One of the best things about Cabo San Lucas is that it offers memorable attractions at every price point. Sure, you can drop quite a lot of money chasing blue marlin or pars at one of the area’s many championship-level golf courses, enjoying your personal butler at a seaside ultra-luxury resort, or splurging on magnums of Champagne at one of the high-end downtown nightclubs. Then again, there are plenty of activities that don’t cost a thing.
For starters, there are the region’s innumerable beaches. The municipality of Los Cabos boasts nearly 100 miles of coastline, seemingly all of it bounded by pristine stretches of glorious golden sand. Playa El Médano and Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach) are the most iconic beaches in Cabo San Lucas. The former is the largest and most popular beach in town – and its de facto daytime social center – while the latter is the premier landmark along the half-mile promontory known as Land’s End. Those two are “must visit” attractions, but visitors will find no shortage of picturesque shoreside sunning and swimming spots…all of them public, and all absolutely free.
Cape cities Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, as well as surrounding towns and villages, also boast their fair share of admission-free historical buildings and monuments. Naturally enough, many of the oldest and most well-preserved are churches; which despite their architectural and historical importance, remain active with masses and community services.
Other monuments honor notable local figures. The main squares in Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, for example, honor illustrious Cabeños (as local residents are known). In Cabo San Lucas, busts and plaques honor Amelia Wilkes Ceseña, a schoolteacher and political figure for whom the plaza was named. In San José del Cabo, it’s Lt. José Antonio Mijares, a military officer who died heroically while leading a charge against the American garrison during the Battle of San José del Cabo in the Mexican-American War of 1847.
Not all monuments are dedicated to singular figures, however. Children in the organic farming community of Miraflores inspired the building of a monument to motherhood during the 1920s, one of the first of its kind in México. A few miles up the road, meanwhile, a globe-shaped monument marks the latitudinal line where the Tropic of Cancer crosses Baja California Sur.
For those interested in slightly more active pursuits than beachgoing or monument gazing, the seasonal Thursday night Art Walk in San José del Cabo is an excellent choice, as its perambulatory nature allows participants to visit a host of noteworthy cultural and historical landmarks clustered together within the city’s downtown center.
Beautiful Tourist Corridor based Playa Palmilla is one of the best swimming beaches in the area, with a protected cove and generally tranquil Sea of Cortés waters. The swimming conditions are so good, in fact, that Playa Palmilla hosts the swim leg of the annual Ironman Los Cabos 70.3 half-triathlon. Snorkeling, fishing and kayaking are also good here, and the beach is likewise a congenial spot for sunning or scenic walks. Palmilla was one of the first of the now close to two dozen Blue Flag certified beaches in Los Cabos, a designation from the European based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) which mandates rigorous standards for cleanliness and sustainable practices, as well as basic services like parking and public restrooms.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Playa Palmilla is the best swimming beach in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: The protected cove offers very safe swimming conditions, and Playa Palmilla hosts the swim portion of the annual Ironman Los Cabos 70.3 half-triathlon.
Parroquia San Lucas Evangelista is among the oldest buildings in town, and one of the few places in Cabo San Lucas of historical importance (the old lighthouse, El Faro Viejo, and the abandoned cannery are also notable). It’s located just off the town square, and is open to visitors daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with three masses on Sunday (8:30 a.m., noon, and 8 p.m.), and one Saturday evening (7 p.m.). Attending mass here is a great introduction to the local people and culture, but be forewarned that masses are in Spanish with the exception of the noon mass on Sunday, which is bilingual. There is no air conditioning so dress accordingly, albeit respectfully, during the summer months.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This is the oldest church in Cabo San Lucas and one of the most important local landmarks.
Chris’s expert tip: The noon mass on Sundays is bilingual.
Whale watching season in Los Cabos traditionally stretches from mid-December through mid-April, and sees an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 whales migrate south to breeding grounds at Magdalena Bay and in the Sea of Cortés. Grays and humpbacks are the most commonly sighted, but lucky visitors can occasionally see blue, sperm, fin and pilot whales, as well as the occasional orca. The annual migration is big business locally, and virtually every local tour boat offers seasonal whale watching excursions. High-speed inflatables provide the best chance for up-close-and-personal looks at these leviathans, but you don’t have to sign up for a tour to enjoy sightings. Whales are often spied from area beaches, as well as coastal hotels, restaurants and golf courses.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Whale watching is one of the most popular seasonal activities in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Humpbacks often breach spectacularly, and typically provide the best photo opportunities.
Cabo San Lucas’ answer to Art Walk in San José del Cabo is its own weekly cultural celebration staged in and around the town square – Plaza Amelia Wilkes. Like Art Walk, there are plenty of local artists and artisans showcasing their original artworks, but because Cabo San Lucas lacks a Gallery District, this is much more of a street festival, with added attractions like regional folkloric singing and dancing on the stage in front of the Natural History Musem. The plaza has recently been remodeled, with new plantings, landscaping, and stonework around the central gazebo, and the weekly celebrations are as popular with locals as they are with visitors. Festivities take place every Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. Food and drink stalls are limited, but there are a number of excellent bars and restaurants nearby.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This is the most popular regularly scheduled cultural festival in Cabo San Lucas.
