Are you traveling to Cabo San Lucas and need help planning your trip? No worries! I’ve got you covered with some info that answers questions about safety, how to get around and where to stay in Cabo San Lucas. Not to mention my favorite restaurants.
Cabo San Lucas has a reputation of being touristy – and it is – but the landscape is just so beautiful you can’t help but fall in love. Whether you are traveling to Cabo San Lucas for a week or it’s a stop on your cruise for the day, this guide will help you do it better.
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Where is Cabo San Lucas?
Cabo San Lucas is located at the southern most tip of Baja California, (map) the peninsula across the border and south of the state of California. It’s where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean with some of the prettiest golden sand beaches and clear blue-green water.
When people say “I’m going to Cabo”, they could be referring to Cabo San Lucas or San Jose de Cabo. But these two places, 20 miles apart, are two entirely different areas, make up Los Cabos. Between the two areas, there’s a strip of coastline full of hotels and resorts that’s commonly referred to as the Corridor.
What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Cabo?
Since Baja is a desert climate, Cabo is warm all year. Of course, some months are going to be warmer than others. December through April is high season and the busiest time. Many snowbirds from the states and Canada end up in Baja for the winter. March and April are busy with spring breakers.
May and June are perfect months to visit. The daytime weather is warm but the nights are cool and breezy. You also don’t usually have to worry about hurricanes during this time of the year. However, if you want to see whales, then January through March is the best time to visit.
Hurricane season officially runs June through October. Even if the area doesn’t experience any tropical storms or hurricanes, expect some rain and pop up showers late in the season. Temperatures are also hot with highs in the 90’s but since this is low season, you can save money on lodging during this time of the year.
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. Here’s a few other things to expect when traveling to Cabo San Lucas.
A passport is necessary for traveling to Mexico but there’s no visa required for US and Canadian citizens. You will be required to have a FMM or Forma Migratoria Multiple. If you are traveling by air, the flight attendants usually pass these out before arrival.
The FMM is a tourist card, or entry card, for stays over 7 days. It’s also valid for up to 180 days in a 12 month period. If you arrive by air, the cost of the FMM is included in your plane ticket. The cost is approximately $25 USD.
The FMM has two parts. You’ll fill out your personal data and pertinent info on top part. Immigration keeps that top portion and stamps the bottom half, that you keep with you during your stay, as proof of proper entry into the country.
When you leave the country, you’ll turn it in at the airport. Whatever you do, don’t to lose it. If you do, contact the nearest immigration office as soon as possible.
Southerner Says: Mexico has recently implemented a pilot program for electronic FMMs at a few airports. The San Jose de Cabo International Airport is one of those airports. Instead of filling out a form and getting it stamped, immigration officers will stamp your passport and fill in the amount of days you are allowed to stay. There’s no paper to hold on to which makes the whole process much simpler.
Arriving at the Airport
The Los Cabos area is serviced by San Jose de Cabo 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 going through immigration and getting your bags, you’ll pass through customs, which is a little different from what you might be used to. If you have anything you are bringing into the country to declare, you do it here.
Everyone is asked to to push a button. If it lights up green, you are good to go but 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, you will be made to feel that it’s necessary to stop and schedule a tour or a taxi or something. 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.
Shuttles are a convenient way to get to your hotel from the Los Cabos airport. Check with your hotel to see if they offer a free shuttle. Many do have this service but it’s not complimentary since 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 ride 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 has Uber now 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. Uber in Mexico is the same as the U.S. Download the app and request a ride.
Renting a car in Cabo San Lucas is easy and similar to renting in the U.S. It is a little more expensive because of the required Mexican liability insurance but depending on where your hotel is, you could actually save money renting a vehicle instead of paying for taxis or Uber.
Rental cars are available at the airport and throughout town. Even some hotels have rental agencies on site. To rent a vehicle in Cabo San Lucas you’ll need a valid driver’s license and a credit card. If you’d like to secure a rental before you go, my favorite site that looks for the best prices with all rental companies is RentalCars.com.
