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Cabo San Lucas first beckoned to Hollywood's elite in the 1970s as a luxurious reprieve from the "dregs" of show business. The town's rather seedy reputation changed as world-class resorts took up residence here, in the neighboring village of San José del Cabo, and along the 18-mile stretch of highway that connects the two (known as "the Corridor"). The construction of an international airport in the 1980s made it easier for travelers from all over to hop a nonstop flight to the "Los Cabos" area.
Thirty years later, this destination on the southernmost tip of Baja California is still known for its decadence—just take a look at the sprawling golf courses or deluxe villas. But the elitist pretense has dwindled: Days in the spa are just as coveted as evenings at a beachside watering hole. And there's a good chance that you'll see celebutantes and college freshmen sunning themselves side-by-side on a Cabo beach.
At the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, lies the tropical paradise known as Cabo San Lucas. Excellent weather, miles of magnificent public beaches with crystal clear water, and championship golf courses set the mood for a vacation that entices you to unwind and refresh.
Once sought after by migrating pirates for its safe harbors, the Los Cabos (The Capes) area, and Cabo San Lucas in particular, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. It has grown in recent decades to a city of over 25,000, with many of its residents drawn to its rugged and beautiful coastline, water-sports galore, and world-class golf resorts. Cabo is particularly famous among the sport fishing crowd because of its year-round status as the Mecca of big game trophy fish.
No matter what the season, in Cabo San Lucas you can partake in the thrill of hooking a blue or black marlin, sailfish, dorado, or tuna. There are also many great surfing opportunities in Cabo San Lucas. To add some underwater excitement to your stay in this beautiful city, go on a deep-sea diving adventure, where you can see spectacular gardens of black coral reefs, gorgeous sea turtles, and sand waterfalls.
The legendary spirited nightlife of Cabo San Lucas, as well as the wonderful fresh seafood served in its charming restaurants, also highlight this wonderful city. Shopping for creative Mexican arts and crafts, or spending the day out on a glittering white sand beach are other ways that you can enjoy your peaceful stay here. It is no wonder that visitors return again and again!While Cabo San Lucas remains the most popular port on the classic Mexican Riviera route (Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan), the cruise lines' decision to terminate weekly trips from Los Angeles and San Diego to the Mexican Riviera has made a substantial impact.
Cabo also has some of the best sportfishing in the world, and it is the quest for marlin that put the town on the map. After World War II and the advent of private planes, Hollywood royalty such as Bing Crosby and John Wayne arrived to fish. In the 1970s, a highway was built to connect California to Baja, and the travel industry began in earnest. Now, it's hard to open a celebrity magazine without seeing photos of A-listers lounging at the six-star resorts that have sprung up in "The Corridor," as the coastal stretch between the two cities is known.
One of the downsides for most cruise travelers: There's no cruise pier, so all ships must anchor and tender passengers to the port. That means you'll need to factor in extra time getting to and from your ship. Even odder is the fact that some ships only stop for half-day visits, which means that actual on-land time can be extremely limited (although excursion providers usually time their tours to meet the needs of cruisers). However, other ships spend two days in Cabo, allowing passengers to stay out until 9 p.m. before the ship maneuvers offshore to open casinos. If you're one of the lucky ones with a longer port time, greater Baja, including daytrips to Todos Santos, are within reach.
On average, cruise ship passengers can expect to spend between 7 and 8 hours ashore in Cabo.In 2015, Cabo San Lucas is slated to host 460,000 passengers sailing on 177 ships, up 72% and 37%, respectively, from 2014.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at the Main Dock in Cabo San Lucas. There are expansion plans for a new full service dock and pier to be built in Medano Bay in the near future.Taxis are readily available in Cabo San Lucas, but expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $25 to be transported around town. Cabo does have an efficient bus system in the SuburBaja, which run from Cabo San Lucas to the neighboring San Jose every twenty minutes. The cost is $2.50 per person.
Getting Around
By Foot: It's an easy 15-minute walk from the cruise ship pier to the main drag via the pleasant and well-marked marina.
