Are you planning a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico? Well, you’ve found the right Cabo travel guide here!
Cabo San Lucas is one of our favorite places in the world.
This beach town sits at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, lapped on one side by the Pacific Ocean and the other by the Sea of Cortez.
The town itself is full of authentic taco places, lively bars, great restaurants and cool artisanal souvenir and gift shops. The whole Los Cabos area bubbles over with a happy and colorful atmosphere.
In fact, we love it so much that we try to visit at least once a year and stay for a few weeks on average. If we count anywhere as our “second home,” it’s Cabo!
We’ve used our extensive experience visiting over the years to create this guide on how to plan a trip to Cabo, Mexico.
Whether you’re thinking about a month-long winter getaway as well – or just hopping down from the west coast for a few days of sunshine and margaritas – this Cabo trip planning guide has all you need to know about visiting Los Cabos.
Cabo or Los Cabos?
At this point, you might be asking the question: Is Cabo San Lucas the same as Los Cabos?
If you look at a map of the state of Baja California Sur, you’ll see two similarly-named towns sitting right at the bottom.
These are Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, about a 30-minute drive from each other. (And the two towns are quite different.)
The 20-mile stretch of coastline between them is known as the Tourist Corridor.
Cabo San Lucas is the more popular “vacation” town of the two towns.
The entire area is referred to as Los Cabos, though it’s often dubbed just “Cabo.”
However, Cabo is also a term to describe just the town of Cabo San Lucas.
Confusing, right? Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it when you arrive!
Anyway, Cabo San Lucas is the town we focus on in this Cabo vacation guide, though we cover other parts of Los Cabos too.
Things to know before going to Cabo San Lucas
Let’s start with some of the basics – like what money to use, entry requirements and so on.
Like everywhere else in Mexico, the main language is Spanish.
However, Cabo has a busy tourist industry and it’s very much “Mexico-lite” due to the large number of Americans living or vacationing there at any given time of year.
This means that virtually everyone in the tourist biz (and most other locals too) can and will happily speak English with you.
But it never hurts to learn a few words en Espanol, si?
The currency of Mexico is the Mexican peso.
Generally, 20 pesos are about $1 USD, but double check the exchange rate before you travel, as it can fluctuate.
You can easily get pesos from an exchange office in the US before traveling. Or you can change money in Cabo or take pesos out of an ATM.
Most places also accept U.S. dollars, but the exchange rate won’t be as good as banks and official exchange offices.
Your money will go further if you use Mexican pesos.
Credit cards are accepted in an increasing number of places (and certainly by tour operators, resorts and most tourist restaurants).
But cash is still used a lot throughout Mexico. Some smaller mom-and-pop places only take cash, so it’s best to always have a few pesos on you.
Visa and entry requirements
You need a passport to visit Mexico.
If you’re visiting Mexico from the U.S, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK or most European countries, you won’t need a visa for Mexico, however.
If you’re visiting from anywhere else, check the entry requirements before your trip.
You don’t need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or present a negative test for entry to Los Cabos (or anywhere else in Mexico), but check the requirements for your home country before returning.
No other vaccines are mandatory either, but you may want to ensure that your tetanus and typhoid vaccinations are up to date before traveling.
Plugs and electricity
Mexico has type A and type B power plugs and sockets, with a 127 V voltage and 60 Hz frequency.
It has the same plugs as the U.S and Canada. But if you’re visiting from Europe or elsewhere in the world, you might need an adapter.
Is Cabo safe to visit?
Yes, Los Cabos is generally a very safe place to go for a sun, sea and sand vacation.
We’ve actually written a whole post on: Is it safe to travel to Cabo San Lucas?
Check it out for scads of tips (on things like driving at night and beach and food safety) to help keep you safe on your Cabo vacation.
When to visit Cabo
So, when is the best time to visit this alluring desert-meets-the-sea vacation destination?
Well, there’s no bad time to visit, apart from maybe September (although there are definite pros to visiting Cabo then too).
