Poolside at Hacienda Cerritos – a perfect hideaway for a Cabo San Lucas Beach Vacation
With it’s rich history, beckoning beaches, food traditions and intense natural beauty, the Cabo San Lucas region is a star of bucket lists and dreams. Decades of reports paint it as an out-of-control, Mexican Las Vegas but a Cabo San Lucas Beach vacation doesn’t have to be full of noisy resorts and wild parties. If that’s what you’re looking for you’ll find it, but the southern tip of this Baja Peninsula has much more to offer.
Every trip has it’s own personality. If you’re into DIY travel and planning a trip to Mexico, begin with a few anchors. I plan at least a night or two in a new place, a new country, well ahead of touchdown. Comb through websites, blogs, and local calendars; check out daytrip options and transportation. Then, with a few basics taken care of, launch into the trip. Here’s what unfolded with my DIY travel style during a week-long Cabo San Lucas Beach Vacation.
Welcome to Los Cabos sign at the airport
Getting around the region
You can rent a car easily from companies at the airport. For the best deals, check out rates online and set up your contract before you arrive. Be careful about add-ons. There is a robust, modest, local bus service and many tour groups offer packages for seeing the sights. If you plan on visiting Cabo Pulmo and other off-road areas, take it slow and make sure your car is high enough to handle corrugated dirt and gravel roads.
Public bus options are covered pretty well in this TripAdvisor article. I haven’t taken the local shuttle yet but it looks like the cost for private transportation door-to-door from the airport isn’t much more expensive than the main airport shuttle service ($65- $70.) Friends referred me to this company and they made the round-trip journey very comfortable with water and luggage help.
One comfy condo in Cabo
Enjoy a condo stay on your Cabo San Lucas Beach Vacation
Find a friend with a timeshare or arrange one of your own. Many membership resorts have special offers for new visitors. You may have to endure a timeshare pitch but it can be worth the effort. I enjoyed having a homey spot to cook meals, to lounge by pools, listen to waves, and stroll the long beach. This option is the quiet side of Cabo and you’ll encounter mostly retirees, couples, and family groups.
Looking up from the sea to the sweeping beauty of the Grand Velas Resort in Cabo
Melt your cares away at an all-inclusive resort
There’s much to enjoy at the big resorts that dot the Corridor between San Jose del Cabo and the downtown port hotels. The Grand Velas is one of the newest and most luxurious.
One suite in the Grand Velas
Poolside pleasures at the Grand Velas
The Grand Velas has pampering down to an art. Indulge in fine wine and Mezcal along with a snack drawer in your suite. Planning a destination wedding? Book an appointment with a dress designer and choose from at least half a dozen spots for the vows. Teens have their own space and there are activities for toddlers too. With over a half-dozen restaurants on the property, you can choose from a different menu every night. Each of the central pools caters to a different group – from lap swimmers to families and an adults-only plunge just above the beach. I haven’t been a guest but enjoyed the lunch buffet and a site tour. Non-guests may make reservations at the restaurants as well.
Guaycara Hotel Todo Santos, Mexico
Discover luxury at a boutique hotel
Hacienda Cerritos is hard to miss. The tiled towers perch above the tidepools and sweeping strand of Cerritos Beach north of Cabo San Lucas. It cuts an impressive silhouette as you drive to or from Todo Santos. The ornate shadow drew me close and, while not a guest, I enjoyed a margarita at the Palapa bar while taking in the views and grace of the three-year-old villa. Access depends on how many guests are registered and whether a private party has rented the entire space. There are several small hotels in Todo Santos that are creative and warm with passionate owners happy to tailor local itineraries to your interests. (See links below.)
Temptations on every corner in downtown Cabo San Lucas
Fish pedicure inside the Puerto Paraiso Plaza mall near the Cabo marina.
Play at the port on your Cabo San Lucas Beach Vacation
Of course, you have to explore the Marina in Cabo San Lucas. Where there once were dirt roads there is now a flush downtown overflowing with tourist options. From massages to souvenirs, all day happy hours to shopping Cabo offers plenty of port pleasures. Most boat and day-tours leave from here and cruise ship tourists wander through the town.
One Hotel California moment.
Venture north to Pueblo Magico of Todos Santos
Todos Santos is a dreamy, artsy, Mexican village between Los Cabos and La Paz, exactly on the Tropic of Cancer line. There’s an addictive bohemian vibe thanks to the many galleries, festivals, friendly locals, and the architecture. I fell in love from the moment we drove into town.
The history isn’t as pretty. Indigenous Guaycruas lived independently in the town for ages. They survived the sparse and rugged landscape by spearfishing and managing their oasis but conflicts with pirates and Spanish Conquistadors decimated the population. By 1800, infections and imported diseases completed their extinction. However, the Guaycara spirit lives on in murals, artwork, and at businesses like the Guaycura Hotel and Beach Club. Here’s a glimpse of the village and all the Guaycura offers.
