We were so excited to go to Cabo San Lucas for three weeks! I didn’t know where to begin my planning but let’s retrace from the beginning. We were able to fly direct from Austin on Southwest into Cabo with a 2.5 hour plane ride, which is about my favorite length of time to be inside a plane. When booking the trip, we made arrangements to have a driver pick us up from the airport, and we were so glad we did that. The airport is actually a 45 minute drive outside of Cabo, so you’ll need transportation. After disembarking and once you get through customs, you’ll go through a door where there will be TONS of people offering you a ride and trying to get your attention to listen to timeshare presentations. To avoid these salespeople, I urge you to book your transportation in advance either privately or through the hotel/resort you are staying at, and when you arrive, keep walking outside until you see your transportation representative. Note that Uber is not allowed to pick up at the airport, they are only allowed to drop off.
Our private driver was incredibly kind, knowledgeable and spoke English very well. He mentioned points of interest along the drive to our condo and overall, we felt very safe and welcomed. We stopped to grab a few things at a Costco and the La Comer market in the El Tezal area where we were staying on the east side of Cabo. Both stores were very clean. Our goal was to get a few snacks and of course, wine (because, vacation!). A word of warning: The tariffs for wine are very high in Mexico so some were very expensive, but we found a few bottles that we liked and that were reasonable and continued to purchase those throughout our trip.
During our trip, our friends Tina and Dirk joined us for four days and they really wanted to do a whale watching excursion. The gentleman who picked us up from the airport mentioned that he knew someone who gave tours on “panga boats”, which are Mexican open fishing boats with a top for shade and an outboard motor. At first I was a little nervous that I was going to get seasick but I immediately felt comfortable when I saw that the boat was so short and close to the water. Cabo is located at the very southern tip of the Baja California Sur and is surrounded by water in which you will find the world renowned arch of Cabo San Lucas, known by locals as “El Arco”. El Arco which means “The Arch” or “Land’s End” in Spanish, is a beautiful and distinctive rock formation at the very southern end of the peninsula where the Pacific Ocean becomes the Gulf of California. It is three stories tall and was formed from natural erosion. El Arco is adjacent to Lovers Beach on the Sea of Cortez side and Divorce Beach is on the rougher Pacific Ocean side. Our guide took us to the other side of the arch where we found dozens of other boats sitting and waiting for the same thing we had come for. Our guide remarked that this was a very popular morning tourist destination and that if someone spots a whale or two, all boats will follow.
After following for quite some time, we were lucky enough to spot three gorgeous humpback whales, a female, male, and a calve. They like to show off by blowing water and jumping into the air and we were so excited when we would see a tale come up out of the water. They are truly majestic creatures.
There were many other water activities also available such as parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sunset cruises in glass bottom boats, and pretty much anything you could think of.
On our way back into the marina we made a stop at Lover’s Beach. Scot, my friend Tina and I hopped out of the boat to take some photos and walk around a bit. The views are incredible and so unique and the beach was peaceful and serene. One thing to note is there is no pier or dock to get in and out of the boat on the beach, so bring only the essentials and invest in a waterproof bag. Trying to get back onto the boat proved slightly harrowing but also quite hysterical. The water was very strong with a heavy undercurrent but I managed to keep my head above water and get back on the boat, (some might say), “successfully”. There are attendants that work at the beach to assist people getting on and off the boats and I’m sure they had a good laugh at my expense…but so did I. After that, I earned myself a big margarita.
Back at the marina, there was a lot of shopping available in the mall and also in the streets around the marina. Most of them are touristy shops for all of the cruise ships that come into Cabo. I did not purchase anything in this area but it was still fun to poke around.
I first learned of Asi y Asado on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and put it on my list of places to go to if we made it to Cabo. We got to scratch that off the list! We stopped by for lunch one day at their simple roadside stand and had poblano queso, I had chicken tacos and a margarita, and Scot had a burger and a beer. I don’t think our bill was more than thirty five dollars American dollars so we were pretty pleased with that.
Another cheap lunch was at Higos y Olivos that was also located on the side of the main highway. We had margaritas that were the size of our heads, really fresh fish tacos and the best tuna sashimi we had our whole trip.
If you’re in the mood for pizza, La Pizza Nostra is a great choice. You sit outside under these huge tree branches and you feel like you are in the middle of Italy. I had a wonderful sangria with fruit and nuts and we split a pepperoni mushroom pizza.
