There were several things that I heard about Mexico's Los Cabos prior to going there last month: It has the most perfect weather (tropical with no humidity), it has the most beautiful sunsets (which look different every day), and you can see a lot of whales (like a lot). “You haven't been there yet?!" one of my co-workers asked me when I shared this insight with her prior to her going there a month before me. "And here I thought I was the last person to go!"
It's true, Cabo is a popular destination for snowbirds, spring breakers, and anyone looking for a quality beach getaway. But, as popular as Los Cabos may be, it remains a gem even for those in the know. Earlier this year, the New York Times ranked it the 11th must-visit city of 2018.
Located on the tip of the Baja California Sur peninsula, Los Cabos is divided primarily into two parts, Cabo San Lucas (the party side where many flock for the beachside resorts and rowdy bar scene) and San Jose del Cabo (the historic side with an up-and-coming art scene). Flanked by mountains and two azure bodies of water (the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez), Los Cabos is truly one of the most picturesque cities you'll visit.
Ahead, the best places to stay, drink, eat, and shop, as well as activities in which to partake, that prove that Los Cabos is worthy of its must-visit standing. Even if you're the last person you know to go there.
Where to Stay
As with any heavily populated resort town, there are plenty of options of where to stay in Cabo, but, important to note, not every hotel will have a swimmable beach, even if they're located on the water (strong currents, waves, and deep floor drops are to blame).
Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort: This stunning property does offer a swimmable beach. In addition to prime access to the Sea of Cortez, the hotel houses two pools (see the infinity one above), a spa with native Mexican rituals, and a fitness studio with beachside yoga and zumba classes. Helmed by the visionary chef Mauricio Lopez, the onsite restaurants offer some of the best and most innovative food you'll have on your trip. Spring for La Vista Club club rooms, accommodations located on the top floors of the hotel, boasting giant marble bathrooms stocked with Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries, aromatherapy turndown service, terraces that offer breathtaking ocean and sunrise views, and access to a private pool area equipped with a butler. Come here between late July and November and you can also participate in the hotel's turtle protection program, that works to protect the hatching Olive Ridley sea turtles and safely release them into the water.
Tree houses at Acre Baja: This is not a long-term stay option, but if you're looking to do something different, stay at one of the tree houses in a canopy of palms, equipped with a king-size bed and outdoor shower, at Acre, a restaurant-turned-event space-turned resort (more on that later).
Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort, Los Cabos: Set to open in June, this beachfront property is anticipated both for its sleek design (that nods to the area's traditional architecture) and commitment to immersive experiences for the guests. Paying tribute to the history of the Baja Peninsula, the 128-room resort will double as a museum with original works of art displayed throughout the property. The seven onsite restaurants will further the mission of immersing the guests by introducing them to Baja's culinary traditions.
Where to Eat
Organic, farm-to-table eating is on the rise in Cabo. Surrounded by fertile farms, several restaurants have taken to growing their own produce and raising poultry, making for some truly incredible meals. Also, unlike other tourist towns in Mexico, the food in Los Cabos is not your standard Mexican-for-gringos fare; expect innovative fusions with a Latin twist and buzzy ingredients.
Acre Baja: You won't want to leave this gorgeous farm-restaurant-event space that now also offers accommodations. Stroll the grounds and meet its dwellers—Burrito the donkey, peacocks, and Nigerian dwarf goats—before heading over to the Instagrammable pool and grabbing an expertly crafted cocktail, like the signature sage margarita or the mezcal herb-smoked negroni made using house-made syrups and fresh herbs plucked from the farmland grounds. Proceed to dinner, where you will be served mouthwatering dishes like beet gazpacho, scallop ceviche with avocado mousse, cauliflower three ways, and squid ink fettuccine, before trying different mezcals paired with grasshopper and agave worm salts at the onsite tasting room.
Vela: With a Latin take on Italian classics, Vela is an example of fusion done so right. Ask for a table by the pool and prepare to enter a blissful food coma as you try dishes like to-die-for green risotto with shrimp, asparagus, and avocado, the best San Marzano pasta I have ever tasted, and grilled totoaba, an incredibly tender native fish that is only found in this area of Mexico. Make sure to leave room for the Michelangelo Palette dessert, an explosion of taste (think: dark chocolate, pistachio nougat, Valrhona cocoa sponge cake) made to look like a literal painter's palette.
Los Tamarindos: Another incredible farm and restaurant, Los Tamarindos not only provides vegetables, fruits, and herbs for its own restaurant, but also for other restaurants in the area. See the kale, baby zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants that are grown on the 17-acre farm before tasting them in dishes like baked eggplant rolls stuffed in a basil-tomato sauce, chile rellenos, and soup of the day made from ingredients sourced that morning. Make sure to try the cocktails also featuring fresh herbs and produce, like the tamarind, tomato, or chile serrano margaritas.
Office: While this is definitely a popular tourist stop, it is also a delicious restaurant located right on the beach with views of the famous El Arco water rock formations. Throw off your shoes, wiggle your toes in the sand, and prepare to inhale all the seafood-centric food you can eat.
Los Tres Gallos: Known for more traditional Mexican cuisine, Los Tres Gallos, translated to "The Three Roosters" and named after popular Mexican actors, is an affordable hole-in-the-wall type of joint that puts out reliable and crowd-pleasing classics like mole, queso, pibil, enchaladas, and tacos all served with homemade tortillas and house salsas. Don't miss out on the Mexican coffee and dessert.
