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Top 10 Things to Do in Cabo San Lucas Port (on a Cruise)

Calling into Cabo San Lucas on a cruise and wondering what to do? You’re in for a treat!

Cabo’s a top destination in Mexico, thanks to its Blue-Flag beaches, diverse outdoor activities and prime location in Baja California Sur. 

You can easily explore the town (just steps from the port), try tasty tacos, pick up cool souvenirs – and, for a truly unique Cabo adventure, you can even go on a camel ride!

We are frequent visitors to Cabo (it’s our second home!) and have been vacationing here for the last 20+ years, ticking off every activity, restaurant and bar as we go. 

We’ve also cruised with big names like Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America (along with smaller cruise lines).

We know the ropes when it comes to making the most of your time in port as a cruise passenger – and choosing the right activities that get you back onboard on time!

So, if you’re looking for things to do in Cabo San Lucas port on your Mexican Riviera cruise, we’ve got you covered with the best picks for your day ashore!

Note: All prices are in USD

A cruise ship anchored in the Cabo San Lucas Bay
A cruise ship anchored in the Cabo San Lucas Bay

About the Cabo San Lucas cruise port

The first question on your mind is probably: Where do cruise ships dock in Cabo San Lucas?

Well, they don’t.

Cabo San Lucas, sitting at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, is a tender port. 

What does this mean? There’s no actual cruise port in Cabo San Lucas.

When cruising to Cabo San Lucas, ships drop anchor out in the deeper water and tender boats take you to land.

Navy blue tender boats ferry passengers back and forth between cruise ships and the Cabo San Lucas Marina.
Navy blue tender boats ferry passengers back and forth between cruise ships and the Cabo San Lucas Marina

Usually, the tender boat ride takes around 10 to 15 minutes.

But if there are two or three ships visiting Cabo on the same day – and yours is the last to drop anchor in the Cabo San Lucas Bay – your ship could be further out in the deep blue yonder. And it could take up to 20 minutes to reach land.

With wait time for the tender and other possible eventualities, we recommend budgeting 45 minutes for the total tender transfer time.

The good news? Traveling to shore on a smaller boat is like transport and activity combined into one.

As you’re tendering, keep an eye out for Cabo’s famous marine life as you go. (Hey, is that a whale?)

A sea lion hangs around the Cabo San Lucas Marina.
Sea lions like to hang around the Cabo San Lucas Marina

Where is the Cabo San Lucas cruise terminal located?

Once you’ve disembarked your tender, you’ll be right in the heart of the action.

The Cabo San Lucas pier for the tender boats is at the south end of the Cabo San Lucas Marina – a short walk from the town center and in striking distance of the town’s best beaches. 

Map of the Cabo San Lucas cruise port
Map of the Cabo San Lucas cruise port (Credit: Google Maps)

Is it safe to book your own Cabo San Lucas shore excursions?

Cruise lines always offer cruise-sponsored tours to some of the top attractions. For example, Los Cabos shore excursions typically include boat trips to the famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas.

Why you might want to book your own excursions

But many cruise line passengers prefer to book their own excursions. We definitely book some of our own tours when we cruise.

Why?

They’re less expensive than tours booked through the ship. They’re typically more intimate (smaller groups). And they often include more adventurous activities.

Why you might want to book ship tours

The upside to booking cruise-sponsored excursions is that the tours are guaranteed to return to the ship on time.

If for some reason they’re late, the cruise ship will wait or, as a last resort, they’ll transport you to the ship’s next destination (and look after you in the meantime) at their cost.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to book the cruise ship’s excursions if the tour involves driving a long distance, so you’re assured of not “missing the boat” in case of traffic delays or breakdowns. 

In Cabo San Lucas, we wouldn’t want to rent our own car or book our own tour to Todos Santos (a magical town!) or Cabo Pulmo as a cruise passenger – because of the driving time involved.

Safe Cabo excursions to book independently

In Cabo San Lucas, the tender boats take you right into the marina, which is also where tour boats depart from.

So we’d certainly feel comfortable doing a boat trip or a local tour that’s not a ship excursion.

But we’d schedule it for first thing after arriving, aim to be back an hour or two before we need to be and make sure our guide is aware that we’re on a cruise ship.

This means that some attractions in Cabo San Lucas will, however, have to wait for your next vacation to this Mexican paradise. (And we’re sure that once you’ve spent a day here, you’ll be plotting a return!)

Top 10 things to do in Cabo San Lucas port

On average, cruise ships spend about 5 to 6 hours at the Los Cabos cruise port. But we know some ships only have a short 4-hour stint in town, just an afternoon really, departing by around 4:00 or 5:00 pm. 

Considering this, we’ve cherry-picked activities close to the pier and tours that pack a punch when it comes to exploring the best of Cabo in a short time.

