Visiting Los Cabos: Where and When to Go

View of orange and blue stucco buildings built along a rocky shoreline with a sloped beach.

Sunrise in Los Cabos. Photo © Ken Bosma, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Once just a quiet fishing village at the tip of Baja California, Los Cabos today encompasses two cape towns and a tourist corridor all wrapped up into one destination.


Where to Go in Los Cabos

San José del Cabo

The original Cabo is an authentic town with a history that goes back to mission times. It has a historic art district, fine dining, boutique hotels, and a more traditional Mexican culture. This is a great location for surfing and sportfishing.

The Corridor

Along the Corridor that connects the two towns, luxury resorts pamper guests with every amenity imaginable, and designer golf courses abound. Beaches are not private, but finding access can be a challenge.

Cabo San Lucas

This “Cabo” entertains the young and young at heart in a uniquely Americanized fashion. The action centers around a busy marina district and crowded beach called Playa El Médano.

Todos Santos and the West Cape

Along the Pacific coast, a rugged shoreline extends from Cabo San Lucas north to the funky artist community of Todos Santos, a crossroads for painters, sculptors, yoga students, surfers, and early retirees. Experienced surfers camp out here for weeks on end, hoping to catch the perfect wave. Development is on the rise, but the West Cape remains the least-developed stretch of coastline on either side of the peninsula south of La Paz.


Excursions from Los Cabos

If you have the time to venture outside of the immediate Los Cabos vicinity, there are many more adventures to try. The East Cape holds intrigue for travelers with a passion for water sports and a willingness to rough it. Here, Cabo Pulmo is defined by solar power, dirt roads, panga boats, and palapa restaurants. The Sea of Cortez offers secluded beaches, steady winds, abundant game fish, a living coral reef, and days of 30-meter visibility underwater.

Farther north, Los Barriles is the most developed town between La Paz and San José del Cabo, with services for anglers, kiteboarders, and divers.

In the Sierra de la Laguna, hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders experience more rugged terrain. The silver mining ghost towns of El Triunfo and San Antonio hold hidden treasures, like a piano museum and a cactus sanctuary.

By contrast, La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, is an authentic Mexican city with a strong mainland influence. White-sand beaches along the Pichilingue Peninsula invite relaxation, while the protected islands offshore support a rare and fragile ecosystem.

Southeast of La Paz, Bahía de la Ventana is a stunning and remote bay that serves kiteboarders and windsurfers in the windy winter months, and scuba divers, snorkelers, sportfishers, and stand-up paddlers in the calmer summer months.

Beyond La Ventana, Bahía de los Muertos is a panga-lined bay that still holds the ruins of the abandoned Ensenada de los Muertos.


When to Go to Los Cabos

Southern Baja is warm year-round, and the desert climate means very little precipitation except during late summer and early fall. The best travel season depends on your activity of choice. Anglers and scuba divers prefer summer, when the game fish are running and the Sea of Cortez reaches its warmest temperatures. The air on land can be intolerably hot this time of year. Head to the Pacific coast if you need to cool off. Surfers flock to beaches on the Pacific in winter to catch the north swell, and they choose the Corridor or the East Cape when the summer swell rolls in from the south. Winter brings gray whales to the shallow birthing lagoons along the Pacific. It’s also the windy season for kiteboarders and windsurfers.

Places book up in Los Cabos and La Paz during Christmas and around New Year’s Day and also for the week before Easter (Semana Santa). In March Cabo San Lucas fills with college students on spring break. La Paz fills up in November during the Baja 1000 off-road race.


Before You Go to Los Cabos

Passports and Other Documents
Anyone traveling by air, land, or sea from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda is required to present a valid passport. Citizens of the United States or Canada (or of 42 other designated countries in Europe and Latin America, plus Singapore) who are visiting Mexico as tourists do not need a visa. They must, however, obtain validated tourist cards, called formas migratorias turistas, or FMTs, available at any Mexican consulate or Mexican tourist office, for flights to Mexico and any border crossings. The tourist card is valid for 180 days and must be used within 90 days of issue. It expires when you exit the country. If you are planning to enter and leave Mexico more than once during your trip, you can ask for a multiple-entry tourist card, which is available at Mexican consulates. In 1999 the Mexican government instituted a tourist fee (currently around US$25-30), which is factored into your airfare if you fly but must be paid separately at a bank in Mexico if you cross the border by land or sea.
Transportation
Buy round-trip airfare to Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) or arrange to arrive by land or by sea. Reserve a rental car for pickup at the airport or plan to take a shuttle or taxi into town and use public transportation to get around. Buy street maps for the larger towns and topo maps if you are planning to explore the mountains. If you are driving your own vehicle, bring two copies of your Mexican auto liability insurance policy, plus road maps and at least a basic auto repair kit.

Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Los Cabos.


Maps of Los Cabos

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