Buses in Mexico are great 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. .
Getting Around Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas is a very walking friendly town especially if you are staying on Medano Beach, in the marina or the downtown area. If you prefer not to walk or aren’t able, then most hotels can arrange a taxi or use Uber.
Public transportation on Subur Cabo buses – mentioned above – run throughout the city are an affordable option. The buses are different colors for the different routes. The destination will be displayed on the windshield but 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 when visiting Cabo San Lucas will likely depend on your budget and what your interests are. Of course the more expensive resorts and hotels will be directly on the beach.
Medano Beach, Land’s End or Pedregal are all good locations. A hotel in the downtown or the marina area is best for the budget minded.
My first choice of where to stay in Cabo San Lucas is Medano Beach. The beach is clean and the water is that gorgeous blue color. Plus it’s more swimmable (at times) since it’s better protected than the open water of Land’s End Pacific side.
Medano Beach has a direct view of the famous el Arco or Arch at Land’s End. Restaurants are plentiful and there are a few beach clubs. It’s easy to hop on a boat to the see el Arco, rent a stand up paddle board or even a jetski, right from the beach.
ME Cabo is a resort right in the heart of Medano Beach that’s not as large and spread out as some of the other resorts so it feels a bit more intimate.
Most of the rooms have balconies with views. The resort has a huge pool, hot tubs, lounging beds and a swim up bar as well as restaurants and a spa. The location makes it easy to walk downtown or to the marina
If you prefer the beach over a pool, the resort has some covered lounges and chairs available in a private beach area. The hotel has it’s own rental kiosk for paddle boards and other water activities.
Another ideal spot near Medano Beach is Bahia Hotel. Again, this property is on the smaller side. It’s perfect for those wanting a quieter getaway but still want to be in the center of the action.
The hotel has an abundance of amenities like an inviting pool with a swim-up bar, fitness center and an onsite restaurant called Bar Esquina. Bonus points for having a cute take-away coffee and juice bar too.
Since the actual hotel is a couple of blocks from the beach, guests have access to the hotel’s beach club and restaurant, SUR, located directly on the beach. They even provide the golf carts to take you there.
Hotel guests receive signing privileges which makes it easier to charge everything to the room so you don’t have to carry money around. At the beach club, enjoy lounge chairs, daybeds, towel service, and free Wi-Fi. And those beautiful Cabo San Lucas views.
Where to Stay Downtown Cabo San Lucas
Staying downtown Cabo San Lucas offers some good budget friendly options within walking of the marina and the beach.
Los Milagros Hotel is a charming smaller hotel stay in downtown Cabo San Lucas. A true “oasis in Cabo”. The terrace and courtyard has an inviting blue swimming pool and gorgeous common areas. In addition to beautiful rooms, they offer Wi-Fi and free parking, which is an added bonus in the downtown area.
Where to Stay in Cabo San Lucas Marina
The marina is an ideal option for centrally located accommodations when traveling to Cabo San Lucas. This is the heart of Cabo’s activity but it’s still an easy walk to the beach or downtown. The marina has a wide selection of restaurants, shopping and plenty of nightlife.
Tours to el Arco and charters for deep sea fishing – and more – usually leave from the marina. Marina Fiesta Resort is a property right in the marina and offers an all-inclusive option.
Cabo San Lucas has other resorts that offer all-inclusive stays as well. Even if they don’t advertise to be all-inclusive, always ask if that’s something you are interested in.
If they have an onsite restaurant, chances are they offer some sort of package that includes food and beverages. For a honeymoon, babymoon or any special occasion, Casa Dorada Los Cabos or Playa Grande Resort & Grand Spa are good choices.
If you prefer an all-inclusive out of town and a little more laid back, then Hacienda Encantada, has an all-inclusive option. This resort is stunning and they have some of the best views in all of Cabo San Lucas.