Some give you a couple of hours at the end to fill up on the fresh fish tacos that Baja is famous for! 

1) See the famous Cabo San Lucas Arch

One of Cabo’s favorite boat trip destinations, the rocky Cabo San Lucas arch (also known as El Arco) is a famous landmark that’s very easy to get to from the tender pier. 

The Arch is an iconic Cabo San Lucas landmark.
The Arch is an iconic Cabo San Lucas landmark – and it’s easy to visit by water taxi from the tender pier

From the tender pier, it’s a 10-minute walk along the marina to the area where the water taxis all dock. There, you can hop in a water taxi to Land’s End and see the famous Arch, along with the sea lions that live on the surrounding rocks. 

Expect to pay around $20 to $25 per person for a round-trip water taxi. If it’s very busy with lots of cruise passengers milling about, you might pay a little more. 

Stop at Lover’s Beach

If you wish, the water taxi will drop you off at Lover’s Beach (Playa del Amor) at Land’s End after your sightseeing boat tour (and pick you back up later at an agreed time).

This beautiful beach on the calm Sea of Cortez side of the Baja California Peninsula can only be reached by boat (or by paddling to it by kayak or SUP board).

Enjoy the sun and go for a swim. Take snorkeling gear with you if you have it, because the underwater marine life is fun to see! 

Also, do walk over to the amusingly named Divorce Beach, which is across the sand from Lover’s Beach. It’s on the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula. Watch the surf, but do not swim here – it’s not safe.

Land's End, Cabo San Lucas
You can ask to be dropped off at Lover’s Beach at Land’s End to spend an hour or two swimming and sunbathing

Water taxi tours

Want a set price?

You can book water taxis in advance, such as this shared water taxi ride that’s less than $20 per person for a round trip. It’s a one-hour tour that leaves right from the marina, so you could embark on it as soon as you arrive! 

Or there’s this glass bottom boat tour, which is 45 minutes long. You can stop at Lover’s Beach too, and the captain will pick you up later.

Or check out this 50-minute tour on a completely clear boat. You can take in not only the craggy rock formations of Land’s End, but the tropical fish in the sea – without even getting your toes wet! 

2) Walk around the Cabo San Lucas Marina

The colorful Cabo San Lucas Marina
The colorful Cabo San Lucas Marina

Wondering what to do in Cabo San Lucas port that’s free?

This one’s easy.

Just stroll around the marina, lined with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. Admire the white yachts docked in the harbor and take in the sights, sounds and smells of this popular beach destination. 

Go shopping for souvenirs or sit back with a margarita and watch the world go by. This is what Cabo life’s all about!

You might also want to veer off from the marina into downtown Cabo San Lucas – it’s not far at all.

Sign buy the Cabo San Lucas cruise ship pier, pointing the way to the Marina Mercado
Sign pointing the way to the Marina Mercado

Best places to shop in Cabo on the marina

Got lots of gifts to buy for people back home? Or do you want to decorate your house with Mexican souvenirs? Check out the following places on the marina:

  • Marina Mercado: This is a popular flea market, located just steps from the cruise ship tender pier. Here, you’ll find Mexican arts and crafts, bags, beachwear and the like
  • Puerto Paraiso Mall: This is a larger shopping complex, with plenty of stores and a cinema.
  • Luxury Avenue: Connected to Puerto Paraiso Mall, this shopping area focuses more on high-end stores and goods.

Pro tip: If you’re booking a boat or on-land tour, we recommend doing that first and leaving strolling around the marina to the last, so you don’t have any stress about getting back to the marina and tender pier.

3) Chill on Medano Beach

Another one of the best free things to do in Cabo, Mexico, on a cruise? Soak up the sun and go for a swim at Medano Beach.

While Los Cabos is known for its golden beaches and bright blue waters, it’s important to know that not all beaches in Cabo are swimmable. This is due to strong currents, high surf and rips. (The Pacific side of Cabo San Lucas is particularly dangerous for swimming.) 

The terrific news is that Medano Beach – one of the best swimmable beaches in Cabo – is very close to the port.

Blue umbrellas on Medano Beach, Cabo San Lucas
Blue umbrellas at the Corazon Beach Club on Medano Beach (Credit: Corazon Beach Club)

It’s easy to walk there, taking about 30 minutes from the pier. If you don’t want to walk, transportation in Cabo is excellent – traditional taxis, Ubers and even water taxis are available. 

You can spread out your towel for free anywhere on the beach. But for more comfort (an umbrella, chairs, drinks and food), you’ll also find plenty of beach clubs.

Some of our favorite beach clubs on Medano Beach

  • Tabasco Beach Bar & Restaurant: We love this one because it’s much more chilled out than its counterparts. Perfect for a beach day!
  • Corazon Beach Club: One of the swankier beach clubs in the area, Corazon is attached to the high-end resort of the same name. 
  • Mango Deck Beach Club: A popular destination during Spring Break, Mango Deck Beach Club can be hectic, but if it’s partying you’re looking for, this is your place!

