Have you ever found yourself wondering what to do, where to go, how to get there, what to eat and more in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico? Well, you’re in luck because today you’ve found your way to our “all about Cabo” blog posts. In these post we are going to discuss a few things including hotels, rental cars, shuttles, where to eat, what to do, and I’ll even provide you with some tips on how to figure out these things on your own for your next trip. So – without further delay, since you’re going to Cabo soon, read on for our ultimate guide!
How to use this guide
Here’s the thing, what works for me might not work for you. The things my family did might not be the things your family will do – I get that. This guide is not meant to be your vacation plan, it’s meant simply to give you a little bit of direction while you’re in Cabo. What fun would it be to explore a new place if you don’t take a little bit of that exploration up on your own? So here is how this works: I’ve broken our overarching Cabo San Lucas post into some smaller more navigable categories to make it easy – Food, Activities, Hotels, and Miscellaneous. I posted the Food Guide the other day, so today I’m moving on to some of the activities we participated in while we were in Cabo and that we think you would/will love and should do too! Bonus savings tip at the bottom!
Activities (What to DO!)
Tip #1: Take a cooking class with Cookin’ Cabo!
One of the single most enjoyable experiences we had in Cabo was the cooking class taught by Issi Radilla and Cookin’ Cabo(5 out of 5 Rating on TripAdvisor w/ 300 reviews)! The class began with meeting up at Mercabo in downtown Cabo San Lucas – from there our host and instructor, Issi, took us to two local markets to buy meats and produce before driving us to a home that is set up for the cooking classes, complete with a full commercial kitchen. The class started with the eseentials – making traditional, home recipe based, margaritas. These were hands down the best margaritas we had ever had, and if the one thing we took away from the class was this recipe we walked away sated.
We’ve reproduced these margaritas a thousand times since, including making several large serving containers full for our wedding reception in the United States after returning from Cabo. They were a hit! We spent the rest of the time making hand pressed guacamole, preparing cuts of beef, peppers for sauces, and tasting all the way through.
The day ended with very full bellies and recipes shared. This class was well worth the price ($87 USD p/person). Check their schedule and choose wisely, the classes prepare something diffrent every day and they do fill up! We had many great companions at the table with us from all around the world – and nobody was disappointed. We made beef birria, a dish neither of us had enjoyed before, and one that quickly became one we could not get nearly enough of.
Tip #2: Walk the beach – it’s free, and it’s beautiful
It should go without saying that there are vast expanses of beautiful beaches in Cabo for you to enjoy, but in case you needed to hear it, well here it is – there are vast expanses of beautiful beaches for you to enjoy while you are in Cabo. There, now that we’re done with that let me tell you a way TO enjoy those beaches. Abbi and I started our two week stay in Cabo at the Villa del Palmar, a larger resort just on the edge of downtown Cabo – it’s popular, and many people wind up there. There are dozens of other resorts all along the beach and all of them let out onto the soft white sands. If you’re looking for a romantic activity that harkens back to love novels and movies (presuming you’re not in Cabo as a single) then grab your love and head out for a sunset stroll on the beach. Walking to downtown isn’t very long and it gives you a chance to get your feet sandy, hold hands, dodge waves, and draw closer. There are a smattering of bars and restaurants along the way, so feel free to duck in and imbibe a little on the stroll. When you’re done with your walk it’s easy to get back to your resort – walk back! Or, like us, get an Uber (they’re cheap in Cabo – more in another blog post).
Tip #3: Pirates of Cabo San Lucas!
This one is more geared towards those of you traveling with families with kids in the mix. There are a couple of companies that offer “pirate trips” on classic pirate ships, at least, ships that look like pirate ships. Now – they also have adults only, all-inclusive open bar trips at night, but we did the one for families and kids (because we had ours with us). The trip started out with pirates leading and menacing us as we boarded the ship, and quickly drinks were passed around to get things started. The ship sailed out toward Lands End and El Arco (more to come later) and then set off for a protected cove for some pirate inspired snorkeling. On the way back from swimming a buffet of Mexican food (burritos) was served and the pirate dance off and show began. The kids (and admittedly we parents) enjoyed the show thoroughly and had a lot of fun. It also sort of served to check a handful of boxes related to boats – it made us able to cross off other excursions from our planner in order to save some money (budget friendly travel tips!)
