Cabo is beautiful on any budget. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Los Cabos is a popular and safe beach destination on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Beautiful resorts sit on its sandy beaches between two distinctive towns, San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Cabo never feels crowded, which is a huge draw for vacationers. Plus, the vacation haven appeals to both jet setters and bargain hunters alike, whether you want to splurge your heart out for a special occasion or have a memorable getaway on the cheap. (Considering the strong dollar versus the Mexican peso, every American traveler will save right now, regardless of budget.) Here’s a look at how you can experience Los Cabos on both a high and low budget.
Nice room! (Photo: One&Only Palmilla/Facebook)
What A-lister hasn’t stayed at One&Only? This posh, oceanfront sanctuary is quietly removed in the upscale Palmilla area, touting an award-winning spa, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, beach cabanas, and one of the few swimmable beaches in all of Cabo. There’s a sense of exclusivity within the lush, tropical setting so it feels rather private. Throw in a stellar staff and myriad activities and it’s a go-to for well-heeled travelers. Bonus: Exceptional pet amenities (dog in-room dining menu, dog walking, dog cabanas) make it a home away from home fancy types with their little pooches in tow. Oceanfront junior suites with plunge pools start at $1,530 per night.
The all-inclusive scene in Cabo is booming, and leading the pack is Marquis, a member of Luxury Hotels of the World. It’s quite intimate for an all-inclusive (only 235 rooms and casitas) so it feels luxurious and not overcrowded. It’s also adults only (18+), so it’s quiet. Two infinity pools hug the beach, six outdoor hot tubs have priceless views, and a terrific dining menu (even in-room dining is inclusive!) makes the splurge well worth the stay. Marquis is a hot spot for honeymoons, girlfriend (or guy) getaways and west-coast weekenders. Junior suite ocean view rooms start at $750 per night.
Hotel El Ganzo is an ultra-modern, 72-room boutique hotel that embraces art and music. It’s soulful and fun with a private beach club and a rooftop infinity pool (with a unique, all-glass hot tub) that boasts panoramic views of Puerto Los Cabos marina. It’s also big on social interaction; guests can participate in events like a film club and live music and art shows virtually any night of the week. Standard rooms start at $224 a night.
This is budget? (Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos/Facebook)
Just opened in September, Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos is an incredible bargain for a top-notch all-inclusive resort. With 591 guest rooms in five different categories (many with swim-up suites), the beachfront resort offers nightly entertainment (live music and performances), unlimited alcohol, 12 restaurants and bars, four pools, 24-hour room service, and plenty of family-friendly adventures all included in the rate. Master Double Suites start at $310 (and, no, that’s not a typo — that’s $155 all-in per person in one room).
Related: How to save $3000 on a Trip to Cabo
As the country’s most celebrated and famous chef, Chef Enrique Olvera is the “Jose Andres of Mexico.” Locals and visitors alike rejoiced when he opened Manta at The Cape hotel in Los Cabos this past summer. There’s plenty to photograph at this stylish oceanfront restaurant, from the breathtaking sunset views to the memorable dishes, which are like art. This Mexican cuisine has Peruvian and Japanese influences, with all dishes (like sea bass ceviche and coconut, avocado, corn, and octopus anticucho with chorizo mayo) meant to be shared. Dishes from $14 to $48. http://www.mantarestaurant.com
Homemade burrata (Photo: Flora Farm/Facebook)
There is a reason why high-profile guests like Thomas Keller and George Clooney dine at Flora Farm: It’s one of the best restaurants in Cabo, setting the bar for excellent dining. The 12-seat, fine-dining spot — quietly removed from the coast up in the canyons — uses ingredients fresh from its 10-acre organic farm. Plus, Flora farm recently added a beer garden, cottages, and outdoor bar. Creative, wholly organic entrees include cauliflower steak (roasted, thick-cut cauliflower with brown butter sauce) and hay cooked rabbit. Entrees from $15 to $24.
Authentic “Baja-style” fish and shrimp tacos are all the rage at Taco Gardenias, an unassuming, no-frills, off-the-beaten-path restaurant tucked away on a side street behind El Medano Beach. It’s been around since 1980 and not much has changed in the family-run, al-fresco establishment — especially the fact that they serve the best tacos in town at practically retro prices: average $2 a taco. Everything from the salsas to the tortillas are made in-house.
Named after three legendary Mexican actors, Los Tres Gallos is considered the best restaurant in Cabo for those on a budget. The casual vibe sets the mood for this laid-back hot spot (with its romantic, hacienda-style courtyard embellished with fruit trees), which is known for homemade Mexican cuisine. The enchiladas mole — the restaurant’s claim to fame — is a crow-pleaser, but more adventurous foodies dig into traditional dishes like arrachera a la parrilla (Mexican-style steak) and nopales (prickly pear cactus). Entrees from $8 to $15.
Sport fishing with Mona Lisa Del Mar
Sport fishing is a huge draw in Los Cabos, and Mona Lisa Del Mar ensures a luxurious outing. One of the most famous restaurants in Cabo — Sunset da Mona Lisa — offers this unique experience at sea. Aboard its private Contender 35’ vessel, guests go deep-sea fishing with a private crew. After the fishing excursion, the chef will cook the guests’ catches of the day at the restaurant known for its awe-inspiring views. Full day: $800.