Winter in Cabo
In the winter months, Cabo is quite busy, as visitors from the U.S. and Canada venture down then in search of a little warmth.
The weather is pretty perfect in winter, with daytime temperatures hovering in the high 70s and 80s.
Winter isn’t as hot as, say, Cancun (and it’s not as humid). But it’s certainly a lot toastier than winter in places like Wisconsin and further north in Canada!
The winter season is also the main time when cruise ships visit Cabo San Lucas.
We think that later on in spring (after spring break in March and April) is one of the best times to visit Cabo.
Hot and rainy season
September is the middle of hurricane season.
It’s by far the rainiest month and not the best time to go to Cabo (unless you’re into fishing). It’s also very hot and humid.
But Cabo is definitely quieter in September, with virtually no cruise ships anchoring in the bay and not many other tourists around, except sportfishers. If you’re into sportfishing for marlin, September is the best month – and the fishing is epic!
July and August are also quieter than winter, although the weather can get too hot some days.
However, if you are used to a warm climate and are happy to spend all day at the pool or beach, then this time of year could be perfect for you!
Flying to Cabo
Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) welcomes frequent direct flights from cities all over the U.S. and Canada.
Mexican airlines (like AeroMexico and Volaris) and American Airlines (like Alaska, Spirit and Delta) ply the routes frequently, particularly to and from west coast destinations like Los Angeles (2½ hours) and San Francisco (3 hours).
There are also routes to central and eastern cities like Chicago (4 hours 45 minutes) and New York (just under 6 hours).
For Canada, there are direct flights from Vancouver (4 hours 20 minutes), Calgary (4 hours 30 minutes) and even Toronto (5 hours), provided mainly by WestJet and Air Canada.
If you’re flying to Mexico from outside of North America, it’s best to connect in Mexico City or Cancun (there are direct flights from Europe to both of these destinations) before changing to a domestic flight to Cabo.
Transportation in Cabo
Getting from the airport to your hotel
So you’re off the plane and you’ve gone through passport control. (Make sure you keep the little slip they give you from your immigration card! You’ll need it when you leave the country.)
And you’ve located your suitcase – always a relief to see that it’s arrived.
You’re just about to leave the air-conditioned airport in Cabo and step outside into paradise. Now what?
First things first. As soon as you exit the arrivals area, you’ll walk past timeshare sellers who’ll try and sell you the dream of a vacation condo in Cabo.
They’ll offer you freebies, like a free transfer to your accommodation or perhaps an activity, if you attend their timeshare presentation.
This can be a high-pressure sales pitch, and we’d recommend only doing this if you’re very interested in a timeshare in Cabo. Even if you are, you can do your own research with a lot less pressure.
As for getting to your hotel, we’d advise against taking a taxi. Taxis are expensive in Los Cabos.
Make your life easy, and book your airport transfers in advance. (You can choose a private transfer or a shared shuttle service.)
This way, you’ll have a designated driver waiting for you at the airport.
If you’re traveling solo or as a couple, a shared shuttle is the best way to go (and your least expensive option).
If traveling to Cabo as a family or small group, a private van or SUV transfer makes the most sense.
These are the cheapest Cabo airport transfers that we’ve found:
- Los Cabos airport roundtrip shared transfer
- One-way shared transfer from the airport to your hotel only (this option isn’t available for booking a one-way transfer from your hotel back to the airport)
- Private roundtrip transfer (for a group of up to 5 passengers)
- Private one-way transfer (for a group of up to 10 passengers)
Getting around in Los Cabos
What’s the best way to get around Cabo?
Once you’ve settled into vacation mode, the public bus between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo is very easy and affordable.
If you’re staying in Cabo San Lucas town (e.g., close to Medano Beach), the area is very walkable. You won’t need a rental car to get around unless you want to explore beyond town.
Also, taxis are readily available within town. And Uber works too, most of the time. (Uber has a complicated relationship with the taxi mafia, er lobby.)