Tip #4: Land’s End and El Arco (Lovers and Divorce Beach Too…)
As promised (in tip #3) here’s my guide for you on seeing the famous El Arco and Land’s End as well as the beautiful ‘Lovers Beach’ and the striking ‘Divorce Beach’ all in one fell swoop. There are any number of boats that you can hire through TripAdvisor or resorts that will take you out the look at Land’s End. As mentioned above the pirate ship cruised by and gave us a good look. Abbi and I considered a wine and jazz cruise on a catamaran that would have shown us the same rock features, and there are a handful of party boats that do the same. So – what’s the best way to see it all? Well, with none of those options. The way that we did it was to head to the downtown Cabo Marina where all the boats and fishing charters leave from, and once there we began talking with all the vendors offering boat rides to ‘Lovers Beach’ until we found one that met our price point. We had 6 people (4 adults and 2 kids) and managed to get a boat hired for about $100 round trip to Lover’s beach and back ($11 per person and a tip). The boat ride out there was on a nice glass bottom boat and the Captain gave us the full tour of rock formations and a quick look at El Arco before taking us to Lover’s Beach.
Getting to the beach was a matter of timing and speed – between lows in the waves he throttled the boat over the break and onto the sand, and then we all bailed out over the sides and scrambled up to the beach while he backed out before a larger wave came in. We asked for him to return in one hour to give us time to explore and swim a little bit. The connection between Lover’s Beach and Divorce Beach is a sandy crack in the otherwise sheer rock wall and easily walked. On Divorce Beach (Pacific side) you’ll find vastly stronger currents and larger waves contrasted against the relative calm and swimability of Lover’s beach, it would seem they were aptly named.
We brought our own beer with us, however for those of you without a small travel cooler and cervezas there were guys out there selling cold soda, water, and beer.
After our hour was up our boat showed back up nearly on the dot and repeated the beaching maneuver. Kids, equipment, and us alike were all tossed into the boat in a flurry of hands and flip flops so that he could quickly back us out of the beach before another wave came in (we did see one boat full of Chinese tourists nearly capsize trying this maneuver so it bears mentioning this is slightly dangerous).
Tip #5: Explore San Jose del Cabo
Abbi and I spent a lot of time up around San Jose del Cabo at Acre and Flora Farms but only one day really exploring San Jose and, funny enough, it rained torrentially the entire time. San Jose is the laid back, artsy, older sister to Cabo San Lucas. Less party and more culture, so a great place to escape to for great food, wine, art, and a reprieve from the barrage of party people in Cabo Cabo. Our mission for the trip into San Jose del Cabo was to find ice cream and the cultural center of town – rain be damned. There are so many great shops that you’ll just need to go explore the beautiful streets yourself to really get a feel for it. Then go get some ice cream.
Tip #6: Dolphin Discovery in San Jose del Cabo
This is another one of those tips that is definitely kid oriented, but I’m not going to lie to you – for all the places I’ve been in the world I’ve never done anything with dolphins and this was a super cool experience. Our kiddos had been living the resort life of pools, waterslides, and kids club’s for the better part of our time in Cabo but Abbi and I wanted to make sure that they also got a chance to get out and see the area, not just the resort. We walked them through downtown Cabo and out to dinners in local restaurants almost every night, took them on a pirate ship, exploring the cultural core of San Jose del Cabo, and as a reward for just being so dang awesome all the time we decided to treat them to a capstone experience of swimming with dolphins! There are a couple of options for dolphin encounters while you are in Cabo, we went with Dolphin Discovery up in San Jose because it’s not in an aquarium tank (which notably might have been better for visibility) but in paddocks in the marina as part of a larger marine center and rescue. The experience included meeting two dolphins and interacting with them from hugs and nose bop high fives to actually being pushed by them and towed. The trainers were very attentive to the dolphins and let them run the show – often Cleo would take off to go for a swim by herself and take a break, the trainer would spend time with the group and our other dolphin while Cleo chilled out and worked her way back. It was reassuring to see that from the trainers as one of the reasons I avoid most “captive” wildlife excursions is because of the conditions or treatment being substandard worldwide. I didn’t get that impression here.
