NIGHT & DAY

Three one-day itineraries that show you how to have one-of-a-kind adventures in los cabos from sunrise to sunset

By Ashley Alvarado, Sandra A. Berry and Chris Sands

Sun-soaked beaches. World-class restaurants. Legendary nightclubs. Few cities in the world rival Los Cabos when it comes to options for travelers, who can craft their vacations to meet any whim. To highlight some of the ways you can make Los Cabos your own, we asked three of our writers to draft oneday itineraries. Now it’s time for you to choose your own adventure!

All the Way to San José

Get an early start for a trek to San José del Cabo to visit shops, eat a wonderful variety of food, and take in nature, local culture, and art.

Driving from Cabo San Lucas to San José del Cabo, enjoy the sparkling-blue Sea of Cortés as you pass Santa María Bay, where a snorkeling cruise boat is probably anchored. Take the road along the Hotel Zone as you enter San José del Cabo, passing the new Plaza del Pescador. Make your first stop at Habanero’s Gastro Grill for breakfast; there are 15 selections, all for less than $10 U.S.

Just across from the restaurant is a dirt road that leads to a lush estuary and bird sanctuary with more than 250 avian species —including moorhens, coots, and cactus wrens— as well as reptiles and marine life. The marshy, freshwater lagoon is ringed by tall reedlike foliage and fed by an underground river that has served area residents since the 1700s. If you’re lucky, you may see a great blue heron stretching and drying its expansive wings. Continue on your excursion by heading into the main shopping area along Boulevard Antonio Mijares.

San José del Cabo’s lush estuary and bird sanctuary has more than 250 avian species
San José del Cabo’s lush estuary and bird sanctuary has more than 250 avian species

Interested in jewelry? If so, your first stop should be Indira Gems, where creative pieces inspired by pre-Columbian cultures are on display. For folk art, head to Silvermoon Gallery. Armando Sanchez Icaza showcases vibrant Mexican folk art and tells stories about the various artists. You can walk up one side of the boulevard and back on the other, stopping in curio shops and other jewelry stores and then be ready for lunch, proving that shopping is a tough job.

Stop at the Retro Burger Bar, where the full menu has something for everyone, from salads to burgers. Following lunch, take a drive toward Puerto Los Cabos and turn at the Cross, a monument to the past and a beacon to the future created by renowned artist Gabriel Macotela. To your right is the entrance to Wirikuta Botanical Garden, the sacred site of the Huichol people. An extraordinary 12-acre park has been designed here, with thousands of cacti and succulents from deserts around the world. The garden features a great variety of endangered species. Consider renting bikes to ride around the 3.2-mile path to take in the sculpture garden to view the pieces by three of México’s most respected living artists. As you drive around the Puerto Los Cabos Marina, you’ll see bronze sculptures by surrealist artist Leonora Carrington that are on permanent display on the walking paths at the edge of the marina.

Plan on a Thursday outing to take in the weekly art walk November through June, when galleries remain open through 9 p.m. After two hours of strolling the historic district, you’ll be ready for your dinner reservations at Don Sanchez, where the fresh seared tuna might be the fish of the day, deliciously paired with a fine wine and the perfect ending to your perfect day in San José del Cabo. –S.A.B.

Down by the Sea

The Sea of Cortés’s incredible bounty is on full display along the southern half of the Baja Peninsula. Colorful fish dazzle snorkelers near Land’s End. Playful sea lions bound about the Cabo San Lucas Marina. Dolphins frolic in the open water. And humpbacks, grays, orcas, and other whales impress with mind-blowing, gravity-defying performances.

 Get up close and personal with dolphins at Discovery Dolphins
Get up close and personal with dolphins at Discovery
Dolphins

There are countless ways to enjoy the Sea of Cortés in Los Cabos. For à la carte options, check out our “Activities directory” on The Directory – Your guide to Los Cabos activities. Veteran tour guide Beto Haro Romero has also outlined camping options on My Favorite Weekend: Camping Edition and a guide to “What Lies Beneath” on What Lies Beneath – A look at the rich sea life that abounds in the Sea of Cortés.

