At the southern tip of Baja California Sur where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez, Los Cabos is a thriving tourist region that has only just come to the world’s attention.
The Los Cabos Corridor between the main towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo is a succession of enticing coves with gentle waters for snorkelling or bathing.
On these beaches you may spot whale pods in the distance from November to April.
In the blink of an eye hotel resorts have opened up along this coastline, and are furnished with luxury spas and golf courses that are rated among the best in the country.
The Cabo Pulmo National Park is within the boundaries of Los Cabos and is a habitat for endangered sea turtles and coral reefs, while El Arco de Cabo San Lucas is an awesome natural monument at the very tip of the Baja Californian peninsula.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Los Cabos:
1. El Arco de Cabo San Lucas
Without hesitation, the first thing you should do in Los Cabos is book a boat trip Land’s End next to San Lucas.
Here sinuous granite rock formations mark the point where the Sea of Cortez joins the Pacific Ocean.
The eponymous arch is a circular natural portal, and if the tides cooperate you’ll be able to go ashore to walk through it.
The arch is just one of a crowd of surreal natural monuments, like the Window to the Pacific, a rectangular hole in the cliffs where you can see through to the ocean, and Neptune’s Finger, a narrow stack resembling a giant digit from a submerged hand.
Sea lions inhabit this rocky coastline and you should pass groups of them sunning on rocky ledges.
2. Cabo Pulmo National Park
Divers will put this marine reserve firmly in their plans, but on land you could also pack a snorkel and fins and drive northeast from San Lucas or San José.
You’ll be well off the grid in this unpopulated region, and that’s half the fun.
The coast alternates between powerful granite headlands and gentle coves, and the interior is all big skies and cactuses.
The national park has been set up to protect a chain of coral reefs, and even if you’re just snorkelling, the wealth of sea life in these waters is staggering.
At times you may be literally enveloped in shoals of fish.
Five of the seven sea turtle species reside here while on the reefs (11 coral varieties), you’ll see outlandish molluscs among the multicoloured parrotfish and butterflyfish.
3. Playa del Amor
The north-facing beach on Land’s End, Playa del Amor is bookended by the granite rocks that form “El Arco”. Facing away from the Pacific and its roaring surf, Playa del Amor is a serene cove where boats drop off day-trippers to recline on the sands, snorkel in the clear waters, climb on the rocks and get the best shots of this incomparable location.
If you need more room to stretch out, the aptly named Playa del Divorcio is just behind and pummelled by Pacific surf.
Bathing isn’t permitted on this side but there’s a generous strip of sand and the sunsets are dreamy.
4. Todos Santos
Northwest of the Los Cabos municipality, across the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range, Todos Santos is a sweet traditional town that has been designated a “Pueblo Mágico” by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism.
That has a lot to do with the painted one-storey houses, upmarket restaurants and arts and crafts shops near the main Plaza del Pueblo.
On the south side of that square is the whitewashed mission, and there’s an Art Deco cinema from 1944 on the western frontage.
The beaches at Todos Santos are battered by the Pacific and while this isn’t conducive to casual bathing, surfers will know all about the quality of the breaks.
For those who want to give something back to the ocean environment on Baja California Sur, Tortugueros Las Playitas is a conservation charity allowing you to help leatherback turtle hatchlings find their way to the ocean.
5. Playa Santa María
A beach that you’ll never want to leave, Playa Santa María is a crescent-shaped cove defended by two promontories.
These keep the currents out, so even when other beaches are choppy, Playa Santa María is normally tranquil and clear.
Like the rest of the Los Cabos Corridor there’s been an increase in construction at Playa Santa María.
A new bathroom and a car park have taken over from what used to be a dirt track.
But as of early 2018 the beach still has an undiscovered feel, even when the boat-loads of snorkellers arrive early in the afternoon.
There are no vendors, and just a small set of palapas (palm sun shades), so it’s best to come prepared.
6. Playa el Chileno
Another sensational beach on the Corridor, Playa el Chileno rivals Santa María for beauty and has only just been earmarked for development.
It’s an east-facing public beach on a slight recess in the coast, and there’s now a boardwalk leading down from the car park.
The quantity of sea life in the bay’s shallow waters is startling, and on calmer days the sea is clear enough that you won’t even need snorkelling gear to see the fish darting around your legs.
The joy of Playa el Chileno is its seclusion, but this means no bars or restaurants, so you’ll need to pack a picnic as well as a parasol.
In season you can sit on the rocks to the south and watch the whale pods swim past.
7. Mission San José del Cabo Church
The grandest historical landmark in all of Los Cabos is the Colonial-style parish church in San José, the remainder of a mission founded in the 18th century.
It was the southernmost of a line of Jesuit missions that ran down the Baja California peninsula.
In 1735, five years after the mission was founded, there was a revolt among the local Pericú culture, and the missionary, Nicolás Tamaral ended up being sacrificed.
The surviving church has a simple but refined facade, with a curved pediment framed by two towers.
The nave is just as discreet, but deserves a few minutes, while there’s a plaque outside explaining the fraught first few years of the mission.