Tip #7: Flora Farms and Acre
I should start this section by saying that these two places are two different properties, owned and operated independently of each other, and they both offer a few different things from the other. Acre is more of a hotel, and Flora Farms is a Farm, shops, and community (they have units for sale). They are so close to each other that you could through a sustainably grown organic avocado from one to the next – if that’s your thing. Because they are so close to each other if you’re not staying at either you can visit them both in one trip, that’s why I’ve included them together in this section.
Acre – This beautiful, up scale, small scale, trendy, fancy, modern, rustic…everything sort of place is one that you must absolutely see. There big attraction, for people looking for a place to stay are their treehouses and Mezcal tastings at their gourmet restaurant and bar. The attraction of Acre goes beyond that to include a stunningly beautiful pool, and then (because I’m a dog person this next one is the golden ticket) of course there is ACRE DOGS! A rescue program that takes street dogs from the Cabo area, cleans them up, gets them the veterinary care they need and then get them adopted in the United States and Canada – talk about a beautiful new life! The philanthropic mission of Acre doesn’t end there, they take in goats, donkeys, rabbits, and horses. They also run programs within the community and their website espouses a commitment to giving back. We LOVE Acre and can’t wait to return.
Flora Farms – Is a sustainable, organic, working farm that has a series of artisan shops seamlessly integrated into the operation as well as a stunning restaurant and bar, cooking classes, a fresh market, florist, and so much more. In the time we were there we bought Abbi a flower crown for our wedding (which has been preserved and brought home to the United States) and an ice cream cone. Flora Farms was vaulted to the spotlight when Adam Levine held his wedding there, and it is easy to see WHY they chose the spot. The grounds are beautifully tended to and the farm to table menu, local tequilas and world class wines make this place irresistible.
Tip #8: Hacienda Cerritos (and Todos Santos)
This discovery was one that sort of happened by accident a few years ago, my father and I were exploring the Pacific side of Baja California Sur and working our way up to Todos Santos when we came across the Playa Cerritos (Cerritos Beach) and, perched on a rocky outcropping overlooking the beach, Hacienda Cerritos. This beautiful old spanish style mission has been converted into a small boutique hotel with a cozy intimate feel. Like walking through your own private mansion Hacienda Cerritos has delicious food, pools and hot tubs, and a beautifully landscaped central courtyard. It’s a unique step off of the beaten path and away from the hustle and bustle of “Cabo Cabo”. When my father and I visited we first ate breakfast down in the surf camp at a small restaurant with barely three walls built out of sticks. This year Abbi and I went to Hacienda Cerritos to spend the day there, eating in their restaurant and relaxing poolside. It’s a beautiful place and a unique experience ripe with photo ops!
As for the “Todos Santos” portion of this post. There are those that think the “Hotel California” from the famous Eagle’s song by the same name is located in this town. Despite the Eagles having denied this claim it still hasn’t stopped the flow of snap-happy tourists looking to catch a glimpse of the song-famous hotel. Todos Santos has recently gone through a sort of renewal and been reborn into an arts and culture town along the pacific highway to La Paz, so it is worth a stop.
Tip #9: Go Swimming with Whale Sharks in La Paz
I saved this one for last because it is just so much epic awesome that I wanted to build up to it. I’ve got a few bonus tips below too but this one was a big win. Abbi and I had created a list of a ton of things to do while we were in Cabo and swimming with whale sharks kept making the list (because I kept putting it there). When it came time to do it we made some bold decisions – there were a lot of vendors selling packages from Cabo that average around $250 per person, and we weren’t willing to pay that much. We decided instead to drive (we had a rental car – more on rental cars in a later post coming) to La Paz and to approach companies and boat captains in the town to see if we could find a better deal. I had been swimming with the whale sharks in La Paz before so I knew right where to go, and Abbi is a master negotiator.
