Melissa Alvarado Sierra | Published on December 17, 2021

I had reached Cabo San Lucas, the southernmost corner of the famed Baja Peninsula in Mexico, and I could quickly tell it was a beautiful melange of moods. With only one day here, I knew I had to find the best things to do in Cabo San Lucas. The desert destination felt remote and raw one moment, busy and decadent the next. And that's why people love it. As one of the two "Cabos" — the other one being San José del Cabo — Cabo San Lucas sits on one end of a 20-mile-long corridor, fringed by white sand and curling waves in different shades of aquamarine.

Being an ocean lover, I made sure my first stop was coastal. I headed to Land's End and hopped on a glass-bottom boat to explore the shore. We sailed around dramatic rock formations and a towering arch known as El Arco, the most famous geographic landmark there. These natural rocks dip into a part of the sea where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, dividing the wild waters of the ocean from the tranquil coast near Lover's Beach — a favorite spot for couples and families looking for the perfect beach day and photo-op. Families with kids usually stick to the east-facing part of the bay, where it's sheltered and safe.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Famous arch
The fanous arch in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
As we traversed, the captain of the boat pointed to a spot on the shore. I squinted, trying to make out what it was, and as the boat got closer, I realized there were a handful of sea lions happily sunbathing over rocks. A few sea lions were swimming in the ocean near the boats, and kayakers were petting some of them. I noticed there were only two beaches there at Land's End, both lining the arch. One was Lover's Beach, and the other was Divorce Beach. Divorce beach is not suitable for swimming because of strong currents, but one can still enjoy a view of the majestic rock outcroppings while walking over swathes of blond sand.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Sandy Beach
A sandy beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Other sunny and sandy Cabo San Lucas activities include snorkeling or jet-skiing in Medano or El Chileno beaches, both of which are great for families because of the roped-off areas and on-duty lifeguards. But to hide from the crowds and enjoy the remote side of Cabo San Lucas, I prefer El Faro, Pedregal or Paraiso Escondido beaches, all of which give me the best chance of having a beach all to myself.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Marina
Boats docked at a marina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Delightful Restaurants To Visit In Cabo San Lucas

The ocean has a way of igniting hunger, so I got off the boat and went scouring for local staples like fresh seafood, house-made salsas and sweet concha bread. Eating is by far one of my favorite things to do in Cabo San Lucas. My preferred place? Hands down Los Tres Gallos (the three roosters) for their faithfulness to Mexican classics, such as mole enchiladas, stuffed green peppers, and tacos made with hand-rolled tortillas. I enjoyed my lunch in their hacienda-style open courtyard under a lovely mango tree. If I had more days in Cabo San Lucas, I would have also gone to Tacos Gardenias for their seafood soup and ceviche, Manta for their mushroom ramen with epazote or El Marinero Borracho (the drunken sailor) for their homemade clamato (a traditional cocktail made with clams and tomatoes) and their sky-high tostadas.

To really get a sense of Cabo San Lucas' local culture, I like to just take an afternoon stroll around a lovely plaza on a sunny day and watch locals go about their daily lives.
After lunch, I walked around town looking for three tempting eateries that locals recommended for coffee and dessert: Flora Farms, Coffee Lab and La Panadería. Flora Farms is home to Flora's Field Kitchen, known for the fried chicken, wood-fired pizzas, organic ice cream and other comfort foods. Most ingredients are sourced from their 25-acre organic farm, and the meat is from animals raised humanely. I left Flora Farms happy, holding a mouth-watering carrot cake ice cream cone, ready for my next stop.

I reached Coffee Lab, a sanctuary of good coffee and culture with a rotating gallery, live music and co-working spaces. Here, coffee is roasted in-house and sourced from quality Mexican growers who believe in sustainability. I ordered an almond milk cappuccino with a slice of pan dulce to dip in my cafecito. Next up was La Panadería. Several locals recommended I try their hibiscus-flavored donuts, but I was surprised by the French toasts made with concha bread. Those with a sweet tooth will love to indulge here. I ordered both the donuts and French toasts to go.

To wash down everything I ate that day, I headed back to the beach for a Malbec margarita at The Sand Bar. I sat on a lounge chair overlooking Land's End — my toes were deep in the sand as I dreamed about my morning encounter with the sea lions while savoring those delicious donuts from La Panadería.

Cocktail by the Water, George Town, Grand Cayman
Cocktail by the Water, George Town, Grand Cayman

Cabo’s Local Culture And Art Activities

To really get a sense of Cabo San Lucas' local culture, I like to just take an afternoon stroll around a lovely plaza on a sunny day and watch locals go about their daily lives. Plaza Bonita is one of my favorites. Here, I could see Cabeños — the term for native people of Cabo San Lucas — going about their daily activities; walking to work, stopping by the local church, or even selling delicious candied fruits on a stick.

The original residents of Cabo San Lucas were the indigenous Pericues Indians close to a thousand years ago, but the Cabo San Lucas we know today first started as a fishing village in 1917. I wanted to learn more about Cabo's history, so I headed to the Natural History Museum where I found artifacts and collections of paleobotany, geology and paleo-biology. The museum attendant recommended that I also visit some of the local galleries to understand, through the arts, the lifeblood of this wonderful place. I kept hearing about this local sculptor named Sergio Bustamante, and as soon as I stepped inside his gallery on Independencia street, I was enamored by the fantastical and fairy-tale creatures he had on display. I remembered having seen one of his most famous pieces before, a sculpture named "En Busca de la Razón" (in search of reason) on Puerto Vallarta's malecón.

For even more culture immersion, I took a quick trip to San José del Cabo to explore the art district. There are several artist’s galleries including Casa Don Pablo; a must-visit for its ironwork, wood carvings and antiques, the Galeria De Ida Victoria renowned for their support of up-and-coming local artists, as well as the Pez Gordo Gallery; with their bright and modern art pieces.

Even more galleries open during the Cabo Art Walks, which take place every Thursday from November to June. This is when the streets of San Jose del Cabo really shine, with open galleries, street food and live music.

But my cultural immersion didn't end there, because in Cabo San Lucas, culture can be found everywhere. This is why Cabo has been a favorite destination of many artists, including literary giants such as Hemingway and Steinbeck, who came to Cabo to ignite their creativity. As I walked the Paseo de la Marina Boulevard, I ran into Pabellón Cultural de la República, the newest cultural center and popular venue for concerts and exhibits. That day, they were screening a group of short documentaries about local heroes.

Cabo is a place to explore by water and land, and a place where serendipitous moments abound. Just taking a stroll around town can reveal a lot of its charm and secrets, and it's one of the best things to do in Cabo San Lucas.

Written By
Melissa Alvarado Sierra

Melissa Alvarado Sierra is a journalist, author and sailor. She's been exploring coastal destinations around the world for more than a decade, always searching for authentic experiences to share with her adventurous readers. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The New York Times, Lonely Planet, Orion Magazine, AFAR, USA Today and others.

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