Choose where to stay in Cabo
Now you know how to get to this beautiful Baja California area, but what about where to stay in Cabo?
There are seven different areas.
One important thing to note when you’re planning a trip to Los Cabos is that you can’t swim in the ocean at many of the beaches (it’s unsafe).
So if you want to be able to step out of your hotel and run straight into the sea, be sure to book accommodation located on one of the swimmable beaches in Cabo.
7 Different areas in Los Cabos
1) Medano Beach – Best area to stay in Cabo San Lucas for swimming!
Medano Beach is swimmable, which makes it one of the most popular places to stay in the area.
Most hotels in Los Cabos with a swimmable beach are on Medano Beach.
If you’re looking for somewhere luxurious on Medano Beach, there’s arguably nowhere better than the new 1 Homes Preview Cabo.
With plunge pools on the balconies and gorgeous ocean views, this accommodation is catnip for couples.
Families are also welcome though. The resort’s 2- and 3-bedroom retreats are huge.
Corazon Cabo (a Noble House Resort) is another one of Cabo’s newest hotels on Medano Beach. Along with stylish accommodations, it features the highest rooftop bar in Cabo, the largest beach club on Medano Beach and a lively vibe.
At the quieter end of Medano Beach, Villa La Estancia is a popular beach resort. It’s family-friendly but it also has a relaxing pool and spa, so it’s great for adults too.
2) Downtown Cabo – Best place to stay in Cabo San Lucas for cheap prices and buzzing nightlife
Visiting Cabo on a budget? You can save a bundle on your accommodation costs by staying in downtown Cabo San Lucas (and walking to the beach).
3) Marina – Best part of Cabo to stay for a range of activities
The marina is situated close to Medano Beach, and from here you can organize lots of watersports and boat trips.
Breathless is a trendy adults-only, all-inclusive resort that fronts both the marina and Medano Beach.
4) Pacific Side – Best location in Cabo for quieter beaches and upscale resorts
The beaches on the Pacific side of Cabo do have one distinct disadvantage – you can’t swim here, due to strong currents and rips.
However, this means they’re a lot quieter. And you won’t encounter the beach vendors who plod up and down Medano Beach, selling their sun hats, ceramic plates and other souvenirs.
And, of course, the resorts on this side all have pools.
5) Corridor – Best area for all-inclusive resorts
The Tourist Corridor extends between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, and is lined with many all-inclusive resorts.
Some are budget- and family-friendly. Others are more sumptuous and several all-inclusive resorts are just for adult groups or couples seeking sophisticated secluded digs.
We’ve stayed at the Grand Velas Los Cabos, a high-end, all-inclusive resort along this strip – and loved it!
We’ve also stayed at Las Ventanas al Paraiso (a Rosewood resort). While very high-end (and recommended) too, it’s not all-inclusive.
6) San Jose del Cabo – Best place in Cabo for art, culture and food
At the other end of the Tourist Corridor, San Jose del Cabo is a more traditional Mexican town.
The central old town is colonial in feel and full of art galleries, colorful boutique shops and excellent restaurants.
If it’s not your first time in Cabo and you want to experience somewhere a little different, we recommend staying here (or nearby) for at least a few days. You can mix it up by combining it with a stay at a beach resort on the Corridor or hotel in Cabo San Lucas.
Casa Natalia is a lovely boutique hotel right in the heart of San Jose del Cabo. It doesn’t have a beach, of course, but it has a sweet pool and a fine restaurant. And its rates are relatively easy on the wallet.
Also check out Hotel El Ganzo.
We’ve stayed here a couple of times too now and are always intrigued by the art on its walls.
The boutique adults-only hotel boasts a rooftop infinity pool and easy access (by boat) to a private beach club with safe swimming.
Then there’s the highly-rated Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, which is all-inclusive.
Near San Jose del Cabo is the One&Only Palmilla.
We’ve also bedded down here – and were totally charmed by its colonial architecture, tropical gardens and top-notch service. (See our review of the One&Only Palmilla.)
