Ahhh, Los Cabos!
The home of party-loving Cabo San Lucas – right at the southernmost tip of the Baja California Peninsula – and its artistic sibling, San Jose del Cabo.
But… It’s a bit confusing.
You’re planning a trip to Cabo, and you want to know: Is Los Cabos the same as Cabo San Lucas?
You’ve heard about the pristine beaches, luxe hotels, gourmet food and good times galore.
The region also pops with as much wildlife as it does tourist attractions.
From whale watching in Cabo San Lucas Bay to swimming with whale sharks (in nearby La Paz) to sportfishing and surfing, Los Cabos is a wonderland of nature.
Throw in golf, year-round sunshine and beach clubs for days lazing on the sand – and it’s no wonder that so many people want to spend their vacation here!
But what’s the difference between Cabo San Lucas, Los Cabos and the other Cabo areas?
It’s a common question – one we had when we first started visiting the area years ago.
There’s Los Cabos; the two vacation towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo; the Tourist Corridor between the two towns; and the East Cape. And they’re not the same.
Choosing one over the other could make or break your vacation – especially if you have your heart set on a particular experience.
Are Cabo San Lucas and Los Cabos the same?
So we’ve said that these areas are not the same. But they are related.
Los Cabos is actually a reference to the two most famous towns in the area – Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Both are relatively close to each other.
Collectively (as in, both together), these make up Los Cabos.
“Los Cabos” actually means “The Capes” in Spanish.
The term “Los Cabos” can also refer to the municipality of these two towns, linked by a 20-mile-long stretch of resorts and beaches. This is the Los Cabos Corridor or, sometimes, the Tourist Corridor.
By way of background, tourists started popping up here in 1974, when the Mexican government earmarked Los Cabos as a tourist destination.
Development was fast. Cabo San Lucas is no longer the sleepy little fishing village it once was!
Anyway, the area of Los Cabos can also extend to the East Cape.
Stretching from San Jose del Cabo to the (much) lesser traveled town of Los Barriles, this region provides a starkly beautiful contrast to the bustling tourism of Cabo San Lucas.
Along the East Cape, desert landscapes are sandwiched between the Sea of Cortez (also called the Gulf of California) and the soaring peaks of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains.
Meanwhile, to the southwest back down in Cabo San Lucas, dramatic rock formations pockmark Land’s End and El Arco (the Arch) in Cabo San Lucas, surrounded by busy beaches and entertainment galore.
Another quirk to the nomenclature of this area is the usage of “Cabo.”
This is commonly used to refer to both the Los Cabos area and the town of Cabo San Lucas on its own. That’s more than a little confusing, right?
For clarity’s sake, in this article, we’ll be using “Cabo” and “Los Cabos” to refer to the whole area only.
So now you know: Is Los Cabos the same as Cabo San Lucas? No, it’s not. But Cabo is – sometimes!
Where is Los Cabos, Mexico, on the map?
If you’re wondering “Where is Los Cabos located?” take a look at the map of the Baja California Peninsula below.
Way down at the bottom of the peninsula, in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, you’ll find the two towns: Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
That particular area makes up Los Cabos.
Mainland Mexico is a hop across the Sea of Cortez on the east side. The Pacific Ocean hugs the west coast.
It’s this location that makes it such a prized destination among vacationers – not least because of the weather. But more on that later.
Okay, so what is the difference between Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo?
Now that you know the answer to the question “Where is Cabo located?” you’ll probably want to know how the area differs.
We’ve already mentioned that the two main towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are found within the Los Cabos municipality.
When you travel to Cabo by plane, you’ll be flying into the Los Cabos International Airport (SJD), which is located near San Jose del Cabo.
This town has more of an authentic Mexican vibe and a colonial core dating back to the 18th century.
The dining is authentic, and the main square and its Iglesia San José church are very pretty. San Jose del Cabo feels calm and laid-back.
Its larger sibling, Cabo San Lucas, is wild by comparison.
It is much more of an international party-centric place, with bars and clubs littering its downtown area.
(Don’t get us wrong, though. It’s quite sophisticated. And you can still find quieter places to stay in the Cabo San Lucas area, away from the hubbub.)
As well as being more lively, Cabo San Lucas also tends to be the center for tourism in the area. For example, most tours of the area leave from here.
It’s also home to the super popular Medano beach – one of the best swimming beaches in Cabo.