Whale watching with Cabo Trek
Whale watching in Los Cabos is a bucket-list activity, and it’s a full-day commitment to see the gray whales in Lopez Mateos, just north of Cabo. Hundreds of the massive creatures migrate there in winter (mostly to give birth) and visitors get up close and personal with the gentle giants — so close in fact, that you can literally touch them. The best excursion is with Cabo Whale Trek, an eco-friendly tour operator that limits tours to small groups (rather than tourist cattle calls). The best time for gray whale watching is February and March, though you can spot them as early as January. $550 for a two-day trek.
Snorkeling in the “Aquarium of the World”
The marine life in Los Cabos is outstanding, and famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau called the waters here “the aquarium of the world.” For snorkeling, travelers need to get on a boat to hit up all the best reefs. Cabo Adventures, a reliable tour operator, offers a three-hour tour in quiet and clear coves, also providing water scooters for power snorkeling and kayaks for those who prefer to view sea turtles, rays, and tropical fish from above. Three-hour tour: $85 per person.
El Medano Beach (Photo: david_orta/Instagram)
One thing that makes Los Cabos unique for a beach town is that there are very few beaches where you can actually go in the ocean Of course, the beach is great for walking and sunbathing, and most beachfront properties offer infinity pools with great views, but due to strong currents, swimming is limited. However, tourists can safely swim at El Medano Beach, which is also lined with bars, al fresco restaurants, resorts, and cafes. Palmilla Beach, a smaller area, also has calm waters. Free.
The spa at The Cape, a new resort from Thompson Hotels, is everything you wouldn’t expect for Los Cabos. Straying from traditional “hacienda style” digs, this spa is sleek, minimalist, modern and urban. It offers outdoor cold plunge pool and hot pool, as well as steam rooms and a sauna. But what makes it truly special are the two outdoor massage cabanas perched on a ledge. They’re so unbelievably close to the crashing waves, less than 100 feet away, you feel like you’re literally floating over the ocean. 60-minute massage from $175.
Spa-tastic (Photo: The Resort at Pedrgal/Facebook)
Considered the best spa in Cabo, Luna Y Mar is a soulful, imaginative experience. Upon entering, guests get into spa mode with a dry sauna, whirlpool, and steam room. All visitors receive a foot massage in a quiet nook (honoring Mexican tradition, therapists use lemon and local herbs to draw out “bad energy”) and they are welcome to indulge in the freshly cut aloe vera to soothe the skin. All pod-shaped treatment rooms border a glittery, salt-water pool with ocean views, and treatments are inspired by ancient Mexican folk healing, whether a relaxing body treatment using fresh algae or a four-hand massage (with two masseuses working at the same time) enhanced by sound therapy. Highbrow guests love the Julien Farel salon, the only one in Mexico. 120-minute signature treatments start at $380.
The massage tables on El Medano Beach
Near the northern end of El Medano Beach, almost a dozen massage tables are set up right on the sand with most one-hour massages averaging $40. These stations are not just random local masseuses trying to make a buck — many tables are pop-up extensions of spas in town, like Eden’s (where tiny girls have ninja grips), but here the sound of the sea is equally therapeutic.
Revive Body and Soul
For only $20 for a full-body, one-hour massage, Revive Body and Soul near the marina is the best value in town for pampering. The spa is as basic as they come, so don’t expect a luxurious treatment room. It’s all about the massages here, from relaxing and deep tissue to hot stone and reflexology.
Since Suviche opened this past year, it’s become the stomping ground for discerning cocktail lovers and wine enthusiasts alike. High ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows enhance the lounge, and the sunset views over the Sea of Cortez are spectacular. Award-winning Jeffrey Beers International gave the lounge an elegant touch with contemporary design like a back-lit alabaster bar, geometric tiles, and beautiful lanterns. Cocktails from $15.
Champagne terrace at Farallon
Many say Hurricane Odile that wreaked havoc on Cabo last year was a blessing in disguise, as it gave resorts the opportunity to renovate and expand. Such is the case at Resort at Pedregal, home to Farallon, a restaurant literally built into the cliffs with waves crashing underneath. Reservations are often weeks deep but the new Champagne Terrace now gives non-dining guests a chance to experience the awe-inspiring setting. The romantic, al-fresco terrace offers approximately 12 brands of high-end bubbly, and tastings are imaginatively paired with sea salts. It’s an excellent way to sip on expensive champagnes (like Dom Perignon, Krug, and Trattanger) by the glass (4 oz. glass ranging from $20 to $90).
A popular haunt for local ex-pats, Cabo Lounge has become the preferred watering hole for budget-savvy travelers looking for cheap beers and cocktails. The spirited, no-frills sports bar is low-key, but becomes more exciting when showing major sporting events from five large flat-screen TVs. There’s also free WiFi (and free calls to Canada and U.S.!) for barflies. Beers and cocktails from $4.
Drink up! (Photo: Baja Brewing Company/Facebook)
The cozy rooftop bar at Cabo Villas Beach Resort has sprawling views of the sea and the superchill spot is popular with the young, hip crowd (being there sort of feels like you’re in a commercial for Baja Brewing Company). Baja Brewing Company is the first and only microbrewery in Los Cabos, and its selection of beers (bottle or tap) are proudly knocked back among cool cats who like good vibes. Beer from $4.
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