It’s also one of the few hotels outside of Medano Beach that has a swimming beach (virtually private) at its doorstep.
7) East Cape – Best area in Cabo to stay for seclusion and luxury
The East Cape coastline starts north of San Jose del Cabo and stretches all the way past the town of Los Barriles on the southeast tip of the Baja California Peninsula.
Unspoilt, it’s much more isolated that other areas in greater Los Cabos. But that’s what many visitors love about it!
Condo/villa or hotel?
There are many vacation rentals available in Cabo San Lucas.
But if you want the best of both worlds (i.e. daily maid service, restaurants, pools and pool service), as well as a kitchen and all the features of a home-away-from-home, your best bet is a condo hotel (or villa resort) when you book a trip to Cabo San Lucas.
These are quite common in the area.
There are also timeshare resorts, such as the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort. You can book and stay at these like you would at any hotel.
But you’ll probably be invited to attend a timeshare presentation (to lure you into buying a timeshare at the resort).
They are quite persuasive. And although you may get a free gift at the end of it (like spa treatment or a $150 resort credit), you might want to decline the invitation if you aren’t interested in buying a timeshare.
All-inclusive or not?
We’ve mentioned there are plenty of all-inclusive hotels in Cabo. Most are strung along the Tourist Corridor.
Any accommodation along the Corridor is not within walking distance to restaurants in either Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo. So the all-inclusive option is useful at Corridor resorts.
If you’re located in the heart of Cabo San Lucas, on Medano Beach or in San Jose del Cabo, you’re in close proximity to plenty of restaurants.
So you might prefer not to go the all-inclusive route here, if dining around is important to you.
(Then again, if you like knowing you can eat and drink as much as you want, and you don’t plan to venture beyond your resort much anyway, you might decide to go all-inclusive.)
Things to do in Cabo San Lucas
Now that you know where to stay in Los Cabos, what are the must-dos to put on your Cabo itinerary?
The following are some of our favorite fun activities.
Enjoy a sunset cruise
There’s no better way to end a day in Cabo than riding in a boat out to sea and cruising into the sunset – so romantic!
And Cabo is a veritable sunset machine – turning out the kind of fiery sunset every evening that makes you want to cheer and clap on the boat, as the orange globe slips behind the horizon.
Take a glass-bottom boat or water taxi to Lover’s Beach
It’s worth cruising to Land’s End and seeing the iconic arch (El Arco) in the daytime too.
You can take a glass bottom boat (or other water taxi ride) from the marina to Lover’s Beach. Flanked by towering rock cliffs, this idyllic sandy beach can only be reached from the sea.
While it’s not really a hidden gem any more, the beach is incredibly romantic and scenic! (And you can swim and snorkel there too – but not at Divorce Beach on the other, Pacific side.)
Taking a boat ride to Land’s End (and Lover’s Beach) is one of the most popular water activities in Cabo San Lucas, so don’t miss this!
Watch whales in winter
Winter is whale watching season in Cabo.
If you’re visiting the region during high season, a whale watching cruise absolutely must be on your Cabo San Lucas itinerary!
See humpback whales leaping out of the water. Or keep your eyes peeled for the more elusive gray whale.
Swim with whale sharks in La Paz
Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean. Although they’re not whales, they get the name because of their immense size.
There are only a few places in the world where you can swim with these wondrous creatures – and Baja California Sur is one of them.
From October to May, experience swimming with these gentle giants in La Paz, which is just over a two-hour drive away from Cabo, on the Sea of Cortez coast.
Admire art on a free Art Walk
For something a little cultural, head to San Jose del Cabo on a Thursday evening for a free Art Walk.
Browse some of the city’s best art galleries while sampling Baja California wine. What a perfect evening!
If chasing after fish is your thing, you’re in luck in Cabo.
There’s a range of snorkeling spots, thanks to the Sea of Cortez (one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet!) being at your doorstep.
