Famous for its parties and 350 days of annual sunshine, Cabo San Lucas is among the most popular destinations in Mexico. It draws visitors from the west coasts of the U.S. and Canada, as well as other cities within Mexico. This is a place to unwind and escape from your cares for a while. Take a look at some money saving tips as you plan your budget trip.
Welcome to Cabo San Lucas
The area commonly called Cabo San Lucas actually includes a 20-mile coastline at the tip of Baja California. Two cities on opposite ends of that stretch, Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, are connected by Route 1. The international airport is located immediately north of San José del Cabo. Direct flights enter the area from other parts of Mexico and a number of U.S. and Canadian airports, including Chicago, Detroit, Newark, and Vancouver.
When to Visit
Weather doesn't change too much from month to month, although summers are hotter and hurricane season can usher in moisture and rain even when the brunt of the storm misses the area. Cloudy days are rare and weather is highly predictable for days at a time. Winter season tends to be more attractive to tourists, and there is a Fiesta de San José del Cabo in March that attracts visitors. Spring break brings thousands of college-aged visitors.
Cabo often attracts visitors to a single resort, where they spend the bulk of their time relaxing by the pool. There are scores of outside activities, including whale watching, deep sea fishing, and diving or snorkeling. But it's a great place to be lazy for a few days, too.
Where to Eat
When planning for dining in Cabo, you'll find resorts here offer all-inclusive pricing, which sometimes works out to be cheaper than buying individual meals. But many budget travelers don't want to be locked into a resort menu every day. You can find a variety of small restaurants and bar food in the two main cities. The marina area in Cabo San Lucas is filled with American chain restaurants. You'll have to do some restaurant research and exploration to find smaller, local favorites. Often it's well worth the effort to do so.
Transportation costs can be expensive. The larger resorts offer one-way and round-trip shuttle van runs into the towns for a fixed price per passenger. A shuttle ride from the airport can cost $30-$40, and cab ride costs to various places along the coast will add up quickly. With this in mind, it sometimes pays to investigate a car rental in Cabo if you're planning to be on the move during your stay. Rates can be quite reasonable.
Where to Stay
You'll need to make a decision early in your planning between stays in a larger resort, where many of your daily needs are met without travel, or a smaller budget-style motel from which you'll need to find services such as dining and entertainment. Further complicating the situation is the destruction associated with Hurricane Odile, which hit in September 2014. It was the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in Mexico, and more than a year later, resorts and other businesses continue to repair or even rebuild. Among the first resorts to reopen was the Sheraton Hacienda Del Mar Golf & Spa Resort, which was largely reopened in time for the start of the busy season in November 2014.
Baja California is a desert location. Hurricanes aside, it receives only about 10 inches of rain each year. Much of the action for tourists here focuses not on the land, but the Sea of Cortez (sometimes nicknamed the "world's aquarium") and the Pacific Ocean. From about mid-December until mid-April, it's possible to book whale watching trips. Gray whales migrate here for the warm water conditions. Deep-sea fishing is a favorite activity throughout the year. Pisces Sportfishing offers trips from $112/person when four clients share a 28' boat.
More Cabo Tips
- Just after customs clearance at the airport, timeshare touts will greet you aggressively. Keep walking. These people are paid to create confusion and take you to a high-pressure sales presentation. If you want to consider a timeshare purchase, do the research before departure and arrange to visit after you've had a few days to explore the area.
- It's easy to confuse the Sea of Cortez with the Pacific Ocean. If you're facing the sea side, you're facing east. You'll have to travel to a place on the Pacific side to see the beautiful sunsets to the west.
- Even if you're here mainly to relax in the sun, strongly consider a boat ride to Lands End, the rock outcropping pictured at the top of this page. Baja Outback offers this boat ride as part of a larger tour of the area for about $100/adult. But if you simply want a quick boat ride to take some pictures, there are vendors in the marina area of Cabo San Lucas who will make arrangements for far less money.
- Don't forget to keep your Mexican Tourist Card with your passport. If you lose the card, you'll pay a fine and face the prospect of waiting for a replacement as your flight leaves without you.
- If you're a Gene Simmons fan, check out his Rock & Brews club in San José del Cabo. Live bands feature rock music from the '70s and '80s.
- Try to sample some of the local food favorites. Flash-fried shrimp and ceviche (a salad mixed with raw fish) are favorites, as is cowboy steak, the local name for rib-eyes from the state of Sonora in Mexico.
- Beware of dangerous beach conditions. Many of the beaches here are fine for walking but dangerous for swimmers, who will face fierce undertows. It's easy to get into trouble very quickly, so inquire about local conditions and heed whatever advice you receive.