Though they’re in close proximity to each other, you’ll need a vehicle of some sort to get between the two principal towns. If you don’t have your own rental car for getting around Cabo, you can take a taxi, Uber or the local public bus.
Some tours that leave from Cabo San Lucas offer hotel pick-up and drop-off.
So if you’re staying on the Tourist Corridor or in San Jose del Cabo without a vehicle, you might want to be careful to choose those tours that include transportation from your resort.
Within Cabo San Lucas, you can walk pretty much everywhere you need to be. Similarly, if you’re staying in San Jose del Cabo (or nearby), you’ll be able to get around on your own two feet.
To really see the Cabo area on vacation, you should definitely visit both destinations.
Make sure to hit up some of the smaller resorts and beaches along the Tourist Corridor too.
If you’ve got time, also take a day trip to Todos Santos on the Pacific Coast (west side). On the other side of the peninsula, explore as far as the East Cape.
Why is Cabo so popular?
Sun, sun, sun. Cabo is quite literally one of the sunniest places in the world.
Ask “What is Los Cabos known for?” and the top answer will likely be its great weather.
Boasting an average of 320 days of sunshine per year – and an average year-round temperature of 75 F – many would claim that Cabo has perfect weather.
That’s certainly true if you like sunny days and mild temperatures all year round.
Even January in Cabo is great!
Mind you, when packing for Los Cabos, we always throw in a sweater for the nights and early mornings, especially if we’re visiting in the winter months.
The summer months are hot. Even the average sea temperatures at this time of year are like bathwater, averaging around 80 F.
That said, rain does happen – though, admittedly, not often.
There is a short, sharp rainy season in late summer, with most rain in the year falling in September (hurricane season).
Lots of fun things to do
Another major reason people visit Los Cabos is simple – activities.
There is a long list of cool things to do in Los Cabos, with quite literally something to suit everybody. What exactly is available depends on the time of year.
But even aside from seasonal activities, it’s unlikely you’ll get bored, what with glimpsing natural wonders to enjoying adventurous day trips.
Take whale watching.
A variety of whales (mainly humpback) migrate past the Baja California Peninsula, often passing right by Cabo, making it surprisingly easy to see whales. Your chances of seeing one are high.
If you’re lucky, you can sometimes spot whales while standing on the beach! But there are many whale watching tours you can take to see them from a boat (where you’re more likely to see them closer up).
The best time to go whale watching in Cabo is from around mid-December to early April.
Then there’s golf.
It’s a popular pastime, attracting people from across the world just to hit the green.
Particularly along the Tourist Corridor, there’s a veritable sea of golf courses, some championship.
The scenery is stunning, and the facilities are top of their class – the best anywhere in Mexico, some say.
For more sports, this time at sea, there’s fishing.
This is a Los Cabos specialty.
With around 800 species of fish swimming in the waters just off the Cabo coast, people come here specifically for sportfishing.
No wonder it’s the location of Bisbee’s Black & Blue Tournament. This sportfishing extravaganza has been taking place in the region every October for the past 30 years.
You can win a swack of money too at this competition. Some $11.5 million was given out in prizes in the 2022 event.
And what better way to soak up the final drops of Cabo sunshine than to head out on a sunset cruise?
Sitting back and relaxing onboard, ideally with a glass of something refreshing in one hand, makes for a perfect way to round out the day.
These sunset cruises in Cabo come in all shapes and sizes – simply take your pick.
Snorkeling and kayaking
Water taxis head from Cabo San Lucas to El Arco and to the rock formations around Lover’s Beach for snorkeling.
Or you can take a top-rated kayaking tour with Cabo Outfitters to Land’s End for snorkeling there. (We’ve gone with them on a few different tours and always love their guides and how they organize everything.)
Cabo also works as a jumping off point to explore further afield. It’s a good base for day trips, and there are plenty of those.
Probably one of the most magical day trips is the two-hour trip to La Paz to swim with whale sharks.
Away from the natural world, one of the most popular day trips from Cabo is visiting Todos Santos.
This picturesque town, around an hour’s drive from Los Cabos, is an authentically artistic community.
Time is spent here exploring art galleries, stopping off in charming coffee shops, and generally wandering the cute colorful streets.
In terms of nightlife, Cabo San Lucas in particular is buzzing with activity.
From live music at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo – a veritable institution founded in 1990 – to hedonistic bar crawls, it’s all here.