It took a half dozen “no’s” before we found a company willing to take us out on the water. They had just cancelled a family of 6 because the weather wasn’t ideal and the owner of the boat only had a few questions; “can you swim, are you a strong swimmer?” and “You’re not going to get sick on my boat are you?” Abbi and I are both advanced open water scuba divers certified by PADI so swimming wasn’t an issue, and motion doesn’t bother either of us. So for $200 TOTAL we were off to go swim with the whale sharks – on our own private boat, with a private guide. This was an unprecedented amount of savings. If you’re willing to risk NOT going, and have confidence enough to barter and negotiate, you can find similar deals. Frankly it just helps to be a good person and to find good people to work with.
Once we were out past the sand bar we were in what is, effectively, a “nursery” for juvenile whale sharks. There are strict controls for boats coming in and out of the area, each one has a tag and the coast guard monitors boats entering and exiting – everyone is on a time limit, and entries are capped to a certain amount of boats per day. It’s encouraging to see the Mexican government putting so much emphasis on protecting their ecosystems. Other boats in the area had a dozen or so swimmers on board, meanwhile Abbi and I were solo on ours.
Whale sharks are always doing one of two things, swimming or eating and when the whale sharks are swimming they are fast, and the activity is mostly trying to keep up with them by jumping in the water, swimming frantically to get a glimpse and then climbing back on the boat to swing around in front of them again. This was my first experience with whale sharks, and I only saw a couple of the giant animals. Fortunately for Abbi and I this time they were feeding – they slow down considerably and suck in huge amounts of krill (that’s right, the biggest fish in the ocean is a filter feeder). You spend a lot of time floating, slowly swimming, and observing. What made this trip really unique was the number of whale sharks in the area, it had to number in the DOZENS. It was a feeding frenzy of whale sharks blindly eating and haphazardly running into each other, and sometimes into swimmers.
For the record Abbi’s biggest single fear is large fish in the ocean, being the loving husband that I am THE reason “swim with whale sharks” kept making our list is because I thought there was no better way to overcome that fear than to swim with THE largest fish in the ocean. Was I right? Only time will tell.
Tip #10: Get Married!
The whole reason we were in Cabo in the first place was because we (Abbi and I) were going to be getting married. Cabo is one of the most beautiful and sought after destination wedding locations in the world and it’s totally easy to understand why. Beside the beautiful resorts and beaches there is an overflowing amount of things to do, places to go, activities, and more. There are some legal requirements to getting married in Mexico that you should be aware of before you decide to elope there, so do your research (I’ll probably blog about it later) and then run off and go tie the knot! We got married at the Hacienda del Mar and their event staff were so attentive we hardly had to lift a finger. From flowers to audio, and everything in between including chairs, a table for our sand ceremony, and more they were always one step ahead of the game and surprisingly the whole things was very affordable!
Bonus Savings Tip: Los Cabos Passport
Whether this is a bonus or not depends largely on what you are planning on doing while you are in Cabo. There is a product called the Cabo Passport which will get you some pretty remarkable discounts on a lot of excursions. Most of these deals look like a 2×1 sort of offer for everything from Camel rides on the beach to ATV’s and Whale sharks, and dolphins, pirate ships, party boats, and so on. On top of those discounts they also have food and drink offers available from tons of Cabo Cabo restaurants, including some from our food post yesterday.
Where this because a sort of “take it or leave it” tip is that MOST of the deals offered by the Cabo Passport (2×1 dolphin experience for example) are also, simultaneously being offered through hotel concierge desks, or at the vendor themselves. We used the Cabo passport for a pretty steep deal on our dolphin experience, BUT…the dolphin discovery center had a similar, nearly as good, deal on their price boards. So…take it or leave it. We loved the idea of the Cabo Passport, however, we found that most of the deals offered were deals we could already get on our own to a degree.
That wraps up “what to do”! In my next post I’m going to be writing about some general do’s and don’ts for Cabo, I’ll touch on Uber, Shuttles, Pharmacies, and that will wrap up the Cabo blog posts! I think.