Along with its calm waters that just beg you to take a dip, Medano Beach is ideal for water sports – parasailing, stand-up paddleboarding and jet skiing, to name a few.

Pro tip: The further you walk along the beach (away from the marina), the quieter Medano Beach gets. Once you get to Tabasco Beach Bar, you’ve hit the sweet spot for “less busy and safe swimming.” Beyond Tabasco’s, safe swimming gets iffier.

4) Go taco or tequila tasting (or both!)

Tacos and tequila – could there be a better combo? 

Taco tasting

There’s an abundance of tasty taquerias in Cabo, but our favorite for Baja-style shrimp tacos (and mean margaritas!) is probably Tacos Gardenias. It’s cheap – and it’s very good.

We ask for the tacos to be made with flour tortillas (which we prefer), instead of the usual corn tortillas.

Just a couple of blocks behind Medano Beach, not far from the marina, Tacos Gardenias is perfect for cruise ship passengers. We suggest heading here for lunch after chilling on Medano Beach or wandering around the marina.

Yummy shrimp tacos at Tacos Gardenias
Yummy shrimp tacos at Tacos Gardenias

Want to try a large selection of tacos and learn all about them from a knowledgeable guide?

Check out this three-hour Cabo taco tasting tour. It’s a walking tour, so you can guarantee you’ll be back at the marina on time, and you certainly won’t be returning to the ship hungry! 

Tequila tasting

Fancy tequila tasting instead?

We highly recommend this private tequila-tasting tour.

On this tour, you’ll head over to Tequilera Santos Destilados right in the heart of downtown Cabo San Lucas. Then, in their private tasting room, you’ll sample six handmade tequilas and three mezcals.

But you’re not just going to toss each shot down.

They’re all expertly paired with agave heart, dark chocolate and other snacks that bring out the best in each libation. (We dare you to try the fried grasshoppers – they’re actually quite good and taste like popcorn, sort of…)

5) Watch whales

A breaching humpback whale in Los Cabos
Visitors watch a breaching humpback whale in Los Cabos

If you’re visiting Cabo in January or any other month in winter (which is when cruise ships visit Cabo), it’s the prime time for whale watching!

These wonderful creatures migrate from the Arctic and Alaska down to the warm waters of Cabo in the winter season, where they mate and give birth.

If you’re really lucky, you might see some adorable baby humpback whales too! (February and March are the best months.)

This is one of the top Cabo activities in the winter season, and there are plenty of awesome  whale watching tours to choose from. 

Small boat tour

This top-notch 2½-hour small boat tour takes a maximum of 10 people. (You can book it as a private tour for up to 8 people if preferred.)

It’s a small vessel with shade, and a marine biologist will fill you in on all you want to know about whales. If visiting Cabo with kids on your cruise, this tour is a good one for them (assuming they love nature and like boats).

Luxury catamaran cruise

For whale watching on a luxury catamaran, this tour includes margaritas (an open bar) and snacks.

Zodiac tour

Fancy getting right into the action? This thrilling 2½-hour tour by Zodiac zooms over the waves and can get you close to the whales. You can book it as a public or private tour. 

A humpback's whale tail in Cabo San Lucas
A humpback whale shows its tail in Cabo San Lucas

6) Drive an ATV across Migrino Desert

Departing right from the marina, you’ll see a different side of Baja California on this exciting ATV tour

You’ll be driven to the Migrino Desert.

There, you’ll strap yourself into an ATV and drive yourself through the cacti, with mesmerizing vistas of the Pacific Ocean as you go. At the end of the tour, there’s even a tequila tasting before you’re driven back to the marina. 

It’s a two-hour tour, leaving you plenty of time to grab lunch when you return. 

7) Party like a rock star

El Squid Roe, Cabo San Lucas
You can’t miss El Squid Roe!

One of the best things to do in Cabo San Lucas from a cruise ship if you want to let your hair down is to hit one of Cabo’s iconic party spots.

In fact, nowhere else does a day party quite as well as Cabo.

Fancy drinking shots while hanging upside down beside a giant marlin? You can do that at the Giggling Marlin!

The following ultimate party spots are open from 9:00 am

8) Snorkel at Chileno Bay and Santa Maria Bay

Snorkeling stands out as one of the best activities in Cabo San Lucas for a splash of adventure.

You can do so with this fun snorkeling trip to Chileno and Santa Maria Bays.

Located along the Tourist Corridor on the Sea of Cortez, a short drive from Cabo San Lucas town, these bays are like an underwater carnival and teem with tropical fish. 

