A First-Timer's Guide to Los Cabos
Humans have inhabited the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula for 10,000 years, according to archaeological findings. So no, your first trip here won't necessarily qualify you as a trailblazer. Still, this desert landscape -- and the surrounding sea -- are so dramatic, you can't help but feel you've made a major discovery upon arrival.
For all the thrill of discovery, of course, there are a few things you may not want to leave to serendipity -- and that's where this quickie guide comes in. Read on for five know-before-you-gos.
1. Choose your digs wisely.
The fabled local party scene is real, friends. And if you don't want to dwell in it, your first and perhaps most important decision is where to stay. If you're looking for a quiet, romantic escape, consider San Jose del Cabo, an artsy enclave filled with Spanish colonial architecture -- or one of the seaside resorts along the 19-mile Los Cabos corridor. Side note: This stretch of sand, including Zippers at Mile 17, is also prime surfing territory for experienced riders.
If you're here for the fiesta -- no judgment -- consider one of the hotels or resorts downtown, where most of the action happens. (Taxis from San Jose del Cabo and corridor hotels can be expensive, and you should always pre-negotiate your fare. Speaking of, we'd be remiss if we didn't tell you to pack plenty of small bills; U.S. dollars are accepted almost everywhere.)
2. Parse out the party before you join it.
A margarita with toes in the sand or dancing into the wee hours: Whatever your definition of "nightlife," you'll be happy here. For a gentle entry into the scene, spend the afternoon beachside at The Office, where you can sip a cerveza and stare at the surreal coastal cliffs of Land's End (more on them shortly). To dip a bit deeper into the nightlife, head to Mango Deck Restaurant, Bar & Beach Club, where you'll find a happy hour that lasts all day (and Cabo San Lucas Bay views for days, too). And for a late night of raucous fun, head to Sammy Hagar's iconic Cabo Wabo or El Squid Roe, where the waiters tote tequila-filled spray tanks and every table is a potential dance floor. The drinks are moderately priced, but the good times (and hangovers) are free.
3. Don't skip the El Arco and Land's End trip just because everyone else doing it.
Admittedly, some "must-have" experiences or overblown or flat-out tourist traps. This is not one of them. A stunning stone arch that formed naturally at the tip of Land's End, El Arco is accessible only by boat -- and unquestionably worth the ride. Head down to the marina to find a water taxi driver with a glass-bottom boat who's willing to take you out to the arch (the ride should take about an hour round-trip and cost $10-$15).
The area is a hot spot for scuba diving, marlin fishing and stunning sunset Instagram ops. Keep an eye out for the secluded Lover's Beach (not to be confused with the aptly named Divorce Beach, located on the tumultuous and dangerous side of the peninsula). The whole area is teeming with life -- sea lions, all manner of birds and (if you get down here before mid-April) the beloved migrating humpbacks.
4. If you're any kind of golfer, give it a go here.
You'll find more than a dozen championship golf courses along the 19-mile corridor between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Davis Love III have all designed tracks up and down this breathtaking coastline. Expect to pay high-end greens fees, but the ocean views, course design and conditions are worth every Peso. If you're going to play only one round, we recommend the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol (regularly included among the world's top 100 courses). Bring an extra sleeve of balls to donate to the golf gods, and don't forget the complimentary fish tacos at the turn!
5. While the fabulous local seafood surprises no one, the farm-to-table fare does.
Sandwiched between teeming bodies of water, Baja serves up the excellent seafood you'd expect (for example, Edith's mesquite-grilled catch of the day). But what many visitors don't expect and therefore don't make time for is the burgeoning farm-to-table scene. If you can, plan a visit to Flora Farms, the most renowned (and Instagrammed) of the lot, where the rampant organic fruits and veggies eventually find their way into, say, grilled citrus sangria -- or onto the most amazing wood-fired pizzas.