By Water Taxi: At the cruise pier, you can get a water taxi to take you to Medano Beach for about $10. If you want an up-close view of El Arco,a glass-bottom boat will take you out there, as well as to Pelican Bay, for about $20 for a party of four. Always negotiate your fee in advance.
By Taxi: Although the center of town is reachable by foot, the heat might make a taxi ride easier. Taxis, mostly of the sedan type (as opposed to safari cabs), line up at the marina.
By Car: For explorations beyond the city limits, your best bet is to rent a car; among the agencies with offices in town: National (877-567-3572 or 624-142-2424), Budget (U.S. 800-801-0365 or Mexico 800-002-8343) and Alamo (U.S. 866-365-3530, Mexico 800-821-6522 or 624-143-6060).
It's easy to see why Cabo San Lucas is such a popular stop for cruise ships. The convenient location of the city's cruise ship terminal allows visitors easy access to the many water-based activities companies headquartered on the marina, as well as quick and affordable water taxi transportation to beautiful local beaches like Playa El Médano and Playa del Amor.
Playa El Médano is approximately a 30 minute walk from the terminal, but water taxis cut the travel time to about 5 minutes, and generally cost only a couple of dollars per person. Médano Beach is definitely worth a visit. This two mile stretch of sand hosts many of Los Cabos' best resorts, restaurants and cantinas, including popular stops like Mango Deck and The Office, and is the go-to spot for water-based rentals and parasailing rides.
Cabo San Lucas' other iconic beach, Playa del Amor (more commonly known as Lover's Beach), is also a highly recommended stop for first-time visitors. Water taxi rides to this picturesque playa are easily arranged, but more satisfying excursions are available through High Tide Sea Expeditions, which offers three hour tandem kayak trips to Land's End, with a leisurely stop at Lover's Beach for snorkeling and snacks. Best of all, the tour starts a very short distance from the cruise ship terminal.
One of the most popular activities while in Cabo San Lucas is to explore the surrounding regions by way of the all terrain vehicle (ATV). The ATV is by far the best way to get to the famous village of La Candelaria. It is an old town that is known for the underground river that nourishes its lush palm and mango trees. In addition, the twenty-five-mile tour will take you past sea turtle nesting sites, pristine beaches, and many more attractions that will take your breath away. Xplora Adventours (624/142-9000) is one of several outfitters that can make this dream excursion a reality.
A beautiful, and less visited site, in the region is the Iglesia de San Lucas, a stone church located on Calle Cabo San Lucas. It was built in 1730 by Spanish missionaries and features beautiful examples of 18th century architecture. In addition, the surrounding areas are being revitalized to complement the church, providing a glimpse into older times of Cabo San Lucas when tourism had yet to take over the area.
A wonderful way to view the attractions of the Baja Sur coastline is to take a trip on a glass-bottom boat. Head to the town marina and catch a boat leaving every forty-five minutes. Soak in the sights of "El Arco" (Rock Arch), the geographical meeting of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. Marvel at the sea life of the region, including sea lions and tropical fish galore.
If simply viewing the fish from afar isn't enough for you, then perhaps you would be interested in catching them. Arrange for a five-hour fishing excursion on one of several Panga Fleets. They are affordable and knowledgeable, taking you to the prime fishing spots off the coast.