San José’s square in front is a delight, and has a classic Mexican bandstand watched by colourful houses.
8. San José del Cabo Art Walk
On Thursday evenings in high season (November to June), San José shows off its creative side with an art walk from 17:00 to 21:00. This event was set up to attract people to the art district, a group of galleries and art shops located on the blocks behind the church.
As the art walk has gained momentum the town has made the main street, Calle Alvaro Obregon, car-free, which has added to the atmosphere.
Up to a dozen galleries in the quarter, like the Frank Arnold Gallery, Desertica and Casa Dahlia, take part in the event and organise lectures, wine evenings, meet and greets, and live music.
9. Mount Solmar
One of the most rewarding free activities available in Cabo San Lucas is climbing this rough-hewn peak on Land’s End.
Even if the slopes of Mount Solmar look tough, the trek to the top is achievable for most ages as the rocks are like natural steps and the peak isn’t much more than 100 metres above sea level.
The only hard part is finding the trailhead, which sits on private property at a dog shelter, but this can be easily researched online.
Once you hit the summit the panoramas of Los Arcos and the San Lucas Bay are everything you’d hope for.
10. Whale Watching
December to April Los Cabos is on the migration route of the humpback whales that swim down to tropical waters off Mexico’s Pacific Coast to calve.
As we’ve mentioned, in these months you could find a headland along the Corridor and chances are you’ll spot a fin or tail if you’re patient.
There’s a directory of businesses offering whale-spotting expeditions.
Companies like Whale Watch Cabo are so confident that you’ll see whales in this five-month window that complimentary follow-up tours are provided if you don’t see anything on the first trip.
Many vessels also have hydrophones installed so you can hear the humpbacks’ whalesong.
11. Wirikuta Botanical Cactus Garden
In five hectares, this attraction at Puerto los Cabos has more than 1,500 varieties of cactuses and succulents from all over the world.
The Wirikuta Botanical Cactus Garden is planted as a kind of homage to desert plants, with 1,000,000 specimens arranged in strips and concentric circles.
Wirikuta also has a superb sculpture garden featuring works by some heavyweights of Mexican modern art like Gabriel Macotela, José Luis Cuevas and Manuel Felguérez.
On Wednesday nights the park is the scene of an authentic Huichol acrobatics and dance show, with surprisingly high production values.
Los Cabos is as good as it gets for seasoned divers.
There are reefs bright with eye-popping wildlife and where you can drift with the currents, and bull shark dives are available in Cabo Pulmo.
Curious sea lions may approach you, and if you don’t think twice about plunging to the depths of the Cabo San Lucas Underwater Canyon you’ll witness the bizarre natural phenomenon of “Sand Falls”. Here sand cascades down the cliff, propelled by currents and the slight movements of tectonic plates.
New to diving? Cabo Pulmo and the Corridor have protected coves where newcomers can enter the water from the beach.
Dive companies in Los Cabos also provide tailored trips up to La Paz from October to swim with whale sharks.
13. Outdoor Adventure
The raw desert interior of Baja California Sur is geared towards high-octane fun.
For adrenaline junkies there are ATV and buggy trips along dusty riverbeds: Companies in San Lucas and San José will pick you up from your accommodation and take you out to the remote desert for high-speed drives, all captured by a professional photographer and with post-trip beers to wind down.
On the Corridor between the two main towns sits Wild Canyon Adventures, a cross between an adventure sports company and a theme park.
They also offer ATV and buggy trips, as well as bungee jumping, zip-lining across a wild desert canyon and camel rides, to name a few.
For younger family members Wild Canyon has a zoo with macaws, iguanas, crocodiles and more camels that kids can interact with.
If you’re brave you can even try handling a baby croc.
In no time at all Los Cabos has become the best place to play golf in Mexico.
Seven of Mexico’s top fifteen courses listed in Golfer’s Digest in 2016 were based in Los Cabos.
This is staggering when you think that the first course only opened in 1987. Many of the deluxe courses have taken advantage of the once empty coast on the Corridor, where the rough is flecked with mesquite and cactuses.
The highest-rated of all is Cabo del Sol, which has as Ocean Course plotted by Jack Nicklaus and a Desert Course by Tom Weiskopf.
A green fee will set you back $375 USD at peak times from January to May, but a discerning low-handicap golfer will feel it’s worth every penny.
After a round at Cabo del Sol you can watch the ocean from the veranda of the hacienda-style clubhouse.
One of the most peculiar but appetising local specialities is almejas chocolatas (chocolate clams), in which seasoned clams are cooked on a bed of pebbles covered with romerillo scrub twigs that are set alight.
It goes without saying that fish and shrimp tacos are a much-loved treat, and there’s an array of stews and soups prepared with shrimp, lobster and giant sea snails (abalones). Squid are also plentiful, and the regional way of cooking calamari is to season the squid with coriander seeds, garlic, cumin, oregano and pasilla chilli before frying it in butter.
And if you’re peckish early in the day you could get your hands on a tamale de Güemes, a maize dough pocket stuffed with chicken, pork, raisins and olives.