The center of all the action in San José  is a wide brick plaza with a white gazebo-like structure in the middle. On the west side of the plaza, where the original mission once stood, is the 1940 Iglesia San José.
Opposite the church, a relatively new fountain has a continuous light show at night. And behind it a row of statues pays tribute to important leaders in Mexican history. Mature trees provide ample shade, while street performers entertain adults and children alike. Restaurants and shops line the plaza on Calles Zaragoza, Hidalgo, and Obregón and Boulevard Mijares.
At sundown a handful of food carts open for business. A nice alternative to a formal sit-down meal is to sample a taste of each: tamales, empanadas, paletas, and more. A variety of town festivals take place here, including events every Sunday evening during the Christmas season.
About a dozen of the historic adobe buildings in downtown San José have been converted into fine-art studios and galleries representing artists from all over Mexico and Central and South America as well as the United States. Most of the galleries are concentrated in the blocks between Calles Guerrero and Hidalgo and Calles Zaragoza and Comonfort. On display are stone sculptures, paintings, photography, pottery, and jewelry.
On Thursday evenings, the galleries stay open late for the weekly Art Walk (5–9 P.M. Nov.–June). This is an unguided opportunity to visit the galleries at your own pace. Some serve refreshments, and some allow you to watch the artists at work in their studios.
The Río San José, the largest source of freshwater in Southern Baja, originates in the Sierra de la Laguna, travels about 48 kilometers (much of it underground), and empties into a long, narrow estuary that measures 50 hectares. Sebastián Vizcaíno called the estuary Bahía San Bernabé. At the mouth of the river, a sandbar encloses a lagoon ringed by towering Tlaco palms and marsh grasses, which form a sanctuary for more than 200 species of birds.
Unfortunately, this fragile ecosystem is shrinking in size and biodiversity as the town of San José  grows, the water table lowers, and the Puerto Los Cabos marina and development encroaches on the preserve.
To reach the estuary, walk or drive to the northeast end of the zona hotelera and park outside the Presidente InterContinental. Walk toward the beach and you’ll see the estuary on the left. The area was flooded during our last visit, and it wasn’t clear if and when the trail would reopen.
The Jesuit mission (1730–1840) at San José was founded in 1730 when Father Nicolas Tamarál traveled south from La Purísima  and baptized more than 1,000 indigenous people in the first year.
The current church, painted a creamy yellow color, was built in 1940 with two symmetrical towers and a mosaic over the main entrance, which depicts the murder of Father Tamarál by the Pericú who rose up against him. The church holds regular worship services for the people of San José.
This striking 1831 building on Boulevard Mijares just off the plaza has a neoclassical facade and a tower with a wrought-iron balcony and large clock. In the 19th century the building housed the municipal council for San José. Today it contains a number of local government offices.
U.S. marines stayed in this mission-era building just off the plaza in 1847–1848, during the Mexican-American War. Today the blue and green building hosts art exhibits as well as music, dance, and theater performances. The cultural center is located on Calle Obregón at the end of Boulevard Mijares, on the north side of the plaza. The building is open to the public 9 A.M.–8 P.M. Monday–Saturday. Call tel. 624/142-2960 for a schedule of events.
San José ’s government-designated hotel zone encompasses more than 1,600 hectares that parallel the coastline from the Estero San José to Playa Costa Azul. To date, about a dozen large resorts and several condo complexes are complete. Some of the newcomers include the Royal Solaris, The Grand Mayan, and Cabo Azul resorts. As more properties have opened for business, Paseo de San José has become a busy thoroughfare, with several car rental offices and a few new shops and restaurants.
Condos and vacation homes surround a nine-hole golf course, now owned by The Grand Mayan. You can walk the beach all the way from the estuary to the surf break known as Zippers at Playa Costa Azul, but swimming is generally not a good idea, as the undertow is strong most of the year.
The brainchild of two cacti collectors, Cactimundo (Mijares, btw downtown/zona hotelera, tel. 624/146-9191, www.cactimundo.com , 8 A.M.–6 P.M. daily, US$3) has committed itself to the promotion, conservation, and reproduction of rare desert plants. It has 850 succulent species and more than 5,000 plants on display in a small public garden and nursery, some of which are visible from the street.
Call or check the website for free gardening classes. Guided tours are available by appointment. The entrance is on Boulevard Mijares, about 0.25 mile before the traffic circle at Paseo San José. Park on the street. There is a small gift shop inside the gardens with T-shirts, books, and other desert flora souvenirs.
Once an isolated fishing village frequented only by panga fishermen and adventurous travelers, Pueblo La Playa and its sandy beach, La Playita, are now linked to San José del Cabo via a paved road and bridge across the wide arroyo that separates the two.
The 800-hectare Puerto Los Cabos project includes a US$50 million marina designed to accommodate luxury mega-yachts, as well as a couple of designer golf courses, five-star accommodations, and beachfront lots that are selling for US$6–8 million.
At last check, the harbor was open for business and the first few yachts were sailing into port. Pueblo La Playa had Internet access, paved streets with curbs, and a new, modern sewage system in the works. A panga marina and beachfront park features a play structure for kids; a roped-off, protected swimming area; clean restrooms; and the fanciest fish-cleaning tables found anywhere in Baja.
To reach La Playita, turn east off Boulevard Mijares onto Calle Juárez. Follow this four-lane road over the bridge and watch the signs at each roundabout.
On the outskirts of San José , under a lookout point on the Transpeninsular Highway (Carretera Transpeninsular) near Km. 28–29, somewhat protected Playa Costa Azul attracts surfers, beachcombers, and occasionally swimmers who walk from the condo complexes that front the beach. For travelers coming from San José, there is a new and unmarked exit ramp just after the Deckman’s at Havana restaurant and before the wide arroyo. Turn left off the ramp and park in the sandy lot that divides Mira Vista condos and Zippers Restaurant.