I have been vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico since the mid-1990s (old I am!), and have watched it grow from a scruffy spring break party town into a destination for families, retirees, cruise ships, grown up getaways, and yes still party weekends! You’ll get a lot of differing opinions on what has been gained or lost along the way, but I think it has held onto its unique character even as the streets have been paved, and elegant new resorts have sprung up along Medano Beach and the cliffs of Pedregal. Personally, I love that despite all the new – you can still have a fun silly feast at Mi Casa, dance it off at the Nowhere Bar, and get a plate of fresh seafood and a bucket of beer with toes in the sand at The Office the next afternoon.
There are TONS of dining options in Cabo San Lucas these days – here are just a few of our go to favorites:
Tres Gallos – – I love the beautifully tiled big open kitchen with baskets of every kind of chile imaginable arrayed along the quaint courtyard dining area. The queso fundido with chorizo and an array of beautiful salsas is a great way to kick off the meal. Despite my intentions to branch out, I cannot help ordering the pozole with its savory pork and hominy broth topped with fresh crunchy shredded cabbage and radishes. Truly everything is good, but try the mole if you like mole – it’s the real deal.
Manta at the Cape Hotel – Superstar chef Enrique Olvera (of Pujol in Mexico City) has spearheaded the menu at this spot. Honestly it’s the best food I have ever had in Cabo, and not so crazy expensive considering the sophisticated quality. Locally sourced, Mexican inspired, but wholly original. Stop by the roof bar of the swank new Cape Hotel for incredible sunset views over Medano Beach and the arch at Land’s End.
Carnitas Los Michoacanos – If you are staying in a villa and are tired of eating out, make a run into town for an all inclusive carnitas feast to go, complete with delicious roast pork by the kilo, fresh made tortillas, beans, salsas, peppers, chicharrones (fried pork rind) and more. It’s a major crowd pleaser! There are a couple of locations in Cabo, but the most convenient to downtown is on Leona Vicario, between Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregon.
Patagonia – We used to love going to this place when it was in a cinderblock courtyard bordering a huge outdoor parilla (grill), with the friendly Argentine owner happily grilling South American cuts of the best beef with a big glass of Malbec in hand. They moved to an enclosed restaurant just up the street from Mi Casa a few years ago which is a little less atmospheric, but the air conditioning doesn’t hurt… Need your protein fix? This is it. If you have a group, try the mixed grill with a sampling of different meats and vegetables. Av. Cabo San Lucas cross Av. 5 de Mayo
El Farallon – This tiny restaurant at The Resort at Pedregal is literally hewn from the cliff, with a champagne bar and the freshest seafood grilled to order as Pacific waves crash at your feet (um, and sometimes ON your feet). This incredibly romantic spot is definitely a splurge, but it is a beautiful and unique dining experience.
Hacienda Cocina – We have dinner at this elegant/casual beachfront restaurant almost every time we visit Cabo. Sample the house selection of micheladas or mojitos as party boats below boogie back into Cabo harbor, bustling Medano Beach settles slowly down, and layers of dusk fall over the beautiful arch at Land’s End. Steps down from the pool level are a small handful of tables atmospherically tucked into the sand. My favorite bites here are the crab flautas, the arachera steak to share, the “casuela de mariscos” with an assortment of succulent seafood, and the “molcajete,” a molten hot lava bowl heaped with sizzling meats, vegetables and cheese. Please please save room for the cuatro leches cake (as if tres wasn’t enough?) and the churros with chocolate and caramel sauces.
Flora Farm – The amazing Flora Farm restaurant is a good 50 minutes away past San Jose del Cabo. It is one of my favorite restaurants on earth and I urge you to make the trek – but if you can’t, at least stop by their new farm shop in Cabo San Lucas. It’s on the corner at the end of town across from the giant performing arts center that looks like a crumpled up grey paper ball (on Blvd Paseo de la Marina at Calle Cabo San Lucas). You can pick up fresh made sausages, gorgeous baked breads, organic seasonal vegetables, and herbal balms and soaps. Best of all, belly up to the wooden bar for inventive infused cocktails like the watermelon julep or a carrot margarita.
I am over-programmed most of the time, and I NEED to be unscheduled for just a minute please! Unfortunately, after about a day I get itchy just sitting by the pool. Plus I have two energetic tweens who need a little more to do than just splash in the baby pool for 6 hours. So over the years we have ventured farther and farther afield from our shaded lounge chair paradise. Here are a few adventures you can slot in to your day, and still be back in time for siesta and sundowners…
- One of our favorite patch it together yourself excursions is easily achieved right out of the harbor in Cabo if you don’t mind a little negotiating on site. Head down to the dock near the dolphin experience center and hire a boat from the dispatcher who manages the fleet of water taxis (pangas) parked there. Make sure they have life jackets sized for your kids. The driver will cruise you out past the arch, pointing out rock formations, sea creatures and supposed celebrity abodes along the way. If you have competent swimmers aboard hop off for a dip at Lover’s Beach (yes you can trust they will come back for you!), and then have them ultimately drop you on Medano Beach for lunch at The Office http://www.theofficeonthebeach.com. Make a reservation before you go, and ask for a table near the back to avoid the vendors, or the front if you want to easily hop into the sea between Pacificos…
- Outside of Medano Beach many of the Pacific Coast and Sea of Cortez beaches are too treacherous for swimming. There are a couple of good spots for families and beginners not too far from Cabo though. Santa Maria Bay and Chileno Bay are the two main spots to snorkel along the corridor, and most of the snorkel cruises you book from town will take you to these. If you rent a car they are safe and easily accessible if you’re willing to schlep your own gear, water and towels. There is construction with new resorts going up at both locations, but the beaches are still publicly accessible from the corridor highway. Last time we were there, Chileno Bay had a nice parking lot, bathrooms, and a few palapas for early arrivers, while Santa Maria had no facilities. They both offer nice swimming and ok snorkeling most of the time, although it’s always advisable to check the sea conditions before heading out as occasional faraway ocean storms bring larger waves and colder water to this area.
- Cabo Surf Hotel – A little more than halfway back along the corridor road to San Jose you’ll find the Cabo Surf Hotel on the right. Enjoy a leisurely lunch at the cliffside restaurant overlooking the sea, while aspiring surfers tackle beginner waves at the Mike Doyle Surf School on the beach below. If you’re in your own car, as you get back on the corridor road make sure to stop in the pullout at the top of the cliff just above the hotel for a great view down the beach and a fresh cold coconut!!
- Cerritos beach – About 35 minutes up the Pacific Coast from Cabo San Lucas, Playa Cerritos offers long rolling surf perfect for both advanced and beginner surfers, boogie boarding and body surfing, and even splashing about in the shallows for the littler ones. With a fun beach bar and restaurant, clean bathrooms, attentive lifeguards, surf lessons, board rentals, inexpensive beach massages, live music on Sundays, and absolutely no crowds, you’re pretty much living the dream. The recently expanded highway has made this well-kept secret much more accessible and well worth the drive.
- Los Cabos Horses – My equestrienne daughter and I discovered these stables last year. Not just the typical tourist shack with sad scrappy ponies for hire, this is a true equestrian center offering lessons and absolutely beautiful trail rides through arroyos and along the beach near Cabo Real. The owner trains the famous Mexcian “dancing” horses, and also offers horse drawn carriage rides for weddings, etc. It’s a real horse center, and if you like to ride you’ll really appreciate the lovely horses they offer visitors.