Homestays in Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas has plenty of homestay opportunities. Renting a home gives you the best of both worlds with accommodations, useful amenities and a kitchen. Even if you don’t like cooking on vacation, it’s very convenient to have a kitchen available.
VRBO – Vacation Rentals by Owner – has a big variety of properties to choose from and they operate the same in Mexico as in the U.S. Use the map below to see some homestay options as well as other hotel options.
Where to Eat in Cabo San Lucas
When it comes to dining out, Cabo San Lucas has plenty of restaurants to pick from. And not just Mexican food. For seafood lovers, there’s fresh fish and even warm water lobster. For tacos, you’ll love the fresh fish and shrimp tacos you’ll find in Baja Sur. Here’s a couple of my favorite restaurants in Cabo San Lucas.
To start your day, you can’t beat the view at Milky Beach Cafe & Deli. The location right on Medano Beach is one of the best. They are located right next to Andromeda Dive Shop so if your plans include diving in Cabo San Lucas, you can sip your morning coffee with a view of el Arco before you head out.
The restaurant serves breakfast, some typical Mexican food, seafood and sandwiches and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Tacos Gardenias are the tacos by which I judge all other tacos now. The fish tacos and the breaded shrimp tacos were the tastiest that I’ve had in Baja Sur. Plus they’re served with lots of of salsas and toppings. The restaurant also has other Mexican dishes, ceviche and a ginormous shrimp cocktail.
The Crazy Lobster is another good solid option for seafood and typical food in Cabo San Lucas. It’s not fancy but has good prices and a darn good michelada. They are open all day serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you are looking for something besides seafood when visiting Cabo San Lucas, then according to the reviews, the steaks are really good too.
For a casual dining experience – but nice enough for a special occasion – La Galeria, in the marina is just the place. Like many other restaurants in Cabo San Lucas, their specialty is their fresh seafood. Outdoor seating along the waterfront and live mariachi music makes it an unforgettable Baja experience.
Pan de Bacco serves homemade pasta and Italian food in Cabo San Lucas. Their lasagna and homemade bread was a welcome change from the seafood. And the wood fire pizzas look delicious.
Bar Esquina is located in the Bahia Cabo Hotel. It’s an inviting restaurant space featuring a fun bar area offering Mezcal and Tequila tastings. The dinner menu includes everything from charcuterie boards to fresh seafood. There’s also a pool side menu that includes fresh sushi and pizza.
If you’ve always wanted to dine with your toes in the sand, then The Office is an amazing open air palapa style restaurant right on the Medano Beach. Of course, fresh seafood dominates the menu but they do have a few steak and land options as well.
If you happen to visit in cooler months, the patio has outdoor heaters to keep you warm. The Office is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Breweries to Visit When Traveling to Cabo San Lucas
Breweries and brewpub have exploded in Mexico on recent years. One of the originals in Cabo San Lucas is Baja Brewing Company. This is the place to go when you want brews with a burger or pub food.
There are a couple of locations but the prime one is on the rooftop of Cabo Villas Beach Resort on Medano Beach. The restaurant has epic beach views and the patio even has misters for that hot desert weather and fire pits when it’s chilly.
Beach clubs in Cabo San Lucas are super popular and a fun way to spend a day doing nothing but sunning, drinking and being waited on hand and foot. Typically you can choose from tables and chairs or lounge chairs right on the sand.
Fair warning, depending on the type of entertainment and contests they have going on, things can get a bit crazy.
One of the most lively Cabo San Lucas beach clubs is Mango Deck on Medano Beach. The club is open seven days a week, bright and early at 8am. They actually have a really great breakfast during the week and on Sunday, from 8am to 1pm, they offer an all you can eat brunch menu.
You can count on great snacks, like guacamole and buckets of beer. Besides contests and trivia, Mango Deck has live music nightly, can arrange some tours and is, in general, just a good place to hang out and meet people.
Things to Do in Cabo San Lucas
Whether you’re visiting Cabo San Lucas on an adventure vacation or a just for some relaxation time, there are plenty of activities suitable for the most energetic person down to the least motivated.
