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Vacationing in Cabo, Mexico: Where the Desert Meets the Sea

Updated: Apr 10



Set against a dramatic desert backdrop and nestled between the Pacific and the Sea of Cortes, Los Cabos (aka "Cabo") is home to posh luxury resorts, vibrant culture and cuisines, dazzling nightlife, beautiful beaches, and plenty of adventure. In one of the few places where you can experience ocean, desert and mountains all in one destination, Los Cabos has two main advantages over Cancun/Riviera Maya, Mexico: no hurricane season and no risk of sargassum, the brown seaweed that is wreaking havoc on the Caribbean.


Los Cabos: Beautiful backdrops of dazzling water, beaches and desert landscapes


Your Cabo Vacation

If you're from the east coast or Midwest like me and are used to tropical vacations in the Caribbean, Cabo may be a bit of a mystery to you. After my recent visit and tour of 10 resorts up and down the Los Cabos coast, I'm here to demystify this destination for you!


This first map shows you where Cabo sits on the southern tip of Baja California versus other popular tourist destinations in Mexico like Puerto Vallarta and Cancun/Riviera Maya.



The second map shows you the four distinct tourist areas in Los Cabos. I share the top resorts in each of these areas and what they have to offer, so it's important to understand the distinctions. The names are similar, so it can be confusing! I will use their numbers (1-4) when I talk about them below to try to make it easier to digest.

  1. CABO SAN LUCAS - downtown and party central

  2. TOURIST CORRIDOR - luxury beachfront resorts

  3. SAN JOSE DEL CABO - artsy community

  4. EAST CAPE - quiet and less developed watersports haven



Getting to Cabo from the midwest is not as easy as getting to Cancun. The flight to Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) is about 4.5 hours from Chicago non-stop (versus 3.5 hours to Cancun) but will be 2 stops from most other destinations in the midwest. From Indianapolis, Cabo is 6.5 hours while Cancun is 5 hours. Cabo is on Mountain Time, so the time change is a bit more difficult, too.


From the airport, Cabo San Lucas (1) and the East Cape (4) are about an hour’s drive (in opposite directions), while San Jose del Cabo (3) is a mere 20-minute drive and the Tourist Corridor (2) is 30-40 minutes depending on location.


Read on for an overview of each area along with my top resort picks. Cabo has 90 resorts and hotels, so I can't review them all. Instead, I summarize the top luxury resorts including the ones we toured. I've noted where I can offer Virtuoso or other 5-star luxury VIP perks like upgrades, complimentary breakfast and resort credits.



 

1) CABO SAN LUCAS

When you hear people talk about Cabo, they are most likely thinking of the town of Cabo San Lucas where most of the action is. Cabo San Lucas' downtown, marina and Medano Beach offer a lively party scene and excellent restaurants. You've probably heard of "The Office" and "Mango Deck," both of which are infamous party spots on Medano Beach. Unlike the majority of beaches in Los Cabos, most beaches right in Cabo San Lucas are swimmable - but expect crowds. The famous Arch is off the coast here.


Medano Beach, Cabo San Lucas


If you like being in the middle of it all and don't mind crowds, this area is right for you. But don't expect 5-star luxury. We toured Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos and Pueblo Bonito Rose, which are in an ideal location right on Medano Beach. Service is quite good, but I'd categorize the rooms as 3-star at best and the crowds were off the charts.



Medano Beach from Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos


For luxury, you'll need to get out of the heart of the city. Luckily, taxis and ubers are easy. We called an uber from our resort in the Tourist Corridor to take us into Cabo San Lucas for our sunset cruise. Then we walked to dinner at Edith's, which was AMAZING, and then called an uber from Edith's back to the Tourist Corridor.


Cabo San Lucas and marina views, The Office, sunset cruise to the Arch, dinner at Edith's


While I didn't love crowds or the resorts we toured right in the heart of Cabo, we also toured Pueblo Bonito Pacifica, an adult-only all-inclusive resort about a 15-minute drive past Cabo. I loved the architecture and unique landscapes here, and especially loved the budget-friendly prices for butler luxury service and amenities.


Pueblo Bonito Pacifica: Adult-only all-inclusive resort about 15 minutes from downtown

Here's a snapshot of some of the top resorts in the CABO SAN LUCAS area. I've noted where I can offer luxury VIP perks, which resorts are family-friendly versus adult-only, the resorts with access to a swimmable beach, as well as the resorts that are all-inclusive or offer that option.



 

2) TOURIST CORRIDOR

In between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo lies the Tourist Corridor, a 20-mile stretch of pristine beaches dotted with luxury resorts. The Tourist Corridor has the largest concentration of amazing resorts with top-notch amenities - so you never have to leave the resort if you don't want to. Many even offer large villas with private pools to accommodate bigger families. However, swimmable beaches are NOT the norm here, so if you love to swim in the ocean, make sure you book a resort with access to a swimmable beach.

Cabo's Tourist Corridor


The favorite resorts I toured here include Grand Velas and Garza Blanca for families and Le Blanc and Marquis for adults only. All are all-inclusive or offer AI rates. Take a peek into what makes each resort unique.


