The insider advice on this page is from Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Los Cabos Beach Vacations: Julie Byrd of CaboVillas.com
With its natural beauty, wide-ranging daytime activities and nightlife, and genuinely hospitable locals, Los Cabos is an easy getaway, made even easier by Julie Byrd. Her deep roots and intimate connections there save you money and spare you headaches. She knows the resorts like the palm of her hand, but she also has a portfolio of rental properties that include 100 luxurious villas and condos suitable for families, couples, and party-hearty groups of friends. Byrd and her Cabo-based concierge team are available 24/7 and can arrange everything from fishing and yacht charters to destination weddings and other celebrations. Julie was also included in Perrin’s People, Wendy’s award-winning list of top travel specialists, which was published annually in Condé Nast Traveler magazine from 2000 to 2013.
Where to Stay
Best bang-for-your-buck hotel
Casa Dorada Los Cabos is an elegant, five-star, all-inclusive resort within walking distance of Cabo’s downtown and marina—although you might find yourself not wanting to leave the property. The least expensive rooms, known as Junior Suites, are a great value: Their 882 square feet of space includes a private terrace, kitchenette, bedroom, and living and dining areas. At the 12 Tribes restaurant, you can enjoy a glorious sunset dinner as you admire the vistas of bustling Médano Beach and the boats rocking in the bay.
What to Eat
Restaurant the locals love
The very casual Tacos Gardenias, near downtown Cabo, doesn’t look like much, but it turns out some of the best Baja-style fish tacos I’ve ever eaten—the fish is freshly caught, then battered and fried. They also have delicious shrimp tacos and cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork).
Dish to try
I find myself dreaming about the pulpo cantina at Hacienda Cocina: marinated and sautéed octopus and calamari, with a delicious lime-based cream, tomatoes, and garlic; it’s out of this world. The restaurant is laid-back yet elegant, directly overlooking Médano Beach, with seating indoors and out. I love going in the very early evening to enjoy the view of the bay as the lights begin to twinkle.
Meal worth the splurge
It doesn’t get any more farm-to-table than Flora Farms, in San Jose del Cabo: Their ten-acre organic plot produces the lion’s share of what’s served at the restaurant; and the vegetable trimmings feed the free-range pigs and chickens at their nearby ranch. The open-air dining room is surrounded by lush gardens, quite a departure from the rest of this arid region. It’s pricey, but absolutely worth the trip (on a dirt road). Reservations are required; they are packed almost every night.
Things to Do
Hop aboard a water taxi or glass-bottomed boat to Lover’s Beach, out at the tip of the peninsula. From either the Cabo San Lucas marina or Médano Beach, this relatively inexpensive boat ride delivers you to an incredibly pretty little beach tucked along the stunning rock formations of Land’s End. Be sure to arrange your return time with the boat operator and bring what you’ll need for the day, as there are no services out there; you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of Cabo San Lucas Bay. When conditions are good, you can snorkel and swim on the bay side with plenty of tropical fish. (The adjacent Pacific-facing beach is known as Divorce Beach and is not safe for swimming.) Bonus points for climbing up Pelican Rock and jumping into the Sea of Cortez!
Most overrated place
Puerto Paraiso Mall has the same high-end shops and restaurants you’ll find almost anywhere. They don’t typically have the latest trends, but you will pay a premium for anything you buy.
Most underrated place
San José del Cabo. This quaint town is full of culture. Located close to the Los Cabos International Airport and about 20 miles from Cabo San Lucas, San José del Cabo has a traditional town square anchored by a beautiful old church and a thriving arts district. There are also numerous lovely courtyard restaurants that just ooze charm. From November through June, the Thursday Night Art Walk is a great way to take in the local galleries—plus, there’s live music in the streets and great specials at restaurants. Just outside the historic downtown lies the lush San José Estuary; this natural oasis is full of palm trees and many bird species, a striking contrast to the prevailing desert landscape of Baja Sur.
Todos Santos. About an hour from Cabo San Lucas along the Pacific coastline, this former sugar mill town surrounded by a natural palm oasis has attracted organic farmers, surfers, and artists with its lovely old buildings; the old mission church of Nuestra Señora del Pilar dates to 1747. Be sure to browse the town’s many art galleries. Nearby beaches, including Pescadero and Cerritos, offer gorgeous, wind-swept stretches of sand, and breaks sought out by experienced surfers. (Most of the beaches along the Pacific coastline are not recommended for swimming due to strong riptides.)
Prime picnic spot
Head out to Santa Maria Bay or Chileno Bay, some of the prettiest beaches in Los Cabos. Both also happen to be favorites among snorkelers, with many colorful fish and pristine water. During the winter, you may even catch a glimpse of migrating whales passing along the coastline.
How to spend a lazy Sunday
Relaxing by a pool; most locals are off on Sundays, so the beaches are more crowded than normal.
November through mid-December, when the water is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you can enjoy water sports without the lines, and the scuba diving is optimal. I also love May, just after high season (December through April): The weather is mild, there’s little chance of rain, and hotel rates drop.
Mid-August through September—it’s prime hurricane season and the weather is humid and hot. If you have to travel in September, stay in Pedregal overlooking the Pacific Ocean so that you get a nice sea breeze.
Selecting your hotel based on rates and not paying attention to location. Los Cabos is comprised of three distinct areas: San José del Cabo is a quiet, authentic town with lots of history and culture. Cabo San Lucas is the vibrant heart of Los Cabos; this is the main tourist area, with a bustling central swimming/activity beach (Médano Beach) and a busy downtown. The Corridor connects the two cities and features spectacular golf courses, beautiful beaches, high-end resorts, and quiet communities of luxury vacation homes. If you’re expecting water activities near your resort, you will be really disappointed unless you’re in Cabo San Lucas.
I can plan an overnight scuba or snorkeling trip to seldom-visited islands in the Sea of Cortez that are rich with marine life. You arrive by Zodiac and camp each night in different areas of these unpopulated islands; the specific destinations are customized to each traveler’s interests.
An early morning (before 9 a.m.) visit to Lover’s Beach helps you avoid the crowds and get some beautiful shots. Go by kayak from Cannery Beach so that you can paddle out to the arch.
Check out the folk art galleries in San José del Cabo offering handmade jewelry, textiles, ceramics, and home décor items. You’ll find Cuban cigars in many stores, but you can’t bring them back to the U.S.
When exiting the airport, a gauntlet of timeshare reps will try to get you on the hook for a presentation under the guise of offering transportation—sometimes even suggesting that they are your ride. If you’ve prescheduled your transfer, head directly outdoors, where your driver will be waiting with a sign in hand. (Private transportation companies cannot go inside the airport.)
Tip as you would in the U.S.; a safe rule of thumb is 10–15% for tour leaders, $2–$5 per day for maid service.
A light sweater or jacket. While Los Cabos is warm year-round and very hot during the summer, the sea breezes can really cool things down in the evening.