I didn’t always want to go to Cabo San Lucas. I dismissed it as nothing more than a party town for college students and wealthy actors, and looked elsewhere for sun holidays. As it turns out, I was wrong about Cabo. So, so wrong.
I get it now Cabo. I understand why people the world over, choose to go to Cabo San Lucas again and again over any other warm weather destination. It is the whole vacation package—sun, surf, and social.
There are a few things though, that I’d wish I’d known before I landed in Cabo. So, in the interest of making your life easier when you visit Cabo San Lucas and/or San Jose Del Cabo, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of what you need to know before you go to Cabo.
Before You Go To Cabo Best Tips
It’s One of The Best Places in the World For Sea Life
Hats off to the Mexican Government for protecting much of the waters in the Sea of Cortez; it’s positively teeming with life and is home to many endangered species. The best time to go to Cabo to jump in the water is definitely from mid-December to the beginning of April when the whales are migrating. Water temperatures during this time can be coolish, so be sure to pack a swim shirt or even a shortie if you get cold easily.
Amongst the types of whales you could see here are humpbacks, gray whales, sperm, blue and orcas. Of course, you can also find the gentle giant of the sea here in La Paz (a two hour drive from Cabo); the Whale Shark. As a fun FYI, the whale shark is actually a shark, not a whale but no worries, they are strictly vegan.
There are also sea lion colonies along the coast where guides can take you to snorkel and scuba dive with them.
Bring Biodegradable Sunscreen
If you plan on going in the water during a tour, or at one of the swimmable beaches, you’ll need to make sure you have on a biodegradable sunscreen, in fact you should be doing this any time and any where you enter a natural body of water.
The chemicals in traditional sunscreens—oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene—kill the ocean. It’s that simple. The Sea of Cortez is one of the last places left on earth with an abundance of sea life, let’s keep it that way.
The Timeshare Game is Strong Here
Not gonna lie, I thought timeshares had died with the rise of AirBnb so I was a little disappointed that the “sales reps” were everywhere in Cabo. I was even more disappointed that we fell for it not once, not twice, but three times before we got wise. Consider my naiveté research for you.
When you arrive in San Jose Del Cabo, there is a hallway just after you pick up your luggage that you have to walk through. For the love of your precious vacation time, DO NOT STOP HERE. We were even warned by our Sunwing flight attendants to not stop, but when a man in that very hallway asked me what company I was with I replied Sunwing, thinking he would leave me alone but no; he reeled me in like the sucker I am. He said, “Oh, here’s your rep right here.”, and led us to a man in an bright orange shirt just like Sunwing colours. The man behind the counter was charming and it wasn’t until I asked him point blank to show me his Nexus badge, that I clued in.
The second time was upon check in at our hotel. Not gonna lie, this one really annoyed me. Just as we finished checking in at the main desk a man approached us and said he’d like to welcome us to the hotel and explain the property. He led us across the lobby, and shared a map with us and then casually led us in to a conversation about buying in to a place there. “So, a timeshare?” we said. “No, no, it’s like a gold club for members that want to return again and again.” Ugh.
The third time was when a notice was under our door the first morning to please come to the lobby for a “welcome gift”. You know where this is going? We were led right back to the desks from the day before.
We traded stories with others we met there who had been promised golf games or excursions. One man even told us how he was promised $400 if he’d only take a tour with them. What they failed to disclose was that it was $400 in coupons.
The long and short of it is this, if you want to go to Cabo, be a skeptic and question everything or you’re going to get caught in a timesuck. Nobody’s got time for that on holidays.
Convert Your Money to Pesos
Before you go to Cabo, make a stop at your bank and convert your money to pesos. While American and Pesos get thrown around pretty regularly in Cabo (you’ll find most places list prices in both currencies), you’ll get a pretty terrible return on your US dollars when you purchase something.
More often than not, when we would pay for something in US, we would get our change in Pesos, and the exchange was frequently dead wrong. Thankfully my husband is a walking currency exchange, so he caught it. That being said, after a few tequilas, it would be easy to be less than accurate.
Save yourself a world of aggravation and get your money in pesos before you go, or find an ATM down there that dispenses money in pesos.
It’s easy to read the news and think that Mexico isn’t safe, but I think it’s always a good idea to put things in perspective. If I was a person coming to my hometown of Ottawa for example, where there were 13 shootings in the first month of the year, I might question if it’s safe.
We had our perspective handed to us by an ex-pat on the beach who has lived in Cabo now since 2004. The violence, he told us, is primarily gang violence in Mexico, and they are targeting each other, not tourists. The violence is also not in areas like Cabo which are heavily guarded by State, Municipal and Federal Police.
We felt perfectly safe walking the streets of Cabo San Lucas and downright chill in the quieter San Jose Del Cabo.
The Beach At Your Resort Likely Won’t Be Swimmable (and that’s ok)
I’ll admit, I was a little surprised to find out that we wouldn’t be able to swim on the beach at our resort. I may have to relinquish my self-appointed travel expert title for that misstep.
As it turns out there are very few swimmable beaches in Cabo because the undertow is extremely dangerous. To see the difference between safe and dangerous in action, be sure to take a boat out to Lover’s Beach from the Cabo San Lucas Marina. The tip of land here is where the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean meet. On the Sea of Cortez side you have Lover’s Beach, and a short walk to the Pacific Side takes you to Divorce Beach; you can guess which one is safe to swim on.