The tour includes snorkeling gear and a wetsuit (the water can be chilly in winter in Cabo once you’ve been in it a while). You’re driven first to one bay, then the other – for snorkeling at both. Afterward, you’re driven back to the marina.

Santa Maria Bay
Santa Maria Bay

For a snorkeling boat trip instead that leaves from the marina, here’s a highly-rated 3½-hour catamaran cruise on the 48-foot Cabo Blue.

Snorkel at Santa Maria Bay, enjoy drinks from the open bar as you listen to music, hang out on the large nets at the front of the cat – it’s all included. The tour departs at 1:00 pm, so it works if your ship arrives in Cabo before 11:00 am (and it’s in port until late in the afternoon).

There are also some first-class private boat tours in Cabo that can take you to snorkel at Chileno Bay or Santa Maria Bay.

For example, here’s a great 3-hour private boat tour that includes snorkeling, SUP, complimentary drinks and appetizers.

9) Ride a camel on the beach

If you’re someone who craves a unique experience on vacation, how about this one? 

Climb up on a camel and enjoy the panoramic vistas of the beach as you ride along the soft sands at an oceanfront ranch. 

People ride camels on the beach in Cabo San Lucas.
Who wants to ride a camel on their day in Cabo San Lucas? (Credit: Cabo Adventures)

This fun camel safari is run by Cabo Adventures (one of our favorite tour operators in Cabo) and includes a Mexican buffet and tequila tasting.

It’s definitely one of the most unique things to do in Cabo San Lucas on a cruise and a fun way to see the coastline!

10) Soar on a zipline

Calling all adrenalin junkies! You’re going ziplining!

This popular excursion is another one of the best Cabo San Lucas port activities

Wild Canyon Adventures is probably the best company to go with on a cruise ship visit. Their ziplining tour lasts four hours and they’re used to handling cruise ship guests. (Their pickup is from an OXXO store on the marina, just a 2- to 3-minute walk from the tender pier.)

You’ll soar through a vast canyon on their “Monster Ziplines” which are some of the longest in Cabo!

(Note: The $20 per person park fee is extra and not included in the tour price.)

Cabo cruise port tips

When researching all of the things to do in Cabo on a cruise and booking your excursions, keep in mind the following tips to make sure your day goes off without a hitch. 

Oceania Cruises' Insignia ship in Cabo San Lucas
Oceania Cruises’ Insignia ship in Cabo San Lucas

Book your Cabo San Lucas cruise port excursions early

Cabo San Lucas is a popular cruise port. This means that the best activities get booked up early.

We recommend choosing what you want to do and booking your shore excursions in advance.

To book cruise activities independently (not through the ship), try Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide. They offer some of the best Cabo San Lucas excursions. We’ve used both and they work equally well.

Set up private tours

Private Cabo shore excursions can help you to maximize your limited time in port and have timing that suit you. (Need to get back a bit early? No problem!).

They can also be booked on Viator and GetYourGuide. Your ship may also offer private ship-sponsored tours.

Allow time

Remember that you’ll have to take the tender boats from the cruise ship to Cabo’s marina, so only book excursions that depart at least 45 minutes after the ship arrives. 

Likewise, ensure that you’re back at the marina and tender pier in good time.

Don’t aim for the very last tender, just in case something goes wrong. (On cruises, we plan to be back to the port in time to catch the second last tender, at the latest.)

We recommend doing any activities away from the marina first and then using any extra time to explore the town and marina itself. 

Take cash

Many places in Cabo accept cash only. USD is accepted everywhere, but you’ll often get a better exchange rate if you pay in Mexican pesos.

And while Cabo is very safe, we recommend not having too much cash on you, just in case. 

Prepare for the heat

Even in the winter months, the Cabo sun can be intense! Apply sunscreen, wear a hat and bring a water bottle with you. 

Last words on what to do in Cabo San Lucas on a cruise!

Things to do in Cabo San Lucas port for cruise passengers
You’ll probably want to relax on your ship after enjoying some of the fun activities in the Cabo San Lucas port!

Even if you’re only spending one day in Cabo San Lucas, you’ll get a sense of what it’s all about – lots of adventures, Mexican culture, beautiful beaches and fun! 

Whatever your tastes, you’ll find awesome excursions and activities to suit you and your travel group. And we suspect you’ll already be looking up Cabo vacations for next year on your way back to the ship!

Planning your trip to Cabo?

Here are our favorite travel resources:

  • Resorts: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel in Cabo – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)
  • Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).
  • Tours: For the best local guided tours in Cabo, see Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Car rental: Renting a car in Los Cabos is one of the best ways to explore. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.
  • Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip?

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!

Photos: 3, 10, 13, 14 © Janice and George Mucalov, Cabo Visitor

About the authors

Award-winning travel writers Janice and George Mucalov are frequent visitors to Los Cabos. Here on Cabo Visitor, they share their essential tips for discovering the best of Cabo!