At the very southern tip of the Baja Peninsula lie Los Cabos, sister cities that draw vacationers from around the world for warm weather, beautiful beaches, and incredible seafood. We visited the eastern city of San José del Cabo and had a fantastic time soaking up the sun and Mexican culture. Read on for a helpful guide to the best places to eat, stay, and see while you visit.
IS THERE MORE THAN ONE CABOS?
If you’re new to the region you might be surprised to learn that there are actually two Cabos – Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo.They’re about 30 minutes apart, along the southern coast.
We visited San José del Cabo since – we were in Mexico for a wedding that was held at Secrets Resort in San José.
Both cities offer oceanfront views and the same warm weather, and easy access to water sports. We didn’t spend time in Cabo San Lucas so I can’t speak to their differences personally, but Cabo has a reputation for being more of a nightlife centric city. On the other hand, San José del Cabo is better known for its many galleries and regular art shows, which I can attest to!
WHERE TO EAT IN SAN JOSÉ DEL CABO
If you enjoy seafood, you’ll love it in San José del Cabo. Here’s where we ate during our family vacation/wedding guest vacation:
A historic house built in the 1920s and run by the same Rodrigo family today. The menu offers up Mexican cuisine that feature their speciality cheese, made in house. Pair your cheese platter or cheese dish with a nice wine, tequila, or Mezcal Margarita or a winning meal.
Address: Calle Francisco I. Madero 1240, Zona Central, 23000 La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico
Hours: 7am-10pm, daily
Go for: Mezcal Margaritas, Fettucini de Casa Don Rodrigo
This outdoor restaurant was a few blocks from our condo. The good food, affordable prices, and beachfront views meant our group of six came four days in a row for breakfast. We were never around for the lunch/dinner menu, but we enjoyed everything on the menu we tried (and we tried nearly everything between us all).
Address: Carretera Transpenínsular Km 29.5. Zona Hotelera San José del Cabo.
Hours of operation: 8am-10pm
Go for: Chile relleno, fritata; and waffles
This is your spot in the arts district for tequila tasting! The staff that work there are very friendly, including their pet pug who frequents the place. We found some really good qualities of Tequila through our tasting experience. This was a place that had set prices for their tequilas with less bargaining than you’ll find in other souvenir shops, which I personally prefer.
Address: Blvd. Antonio Mijares 41, Centro, 23400 San José del Cabo, B.C.S., Mexico
Hours: 10am – 10pm, daily
Go for: Tequila tasting, beaded bottles made by Indigenous artists in traditional Mexican styles, and tequila bottles you can’t get in the US.
Fresh seafood dishes on a “sea to table menu” and delicious cocktails made this place a group favorite, and favorite among Cabo locals for over 20 years. You can even bring your own freshly caught fish to the restaurant and have their chefs cook it for you!
Address: Calle S / N, Mantarraya La Playa, San José del Cabo B.C.S., 23403
Hours: 8am-10pm daily
Go for: Grilled octopus tacos, sashimi, Octopus al pastor, or Fish Your Way.
WHERE TO STAY IN SAN JOSÉ DEL CABO, MEXICO
We spent half of our time in Cabo at Las Mamanitas condo, and the other half at Secrets Resort. We also visited La Marina Inn for dinner twice. Here’s what I thought:
We stayed here because it was large enough for our six person group and was walking distance from the ocean, plus a convent travel to Secrets Resort for the wedding we were attending. With a lovely pool area, big rooms, and great landscaping, we really enjoyed our time here. Some of the condos are owned by permanent residents so it’s a quieter, more residential feel that’s well suited for a peaceful family vacation.
🌴 Enjoy walking through the carefully maintained cacti & succulent gardens across the property.
A popular choice for an all-inclusive vacation, and much more suited for the social butterfly or person looking for the party vibe.
If you want a place to celebrate a big event and you’re not too interested in leaving the property, you’ll love it here. All-inclusive food and drinks make for an indulgent getaway, and you’ll find people enjoying libations at all hours in the large pool and swim-up bar.
They offer several dining options that are also included in your resort fee, plus free activities like Zumba or Water Volleyball throughout each day. While this isn’t our usual vacation style, we had a lovely time living large for a few days. I think the food was better outside of the resort than San José del Cabo, and maybe even better in La Paz where we spent a few days before Cabo. That said, the grounds and views are pretty breathtaking and it’s hard to imagine someone not enjoying their stay here.
💵 These rooms are PRICY but you won’t spend much money once you’re here except for tips and extras (spa service, anyone?)
I’d also recommend La Marina Inn, a very self-describe Vintage Cabo accommodation, just a 2 minutes walk from the marina. We didn’t stay at the hotel but we did eat at George’s Restaurant (see review above), which we were very impressed by. Wonderful seafood dishes with incredibly fresh ingredients, and delightful cocktails! We did use the public restrooms which were very clean, so if the rooms are as nice as the rest of the property, it would be a fantastic stay.
La Marina Inn seems like a much more boutique hotel experience than the mega resort or condo style we stayed in this trip, and would probably be a better fit than our choices for a small group who really wants to explore San José del Cabo.
🚌 Super close to the marina where fishing and boating tours take off, as well as the side of town with the arts district
WHAT TO DO IN SAN JOSÉ DEL CABO, MEXICO
ENJOY A MEAL ON THE WATER – Honestly, that’s the main thing we did and I would do it again if I could. There isn’t a huge street food scene but you can definitely find some snacks along the boardwalk. There are enough worthy eateries to keep you busy for weeks though. This is a shoe-in destination for pescatarians and taco lovers. Ceviche is easy to find too and every restaurant we tried made it differently.