Of course, visitors flock to the notorious Hotel California when they roll into Todo Santos and I too fell prey to the mystery. Did the Eagles’ famous song really have anything to do with the destination? No one is saying definitively but the hotel was there long before the lyrics. Serendipity perhaps I mused while enjoying a drink in the hotel bar.
Chef, author and television personality, Rick Bayless, has visited the Hotel California and following his lead, I ordered a Damiana Margarita. The local herb was originally distilled by the Guaycara for medicinal and perhaps, aphrodisiac properties. True? I can’t say but the Margarita was smooth, not too sweet and perfect for a warm winter evening. Lucky me, the bartender served it with a shot for savoring. Thanks for the tip, Chef Bayless!
Damiana shot and Margarita at Hotel California, Todo Santos, Mexico
Otherwise, I can’t say the food at the Hotel California is the best in town and wish I’d followed recommendations to Chef Javier Plascencia’s Jazamango restaurant.
Horseback riders and an ultralight pass by along the corridor in Cabo San Lucas
Sand and Sea – Cabo San Lucas Beach Vacation
The strand along the Corridor is dotted with tidepools and powdery beaches. Access is generally through the hotels but locals know where to go. Watch for signs in between the resorts and check out the best.
Chilleano Beach in the Cabo San Lucas Corridor
With a new parking lot and raised walkway, bathrooms, showers and shaded areas, a visit to Chilleno Beach is a perfect outing for sun and snorkeling fans. There are several reefs running parallel to the beach full of marine life. Even sea turtles are common. Fill in your Cabo San Lucas Beach Vacation by visiting several popular spots. This link will help you decide which fits your style.
Cabo Pulmo Main Street dive shop
Scuba or snorkel – Cabo Pulmo
Cabo is the at the tip of the Baja peninsula right between the open Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. The currents are rich with wildlife, whales pass through at certain times of the year, and there are many wrecks. I dove at two sites in the area.
The most remote is less than an hour drive north of the city of San Jose del Cabo. the only true reef in the region has made the village of Cabo Pulmo a diving destination. While the route is mostly paved, the last few miles are dirt. Several dive shops offer lessons, dive trips, snorkeling, sport fishing, and rooms. It’s a modest arrangement and after diving the local restaurant, La Palapa is a casual spot with a big menu.
There are many choices to enjoy the famous Arcos of Cabo – from snorkeling, diving, glass bottom boats and party cruises. Most leave from the port marina. We did two dives with the Five Star Padi Shop, Dive Cabo, and encountered sea lions, sharks, as well as a wreck – all within a short ride from the downtown dock. It’s a popular and stunning place.
The towering rocks of Los Arcos from our Dive Cabo boat
El Merkado is a new food and drink destination full of local vendors and harvests.
Eat and drink with abandon
If you’re staying at a place with a kitchen, pick up groceries in San Jose del Cabo before you head towards Cabo. There are several large grocery and department stores close to town but none until you get to Cabo. Otherwise, there are restaurants and dining options galore from taco stands to white cloth table service. For foodies looking to indulge some of the best in the area, I suggest the places below as well as the tasting menu at the Grand Velas prepared by Two Star Michelin Chef, Sidney Schutte.
With downtown and Corridor Locations, Nick-San Sushi offers the finest Mexican wines, spirits and high-end sakes, a sushi bar, and fine dining. The location at the Shoppes at Palmilla has a more casual but elegant atmosphere with a perfectly accented Champagne Lounge Bar where you can enjoy music, including jazz, from October to June.
Nick San Sushi offers local brews, tequila, mezcal and of course a Mexican Sake!
Classes, a farm spa, farm bar, a field kitchen and much more waits at Flora Farms. If there’s anyplace that would draw me back to Cabo it’s that I missed visiting. If you can’t make it to the farm, there’s another location in downtown, the Outpost, a lounge, bar, cocina and boutique.
I’ve been lucky to eat at several of Javier Plascencia’s restaurants in San Diego and Tijuana but was unlucky to have missed his labor of love, Jazamango in Todo Santos. The reviews are compelling.
The most delicious meal of the trip – Tenangos’ Pork Ribs in Tamarind Sauce with Plantains.
Tenangos Restaurant and Cigar Shop
Take a culinary tour at Tenangos in the Shoppes at Palmilla. The finest traditional and artisinal food in the area is composed by the chef and owner of Tenangos, Liana Hernandez. Each course represents the gastronomy of each corner of the country. The Chocolate Cake is remarkable.
Drinking and dining is fun with a crowd and lots of choices in the new El Merkado. The cavernous space hosts bars and breweries, pastry and emapanada shops, and fresh produce on market days. It’s close to San Jose del Cabo and is full of affordable options.
I hope these ideas have you ready to set up your own DIY travel to a Los Cabos beach vacation.
The famous Arches of Cabo San Lucas
DIY Travel and Cabo San Lucas Beach Vacation Links:
The Guaycura Hotel and Beach Club: Historical building in the center of the Todo Santos village.
La Bohemia Baja: Boutique Hotel in Todo Santos Founded by world wanderers to create experiences along with the best of local culture. You can rent a car for the day or arrange a glamping adventure with their help from the Hotel.