Is Cabo San Lucas worth visiting? Well…that all depends on what you want from your trip to Mexico. This iconic resort at the tip of the Baja California Sur caters fantastically to a whole range of different types of travelers. For example, it’s an R&R mecca, with golden beaches and turquoise seas by the bucket load. It’s also a party hub, with A-listers and spring breakers alike flocking down to let loose amid the tequila-soaked marina bars all year round.
This guide aims to answer anyone who’s wondering ‘is Cabo San Lucas worth visiting’ with a whole medley of reasons why it should be a contender for that next escape south of the border. It runs through the top sand stretches in the vicinity, the sort of hedonism you can expect, the world-class scuba diving and whale watching – there’s loads.
Of course, we’re not saying that Los Cabos is the best destination in Mex for you and your travel crew. There are oodles and oodles of others worth considering. We just want to paint a picture of what to expect from that first time visit to Cabo San Lucas, between the bumping rock bars, the resplendent coral reefs, and the whale-splashing Pacific waters.
The beaches of the Baja California Sur really are something special. They mark the point where the dusty desert sierras crash into the cobalt blue of the Pacific Ocean and string up the Sea of Cortez to craggy headlands dotted by sealions. Is Cabo San Lucas worth visiting simply for the beaches? There’s a lot of people who would say that it most certainly is.
For us, the crème-de-la-crème of the bunch include Playa Chileno – a wide scythe of rust-tinged sand that has turquoise waters and top-draw snorkeling – and chilled Santa Maria Bay, where the calm waves make for fantastic swimming conditions. Both of those lie up the so-called Hotel Corridor to the east, meaning they’re often backed by glitzy resorts with sea-view suites.
For drama on the Pacific, you’ll want to travel out to the beaches that score the head of Land’s End. They’re an altogether more craggy and rugged prospect. Famous Lovers Beach is one of the best, and it’s said to have some of the most spectacular sunset shows on the planet when the evening swings around!
It’s no secret that Los Cabos knows how to party. The resort has risen and risen in recent decades to rival even Cancun as the spring break escape of choice for young US college goers. It’s also got a little bit of an A-lister edge to it, with all sorts of celebrities heading in to party on their yachts and kick back in the cocktail bars.
The hedonistic hotspots are the Los Cabos Marina and the area of Centro. The shindigs will usually start in those early on, in the grill houses and saloon-style bars that front streets like Lázaro Cárdenas and Blvd Paseo de la Marina. Famous places you simply can’t miss include the likes of Senor Frogs (a long-time spring break favorite) and Cabo Wabo (founded by Sammy Hagar of Van Halen fame, no less!).
There are also more experimental nightlife pursuits on offer in Cabo. Hop on the legendary Cabo Booze Cruise to sail through the sparkling Sea of Cortez while glugging mezcal with other backpackers. Or, hit the Hotel Corridor to find sleek restaurants and bistros doing fusion Mediterranean cooking for something a tad more refined.
Is Cabo San Lucas worth visiting for the scuba alone? Thousands of tank-wearing bubble blowers seem to think so. They flock to this corner of Mexico for its legendary dive sites, which include shark-filled reefs and amazing coral gardens…
Many expeditions aim straight for the Cabo San Lucas Marine Park. It’s just 15 minutes’ ride outside of Cabo town, offering glimpses of sardine plumes and seahorses, but also flying mobula rays around the springtime. Further afield, the Cabo Pulmo National Park hosts 20,000-year-old reef systems, along with some of the busiest sealion basking spots on the Sea of Cortez.
The great thing about diving in Cabo San Lucas is that every season gives something a little different. December to March might be colder in the water, but there’s more chance of seeing larger marine creatures like sharks and whales. In the summer, the H2O gets clearer, so it’s perfect for coral diving and spotting parrotfish. Later on, the hammerheads come through with the big rays.
Because it sits right at the end of the Baja California Sur, Cabo enjoys open coasts on both the Pacific (the west) and the Sea of Cortez (south and east). That means there’s a super-wide swell window here that keeps the surf pumping for much of the year. On top of that, you can select from a whole range of different breaks, including punchy beach breaks and point-break reefs.
The fat waves at Costa Azul and the fast, zippy lefts at Monuments are two of the headline acts. Meanwhile, Cerritos, which sits nearly an hour’s drive up the Baja to the north is the best option for starting out – the waves there tend to be easier, and they break over sand.
Summer is the peak season for surfing in Cabo. That’s not just because the water should be warm enough to help you score sets in a rash vest or swimwear without a stitch of neoprene in sight. It’s also because the southerly swells come in then, firing up the better breaks that run alongside the Hotel Corridor.
