Los Cabos was simply the sun-baked tip of Baja California not so long ago. But this ocean-surrounded peninsula has quickly grown to become a go-to tropical getaway destination for luxury travelers from the other California.
Plenty of American luxury travelers to "Cabo" jet down for weekends. They can stay busy with watersports, golf, whale-watching, and lively nightlife. Or they can just chill out in Cabos' lovely hotels, refined spas, and relaxing, delicious restaurants.
Many American visitors return again and again, just like the majestic humpback whales who migrate to Cabo annually to frolic in the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez, thrilling whale-watchers.
Here are the Top 10 things that make Cabo a must-visit luxury travel destination.
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Los Cabos comprises the charming colonial village of San José del Cabo and lively, yacht-filled, nightlife-intensive Cabo San Lucas.
They're connected by "the Corridor," where many luxury hotels are conveniently located. Anywhere you are in Los Cabos, the place you want to go is not far off.
One reason for Cabo's explosive growth is its proximity to America's West Coast.
- Cabo is only a two-hour nonstop flight from US cities close to the Mexican border, like LA, San Diego, Phoenix, Houston, and Dallas
- Most hotels are no more than a 30-minute drive from the airport; some are moments away
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Visiting celebrities try in vain to keep their Cabo visits a secret. They're frequently seen around town (and in Cabo's private-jet airports). For example:
- Jennifer Lopez is a fan of Las Ventanas al Paraiso, and Jessica Alba and Cameron Diaz dig the hotel's spa
- Cindy Crawford owns a home in Cabo with husband, club-owner Rande Gerber. So it's no surprise when she's seen dining with friends at Flora Farms
- The Kardashian clan has also broken bread at Flora Farms
- Spied on Cabo's picture-perfect beaches: Lea Michele; Julienne Hough; George Clooney
- Esperanza has hosted Giselle Bundchen and husband Tom Brady; Harrison Ford; Jennifer Aniston; Carrie Underwood
- In fact, Jennifer Aniston, like Lee Ann Rimes, chose Esperanza for her honeymoon
- Hellraisers like Charlie Sheen and Sean Penn find their heaven at El Ganzo
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Cabo flaunts a dozen exquisitely appointed, super-luxe hotels. They are cushy enough, and sufficiently private, to lure the private jet crowd and Hollywood stars.
Hotel service is a priority here. (The same is true of other successful Mexican resort areas such as Cancun and the Riviera Maya.) Luxury travelers to Cabo feel very well taken care of.
These are Cabo's best hotels and resorts.
- One&Only Palmilla offers a serene setting and sincere staffers. They welcome guests with one hand held over their heart, a greeting originated by an indigenous Baja tribe. Palmilla's individual casita cottages are airy yet perfectly private
- Perched on the very southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, The Resort at Pedregal is so secluded, its entrance is a nearly 1,000-foot-long cave carved by waves at the base of a stone mountain
- Esperanza, An Auberge Resort is a chic Relais & Chateaux hotel that feels like a posh retreat. Its choice digs are casitas whose indoor-outdoor living spaces and... infinity-edged hot tubs afford sweeping views of the Sea of Cortez
- El Ganzo is a 72-room boutique hotel devoted to the arts--and to artists. There are always artists-in-residence (such as painters, photographers, choreographers, musicians) in residence, and crews staying here for fashion and movie shoots. If nursing a margarita on a sea-view patio while chatting about film or music sounds good, El Ganzo is your Cabo hotel
- Casa Natalia is a small, boutique-style hotel nestled in San José del Cabo's thriving arts district. Casa Natalia is itself an artistic attraction, with creative and colorful rooms
- Las Ventanas al Paraiso means "windows to paradise." To some guests, it resembles a royal villa; to others, an Aztec temple. Las Ventanas emphasizes romance and customizes experiences such as private cooking classes
- Luxury travelers who prefer the all-inclusive format will love Zoetry Casa del Mar. Many guests here are honeymoon couples, and the atmosphere is romantically candle-lit and aromatherapy-perfumed
- Visitors intent on a social scene find it at trendy, glamorous ME Cabo, with a party-vibe tapas bar and the nightclub-on-sand Nikki Beach Club. Best rooms: ME's VIP guest suites on "The Level"
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Whale-watching in the waters off Los Cabos is a memorable way to spend an afternoon. Visitors never forget their glimpses of regal humpback and gray whales "breaching" (leaping) or peeking back at them.
- The whales migrate from their summer grounds in Alaska to spend the winter in the Sea of Cortez, mating and calving. (Other whale pods prefer wintering in Maui)
- Los Cabos whale-watching season runs from December 15 through April 15
- Whale-watching tours are not all alike. Some cater to families, others to partyers. Cabo EcoTours is all about the whales. Its EcoCat ship is a super-wide catamaran with a lot of stability, good news to the seasick-prone
Here, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Cabo is a magnet to sport-fishermen in search of trophy game fish like wahoo and marlin. (Cabo is considered the marlin capital of the world.) Today, many anglers observe catch-and-release. Pisces Group Cabo is a reliable, full-service sports and adventure concierge that arranges yacht rentals... and fishing boat charters, with crews
Tip: Visitors are often surprised to learn that many scenic Cabo beaches are not swimmable due to strong undertows and riptides. If your Cabo wish list includes ocean swimming, ask the resort you're considering if you can swim there, or if you can walk to a safe beachContinue to 5 of 11 below.
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Cabo dining is all about fresh, local ingredients. Here, the menu's catch of the day was swimming nearby that morning.
Other local specialties include famed Baja fish tacos; shrimp done every imaginable way; ceviche; and creamy, dreamy guacamole.
