Photo Courtesy of Ken Bosma
Los Cabos is the area at the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula, and it encompasses two towns: San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Travelers love Los Cabos for a number of reasons, chief among them the exceptional weather and the geography: the desert gives way to not one, but two c…oasts, those of the Sea of Cortéz and the Pacific Ocean. “Nature's playground” is one nickname for Los Cabos, thanks to the opportunities to surf, dive, deep-sea fish, horseback ride, mountain bike, and more. And though few people come to Los Cabos to stay inside (after all, the area enjoys sunshine nearly every day of the year), San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas have some of the most luxurious hotels in western Mexico.
What to know before you go to Los Cabos
Los Cabos is that rare destination where the weather is nearly perfect year-round; in any given year, the area averages 350 days of sun. In summer months, temperatures top out at 90 degrees; in the winter, it's a near-constant and comfortable 77. The caveat emptor here, though, is hurricane season. Travelers considering a vacation in Los Cabos might want to schedule it outside June to early November, when tropical storms and hurricanes can kick up quickly. In September 2014, Los Cabos was slammed by category 4 Hurricane Odile, the most devastating hurricane to hit the area since the 1960s. Many structures in Los Cabos were damaged, including the airport, which was closed for nearly a month. Most major hotels were scheduled to remain closed for repairs until the first quarter of 2015. On the other hand, because these months are also “low season,” hotels can offer rate discounts of as much as 25 percent.
Most travelers arrive in Los Cabos via plane, and the two towns share an airport, Los Cabos (SJD). The airport is approximately six miles from the town of San José del Cabo. U.S. airlines that provide service to SJD include American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United, and US Airways. Alaska Airlines and Canada's WestJet also make flights, and Aeromexico services some U.S. cities, including Atlanta, from Los Cabos. Not all carriers offer direct flights, though, so check for layover information. Travelers from the U.S. are required to present a valid passport upon arrival. When clearing immigration, they're given a tourist card, which must be kept inside the passport and presented to immigration officials when departing the country.
Taxis, shuttles, and rental car services can all be hired at the airport; a rental car is recommended for visitors wanting to explore the lower Baja California peninsula. Highways and primary roads throughout the area tend to be well maintained; secondary roads can be bumpy and a bit wild, often with poor signage. The main highway through the region is the Carretera Transpeninsular, which runs all the way from Tijuana to the southernmost tip of the Baja California Peninsula, more than 1,000 miles in all. Many hotels and attractions are located along or just off the carretera, and addresses are indicated by the kilometer number on the highway (e.g., Km 19 Carretera Transpeninsular).
Flora Farm isn't a best-kept secret anymore, but this organic farm and field-to-table restaurant remains off the beaten track—literally—and draws those in the know for a delicious dining experience. Guests can see where their food comes from, and chefs can make a quick run to the field if they need to make a last-minute addition to a dish. Seasonal cocktails are “garden to glass”; drinks such as the “Farmarita” feature heirloom vegetables from the farm's own fields. Reservations are a must.
Los Cabos is a bit unusual compared with the rest of Mexico, where each state has a distinct traditional regional cuisine. Here, there's not necessarily a single defining dish (unless you count the Baja fish taco), and many restaurants can be a bit too touristy for travelers in search of authentic Mexican meals. That being said, Los Cabos' coastal position means that fish and seafood are as fresh as they come, and many restaurants here specialize in grilled catch of the day. Guests can even bring their own fresh catch for the chef to prepare to their taste. The Baja California peninsula also has a growing farm-to-table movement, and many restaurants tout their locally-sourced produce, which includes chilies, tomatoes, and herbs. Baja California is also Mexico's principal grape-growing and wine-making region, and guests love sampling the local wines, which are very difficult to find in the U.S. due to low production levels.
As with food, Los Cabos isn't known for its traditional festivals or cultural activities; much of the area was purpose-built for tourists and expats, so strong cultural traditions don't have the same kind of rootedness here that they have in most other areas of Mexico. That doesn't mean that the area is devoid of culture, however. Popular annual events include the Los Cabos International Film Festival and the Los Cabos Open of Surf, an international surfing competition, as well as the food and wine festival hosted by the Resort at Pedregal (formerly Capella Pedregal).
Credit and debit cards are accepted widely, but cash remains king, so it's best to keep a bit on hand, preferably in smaller bills, as many vendors can't or won't make change for large bills (50 and 20 peso notes are ideal). If using a credit or debit card, notify your bank or card company prior to traveling; they will put a “travel alert” on your card, preventing it from being flagged for fraud.
Spanish is national language of Mexico and it's best to learn at least a few phrases to get you through your day. But a combination of English and, occasionally, pantomime will probably work too.
read before you go
Julie Schwietert Collazo has been a bilingual freelance writer, editor, and translator for the past 10 years and loves (almost) every minute of it, but tells people if she could have any other job, it would be a gig as a Mexico City evangelist. The Mexican capital is her former home and the first place she always wants to go when she gets on a plane. Read more at collazoprojects.com.