Plastic pollution is covering the planet and is a tremendous threat to marine life. Do your part to help by traveling with a filter water bottle.
A filter water bottle is an effective way of purifying water to remove any impurities or contaminants.
When the Midwest is wrapped up under a dusting of snow and New York is shivering under winter ice storms, Cabo will be sweltering with 70-plus temperatures and sun pretty much every single day. It’s hardly a surprise that so many US snowbirds flock down here when the colder months swing over North America!
In fact, the weather in Cabo San Lucas is downright fantastic almost all year round. You’ll just need to watch out for the storm season. That hits its height in August and November and can see the occasional Pacific cyclone roll inland. For much of the rest of the time, it’s a dry, desert climate with consistent rays and very little rainfall.
Cabo San Lucas is one of the leading places to head out whale watching in Mexico. The reason? The town sits right on the migration path of the great beasts, who move between the food-rich waters of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific each year to mate and calve. All sorts of the mighty mammals pass through, from elegant minke whales to colossal blue whales.
The best months to plan a whale watching trip in Cabo are between January and April. This is the main migration season, and most outfitters offer a 90%+ chance of seeing the creatures on one of their boat trips during that time. Hotspots for glimpses of the animals are Magdalena Bay up north, the whole coastline of the Sea of Cortez, and the beaches that string north from Land’s End.
Of course, a marine safari in Cabo isn’t just about whales. It can also be a chance to see the other amazing fauna of the Pacific, from dolphins to sea turtles to strange parrotfish and even sharks.
San Jose del Cabo and beyond
A trip to Cabo San Lucas isn’t just about hitting the bumping marina bars and lazing on the hotel beaches. It can also be a chance to get a taste of the authentic side of the Mexican Baja. That awaits up in San Jose del Cabo, an historic town that’s actually closer to the airport a little to the north-east.
The whole place is centered on Plaza Mijares. It’s a charming square filled with lush trees that cast their shade over the cobbles and a lovely historic downtown core. Now something of an artist’s colony, the area is awash with art cafés and galleries. Check out the avant-garde canvas works at the Frank Arnold Gallery or the ecclesiastical-style contemporary art at the Ivan Guaderrama Art Gallery for two of the best.
More than anything, San Jose del Cabo is considered a relaxed escape from the hubbub of Los Cabos down the coast. It’s a sleepier taste of Mexicana life, with sombrero-topped mustachios smoking in the corners and the sounds of mariachi echoing through the squares. It’s also got a few nice beaches – including Playa Palmilla and Costa Azul – and sits on the way to the wonderful diving mecca of the Cabo Pulmo National Park.
We’d say spend at least a week in Cabo San Lucas. This town on the Mexican Pacific is all about chilling and rejuvenating. Seven days should be enough to check off all the main activities, from partying the night away (and curing the inevitable mezcal hangover) to whale watching and lazing on the beaches.
For partiers, there’s arguably no better time than the midwinter, which sees huge crowds of snowbirds hit the tequila bars in the marina, bringing real energy and life to the nocturnal scene. That continues on through the US spring break, well into April, which is the busiest – and most expensive – period. Then comes the early summer, which offers a good balance between nice weather, lower prices, and smaller crowds.
Surfers and divers might want to consider the conditions in the water. The waves are certainly better when the southern swells kick in – that’s June to August. For scuba, the winter months mean better chances of spotting big mammals in the ocean, while fall offers the spectacle of the hammerhead and mobula ray migrations.
Cabo San Lucas is different to Cancun. That’s mainly because they’re on totally opposite sides of the country, with differing climates (Cancun is tropical; Cabo is desert-like) and geography (the beaches in Cabo are rugged and wild with big waves, while Cancun has pristine Caribbean sands). However, there are plenty of similarities, too – both have world-class snorkeling and diving, for example.
We’d say that Cabo is better for surfers and younger travelers who are after a bit of a coastal adventure backed up by great nightlife. Cancun is better for those in search of pampering in all-inclusive hotels, and for anyone keen on seeing historical sights like Chichen Itza.
You don’t have to dive headlong into the spring break clubs in Cabo San Lucas. The town itself soon gives way to a long Hotel Corridor, which is relaxed and refined, running for miles up the coast to San Jose del Cabo. That’s where families should look, to the all-inclusive hotels with their on-site restaurants and swimming pools. It’s all about rest and relaxation in those parts, but also easy to organize excursions to Land’s End and the local marine parks for snorkeling and diving.