Buccaneer Queen
Ready to set sail aboard a 98' replica pirate ship that looks as if it could have sailed the Spanish Main? Daily excursions feature up-close looks at Land's End and Lover's Beach, as well as snorkeling adventures in the fish-rich waters of Chileno Bay. Kids will love the sword fights and other entertainment staged by the salty costumed crew. Parents will appreciate the Mexican specialty food and open bar. Luau and sunset sails are other popular tour options, as are the adults-only cruises offered on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to midnight. Seasonal whale watching trips are also available. ((624) 144 4217)
Cabo Expeditions
Cabo Expeditions is one of the premier adventure companies in Cabo San Lucas, offering a variety of eco-themed activities that include whale watching and swimming with whale sharks (seasonal), parasailing, a hybrid between snorkeling and scuba diving called Snuba, Sea Trek helmet diving, snorkel trips to Chileno and Santa María Bays, day trips to Isla Espíritu Santo off the coast of La Paz, and city tours around Cabo San Lucas. One of the great things about Cabo Expeditions' large and varied collection of land and water based activities is that they cover a wide portion of Baja California Sur, and give visitors a very good idea of the area's incredible diversity. ((624) 143-2700)
Amigos del Mar
There are several reasons to recommend Amigos del Mar - the oldest dive shop in Cabo San Lucas - most notably their friendly and experienced staff, as well as their willingness to take divers to a large variety of undersea locations. Available sites include Anegada, The Point (off Land's End), La Larga, The Blowhole, Twin Dolphins Reef, Chileno Reef, Barco Varado, as well as more remote sites like Gordo Banks and Cabo Pulmo, home of the oldest living coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, and the largest concentration of fish in the Sea of Cortez. Scuba training and certifications are also available. ((624) 143-0505)
Cabo Flyboard
Flyboarding is one of the most popular new water-based activities in Cabo San Lucas. The sport has only been around since 2011, when it was invented by a French jet ski champion named Franky Zapata. For those unfamiliar with flyboarding, you strap on a pair of boots that are attached to a board, which is linked by hose to a wave runner or jet ski. Revving the jet ski sends water pressure through the hose and allows the flyboard wearer to propel him or herself up to 35 feet out of the water. Steering is controlled by your feet, and tricks and turns are possible once you're out of the water and flying above Cabo San Lucas Bay like some sort of superhero. ((624) 143-0146)
Cabo Submarine
This 60' yellow semi-submersible takes up to fifty guests for one hour tours of Cabo San Lucas Bay, with abundant views of the local marine life from their climate-controlled underwater viewing cabin, and the occasional Beatles song (you guess which one) as mood music. Helpful guides allow you to identify up to 70 types of fish (everything from dolphins and whales to colorful puffer fish), and if it isn't on the chart, crew are available to answer questions. On the return trip, the submarine goes very close to Land's End, The Arch, and other notable rock formations like Pelican Rock and Neptune's Finger. ((624) 143-8718)
The 144' luxury catamaran Caborey is the premier cruise ship in Los Cabos, best known for its perennially popular margarita and dinner cruises. The dinner cruise is one of the great local activities, particularly for those who are in town for a short time and want to get a feel for the local landscape, culture, and cuisine. Enjoy the sunset views of Cabo San Lucas Bay, Médano and Lovers' Beaches, and the unique rock formations such as El Arco that jut out towards Land's End. There are two belowdecks areas for dinner, depending upon your ticket preference. There is a buffet on the middle deck, and a sit-down dinner on the lower deck with a choice of entrées. After the sit-down dinner, there is a rousing Las Vegas-style floor show featuring Mexican and Latin American singing and folk dances. Other activities options include parasailing and fast boat sightseeing tours. ((624) 143-8060)
High Tide Sea Expeditions
High Tide offers a large variety of tours and adventures, ranging from guided surf and snorkel adventures, to city tours and an introduction to San Jose del Cabo's Art Walk. One of their most iconic offerings is a kayak paddle out to Land's End and the Arch, with a stop at Lover's and Divorce Beaches for sun, sand, snorkeling, snacks, and superb photo opportunities. Stand up paddle boards are also available on this tour. Less active pursuits include off-road jeep explorations of East Cape sites like Cabo Pulmo, a rustic seaside paradise whose offshore marine sanctuary boasts the oldest living coral reef in the Western Hemisphere. ((624) 142-0424)
Playa del Amor
Lover's and Divorce Beaches are as close as you can get to Land's End without a boat. However, you will need a boat or other water-based transportation to access either of these beaches. Lover's Beach is on the Sea of Cortez side, and generally has safe swimming and good snorkeling conditions. It also features spectacular views of the bay, and all the luxury hotels on Médano Beach. Walk through a gap in the rocks and you're on Divorce Beach, looking out at the Pacific Ocean. The locals like to joke about the fact that Divorce Beach is five times the size of Lover's Beach. There are no vendors or services on either beach, so make sure you bring what you need for the day. Water taxis are easily available from the Marina or Medano Beach, and will be glad to drop you off. Make sure to tell the taxi driver when you want him to return.