And let’s not forget – the beaches in Cabo are also incredible!
Wide choice of accommodations
No matter your budget, are many great places to stay in Los Cabos, from all-inclusive resorts to more affordable options.
The area is certainly not short of luxury digs, however.
We’ve stayed at all of the following:
Then there’s the refined resort of Las Ventanas al Paraiso. It’s sandwiched between the desert and the Sea of Cortez along the Tourist Corridor.
The resort’s name means “windows to paradise” and it really is a luxurious oasis.
The all-inclusive, ultra-luxe Grand Velas Los Cabos boasts a world-class spa and designer suites at its Corridor location – all looking out over a radiant stretch of beach.
With multiple restaurants and endless amenities, you won’t have to lift a finger at this all-inclusive Los Cabos resort.
Closer to Cabo San Lucas, The Cape, A Thompson Hotel features polished rooms, a beachfront location and smashing views of El Arco and Land’s End.
If you’re trying to keep your Cabo vacation costs down, less expensive options also exist.
Hotel El Ganzo is one of these.
Near San Jose del Cabo (more precisely, in Puerto Los Cabos), this adults-only boutique hotel boasts an excellent location right on the doorstep of the marina.
It boasts a cool rooftop swimming pool, and it has a beach club where you can spend days sunning yourself on the sand.
In San Jose del Cabo proper, there’s Casa Natalia – an intimate 3-star property with 16 guestrooms to choose from. It also has an excellent restaurant onsite, Mi Cocina.
A more independent way to stay in Los Cabos is to book yourself into a Pueblo Bonito resort (mid- to upper-range for Cabo).
There are three of these time-share resorts in Los Cabos, all slightly different, but all offering the chance to stay in hacienda-style suites with kitchens.
Other main reasons to visit Cabo?
Well, apart from luxury hotels, beaches, golf, whale watching and partying, food also springs to mind.
There are some truly great restaurants in the Los Cabos area – from popular local eateries serving the freshest shrimp and seafood to glamorous award-winning restaurants.
The culinary scene in Cabo is varied and wide-ranging.
And you can wash it all down with a choice of everything from champagne and designer cocktails to classic Corona beer.
Here’s something else to get you drooling.
The surrounding countryside is home to some unique farms, growing beautifully fresh produce.
Easy to get to
For many, part of the attraction of Los Cabos is just how easy it is to get to.
You’ll probably fly here.
From the United States, a load of carriers make their way to this Mexican destination, including American Airlines, Delta and Alaska Airlines.
Most of these are direct flights from cities like Austin, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Chicago and Atlanta – the list goes on.
In fact, over 500 flights a week connect the world with the Los Cabos airport, making it the sixth busiest airport in Mexico.
Visitors from the U.S. make up most of the international tourists. But Canadians, South Americans and Europeans also like to vacay in Cabo.
FAQs about Los Cabos, Mexico
Is Cabo in Mexico or California?
Although Cabo is located on the Baja California Peninsula, it’s not part of the U.S. state of California.
Cabo is firmly in Mexico. The Baja California Peninsula is home to two Mexican states: Baja California and Baja California Sur.
What state is Cabo San Lucas in?
Cabo San Lucas (and Los Cabos as a whole) is situated in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur (BCS).
This is where it gets confusing again, because Baja California Sur means “South Lower California.” The state is the 12th largest state in Mexico and borders Baja California to the north (also Mexican).
The capital of BCS is La Paz.
Which is better: Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo?
It depends on what you want from your vacation. Downtown Cabo San Lucas is very different from downtown San Jose del Cabo!
- Cabo San Lucas: Bigger, more buzz, more accommodation options, an epic swimming beach (that’s Medano Beach) and the departure point for most tours.
- San Jose del Cabo: Smaller, more low-key, a more authentic Mexican vibe, more culture (Thursday evening Art Walks) and farm-to-table restaurants in the nearby surrounding countryside.
Last words: Is Los Cabos the same as Cabo San Lucas?
By now, you should definitely know the answer to this!
Los Cabos refers to both the main town of Cabo San Lucas and the more chilled town of San Jose del Cabo. It’s often just called Cabo. Sometimes Cabos.
Even Mexicans mix it all up.
Whatever. Just go to Cabo and enjoy it all for yourself!
Photos: 1, 8, 10 © Janice and George Mucalov, Cabo Visitor