We ate lunch a few times at the Outpost Cabo located near the marina. The green ceviche with sea bass was the best ceviche I have ever had and days later I was still craving it that we went back with friends. They served a trio of margaritas that included smoked hibiscus, avocado and charcoal. This was great because Scot and I shared them and got to try three different kinds of margaritas we never had before. The next time we went back I chose just to have the smoked hibiscus, which was my favorite. Scot does not love Mexican food because most of it has cilantro, which he cannot have, so he chose a fried chicken sandwich. The chicken was pounded out and was bigger than his hand. It was served on a big bun and he really enjoyed it. I had the tuna tacos chicharrón style both times we visited. The Outpost is associated with Flora Farms in San Jose del Cabo, which I’ll detail in the day trip section. We sat on the second floor overlooking the downtown area surrounded by plants that they use in their cooking.
Bar Esquina is located at the Bahia Hotel and Beach House, which we visited a couple times and really enjoyed the atmosphere. As most restaurants in Cabo are situated outside, Bar Esquina has a bar under a roof with fire pits outdoors and around the dining room. They have a shishito pepper appetizer that was extremely good. We had the tuna tartare both times and the short rib pizza with blue cheese and arugula was outstanding. We both had margaritas and split an order of sticky toffee pudding that had the creamiest sauce on it I could have just drank on its own.
The Sur Beach House is also located at the Bahia Hotel and Beach House, but this is on the water. You have beautiful views and could see the sunset. You can also rent chairs and umbrellas here by reservation and there is a food minimum that must be met, but I don’t think that would be challenging at all. It would be a beautiful spot to spend the day. Scot had a braised short rib that was incredibly tender and succulent. I went for the crab cakes because I had not had enough seafood for the day.
For lunch we went to the Hacienda Beach Club. I had a wonderful Rosa Mexicano margarita as we overlooked the bay. It is decorated with bright red, yellow and blue pillows for all of the benches in the eating area. It is not far from the marina and I strongly suggest a reservation. I had the enchiladas poblanos served with avocado and white rice and Scot had a chicken sandwich that he really enjoyed.
Toro was one of our favorite restaurants that we visited four different times during our stay. Every single time we had the short rib tacos which were unbelievably incredible. They were an explosion of flavor between the corn tortilla and the seasoning on the short ribs. We also had the tuna tartare every visit as it was also exceptional and served very generously. My favorite meal there was the shrimp and crab enchiladas which I thought would be extremely rich but was perfectly seasoned and not too heavy. They have a wood fire grill there so Scot took advantage and had the ribeye with the wood grilled mushrooms. They have a huge outdoor seating area with a whale tail water feature that is very soothing to just sit and listen to. The inside of the dining room is also gorgeous and dimly lit with a wonderful ambience. The bar is extremely cool and is sunken down so you sit at floor level vs. up high. I believe this was done so you could watch the kitchen as it was pretty open and visible while sitting at the bar.
Sunset Mona Lisa is not to be missed! It is ranked as one of “Five of the World’s Coolest Restaurants” according to the Express Tribune, and I would say it’s probably the coolest restaurant we have ever been to. When we made a reservation we ordered the five course signature meal. We were greeted warmly and brought to our table where beautiful music was playing. As the sun started to go down, people surrounded the property blowing into conch shells that ended with one bang to a gong. This was to symbolize thanking God for another day and it was incredibly moving and brought tears to my eyes. As soon as the sun set, lanterns were lit that illuminated the dining area and heaters were turned on to warm the space creating an incredible ambiance that was bar none. As if the setting couldn’t get any more romantic, we witnessed a proposal! An hour later, a fireworks display began right off the deck to celebrate the engagement. Swoon!
Dinner at Sunset Mona Lisa is chef’s choice and it changes on a rotating basis. We got to experience some lovely grilled shrimp, incredible homemade bread, paid extra for the Wagyu steak, and a wonderful dessert. Scot chose a great bottle of wine, as they have an extensive wine list, that he was very pleased with.
From Sunset Mona Lisa we could see across the bay to Manta at the Cape Hotel. We were excited because we made reservations there and didn’t know where it was located. Manta also has a beautiful view from their balcony. It is a “Pacific Coast Culture” restaurant, meaning the food has flavors from Mexico, Peru and Japan. It is more of a tapas style restaurant so Scot and I embraced that and got the tuna sashimi, broccolini with edamame and tahini, and the best mushroom ramen I have ever had. The earthiness of the ramen was indescribable. We really enjoyed our evening there.