Cabo Adventures
Cabo Adventures is one of the area's top tour companies, with friendly professional staff, and an impressive roster of exciting outdoor activities. Dolphin swims and encounters through affiliate Cabo Dolphins are probably the most popular offering, and are available at locations in Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Other tours showcase sailing, diving, whale watching, mountain biking, and zip lining, and the outback camel safaris feature guided introductions to the flora and fauna of the Baja peninsula. With the exception of dolphin-related offerings in San Jose del Cabo, all other tours meet at the Dolphin Center on the Cabo San Lucas Marina. Water and snacks are included, and each tour is accompanied by a professional photographer. ((624) 173-9500)
Playa El Médano
Médano is ground zero for the Spring Break madness in March, and remains busy throughout the year. In many ways, it's the center of social life in Cabo San Lucas. Playa El Médano is huge, about two miles long, and filled with restaurants, bars, souvenirs vendors, and water-based activities rentals. You can rent wave runners, kayaks, go parasailing, have a water taxi take you out to Land's End or Lover's Beach, or drop you off back at the marina. Swimming is extremely safe here, and although you won't find any lifeguards in Cabo San Lucas, areas are roped off for swimming. (N/A)
Beaches are plentiful on the Baja Sur, and the corridor (the land between Cabo San Lucas and San José Del Cabo) offer myriad opportunities to have fun in the sun. Medano Beach is a fantastic family beach that features personal watercraft rentals, snorkeling gear for sale and rent, etc. Further away from town are the beaches of Playa Palmilla, Barco Varado, and Santa Maria, yet these waters are often turbulent, so beware of any warnings posted before you decide to take a swim.
Best for Families: The "corridor" between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, which rings the Sea of Cortez, has plenty of calm stretches. The most popular is Chileno Beach, which offers calm waters and snorkeling. There are also restrooms and shade palapas available on a first-come, first-served basis (although no restaurants, so bring your own food and drink). You can reach it by rental car, cruise ship excursion or from several independent tour operators. (If you decide to go by taxi, make sure you have a way to get back.)
Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, & Surfing
Santa Maria and El Arco beaches are two popular snorkeling sites, and specialized snorkeling cruises are available to take you to the prime reef-viewing spots. For those interested in scuba diving while in Cabo San Lucas, contact Amigos del Mar (tel. 800/344-3349). This operator, as well as others in town, can take you to the famous "sandfalls" as well as on longer trips to the Gordo Banks and other exciting diving destinations. If you want to break out the surfboard and "hang ten", visit Chileno Beach, famous for its perfect right breakers.
Dining & Nightlife
Cabo has a lot of bad, overpriced food and a lot of good food that's good value. It can be hard to know what's what from the outside, so make sure you get a recommendation before just walking in -- locals know the difference, so ask around before you end up in a tourist trap. We've listed a selection of local favorites, and some insider tips on Cabo's best restaurants at all price levels. For cheap eats, the absolute local favorite is Gardenia's Tacos, a bare-bones eatery on Paseo Pescadores (same street as McDonald's) that serves Cabo's best tacos; other cheap (tacos and quesadillas from 15 pesos) and safe snacks are served up out of the white trucks in front of the Marina Mercado down Marina Boulevard, open roughly 5am to 2pm. Note that three of our picks are on the same block, Hidalgo just south of Plaza Amelia Wilkes, so if you can't get into one, you can try the others easily. Other streets to explore for other good restaurants include Hidalgo and Lázaro Cárdenas, plus the marina at the Plaza Bonita. Many restaurants automatically add a 15% tip to the bill.