Head to Chileno Bay for a reef with the chance to see manta rays, or take your snorkeling gear to Lover’s Beach and see what you find.
There are many snorkeling boat tours, including private yacht charters.
What to eat and drink
Los Cabos shines when it comes to restaurants.
Expect mouthwatering taco joints, as well as places where you can try Mexican specialties like mole and tamales.
But you’ll also find eateries serving succulent local seafood, Italian pizzerias and trattorias and restaurants that make you want to wax poetic about their elegantly created dishes.
Both Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are brimming with restaurants, and nearly all of them are phenomenal.
Is it safe to eat the fruit and veggies in Cabo?
Yes, it’s safe to eat fruit and veggies in Cabo. And they’re fresh and delicious! If you’re worried, rinse them with bottled water before consuming.
Is it safe to drink the water in Cabo?
No, one of the most important things to know before going to Cabo San Lucas is that you shouldn’t drink the tap water.
Stick to bottled water.
How many days do you need in Cabo?
How long is a piece of string?
If it’s your first time visit to Cabo San Lucas, spend a week or more – to enable you to tick off some of the attractions and unwind with some beach time.
If you live in California, it’s also worth visiting Cabo for just a long weekend.
That being said, we frequently visit Cabo for weeks at a time, so if you’re looking for somewhere to hunker down for winter, it’s the right kinda place.
What to bring on your Cabo vacation
While a vacation in Mexico seems like it’ll be warm every day, this isn’t always the case!
In the winter months, Cabo can get a little chilly, particularly in the evenings or on cloudy days.
So, one of our top things to know when traveling to Cabo San Lucas from December to February is that you should pack some light layers.
You’re likely to have plenty of sunshine, so don’t forgo your summer wardrobe. But when packing for Cabo, also add a sweater or light jacket plus longer pants for the evenings.
Unless you’re visiting in summer or fall, you won’t need a heavy-duty rain jacket.
In the winter and spring, it rarely rains, but you might want to pack a light, foldaway rain jacket to be on the safe side.
Of course, this is Cabo, with beaches and pools that beckon, so you’ll want to pack a swimsuit and sandals or flip-flops too.
When you’re in and out of the water in Cabo, you might not realize how harsh the sun is. It’s a good idea to pack a sun-protective rashguard to ensure that you don’t get burnt.
Reef-safe sunscreen is also important. Not only does this protect against sunburn, but it also doesn’t damage the natural corals and reefs that make Cabo the beautiful place we love!
Snorkel or dive gear
So you know that snorkeling is one of the best things to do in Cabo… You could rent gear, but if you’re planning to go snorkeling a lot and want to be spontaneous, it’s best to bring your own snorkel, mask and fins.
Waterproof phone pouch
Protect your phone from water damage. See this 8½-inch waterproof phone pouch, which works for most smartphones, including newer larger iPhones and other models.
Other Cabo travel tips
Reserve top restaurants in advance
You won’t need to book tables at cheap and cheerful places. But it’s wise to reserve at popular restaurants (like Edith’s Restaurante, Flora Farms, El Farallon, Nicksan and Salvatore G’s), particularly in high season.
Learn some Spanish
While many people in Cabo speak English, it never hurts to lean a little Espanol, especially if you are visiting local restaurants or are keen to explore some other spots in Baja California.
It’s easy enough to pick up some of the basics with apps like DuoLingo.
Get travel insurance
Our last travel tip (and it’s an important one): Don’t visit Cabo without travel insurance.
While healthcare is fairly affordable in Mexico, accidents can always happen and leave you out of pocket.
Now you know how to plan a trip to Cabo San Lucas!
If you’ve been wondering “Is Cabo San Lucas worth visiting?” then hopefully this article shows you that it most certainly is!
The golden-sand beaches of Cabo are waiting for you.
And with this Cabo trip planner, you should find planning a trip to Los Cabos hassle-free – leaving you with more time to dream of ice-cold margaritas, fresh fish tacos and unforgettable Mexican sunsets!