Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas Overview
Cabo San Lucas is an anchor port for all cruises sailing on Mexico's Riviera and Sea of Cortez itineraries, and as such it's experiencing quite a tourist boom. This party town, population 100,000 and growing (mostly with Americans), serves up The Rocks and rock 'n' roll. The Rocks of Los Arcos protrude out of the Sea of Cortez and are just darned impressive -- little sharp mountains emerging from the sea. The rock 'n' roll side of town is about Van Halen's Sammy Hagar and his Cabo Wabo, a cantina where you can sample Cabo Wabo-brand Tequila, check out the Van Halen photos on the walls, rock in the concert hall, buy cool Cabo Wabo items in the gift shop and, if you visit in October when Sammy is in residence, even meet the rocker in person.
Cabo San Lucas has also been dubbed the Cozumel of Mexico's West Coast, and is duly replete with duty-free shops and tacky trinket stores -- though it is raising the level of its shopping options.
Located at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas -- together with its more elegant and much quieter sister town of San Jose del Cabo and the stretch of coast that connects the two (combined the area is known as Los Cabos, while the coastal stretch is known as "The Corridor") -- is an ideal spot for adventure-oriented pursuits. If conditions are right, the clear waters make for great snorkeling, and the white sand beaches are perfect for swimming (but if there are warning signs up, use caution). The waters here are among the biologically richest in the world, with marine species including whales that winter offshore.
This top vacation destination has some of the best sportfishing in the world, and it is the quest for marlin that put Cabo San Lucas on the map. After World War II and the advent of private planes, Bing Crosby and John Wayne arrived to fish. In the 1970s, a highway was built to connect California to Baja, and the travel industry began in earnest.
Earlier visitors included 16th- and early 17th-century pirates like Sir Francis Drake and Thomas Cavendish, who hid from Spanish galleons in the many coves and bays along the southern coast of the Baja Peninsula. Spanish missionaries came to try to convert the natives to Christianity, but they and Spanish soldiers brought diseases that wiped out the Indian population.
One of the downsides for most travelers whose ships sail here: All must anchor and tender passengers in to the port itself. That means -- especially for those folks sailing on 2,000-plus behemoths -- you'll need to factor in extra time getting to and from your ship. Even odder in this quite multi-faceted place is the fact that some ships only stop for half-day visits, which means that actual on-land time can be extremely limited.
Cabo San Lucas Quick Facts
Best Choice for Active Types: Book an ocean kayaking and snorkel tour, which will take you by paddle across San Lucas Bay, passing Pelican Rock and circling the dramatic rock arches of Los Arcos. Continue to Lover's Beach, part of a marine sanctuary, where you can snorkel, swim and sunbathe. As an optional choice, book a beach horseback riding excursion.
Best Choice for Thrill Seekers: Take a Baja ATV Adventure tour. You get to experience the desert on the self-drive excursions, and the tour also includes a nature hike. If that's not thrilling enough, book a sportfishing tour (but keep in mind a catch is not guaranteed).
Best Choice for Nature Lovers: From January to March, whales visit Cabo including humpbacks, grays and blues. You get close on a 15-person Zodiac, and the experience is amazing.
Locals speak Spanish but English is also widely spoken, particularly in shops and tourist venues. And because this is a popular spot, there are also a lot of ex-pat Americans in town.
The town center is very walkable though taxis, mostly of the sedan type (as opposed to safari cabs), do line up at the marina. For explorations beyond the city limits, your best bet is to rent a car; among the agencies that have offices in town are National, Budget, Alamo and Dollar.
Where You're Docked
Ships anchor offshore and tender passengers to the marina, which is a pleasant 10-minute waterfront walk to the heart of Cabo San Lucas. Not shy about pursuing cruise ship business, the town is usually wide open at 8 a.m. (even at that time you can have breakfast at Cabo Wabo or go parasailing). Even the pelicans are out early.
Staying in Touch
At the El Dorado liquor store they will let you use the Internet for free (in the Costa Real Cabo mall on the opposite side of the marina from where you arrive). San Francisco Coffee has wireless access on the marina near #5 dock. The Internet Cafe (Marina Blvd., Plaza Nautica) is tucked behind Cafe Europa.
In Cabo San Lucas, El Shrimp Bucket (Blvd. Marina, Mariena Fiesta) is a fun Mexican chain known for fresh seafood. Other options, among many, include The Crazy Lobster (Hidalgo Street) and Pacho's (Hidalgo Street). On Playa Medano try Las Palmas (Playa El Medano) for great seafood and an unbeatable view. O Mole Mio (Marina Blvd., Plaza del Sol) dishes up nouvelle Mexican. Da Giorgio II (Misiones del Cabo) is set amidst a series of cascading pools and offers a simply gorgeous view of El Arco (10 minutes outside of town, it requires a taxi ride or rental car).
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
ATMs are widely accessible if you want to get Mexican pesos, but U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. If you are making an expensive purchase in a shop, you are best off paying with a credit card. Having dollar bills to pay for cab fares and trinkets is helpful.
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