The Not All-Inclusive Guide to Los Cabos
When thinking of Los Cabos, it’s not unusual to conjure up images of Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar and his Cabo Wabo enterprise, or—for the millennial set—Lauren Conrad and her friends partying it up at an all-inclusive as documented on MTV’s Laguna Beach. However, there’s way more to Los Cabos than the rowdy and debaucherous light it’s often portrayed in.
Los Cabos (Spanish for “The Capes”) is located at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. It’s comprised of two cities: Cabo San Lucas, most commonly known as Cabo, and San José del Cabo, where most locals live. About an hour north of Cabo San Lucas is the rustic town of Todos Santos; population approximately 6,485. This small town is a hotspot for those looking for an off-the-beaten-path getaway, but who aren’t committed to fully going off the grid. (Hotel San Cristóbal is a sight to see.)
The region is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez, in addition to a vast desert backdrop that lends itself well to activities like hiking and horseback riding. Last year 100,000 Canadians travelled to Los Cabos—a 12 per cent increase from the year before. It’s also the safest place in Mexico to visit as a solo-traveller.
While Los Cabos is ultimately a resort town (more than 2,000 new rooms are slated to open up this year), there are tons of not all-inclusive activities that are authentic to the region. Here, the best things to do in Los Cabos:
Experience the temazcal
Wellness tourism is on the rise (you likely follow at least one person who has attended a fitness/wellness/spiritual retreat and lived to tell the tale via IG Stories) and it’s estimated to reach nearly $920 billion USD in the next three years. Los Cabos has many wellness-related activities on offer, but if there’s one to try out it should be temazcal. This Mesoamerican healing practice, which has been passed down from generations of the country’s indigenous groups, is essentially a sweat lodge.
The temazcal ritual takes place in a stone structure, where a shaman leads a small group of people through a ceremony. Said ceremony includes herb-infused water being splashed on heated rocks to create steam inside of the structure. The treatment is said to aid in detoxifying the body and mind, and helps promote circulation.
While many spas offer the experience (like Playa Grande Resort & Grand Spa, ME Cabo and Hacienda Encantada to name a few) in Los Cabos, the temazcal at the One&Only Palmilla is definitely one to check out. The luxury resort’s treatment is led by resident shaman, Raul Retana, a member of the Sonoran Mayo tribe.
Eat good food
There are a lot of excellent food options in Los Cabos; after all, it is a leading culinary destination Every year, the region hosts its acclaimed food and wine festival, Sabor a Cabo, which features dishes by local chefs and draws in at least 3,000 guests.
Fresh seafood is ubiquitous in Los Cabos and you’d be remiss not to try it. Be sure to sample the ceviches at Comal (as well as the delicious pastries created by chef Devin McDavid), an oceanfront restaurant inside of Chileno Bay Resort & Residences. Manta, at The Cape (The Thompson’s Los Cabos outpost) serves up Mexican dishes with Peruvian and Japanese twists. Highlights include chef Enrique Olvera’s sashimi platter, octopus anticucho and the mushroom ramen. And of course, a trip to Baja equates to nothing if you don’t try a Baja fish taco. These you can come across practically anywhere, from street stands to poolside bars.
Thanks to the region’s favourable winter growing season, farm-to-table experiences are abound, with many restaurants sourcing from their own on-site gardens. At Acre Baja, the Insta-bait eco-resort that’s booked up until next year, executive chef Fernando Olmedo and his team create delicious and comforting dishes (fried green tomatoes, anyone?) using produce from the resort’s organic gardens.
There’s also Jazamango, which is located an hour north of Cabo in Todos Santos. Upon entering the property you’re greeted by the al fresco restaurant, headed by chef Javier Placenscia, and perhaps a stray cat the staff have taken in (on my visit I was greeted by the adorable Oscar). Behind the dining area lies the property’s gardens, replete with immaculate rows of cilantro, strawberries and carrots, as well as the starfruit and papaya trees.
Gallery hop and go shopping
In addition to its food scene, Los Cabos is also known for its art. In San José del Cabo, a weekly art walk takes place in the Gallery District from November to June. Not only do the galleries and small businesses open their doors for the event, but local artists display their pieces in the middle of the plazas. If you’re in the area, check out Caravane, a screen-printing gallery that also doubles as a concept store. In addition to vibrant prints, the space stocks Mexican-made furniture, trendy homewares and a collection of Arquiste fragrances.
Also in the Gallery District is Santo Cabo, a small business specializing in house-made soaps, skincare and essential oil blends. Don’t forget to make your way to the back of the store, where a sliding fridge is kept stocked with local produce (radishes, kale, mint, sage, etc.) in galvanized buckets and homemade jams and pestos housed in mason jars. Santo Cabo also carries locally-made kombucha from companies like Baja California Sur’s Cali Kombucha.
On the way to Todos Santos, in the surfing village of El Pescadero, you’ll be tempted to pop into LoveLeigh. Our advice: Do it. This small boutique stocks clothing, accessories and homewares created by local artisans. Also worth checking out is Nomad Chic, in Todos Santos, for gauzy kaftans and cute stationary to bring home as gifts.
Todos Santos is small—you can literally walk through the entire town in 15 minutes—so there’s no way you’re getting lost. The main road is dotted with art galleries housed in buildings dating back to the 1800s. Stop by the Galería de Todos Santos, which has been around since 1994, and features works by local Mexican and American artists, and have a look inside the studios of artists Jill Logan and Gabriel Rodriguez.