Blame it on Van Halen. Actually, blame it on David Lee Roth. If he had never left Van Halen and if Sammy Hagar hadn’t joined the group and sang about Cabo Wabo, would I have been so obsessed with Cabo? I don’t know but when I finally did visit, I wanted to make sure I did all the right things. It’s kind of ironic that I didn’t even make it to Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo bar. Whether you are in Cabo for a week or just day tripping, my guide for traveling to Cabo San Lucas will help you do it better.
“Let me take you down. I will show you all around. Face down in Cabo, kissing the ground”Van Halen
Where is Cabo San Lucas?
Cabo San Lucas is located at the southern most tip of Baja California, the peninsula across the border and south of the US state of California. It’s here that the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean with rocky, golden sand beaches and clear blue green water. Cabo has a reputation of being touristy but the landscape is just beautiful and like no where else.
When people say, I’m going to Cabo, they could be referring to Cabo San Lucas or San Jose de Cabo. These two entirely different areas, 20 miles apart, make up Los Cabos. There’s a strip of coastline with hotels and resorts, connecting the two areas. This area is commonly referred to as the Corridor.
Is Cabo Safe?
Baja California, as a state, is somewhat safer than other parts of Mexico. While Cabo has had reports of petty crime, scams and cartel activity in recent years, it still remains one of the safest areas in Mexico. As a traveler, you want to take the usual travel precautions. Most people that live there will know you aren’t local so there’s not much you can do about that but you can avoid other things. Don’t flash money or jewelry around, don’t drink to much and don’t walk around with you phone in your hand. Phone snatching is vey common. If you are renting a car, don’t leave your things in plain view. Put everything in the trunk.
For females, always be alert to your surroundings. Don’t accept mixed drinks or shots from strangers. If your gut tells you something is wrong or a little off, go with that feeling. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Officially, according to the US State Department, Baja California Sur is Level 2. This means Exercise Increased Caution due to crime. The State Department has not restricted government employees from travel to Baja Sur. For comparison, Jamaica and The Bahamas are both Level 2 travel and they aren’t in the news near as much as Mexico is.
When’s the Best Time to Visit Cabo?
Since Baja is the desert, Cabo is hot most of the year. If you are planning on traveling to Cabo San Lucas, December through April is the busiest time. Many snowbirds head south to Baja for the winter and March and April are busy with spring breakers. May and June are perfect months to visit. The daytime weather is hot but you still have some cool nights before hurricane season. However, if you want to see whales, then January through March is the best time.
Traveling to Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas is a easy direct flight from many US and Canadian cities. Delta, United, American, Spirit, Alaska, Southwest and Sun Country are all US based carriers that fly there.
A passport is required for travel to Mexico but there’s no visa required for US and Canadian citizens. You are required to fill out a FMM or Forma Migratoria Multiple, which is a visitor card or entry card, for stays over 7 days and up to 180 days. If you arrive by air, the cost of the FMM is included in your plane ticket and costs approximately $25 USD.
Immigration stamps the form and keeps half of it. You then keep the stamped half during your visit and then turn it in when you leave the country. Whatever you do, don’t lose it! If you do, contact the nearest immigration office.
Arriving at the Airport
The Los Cabos area is serviced by Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) which is about 30 miles northeast of Cabo San Lucas and closer to San Jose de Cabo. The airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 is for domestic flights in Mexico and flights to Central and South America. Terminal 2 is for international flights to the US and Canada.
After arriving and after getting your bags, you’ll pass through customs, which is a little different from other places. If you have anything to declare, you do it here. They will ask you to push a button. If it lights up green, you are good to go. Red means you’ve been selected for them to search your bags.
After exiting customs, there’s one more room. This is the timeshare room. Be warned, they will be made to feel that it’s necessary to stop and schedule a tour. Unless you’re interested in timeshares, just pass through the room and exit the airport.
How to Get to Cabo From the Airport
If you fly into the Los Cabos area, you are actually closer to San Jose de Cabo. From the airport, it takes about 45 minutes to get to Cabo San Lucas depending on where you are staying. There are several ways to get from the airport to Cabo San Lucas.
Renting a car in Cabo is easy and similar to renting in the US. It is a little more expensive but depending on where your hotel is, you could actually save you money renting instead of paying for taxis or Uber. Rental cars are available at the airport and throughout town. Even hotels have rental agencies on site. To rent, you’ll need a valid driver’s license and a credit card.
Buses in Mexico are good options for getting around. From the airport you can take the public bus system Subur Cabo, that goes from the airport to San Jose de Cabo, the tourist corridor and lastly to Cabo San Lucas. The fare is around $2.50 USD each way. .
Shuttles are a popular way to get to your hotel from the Los Cabos airport. Check with your hotel to see if they offer shuttle. Many do, but it’s not complimentary because the airport is outside the city. Arrangements can be made ahead of time for either a shared shuttle or a private one. A shared shuttles means you would share with other travelers. They could be traveling to a different hotel than you, so be prepared for several stops. A private shuttle would take you and your travel party directly to your hotel.
Authorized taxi stands are located outside after you exit the airport. When you use an authorized taxi, there’s no haggling over the price. The price is a fixed rate to based on what zone you are traveling to. Confirm the price ahead of time just to make sure.
