocktails, quick bites and even hand-rolled cigars. An open-air venue with expansive pool and ocean views, it’s a great pit-stop for drinks and shareable bites before heading to Herringbone.
SHOREbar is a casual setting for cocktails, quick bites and even hand-rolled cigars. Courtesy photo
This is the first international opening for the Herringbone restaurant brand, which touts a “Fish Meats Field” tagline and also has locations in Las Vegas, Waikiki, La Jolla and Santa Monica. As Chef Branch, who also oversees this kitchen, explained, “To spice up the menu with the unique culinary flair of Cabo, I incorporated Mexican influences with local ingredients and cooking techniques. The presentation and flavors are elevated, and the environment is sleek and modern.”
Looking for a higher-end dinner spot in San Jose del Cabo? Try the elevated flavors and sleek environment of Herringbone. Courtesy photo
If you’re looking for a higher-end dinner spot in San Jose del Cabo that hits every single note on key, Herringbone won’t disappoint. Make sure to ask for the cactus sorbet (and the backstory on it) for dessert.
Bluefin Tuna at Herringbone. Courtesy photo
We had a wonderful trip and anytime Cabo has come up in conversations since, I always inject that extra question – “Which Cabo?” We certainly know which one we’ll be visiting from here forward.
Cover photo: OMNIA Los Cabos, a beautifully-designed, state-of-the-art day-club built around a sparkling, central pool.
Rusty Shelton is an author and entrepreneur based in Spicewood, Texas. He’s the founder and CEO of Zilker Media and the publisher of ForbesBooks.
The Difference Between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas
Los Cabos. It’s a popular Mexican vacation destination, but many people don’t know that Los Cabos actually encompasses two different towns: San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Flights coming into the Cabo San Lucas International Airport bring visitors who are excited for vacations in both destinations, which offer distinct entertainment, opportunities for relaxation, and a unique vibe that sets them apart. Learning the difference between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas might help you determine which place is right for your next Mexico vacation.
San Jose del Cabo is the political seat of Los Cabos. Even though it’s smaller than Cabo San Lucas, it’s growth has spread outside the city center leaving the downtown’s charm intact. With quaint cobblestone streets, jacaranda trees, and a church dating back to the 1700s, a walk through this historical town will take you back to old Mexico as you shop through galleries and markets. Along the shore are several large tourist resorts that cater to your needs, but you’ll need to take a cab to town if you like to get away from resort life for a few hours or the day. While there aren’t a slew of Cabo tours or activities in San Jose del Cabo to keep you busy, the ocean views and sandy beaches still draw plenty of tourists each year.
While San Jose del Cabo receives its share of accolades by those who love the small town vibe, Cabo San Lucas is by far the favorite among tourists heading to Los Cabos. As the larger city, Cabo San Lucas offers all that of its sister town and more. With the Cabo San Lucas International Airport located on the north side of the city, the destination in Mexico is easy to access, making it great for shorter trips when you want as much vacation time under the sun as possible.
Similar to San Jose del Cabo, the beaches in Cabo San Lucas are stunning, with some even providing awe-inspiring views of Land’s End and the Arco rock formation. From some of the top Cabo resorts, panoramic views of the crystal blue water extending out to the horizon are plentiful. Unlike San Jose del Cabo however, in this top destination in Mexico, you’ll be able to enjoy a variety of water sports from kayaking and paddleboarding to parasailing and snorkeling along the beaches. You can even spend a day relaxing on the beach or by the pools of the top Cabo resorts before venturing outside the hotel for dinner or the best nightlife Mexico has to offer. From some resorts, downtown is within walking distance, making it easy to get back and forth as much as you’d like.
For taking your Mexico vacation beyond the resort, Cabo San Lucas has easier and quicker access to Cabo tours. Things to do in Cabo San Lucas include riding a camel through the Mexican desert or taking a glass-bottom boat ride to see schools of tropical fish. You can swim with dolphins or whale sharks if you’re looking for a rush of adrenaline or you can access more of the natural beauty of Los Cabos by hiking up to Mount Solmar or by hitting the jungle for a zipline adventure. With all the things to do in Cabo San Lucas, you’ll be able to fill your days with time around the city, in the jungles, on the water, at the hotel, or even with a day trip to see San Jose del Cabo or one of the other magical towns in the area.
With such a vast array of Cabo tours available, Cabo San Lucas offers the best of a true vacation, while still maintaining the charm of old Mexico, which can be felt throughout downtown and the outskirts of the city. Markets selling traditional pottery and souvenirs blend beautifully with luxury shopping centers selling modern brands. Between the boutique shops of downtown are Cabo San Lucas restaurants, serving up fresh seafood and sizzling fajitas along with frozen margaritas and ice cold beer, and a number of nightclubs that keep the party going into the early morning hours.
While both cities are spectacular destinations for a Mexico vacation, the greater variety of things to do in Cabo San Lucas guarantees guests a vacation filled with exciting and diverse adventures. As you head back to the Cabo San Lucas International Airport at the end of your trip, you’ll be leaving with memories of all the unique experiences and adventures you had on your vacation to one of the top destinations in Mexico.