This one-day itinerary starts bright and early with Cabo Expeditions, a leader in Los Cabos’ growing ecotourism industry. April through September, opt for the Espíritu Santo Island Expedition, which has long been a personal favorite. The full-day, all-inclusive tour departs from Cabo San Lucas and transports guests to the Espíritu Santo Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage site off the coast of La Paz. There, visitors can snorkel with playful sea lions —many are so friendly that they’ll approach you— explore coral reefs, and discover colorful sea life. After lunching on fresh seafood on the gorgeous Ensenada Grande beach, you’ll see why Espíritu Santo is often referred to the “jewel of the Sea of Cortés.”

Not arriving till fall? That’s when activities companies shift gears and begin offering whale shark adventures in the Bay of La Paz. Swim side by side with 30-feet-long juvenile whale sharks, the world’s largest fish. These gentle giants —they are filter feeders and won’t bite— are found just minutes from the capital city’s picturesque boardwalk, or malecón. Set aside about eight hours for this activity and make sure to bring an underwater camera. Cabo Expeditions and Sun Rider are the two local tour providers who offer this extraordinary option.

Our daylong salute to the sea does not end with your return to your hotel. If you’re anything like most guests, you will likely take a needed nap during the two-hour-plus ride back to Los Cabos from La Paz.

After a quick shower and change of clothes, make your way to the landmark Los Cabos restaurant Sunset da Mona Lisa. If possible, make your reservations for just before sunset to fully enjoy the breathtaking views of the Technicolor sunset over Land’s End as you dine on excellent European fare. The primarily Italian menu and robust international wine list perfectly complement the stunning views of the Sea of Cortés. So magical is the Sunset da Mona Lisa experience that restaurant employees report an average of one wedding proposal per night. —A.A

Spring Break Anytime

You don’t have to be a college student to have the quintessential Cabo San Lucas spring break experience. Heck, you don’t even have to visit in March or April, the traditional time frame in which young adults from the United States, Canada, and mainland México flock to Los Cabos for a much needed midterm vacation. All you really need is a basic understanding of the standard spring break routine —bake yourself brown at the beach all day, party all night— and a willingness to haunt all the signature hot spots.

For Cabo freshmen, here’s a CliffsNotes study guide for how to live the spring break lifestyle, if only for a single day:

Don your beach togs, pack a towel and some sunscreen, and head over to Mango Deck, Cabo’s unofficial spring break HQ on Médano Beach. Some bawdy contests may be seasonal, but Mango Deck offers yearround access to three of spring break’s most essential ingredients: beer, a beautiful beachfront locale, and lounge chairs from which to survey it all. Mango Deck also serves some of the best seafood and comfort food favorites in town, as does nearby neighbor Baja Cantina Beach.

There is something for everyone at spring break favorite Mango Deck on Médano Beach.
There is something for everyone at spring break favorite Mango Deck on Médano Beach.

It’s one thing to channel your inner spring breaker and get a little wild, and another to get wet and wild. As long as you’re at the beach, why not dive into the area’s plethora of waterbased activities options? In addition to its tasty menu treats and tropical cocktails, Mango Deck operates an activities concession, with wave runner and other rentals, as well as high-flying parasailing tours. Big air is also a selling point at Cabo FlyBoard, providers of Cabo’s most popular new adventure. Strap on some boots and emerge from the water like a superhero, turning and tumbling as you show off your moves for an appreciative beachside audience.

After establishing yourself as king or queen of the beach scene, it’s time to shower off and take it easy before your big night on the town. Shopping is the perfect low-impact afternoon pursuit, and no local souvenirs summon the spirit of spring break quite like the gorgeous decorative tequila bottles found at Tequila Cabo Único (624-129-8606), a new boutique located across from Cabo San Lucas’s town square, Plaza Amelia Wilkes. It doesn’t hurt a bit that the aesthetically pleasing bottles are filled with premium spirits from the distinguished La Cofradia distillery in Jalisco, or that the on-site sales people like to give out free samples.

Tequila samples will only take you so far, however, particularly when you’ve committed to some serious partying. Head over to Cabo Wabo Cantina —the legendary hangout founded by former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar—and order up dinner and a few rounds of Waboritas, a twist on the traditional margarita. The music will keep you dancing till night’s end, by which point you’ll either feel like you’re 21 years old again or far too old for Spring Break in Cabo. —C.S.