Mi Casa (Ave. Cabo San Lucas, 624/143-1933) is a quaint restaurant featuring traditional and modern Mexican cuisine in a charming outdoor setting. Across from the main plaza in town, it is a delightful place to have a romantic evening meal. If you are looking for a tasty and affordable breakfast, head to Mama's Royale Café (Ave. Hidalgo, 624/143-4290) Live music will compliment your generous breakfast of sausage, French toast, orange juice, and more, all in a lovely atmosphere. In the Marina, Solomon's Landing makes a pleasant stop for breakfast (try the chilaquiles roja), lunch or a snack, with a covered patio that allows perfect people-watching without vendor hassles. It's also been featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. (Blvd. Marina S/N lots 9/10; 624-143-3050; open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
At The Crazy Lobster happy hour runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Its menu features lobster tacos, shrimp, ribs, burgers and more. There's a jukebox playing oldies, pool tables, karaoke machine and dancing waiters. (Hidalgo Street at Zapata; 624-143-6535; open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
Pancho's Restaurant & Tequila Bar is owned by ex-pats from California. A large mesquite grill in the center of the restaurant provides dishes of the regional states of Mexico, such as chicken mole, carne asada and fresh seafood. Los Pancho's Trio plays Mexican music each evening, and there's a long list of specialty tequilas. (Hidalgo and Emiliano Zapata S/N; 624-143-2891; open noon to 11 p.m.)
Medano Beach is full of restaurants and bars where you can rent a chair and umbrella while you eat, drink and sun till your heart's content. Among these, the Mango Deck (open 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.) is legendary for its rowdy atmosphere (wet T-shirt contests and staff dancing occurs on a regular basis); it also has a sushi bar. The Sand Bar has a covered deck where beach massages are available daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; $32 for 50 minutes.
Cabo Wabo Cantina (Vicente Guerrero, 624/143-1198) is a bar and club with a youthful flair; it features live music and a touristy crowd. Sancho Panza Wine Bar & Bistro (Blvd. Marina, 624/143-3212, www.sanchopanza.com) features live jazz nightly and is a hit with locals and tourists; a relaxing, perfect way to spend an evening in Cabo.
Los Cabos may not have a whole lot of homegrown wares, but the stores are filled with beautiful and unusual items from all over mainland Mexico. You can find hand-painted blue Talavera tiles from Puebla; blue-and-yellow pottery from Guanajuato; black pottery from San Bartolo Coyotepec (near Oaxaca); hammocks from the Yucatán; embroidered clothing from Oaxaca, Chiapas, and the Yucatán; silver jewelry from Taxco; fire opals from Queretaro; and the fine beaded crafts of the Huichol tribe from Nayarit and Jalisco.
Los Cabos manufactures good times under plenty of sunshine but very few actual products. One exception is glassware from Fábrica de Vidrio Soplado (Blown-Glass Factory). In addition, a burgeoning arts scene has national and international artists opening galleries and, in fact, a large number of galleries now abound throughout Los Cabos, with many in San José del Cabo's rapidly evolving city center and more dotted throughout Todos Santos's historic downtown. Dozens of shops will custom-design gold and silver jewelry for you, fashioning pieces in one to two days. Liquor shops sell a locally produced liqueur called damiana, which is touted as an aphrodisiac. A few shops will even create custom-designed bathing suits for you in a day or so.
No longer hawking only the requisite T-shirts, belt buckles, and trinkets, Cabo's improved shopping scene has reached the high standards of other Mexican resorts. Its once-vacant streets are today lined with dozens of new shops, from open-air bazaars and souvenir shops to luxury malls and designer boutiques.
If you're after a beer-themed T-shirt, Cabo San Lucas can't be beat. But it's not a complete retail desert. In addition to top-end international shopping malls like Plaza Paraíso (on Lázaro Cárdenas, fronting the marina; tel. 624/144-3000; www.puertoparaiso.com), where you can replace your missing Burberry bikini or buy a diamond ring, try the shops listed for unique, high-quality products
For the shopping experience in Cabo San Lucas, look no further than the Blvd. Marina. Here you will find stores ranging from the religiously oriented Rostros de México (Ave. Cárdenas, 624/143-0558), specializing in carved statues and masks, to the gallery at El Callejón (Vicente Guerrero, 642/143-1139), which features the wares of local artists, antiques, paintings, and a wealth of unique gifts.

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