Some Cabo eateries to love:
- Deckman's en el Mogor showcases Georgia-born chef Drew Deckman's creativity in a seasonal seaside setting. If it's open when you visit, go, Period
- Flora's Field Kitchen at Flora Farm is a unique "farm-to-table" dining experience. Here, the table is on the farm. Its open-air restaurant, closed when it rains, serves exclusively food grown on the owners' two organic farms in Cabo. This spot is off the beaten (and rocky) path, but well worth the bumpy ride
- Many Cabo residents say that the best Baja fish tacos are at Gordo Lele's Tacos & Tortas in a corner of Cabo San Lucas. These iconic treats are inexpensive, spanking-fresh, and flavor-packed. And the place is colorful and fun
- Los... Cabos has its share of celebrity chefs. At One&Only Palmilla, Jean-Georges Vongerichten masterminded three eateries
- Mi Cocina and El Chilar serve very good classic Mexican chow
- Nearly every hotel recommended in this story offers cooking classes where your reward is a Mexican meal
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Los Cabos offers a range of nightlife adventures, including:
- Mega-clubs with globe-roving celeb deejays
- Boisterous tequila-shot bars
- Stylish boites where party-clad patrons sip artisanal cocktails
- Lounges with extensive menus of drinks and snacks
- Dignified food and wine hideaways
Here are some road-tested places to go, and what to order.
- As in all of Mexico, the drink of choice for locals and visitors alike is a margarita. It's OK to be picky. The best are handmade with no mixer, soda, or pre-squeezed lime juice.
- Los Cabos has its own twist on the margarita: Damiana, a local herb-based liqueur, is added for an exotic botanical flavor. Damiana is said to be an aphrodisiac.
- Bar Esquina, a casual but upscale bar and restaurant, offers a convivial patio with live music.Statesiders gather at its indoor bar to watch American sporting events.
- With three levels including a rooftop terrace, the velvet-roped Mandala Food & Wine Club offers VIP amenities, bottle service, and private cabanas.
- Locals... like to point out the mansion of Corona Beer's owner, on a hilltop beside Secrets Marquis Los Cabos. But discerning suds connoisseurs do their quaffing at Baja Brewing Company, Cabo's micro-brewery.
- Cabo now has its own local wineries such as Hacienda La Lomita and Andres Blanco. These Baja wines are worth trying and will continue to improve.
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Cabo can be a party lure -- or a serene spot that soothes visitors with its timeless rock formations and roar of the waves. This is a good place to indulge in a luxury spa, and Cabo obliges.
- Cabo's spas tend to combine indoor treatment rooms with outdoor spaces: private massage terraces, sundecks, shaded yoga and meditation nooks, nap lounges, hot tubs, infinity pools.
- The Spa at Esperanza was chosen as the #1 spa in Latin America by Travel + Leisure readers. One irresistible service is the Sparagarita, a series of mini-treatments involving Baja lime and sea salt.
- Zoetry's Sueños del Mar (Sea Dreams) Spa, with private cabins and outdoor terraces, encourages patrons to drink purifying chlorophyll juice, said to help purge the body of toxins.
- The elegant Spa at Las Ventanas resembles a colonial Mexican hacienda, with individual patios shaded by dense palm-tree canopies.
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Some visitors to Los Cabos become so captivated by this magical place that they end up purchasing a getaway home.
These upscale gated communities boast stunning seaside settings and equally attractive celebrities in residence.
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- Pedregal's mansions hug a promontory overlooking the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. Sylvester Stallone is a homeowner
- El Dorado is a prime beachfront community with part-time residents like Cindy Crawford
- Esperanza and Las Ventanas, among other Cabo hotels, have residential options on-property in the form of luxury suites or villas for purchase
- Ultra-exclusive Punta Ballena perches beside Esperanza. Oceanfront villas here begin at $3 million US
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Cabo is home to world-class golf courses.
- They were designed by the likes of likes of Pete Dye, Greg Norman, Tom Fazio, and Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
- Four Cabo courses were created by Jack Nicklaus
- Greg Norman designed the front nine of Puerto Los Cabos Golf Club and Jack Nicklaus the back nine, creating a "best of" golf experience
- Cabo courses are visually breathtaking, with cactus and agave trees and a sparkling backdrop of the Sea of Cortez
- Natural sand traps and marine breezes keep things lively
- One&Only Palmilla features Los Cabos' only 27-hole links, Palmilla Golf Course (Arroyo Nine, Mountain Nine, Ocean Nine). Its discounted Twilight tee time offers ravishing sunset vistas
- One&Only Palmilla also houses the first International PGA TOUR Academy
- Cabo San Lucas Country Club compensates for its sheer difficulty with mesmerizing views of Cabo's stone icon, the Land's End Arch
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Cabo's spectacular scenery has drawn a community of artists. Visitors who are art lovers are pleased by their imaginative paintings, pottery, and other works.
A good place look is San José del Cabo's compact downtown arts district, nestled in a lovely 18th-century barrio.
- Here, you'll find art galleries featuring paintings and artisan jewelry. Muvezi sells African works (and has another shop in Cabo San Lucas)
- San José del Cabo also houses a number of pottery stores featuring hand-painted designs with Baja California flair
- Puerto Paraiso, a shopping complex that looks more like a resort, offers numerous galleries and boutiques that sell Mexican arts such as Taxco silver jewelry, Saltillo tiles and weavings, and Huichol beadwork
- Todos Santos, a village on the Pacific Coast an hour north of Los Cabos, is a renowned gallery town with wonderful people-watching to go with the art
Check the local calendar once you arrive, because Cabo hosts enjoyable festivals.
- The Los Cabos... International Film Festival in November celebrates movies and actors. Expect screenings, premieres, previews, parties, and global guest stars
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By now you should be inspired to start planning your Los Cabos dream vacation. For more information check out the Los Cabos' official travel website.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with some discounted services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.