Chula Vegan Café: While it's not hard to find a delicious vegetable-based dish created with local, organic ingredients, it admittedly can be tough to find a place that offers a ton of options. That's where Chula Vegan Café comes in. Located in the heart of downtown San José del Cabo, this quaint little spot offers a variety of vegan fare: açaí bowls, nachos dolloped with cashew cheese, veggie burgers, baked goods, and more.—Jenna Igneri
Where to Drink
There are a lot of tourist traps in Los Cabos when it comes to bars—Cabo Wabo, Giggling Marlin, Squid Row—which might take away from the fact that the city is a rising mixology destination. Make sure to have a mezcal vs tequila tasting and try Damiana, a liqueur made from the namesake ingredient (an herb native to this area), which is known for its aphrodisiac properties and whose bottle is in the shape of a pregnant woman.
Hotel El Ganzo: Known for attracting an arts crowds, Hotel El Ganzo showcases rising musicians from the area and brings in visiting musicians on the regular. Grab a drink at the rooftop bar overlooking the marina before catching one of the live performances that attract locals and tourists alike.
Azul: If you love tequila and mezcal, sit back on the outdoor patio overlooking the ocean at this sophisticated bar that holds one of the largest tequila collections in the area. If that's not your thing, come here on Wednesday for live music and cocktails like rosemary Paloma, the Chihuahua Sour, and Tepache Collins.
Sunset Mona Lisa: This spot isn't cheap, but the views (see above) are worth the price tag. Grab a spot on the Tattinger Terrace to take the beauty in as you sip on Champagne and fresh oysters and take in the salty breeze.
Container: For a much less fancy version of Sunset Mona Lisa, stop by this laidback restaurant bar housed in a recycled sea container and located on the developing marina. Sit on the rustic deck, order a beer, and watch the sun set. It doesn't get better than this.
What to Do
What makes Cabo different from other resort destination is the number of activities the city offers to its visitors. If you're an animal lover, you can help release turtles into the ocean or go horseback riding on the beach. If you're into arts, Cabo is an incubator for rising talent. If you're into sports, there's a myriad of water options available. And if you would rather stay on your hotel property, you can hit the spa for some unique treatments.
Whale watching: If you're in Los Cabos December to March, don't miss out on seeing the whales that come to the area to give birth in the Sea of Cortez, whose salt content makes it easier for the marine mammals to give birth and for baby whales to learn to swim. While you can take a whale watching tour (Cabo Adventures offers great ones) from Cabo San Lucas' waterfront, for a truly special experience, make your way to Santa Magdalena Bay Whale Sanctuary, where you'll be a hand's reach away from these majestic animals.
Wirikuta: For the house plant parents, there is an entire cactus museum dedicated to the different species from the area. They also offer bikes here, which you can rent to go the marina, where you'll find a bike path, restaurants and bars, a park filled with sculpture (locals come here at night to see the full moon), and a farm with camels by the name of Lady Gaga, Medusa, and Homer.
San José del Cabo Gallery District: The art scene in Los Cabos is booming. Tucked away along the colorful back streets of downtown San José del Cabo, away from the bustling town square, you'll find gallery after gallery featuring works from both local and international artists. The must-sees? The Patricia Mendoza Gallery for its expertly curated collection of Mexico's freshest talent, the sculptural masterpieces under the breezy open ceilings of Galería Corsica, and cheeky references to "the wall" in the vibrant works on view at Enrique Bascón's studio-gallery. Every Thursday from November through June, the Gallery District Association hosts the Art Walk, an opportunity to get your art and culture fix while sipping wine.—JI
Spa: The Mexican culture is very grounded to the land, which makes a "spa" treatment here more akin to spiritual ceremony than a beauty service. With that said, see if the property where you're staying offers any local treatments. At Eforea Spa, before your treatment, you can have a shaman read your aura and energy and cleanse your chakras, all to the sound of conch shells and drums playing. Then, indulge in something like the Nohult Detox cure Wrap, a Mexican limpia followed by exfoliation and a Napal body mask. For a similar mind and body detox, you can book yourself a temazcal experience at Only&Only Palmilla. The resident native shaman will lead you through a full ancient ritual inside of a traditional stone sweat lodge, involving an herbal volcanic rock steam bath and guided intention-setting journey.—JI, IG
Cooking class: With exceptional culinary talent and ingredients, you would be remiss not to take a cooking class which uses freshly picked ingredients from the nearby farmlands. The Hilton, Flora Farms, and Tamarindos all offer chef-led classes that will send you off with knowledge of how to make tamales, corn tortillas (which will make you give up on all store-bought iterations), and ceviche at home.
Where to Shop
The Market by Flora Farms: The most famous farm-restaurant in the area, Flora Farms has expanded to include an event planning company, spa, and cooking school. While the restaurants are notoriously delicious, stop by one of its stores like The Market in San Jose that has an offering that will make even some of New York's and L.A.'s best clean beauty stores envious. There are Santo Cabo handmade soaps, coconut oil, and essential oils, all made from all-natural ingredients. (There is also a small fridge of produce and meats from the farms.)
El Wine Shop: Attached next door to The Market, this wine shop carries 100-plus Mexican and international wines while also offering single-origin specialty coffee and wines by the glass to drink there.
Caravane Cabo: A fashion-forward home goods store-gallery located on San Jose's Art Walk, Caravane carries stylish wares like Acapulco chairs, colorful throw pillows, and woven lanterns that are worth checking your luggage for.
Shima Shima: I didn't think I even liked tassels before I set foot in this quirky boutique marked by a giant heart hanging off a teal rooftop. Selling modern Mexican beach blankets, woven clutches, and tassels of every color and function imaginable, it's where you go to get trinkets for your BFFs.