At the top of everyone’s list should be visiting the Arch or El Arco de Cabo. To see it best, book a boat tour or an all day excursion. If you have the time to do it twice, then go at sunset too.
For more suggestions, read more about my sunset cruise experience and many other things to do in Cabo San Lucas.
For even more Baja activities, a day trip to Todos Santos, snorkeling at Cabo Pulmo National Park or swimming with the whale sharks near La Paz are just a few of the fun Baja activities you can do.
Cabo San Lucas Money Tips
The official currency of Mexico is the peso so when it comes to money and paying for things in Cabo San Lucas, it’s best to use pesos. Some places do accept dollars but in general, when you pay with dollars, you’ll get change in pesos and the exchange rate is not good.
If you don’t have pesos when you arrive, get a few at the airport to get you started for tips and whatnot. Then later, use an ATM for a better exchange rate. Just remember to decline the conversion for less fees.
The next best option for exchanging money if you already have cash is a casa de cambio or change house.
Changing money at a bank, in my opinion, is the last resort for someone vacationing. For one, it’s time consuming. Secondly, they ask for copies of this and that and unless you already have your copies with you, they will not change your money.
This is not standard for all banks and I know there is someone out there reading this saying I’ve never had that happen at my bank. Well, that’s good.
I’ve had some positive encounters at banks too but I’ve also had enough negative, that I don’t want to stand in line for 30 minutes only to be told I don’t have what they need because there’s no standard in the country.
When it comes to credit cards, there’s no problem using them in Cabo San Lucas. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted.
Be aware that some restaurants in Mexico still don’t give an option to leave a tip on a credit card transaction, so it’s a good idea to have some bills on hand for tips.
Cabo San Lucas FAQ
What if I don’t speak Spanish?
Spanish is the most common language spoken is Mexico but if you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll have no problem communicating in Cabo San Lucas. Most hotel personnel and tourism people speak English.
However, I think it’s considerate and very much appreciated, if you at least learn the big 5. In Spanish they are super simple and you probably already know them.
Will My Phone Work in Cabo San Lucas?
Visitors from the U.S. that have service with Verizon or AT&T should be able to use their phones with an international plan.
If you are a frequent traveler to Mexico, consider buying a Mexican pay by the minute phone at a local Telcel store. Additionally you can purchase a local SIM card if your phone has one that you can swap out.
Many places have free Wi-Fi so it’s possible to use a messaging app such as WhatsApp – which by the way is one of my 5 essential apps for traveling in Mexico – for free to communicate.
Can You Drink the Water in Cabo?
Just like almost everywhere in Mexico, you probably don’t want to drink the water in Cabo San Lucas. You can easily find bottled water all over town and your hotel will probably even supply some.
OXXO is a popular convenience store in lieu of bigger grocery stores. You can pick up drinks, snacks, beer and condoms for a reasonable price.
Ice cubes, washed vegetables and fruit at resorts should be okay since many of them have their own filtration systems, but there’s no guarantee. If you have a sensitive stomach you may want to avoid these foods all together.
Mexico has good healthcare with reliable hospitals and urgent care but in the last few years, there are more and more reports of people being charged huge amounts to be treated. Sometimes their credit cards are charged the max amount and if they can’t pay all up front, they are told they can’t leave the hospital.
One way to avoid this is by purchasing travel insurance that will help you find care and will either pay up front or reimburse you for your healthcare expenses incurred. They are also skilled at dealing with medical personnel and will help you maneuver the system.
Many of them also provide emergency evacuation back to the states. See travel insurance plans that are right for you at TravelInsurance.com. You can search a variety of plans and find the one that’s right for you.
Traveling to Cabo San Lucas Roud-Up
Cabo San Lucas is one of those destinations that I could return to again and again. It’s such a relaxing, easy vacation in an appealing part of Mexico. Sun, sand and that gorgeous water. Are you ready?