Cabo San Lucas finally has Uber. But just like in many cities in Mexico they aren’t allowed on federal property. Since the airport is federal property, they cannot pick you up there. However, they can drop you off at the airport.
Getting Around Cabo San Lucas
Once you are at your hotel, the best way to get around is walking. If your hotel is too far for you to walk or you just don’t want to, then take a taxi, an Uber or public transportation. I prefer Uber in Mexico.
The Subur Cabo buses run throughout the city and are a great alternative affordable option. The buses are different for different routes and the windshield should display the destination on it. If you have any doubts about where you are going, don’t be shy, just ask the driver.
Southerner Says: it’s best to have small bills or change in pesos for bus fare. If you are part of a group or family and one person is paying, that person should enter last and pay for the group.
Where to Stay in Cabo San Lucas
Deciding where to stay your first time traveling to Cabo San Lucas will likely depend on your budget and what your interests are.
A hotel in the downtown or marina area is the best choice for the budget minded. If money is no object and you want to be directly on the beach, then Medano Beach, Land’s End or Pedregal are best.
I personally love Medano Beach. The water is calm and swimmable because it’s more protected than the open water of Land’s End and Pedregal, on the Pacific side. At Medano Beach, there’s also a direct view of the beautiful Arch. Restaurants are plentiful and so are beach clubs. The clubs have chairs and umbrellas for rent and you can spend all day just hanging out.
Where to Stay in Medano Beach
ME Cabo is a resort right in the heart of Medano Beach. It’s not as big as some of the other resorts so it feels a bit more intimate. You can easily walk to downtown or the marina. Most of the rooms have balconies with views of Land’s End and the Arch. The property has a huge pool, hot tub, lounging beds and a swim up bar as well as a couple or restaurants and spa.
If you prefer the beach to the pool, there are covered lounges and chairs available in a private area. On the beach you can rent stand up paddle boards or catch a boat to the Arch and Land’s End.
Bahia Hotel is smaller hotel just a couple of blocks over from the ME Cabo. I didn’t stay at this property but had breakfast there one morning. A smaller, boutique hotel, it’s perfect for a quiet getaway. The food at the hotel restaurant, Bar Esquina is delicious. Bonus points for having a take away coffee shop and juice bar too.
Even though the hotel is a couple of blocks from the beach, guests have access to the hotels’s beach club and restaurant, SUR. Golf cart are available to take you to the club. Guests also receive signing privileges for room charges so you don’t have to carry money around. There’s also towel service, lounge chairs, daybeds and free WiFi. And you get those same beautiful views.
Staying downtown Cabo San Lucas offers some really good budget friendly options. Hotel Mar de Cortez is a brightly painted cute hotel, with rooms around a courtyard with a swimming pool. There is also a highly recommended bar and restaurant on site. Many of the room rates have breakfast included. We went for brunch and it was excellent. They also have a daily happy hour that’s pretty popular.
The marina area is another good option for centrally located accommodations when traveling to Cabo San LUcas. From the marina, you can do just about anything. It’s an easy walk to the beaches or downtown. There’s plenty of restaurants and shopping in the marina and nearby. Tours to the Arch charters for deep sea fishing leave from there too. The Marina Fiesta Resort even offers an all inclusive option right in the marina.
If you are someone that prefers an all inclusive option in a resort, there’s plenty of options for that as well when traveling to Cabo San Lucas. I personally prefer to explore and discover places to eat on my own but if I were planning a honeymoon or wanting to stay put for ultimate relaxation, I would consider Casa Dorada Los Cabos or Playa Grande Resort & Grand Spa.
Where to Eat in Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas has a wide variety of restaurants and not just Mexican food. If you do like seafood, then this is definitely the place to order fresh fish and even lobster. I personally love tacos and the fish tacos in Cabo were some of the best I’ve ever had in the Baja peninsula. Here’s a few of my other favorite places..
Milky Way Cafe & Deli you can’t go wrong with breakfast or lunch from Milky Way Cafe. The location is the best on Medano Beach, next to Andromeda Dive Shop. You can sip your morning smoothie or espresso with a view of the Arch. They serve breakfast, Mexican food, sandwiches and sushi.
Tacos Gardenias I’ve tried a lot of tacos and the tacos at Tacos Gardenias were so good, they’re the tacos by which I judge all other tacos now. The fish tacos and the breaded shrimp tacos were my favorite. They also serve other Mexican dishes besides tacos.
La Galeria is a seafood restaurant in the marina area. It’s casual but it a great spot for a special occasion. The seafood is delicious. Outdoor seating along the waterfront and live music while sipping a glass of wine makes for an unforgettable Cabo moment.
Edith’s Cabo if there’s one place I’m planning on eating next time I’m traveling to Cabo San Lucas, it’s Edith’s. I have read so many good things about this Mexican restaurant. I even remember walking by and thinking how cute it is. I’ve added it to my Cabo wishlist for next time because there will be a next time.
Cabo has a few breweries and brew pubs. Baja Brewing Company is the place to go when you want a burger or some pub food. There’s a couple of locations but my favorite one is on the rooftop of Cabo Villas Beach Resort on Medano Beach. It has the best views and the patio has misters for the hot weather and a fire pit when it’s chilly.
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