Grand Velas Los Cabos

5-star luxury at its finest, haven for foodies, the best teen club



Garza Blanca Los Cabos

Luxury and butler service at a reasonable price, up to 4BR suites, kids 12 and under stay free



Le Blanc Los Cabos

Posh and sophisticated adult-only, wellness focus



Marquis Los Cabos

Family-owned adult-only resort with beautiful grounds, unique artwork and architectural details. Large resort that feels boutique. Small swimmable area on beach.




Popular resorts here with SWIMMABLE BEACHES include Montage, Chileno Bay, and Hilton Los Cabos.


Montage Los Cabos

One of the best swimmable beaches, 1-4BR villas, ultra luxe



Chileno Bay, Auberge Resorts Collection

Nestled on a protected cove great for swimming, 1-6BR luxury villas



Hilton Los Cabos

All-family all-inclusive on a large swimmable beach, Enclave Beach Club, Kids Club

4-star property so more budget-friendly than the 5-star options included here



Here's a snapshot of many of the top resorts in the TOURIST CORRIDOR area. I've noted where I can offer luxury VIP perks, which resorts are family-friendly versus adult-only, the resorts with access to a swimmable beach, as well as the resorts that are all-inclusive.



 


3) SAN JOSE DEL CABO

San Jose del Cabo is the arts and culture hub of Los Cabos. Here you can stroll colorful historic streets, grab authentic cuisine in open-air stalls, then dance the night away in the town square. Take advantage of weekly festivals including Tasty Tuesdays and the Thursday evening Art Walk.


Charming San Jose del Cabo


The top resort here is One & Only Palmilla, one of the original resorts in Los Cabos. I wish we had toured One & Only given it has so much to offer including a swimmable beach!



One & Only Palmilla

5-star luxury and tons of amenities including swimmable beach



A few other luxury resorts as well as smaller boutique properties line the shore here. Here's a snapshot of some of the top resorts in the SAN JOSE DEL CABO area. I've noted where I can offer luxury VIP perks, which resorts are family-friendly versus adult-only, the resorts with access to a swimmable beach, as well as the resorts that are all-inclusive.




 


4) THE EAST CAPE

East Cape is the undeveloped but up-and-coming area of Los Cabos that offers Caribbean-like watersports. If you want to be out on the water and don't care about nightlife (Cabo San Lucas is at least 1.5 hours away), then the East Cape and the laid-back village of La Ribera is for you. Discover out-of-this-world snorkeling at Cabo Pulmo Marine Park in the Sea of Cortez, a 46 square-mile coral reef that Jacques Cousteau called "The World's Aquarium." As for where to stay, other than the Four Seasons or Buena Vista Hot Springs resort, villa properties are the go-to here.


L to R: East Cape coastline, Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, Four Seasons Los Cabos


Here's a snapshot of some of the only luxury resorts in the EAST CAPE area. I've noted where I can offer luxury VIP perks, which resorts are family-friendly versus adult-only, the resorts with access to a swimmable beach, as well as the resorts that are all-inclusive.




 

Top 9 things to do in Cabo

The resorts in Cabo are so amazing that you may never want to leave, but leave you should given all the adventures, culture, and culinary delights that await you! Here's my top 9 things to do in Cabo:

  1. Sunset sail to El Arco or water taxi to Lover’s Beach and Divorce Beach

  2. Catch a big one in the sportfishing marlin capital of the world

  3. Tee off at award-winning championship golf courses with stunning views – 21 courses, 3 of which made the “World’s 100 Greatest” in Golf Digest.

  4. Ride horseback or even camelback on the beach or thrill seek on an ATV through the mountains and desert.

  5. Get a glimpse of giants on a whale-watching cruise (winter). If you’re not here in the winter, you can watch for the jumping Moluba Rays from shore. They were everywhere!

  6. Stroll the gallery district in charming San Jose del Cabo or visit the magical town of Todos Santos. Shop, dine, and revel in the culture and laid back charm.

  7. Snorkel Chileno Bay or dive Cabo Pulmo.

  8. Party on Medano Beach and downtown Cabo San Lucas.

  9. Rejuvenate in one of many sublime spas in the area. Look for the temazcal, an ancient steam lodge that immerses guests in an aromatic steam bath to improve circulation and promote deep relaxation.


Los Cabos offers a wealth of adventure and culture in addition to breathtaking beaches



 


Heather Vergara is a former PepsiCo marketing executive who left the corporate world to be a Mom and never found her way back. Instead, she focused on her passion for travel and adventure and created Show Them the World, a travel concierge service for busy families longing to reconnect and see the world together. In less than four years, she's helped more than 300 families experience Hawaii, Alaska, Costa Rica, France, England, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Portugal, Spain, the Caribbean, National Parks, and more to come!


Heather has an MBA in marketing from Indiana University, a Digital Marketing Executive Education certificate from Columbia University, and a BA in Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives with her husband, two kids, and two furry dogs in Zionsville, Indiana.



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