DESPITE ITS LONGTIME reputation as a quick Mexican beach getaway for residents of the U.S. West Coast, today’s Los Cabos has matured into an enticing destination offering more than just cheap margaritas and sling chairs in the sand. Today’s visitors indulge in state-ofthe-art spa treatments and a range of other upscale amenities. Named for the slender cape extending eastward from Baja California’s southernmost tip, the town of Cabo San Lucas boasts the only marine preserve in Mexico that falls within city limits. Created in 1973, the 14-square-mile patch of protected sea and shore designates special boat lanes, boating speed limits, and restricted fishing and recreation-craft areas, all under the watchful eye of Grupo Ecológico de Cabo San Lucas. Nowhere else among Mexico’s top-drawing seaside resorts will you find such pristine beaches within so short a distance (five to 10 minutes by boat taxi) of the town center.
Author Joe Cummings Photography Dave Lauridsen
DAY ONE/ Your pied-à-terre is Las Ventanas al Paraíso, a Rosewood resort that combines Mediterranean and Pacific Mexican architecture and interior design on a private rock and sand beach a few miles outside of town. Capacious villas come with adobe fireplaces (necessary only in midwinter), private splash pools, and digital telescopes aimed at the sea, useful during the January–March whale migration season.
After breakfast (for a bracing taste of Baja, try The Restaurant’s grilled shrimp hash with poached eggs and roasted chili sauce), grab a snorkel, and head for Bahía San Lucas. Along the west embankment of Cabo’s modest bay—one of Mexico’s deepest natural ports—hop on one of the white-painted water taxis for a 15-minute ride to Playa del Amor (Love Beach). Also known as Playa del Amante (Lover’s Beach), this wide, pristine, golden expanse of sand is perhaps the only public beach in the country where, because it’s a marine preserve, you won’t be badgered by beach-blanket peddlers. Just off the southeast end of the beach lies a series of coral-encrusted rocks suitable for snorkeling, where the Sea of Cortez showcases colorful schools of fish. The beach extends across the tip of the cape to a second, equally pristine beachfront facing the Pacific.
When it’s time to move on, hail a passing water taxi to the bay’s southeastern flank, and stroll to Playa el Médano, Cabo’s largest, most popular public beach. Make your way past the sunbathers and Frisbee throwers to the jumble of tables and chairs planted in the sand at The Office, the perfect spot for a barefoot seafood lunch.
Most Cabo visitors know little about the world that lies just inland in the cactus-studded hills of Baja’s Cape Region. A Baja Outback Hummer tour to Rancho la Verdad not only provides an alternative to beach lounging and marine recreation, but also is a chance to experience the self-sufficient ranching lifestyle of Baja’s desert interior. Guests drive the Hummer following a guide who narrates the history and culture of the region through a communication-linked system. After you’ve tried your hand at saddling horses or picking desert-grown fruit and vegetables, navigate your H2 Hummer to the Bajacaliforniano villages of El Sauzal and Las Pilas before heading back to Cabo in the late afternoon.
If your visit includes a Thursday, stop off at Plaza de Toros La Sanluqueña, the city’s former bullring, at 5:30 p.m. to watch charreada, Mexico’s colorful equivalent to rodeo, while downing tamales and cold Mexican beer.
If it’s not a Thursday, taxi back to the harbor for a lively sunset cruise aboard the Pez Gato, a large catamaran moored at the marina. Watch the sun set behind El Arco, a 203-foot-tall natural rock arch gracing Baja California’s southernmost tip, also known as Land’s End. As the lights of moored yachts, restaurants, and hotels lining the bay emerge in the twilight, the Pez Gato crew spins the latest cumbia hits as the tequila flows; you’d have to be a stone not to become immersed in the Mexican spirit of alegría (cheerfulness). For your first dinner in Cabo, walk a few steps from the marina to Sancho Panza Wine Bistro and enjoy New World tapas and a selection of Baja’s best vintages (Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe has been producing fine wine for nearly three centuries; try a Monte Xanic or a Chateau Camou) amid the Miró-inspired décor.
Miami’s renowned South Beach party scene has been transplanted to Cabo at Nikki Beach, a tented club that makes a perfect après-dinner stop for the lounge-inclined. On Sundays, it’s packed with the young and buff, but every night promises a good time.