For a special lunch, we went to the Waldorf Astoria. WOW! They gave us a complimentary salad that had fresh pineapple, cucumber, jicama, and watermelon with a sprinkle of Tajin. It is something that I will definitely recreate this summer. I chose the gazpacho with lump crab and it was the best that I have ever had. The presentation was one of a kind – the lump crab was in the middle of the bowl and the gazpacho was slowly poured around it in front of me. I then had an Asian tuna salad with rice noodles and a ginger vinaigrette that was very refreshing and light. Scot chose the club sandwich and we both had margaritas.
One of the fun things that we got to do was a wine pairing with the Cabo Wine Club coordinated by my friend Lisa’s friend, Dawn Solomon. You can find her at @cabowinediva on Instagram and Facebook. It was held at the Funky Olive, which is on the marina, and all of the wine was from Mexico. We were happily surprised at how much we enjoyed the wine and our favorite was a Cabernet Nebbiolo blend. Dinner started with some tuna carpaccio with jalapenos paired with a Sauvignon blanc and then we had a chicken piccata paired with the Cabernet Nebbiolo blend. We had a yellowtail smothered in a Rockefeller sauce paired with a Tempranillo and ended with some crème brulée with a berry reduction paired with a Casa Magoni Origin. We will definitely keep a look out for her wine pairings when we go back.
The last special experience we had is exactly what you would imagine when you say “Mexico”. It was at Tres Sirenas and let me tell you, this was the full Cabo experience complete with a mariachi band and a tableside lobster Caesar salad. Scot ordered a whole red snapper and it was gorgeous. I had the grilled shrimp and we finished with a tableside bananas foster that was a ten minute show that left people applauding. This is located across the street from Bar Esquina near the marina.
Scot and I were lucky enough to have a friend offer their condo to us during our stay, so we did not stay at a hotel BUT we did go to restaurants at hotels. If we were to go back and need a hotel I would look at one of these:
Bahia Hotel and Beach House had two of the restaurants that we visited, Bar Esquina and Sur Beach House and was located walking distance from the marina. It’s a very modern boutique and bohemian style hotel.
The Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal is very secluded and on the far west side of the city. You actually go through a cool tunnel to get to the hotel in the Pedregal area of the city. The Waldorf Astoria was in a beautiful location and was very quiet without a lot of people on the beach because it is so far from the marina. It has three or four restaurants that are very well known and where we thoroughly enjoyed a lunch.
The Cape, which is a Thompson Hotel, is located in the El Tezal area of the city, far from the marina and the downtown area. This is where the restaurant Manta is located. It was a beautiful motel decorated with a minimalist style.
We took a few day trips during our stay and our first was to Cerritos Beach to spend a few nights at the Surf Residences. Cerritos Beach is a surfer’s town located about 15 minutes south of Todos Santos on the Pacific side of the Baja California Sur and it’s only one of a few safe places to surf on the Pacific coast. There are camping grounds and condos in construction to accommodate the surfing crowd all within walking distance of the beach. There is not one paved road in Cerritos, it is all dirt roads and very rustic vibe. Some say it’s like Cabo was in the 70’s.
Our condo was absolutely gorgeous with an amazing view of the ocean. It was pretty new, clean and relatively large with a full kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. They also had a huge patio with an outdoor kitchen, a dining room table, and a few chairs to just sit and soak up the view. There is a restaurant on site called the Surfside Bar and Grill where Scot and I split a Caesar salad that we really enjoyed.
We found Shakas Wood Cantina and had to stop in because Brandon, who is the owner, is from Texas like us. It’s a very cool vibe, a total surfer bar. We thoroughly enjoyed the Texas red chili and the out-of-this-world papaya margaritas. The whole place has dirt floors and the ceilings are covered in sports and college flags and of course, the Texas flag. They have live music on a regular basis and it is the place to be in Cerrito’s Beach.
The Barracuda Cantina was another great spot we visited. It was featured in the show “Tacos” on Netflix and I was so excited to go. We started off with a deconstructed guacamole along with a couple margaritas. I decided to have one fried and one grilled fish taco and Scot went straight for the fried tacos. Everything was so fresh and delicious and it was the perfect meal after spending an afternoon on the beach. Scot liked it so much he even bought a t-shirt to take home to remember his meal at the Barracuda Cantina. It is definitely a must stop if you’re in Cerrito’s Beach.
