Located on the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico, Cabo San Lucas is nothing if not decadent. From luxury villas to sprawling golf courses, elite spas to relaxing beachside watering holes, along with a mind-boggling array of adventures, activities, and tours – there’s something for everyone in Cabo San Lucas. The Los Cabos area, simply called Cabo, consists of San Jose del Cabo – a less touristy area with historic buildings – and Cabo San Lucas – the tourist paradise that draws visitors by the thousands. Today, I’m giving you my best tips on making the most of your trip to Cabo.
I created a video guide for Cabo San Lucas. Click below to watch the full travel vlog!
#1: Arriving in Cabo San Lucas
The international airport in Cabo is actually in San Jose del Cabo, which is about a 30-minute drive from Cabo San Lucas. My suggestion is you book your airport pickup in advance. A private driver costs around $25 to $30 per person each way. A shared shuttle will cost a little less, but you’ll spend a lot of time moving around between hotels before you get to your destination, so I think a private driver is worth the extra cost. We chose Danny Boy Tours. A nice, hassle-free start to our vacation.
#2: Hang on to your immigration card
When you arrive at the airport in Cabo, you’ll get a small immigration card tucked in your passport. You must hold on to that immigration card carefully because you have to turn it in when you leave Mexico. If you lose it, you’ll have to pay a fine and take extra steps at the airport when you’re heading home.
#3: Avoid the tourist trap
When you come through customs, it is a madhouse. Guys in official looking shirts are hawking their wares, selling tours, trips, and timeshares. You do not need anything they are selling! Keep your eyes down and push through. As I mentioned, it’s just easier if you have your own transportation booked, rather than dealing with potential scammers at the very start of your vacation. If you’ve got pickup arranged, somebody will be standing outside with a placard with your name. You can make a beeline for your driver and be on your way to your hotel within minutes.
#4: Don’t do an all-inclusive resort
Disclaimer: All-inclusive are great if you want a decision free vacation or you eat and drink a lot. And while it’s tempting to sign up for an all-inclusive deal (you know beforehand exactly how much food and beverages will cost you), I don’t recommend it, and the reason is simple. The food is just incredible in Mexico. The spices, sauces, meats, seafoods… it would be a shame if you only ate at the buffets dished out by your resort. Food doesn’t have to be expensive in Mexico and if you are on a tight budget. You can get a taco almost anywhere for $3. Tortillas, tamales on the beach… the choices are endless. My suggestion is keep your options open and try some authentic Mexican food in Cabo, it’s finger lickin’ good.
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#5: Bring cash
My next tip for your trip to Cabo San Lucas is to bring lots of cash, including $1 American dollar bills. The local currency is the Mexican Peso, but you can use American dollars in Cabo, so if you’re coming from Canada or another country, I’d suggest bringing US dollars. Credit cards are widely accepted, but it’s best to have US dollars in small bills. With that said, when you pay for something in dollars you might get change in Pesos, and it might be a bad exchange rate. Even though you can use USD in Cabo, I always recommend local currency, and the best exchange rates are with ATMs.
#6: There are two Cabos…
There are two sides Cabo San Lucas. On one side of the main highway (called the “Corridor”) is the touristy Cabo San Lucas on the beach. On the other side, the inland side, is the area where the locals live. My recommendation is don’t limit yourself to all the fun in the touristy area. Cross over onto the local side to see the real Mexico and taste some authentic Mexican food. Make sure to try some churros or dinner at Tres Islas.
#7: Don’t miss the AvoCabo Food Tour
This is my #1 tip for Cabo San Lucas. The AvoCabo Food Tour. They have a seafood tour, a taco tour, and an eat like a local tour. The owners Jonathan and Robin host the tours that take you on an unforgettable foodie journey in the heart Cabo San Lucas. They are so open, generous, informative, and fun. Bonus tip from The Abundant Traveler – go on this food tour the first night of your trip. You’ll get your bearings and learn so much about food and the city. And you have a local’s phone number to call and ask for help if something happens. It will make the rest of your trip easier.
#8: Pick your hotel based on your travel style
We picked the Pueblo Bonito Rose, a 3.5-star property located close to the center of town, about a 15-minute walk into town where all the action is. If you want to be near the nightlife and restaurants, pick a hotel that’s as close to the center of Cabo San Lucas as possible. If, on the other hand, you want some quiet time on the beach away from the hustle and bustle, pick a resort that is located somewhere between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo – like La Blanca or The Cape (Thompson Hotel) – there are some magnificent properties to choose from. I can recommend the Hotel San Cristobal for some bohemian chic.
#9: The beaches…
Probably the biggest thing that draws vacationers to Cabo are its stunning beaches. The contrast between the turquoise blue ocean and long stretches of golden sand is breathtaking. Whether you want to just kick back with a drink and enjoy a relaxing day or get active with water sports, spending a day at the beach is one of the best things to do in Cabo San Lucas. You’re spoiled for choice – from the buzzing Medano Beach on the marina to the wonderfully romantic Lover’s Beach where striking rock formations tower above tequila-clear waters. Keep in mind, though, that many beaches in Cabo are red flagged and not suitable for swimming because of the strong undertow. Always be on the lookout for the green, yellow, and red flags and heed the warnings. The waters on the Pacific side in particular can be too dangerous for swimming.
I found Cabo to be very safe. Like any busy touristy destination, I’m sure there are pickpockets and small scammers here, however I felt safe, just remember to keep your sits about you, don’t drink too much, and stay in public lighted areas. In Cabo, all the hotels have a water purification system, so it’s okay to drink the water or have drinks with ice. I personally stick to bottled water anywhere I go in the world, but at Cabo hotels the water is safe in general.
I visit to Mexico 3-4 times a year. I love the culture, the food, the people. I love how the Mexican people welcome and treat tourists. The service is par excellence. I love Mexico!
Bonus travel tips…
Before I sign off, a couple of general travel tips. Make sure you put a travel alert on your credit cards and ATM cards so you can use them in a foreign country. Scan a copy of your passport and email it to yourself. It’s good to have a copy on hand just in case something happens to the original. Keep your passport in your hotel safe as well. (yeah, losing your passport is right up there on the top 10 list of travel disasters, but it happens). I also recommend buying travel insurance to help keep you and your trip protected!
In the end, I’ll say this… just get out of your comfort zone and enjoy a new country. Be adventurous while still being sensible. Go see the touristy sights. Then step over to the other side of the street where the locals live to take a deep dive into the country you’re visiting. Go out, try new things, taste new foods, and have a fantastic time in Cabo San Lucas.
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