TRY A DEEP-SEA FISHING TOUR – I don’t consider myself someone who really enjoys fishing, but as I’ve shifted my diet toward pescatarian over the years, I’ve felt compelled to at least understand what it takes to get my food. We went on a half-day fishing tour while in Cabo and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Granted, I didn’t do a lot of the actual fishing. I did catch one fish though, and what we caught we actually used for our lunch and dinner the next few days, which made the trip feel useful rather than wasteful.
GO SHOPPING IN THE HISTORIC ARTS DISTRICT – There are lots of cute artisan boutiques in the arts district which make this area the perfect place for souvenirs. Some shops in this area sell mass-produced souvenirs that likely don’t come from Mexico or Mexican artists. Plenty of others are artisan shops where you can see traditional Mexican craftsmanship on display. This is a good spot to get fine jewelry at a good price too, but shop carefully for the best prices and qualities.
Choya Rose was one of our favorite boutiques we came across during our shopping trip.
It is in this neighborhood that you can see the historic buildings dating back to the 1700s, when San José del Cabo was one of the only cities in the Baja Peninsula.
VISIT THE ART WALK – Every Thursday from 5-9pm in the Arts District, November-June. Enjoy wine and tequila tastings, and gallery openings with chances to meet the artists.
SNORKELING AND DIVING – We weren’t able to make diving work for us this trip, but we heard lots of great things about the diving and snorkeling in the area, especially during seasons of animal migrations. Certain rays, seals, sharks, and whales pass through the Sea of Cortez through the year and Isla Espiritu Santo, a popular dive sight and another UNESCO site, a couple hours north of San Jose del Cabo.
TRY A TEQUILA TASTING – Is a trip to Mexico complete without a proper tequila tasting? If you head to the arts district, you’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants that offer tastings ranging from an informal shot to a sit-down tasting with instructions.
I recommend Casa Don Rodrigo for a great tasting experience if you’re wanting snacks; you can get a cheese plate or stay for dinner. (Make sure to try the Mezcal Margarita!)
For a more straightforward tasting experience, designed more for tequila shopping than dining, try West Coast Tequila Co. This spot is right on the art district strip and is a spot my friends have gone back to over the years.
VISIT EL ARCO – We weren’t able to see this iconic natural arch on our trip but it’s worth a visit if you can swing it, and I wish we’d fit it in our itinerary.
WHAT NOT TO DO
DOLPHIN DISCOVERY EXPERIENCES – You will see these advertised all over Cabo, but I wouldn’t recommend them. From the pictures showing dolphins doing tricks in aquariums, it fits all the markings of an animal tourism stop that’s really bad for the dolphins. This blogger’s review explains why she wouldn’t do it again after having visited one of the Dolphin Discovery experiences, despite feeling like the dolphins were well taken care of.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU VISIT SAN JOSÉ DEL CABO
The Baja California Sur region is a desert! It’s hot and sunny.
The sun is extremely strong. See point one. Don’t forget your sunscreen. Bring protective clothing – sunhat or cover ups for the beach to protect your skin. Avoid direct sun between 10am-4pm to stay out of the strongest UV rays.
You can’t swim in the ocean on many beaches along the southern borders due to the strength of the riptides. Go for a walk along the beach and you will see why. The beaches in many areas are quite steep, and the waves hit hard at a sharp angle. Check out beaches on the coasts or near La Paz, like Tecolote or Balandra beaches, if you want a proper beach day.
If something is 200 pesos, you can drop a zero (which gives you 20) and then divide by 2 (which gives you 10). Thus 200 pesos is about 10 dollars. 500 pesos is about 25 dollars. It’s a quick way to ballpark prices when you’re out and about without pulling out your phone for the calculator.
It can get expensive, quickly. If you’re imagining Mexico as a budget destination, I would throw that idea away in the Cabos.
The tap water in Cabos is not safe to drink. That means unless you have a Lifestraw or something similar to clean your own water, you’re probably going to be using plastic water bottles. We tried to get larger jugs to refill our smaller bottles when possible, but it’s a sustainability challenge here as in any place without potable water.
Major credit cards are accepted most places, but small bills are helpful for tips. I recommend withdrawing from an ATM at the airport upon arrival. We used pesos or credit cards the entire trip except for tips when we were at Secrets Resort.
Heading to La Paz, Mexico? Read this next.
ECO-FRIENDLY TIPS FOR SAN JOSÉ DEL CABO
A few things you can do for a more eco-friendly trip to La Paz, Mexico, a gem of a Mexican city on the Sea of Cortez:
- Instead of flying into the La Paz airport, take a public bus or shuttle bus from the Cabo airport where you’ll likely fly into if coming from outside of Mexico
- Be extra careful to dispose of your waste properly and keep it off of the beaches and out of the oceans
- Try eating vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian and enjoy the local ingredients
- Many places don’t give you straws, but it’s still a good idea to ask for no straw if you can remember (sin paja)
- If you’re going scuba diving or snorkeling, bring your reef-safe sunscreen. I’ve got some recs if you need them.
- Book tours with local hosts and tour guides, and leave a review if you enjoyed your experiences
- Bring a reusable mask and wear it anywhere that it’s mandated. It will help keep locals safe who haven’t yet had access to the vaccine
HELPFUL WORDS TO KNOW IN SPANISH
You don’t have to be great but a little effort goes a long way. Here are some basics that will help you get around, order food, and generally survive.
- Hello – Hola
- Goodbye – Adiós
- Excuse me – Perdoname, Perdon,
- How are you – [informal] ¿Cómo estás? [formal] ¿Cómo está? [to multiple people] ¿Cómo están?
- Thank you – Gracias
- Please – Por favor
- yes – Sí
- no – No
- Where is the bathroom? – Dónde está el baño
- I would like _____ – Quisiera
- Check, please. – La cuenta, por favor
- No straw – sin paja