The next day trip was to San Jose del Cabo located on the southeastern side of Baja California Sur. It is the sweetest little town that truly captures the spirit of Baja. The town center is filled with dozens of shops and restaurants and the street decorations make you feel like you’re at a big party. I found some beautiful handwoven napkins for my friend Isabella and a gorgeous necklace, earrings and ring set that’s made of silver with turquoise and amber. Everyone that we spoke to was very kind and so many of the shops have handmade items which were overwhelmingly beautiful. The Baja Brewery is a good babysitting spot for your husband located on one of the nearby side streets.
We ended up at Tamarindos in town. I had the passion fruit margarita and we split the tuna tataki with grapefruit segments. It was the most refreshing tuna I’d ever had and the presentation was very eye appealing. We shared the Mexican sampler for dinner which includes a green enchilada, chili relleno, and beef fajitas.
We visited Acre Restaurant at the Acre Resort which has actual tree houses you can stay in. When you arrive at the property off a long dirt road, past Flora Farms (that’s how you know you’re not lost), there’s a very long path through palm trees and other tropical foliage to get to the restaurant. I think my favorite margarita our whole trip was the Beach Comber margarita at Acre. We shared some guacamole, Scot had a roast beef sandwich and I, once again, had fish tacos. Can you really have too many fish tacos? I don’t think so!
Further up the road from Acre is another Tamarindos location which we did not go to but in looking at their website, they have a variety of cooking classes that I will be checking out the next time we are in Cabo.
Speaking of cooking classes, one of the best days we had was taking a guacamole and salsa cooking class at Flora Farms with our friends, Dirk and Tina. As someone who gives cooking classes I always like to see how others run them and pick up some tips. I could go on and on about Flora Farms! We were given coffee and water at check in while we waited for the rest of our group. When everyone arrived, we were brought to an outside area with umbrellas covering our cooking stations. Each station was set up with individual cutting boards, knives, a molcajete and bowls. We then got a tour of the grounds that were filled with beautiful foliage, flowers, and veggies. While we were there, a building in the middle of the grounds was being set up for a wedding. We thought about crashing… but figured we’d get caught so we abandoned that plan.
We started off with a Farma Margarita, don’t judge it without tasting it, it’s made with carrot juice! It is such a refreshing non-sweet margarita that I’ve made many times since returning home. We got to make a few different kinds of salsa and guacamole and corn tortillas from scratch. It was really fun seeing our husbands, who are not fans of cooking, participate in this class. When we were done, we sat down and got to eat family style as the staff made fish tacos, slaw and salad and finished it off with a key lime pie. I will say that these fish tacos were the best that I had on the whole trip. They were tempura style, yet they weren’t heavy. We received the recipe as a part of the class and I can’t wait to try to make them myself.
There’s a restaurant also located at Flora Farms in a to-go grocery area where you can buy aprons and bags and other goodies. I, of course, had to bring home a Flora Farms shopping bag that has a wine holder inside, to commemorate this beautiful day.
Scot likes to go to the beach but only if no one is around, which is hard because most people want to be at the beach, so most beaches are packed. After doing some research, we found the East Cape Beach located about four miles down the road from Flora Farms, Acre Restaurant and Tamarindos. There was only two or three other people on the beach the whole time we were there.
Near the beach was a restaurant called Buzzards that we stopped in at to share some margaritas and toast the beautiful and peaceful afternoon we were having. Scot was mesmerized watching a family of whales off the coast while I was deep in a book I had for over a year but hadn’t read yet. It was such a relaxing day and was our favorite beach destination in Mexico.
I learned so much from my time in Cabo. The people of Mexico are wonderful and so gracious. All of our service was at least four and sometimes five star. They were very accommodating and always asked about allergies to food. Scot has a sensitivity to cilantro so it was greatly appreciated that they were so attentive to mentioning that Scot’s food did not have cilantro in it, and that was our experience at 99% of the restaurants we visited.
Our Uber drivers all spoke English and were very thoughtful and helpful. They take service to a different level and the respect that people in the hospitality industry receive in Cabo is mind blowing. I know they cater to visitors but they sincerely love their jobs and love where they live. I can’t wait to go back to Cabo and explore more and return to some of our favorite spots. I really enjoyed Baja California Sur as it is not humid like the Gulf side of Mexico. I felt 100% safe at all times and see it being one of our favorite locations to escape the realities of life.