Chris’s expert tip: Street parking is limited, so the best bet for those with rental cars is to leave them in the parking lot at Plaza Alamar, which is only a block from the town square.
Playa Los Cerritos is located about forty-five minutes north of Cabo San Lucas, just south of El Pescadero and the pueblo mágico of Todos Santos. Head north from Cabo San Lucas on Highway 19, then look for a turn off road to the left around the kilometer 67 mark. This is a gorgeous beach, famed for its superb surfing conditions. During the winter months when the Sea of Cortés surf scene goes dormant, locals and visiting surfers head to Pacific Coast beaches like Los Cerritos, San Pedrito and La Pastora. But the surf is great here on a year-round basis, with both rentals and lessons available.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Los Cerritos is the best year-round surf beach in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Stay for the sunsets, which are amazing here.
Most of the Los Cabos municipality lies beneath the Tropic of Cancer, the northernmost circle of latitude at which the sun can be seen directly overhead on the summer solstice. This unseen latitudinal boundary marker runs between Pescadero and Todos Santos on the Pacific Coast, and between Miraflores and Santiago along the federal highway (Carretera Transpeninsular) north of San José del Cabo. In 2013, the Los Cabos government funded a monument on the latter site, centered around a globe-shaped sculpture and small shopping plaza. The gift shops at the adjoining plaza showcase regional arts and crafts from Los Cabos communities, with each individual shop dedicated to a specific town or village (Cabo San Lucas, San José del Cabo, Miraflores, Santiago, etc.). There is also a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe found here, which is a stop on a local pilgrimage undertaken each year on the day of the virgin (Dec, 12 in México).
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This is one of the most important geographical monuments in the Los Cabos municipality.
Chris’s expert tip: Government employees are on hand to ring up sales on artworks, furniture, fruit preserves, regional liqueurs and the like, but there is no charge to visit the monument, or to browse at the shops.
Lover’s and Divorce Beaches are as close as you can get to Land’s End, the peninsula’s southernmost point, without a boat. However, visitors will need to hire a water taxi or other water-based transportation to access them. Once there, these stunning beaches are free to enjoy. Lover’s Beach is on the Sea of Cortés side, and offers safe swimming and very good snorkeling conditions. It also features spectacular views of the bay, and is the area’s most famous site for romantic picnics and wedding related photo shoots. Neighboring Divorce Beach is accessible through a break in the rocks, and is distinguished by crashing Pacific Ocean waves. Warning: do not swim or snorkel on the Pacific side due to strong rip currents and occasional rogue waves. There are no vendors or services on either beach, so pack accordingly.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This is the most beautiful and iconic beach in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Swimming and snorkeling are very good from Lover’s Beach, although the water can be a bit chilly during the winter months. Do not swim off Divorce Beach.
The Thursday evening Art Walk is one of highlights of any visit to San José del Cabo, running weekly from 5 to 9 p.m. during high tourist season (November through June). Sip wine, sample cheese, wander the area’s beautiful cobblestone streets, and interact with some of the top artists and gallery owners in Baja California Sur. Of course, most paintings, sculptures and the like are for sale to those with a discerning eye or an interest in regional art, but it should be noted that this event can also be enjoyed at no cost whatsoever. And the pleasures of Art Walk extend beyond the boundaries of the Gallery District. The historic church is close by, as is Plaza Mijares, the town square, and City Hall, with its historic clock tower and colorful interior murals that trace the history of México.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This is the premier cultural celebration in San José del Cabo.
Chris’s expert tip: Several excellent bars and restaurants are located in the Art District, including the original location of Baja Brewing Company.
This beautiful old church is set amid San José del Cabo’s historic downtown area, a stone’s throw from City Hall, Plaza Mijares, and the Gallery District. Originally founded as a mission in 1730 by Jesuit priest Nicolás Tamaral, the church has undergone several moves and renovations. Tamaral remains an integral part of local lore, however, and one of the church’s most arresting features is a mosaic above the entrance depicting his killing by the area’s native inhabitants, the Pericúes. The church moved to its current location near the middle of the 19th century, but had to be rebuilt in the early 20th century after being badly damaged by a hurricane. Despite the history – this is one of the most important cultural monuments in Los Cabos – it’s an active church, and the best place in the area to attend weekly and holiday services.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The church is one of the most important historical and cultural sites in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Visitors are welcome, but please be respectful of services and community events.
Playa El Médano is ground zero for the Spring Break madness in March, and remains busy throughout the year. In many ways, it’s the center of social life in Cabo San Lucas. The beach is huge, about two miles long, and filled with restaurants, bars, souvenirs vendors, and water-based activities rentals. Visitors can rent jet skis, kayaks or stand up paddle boards; go flyboarding or parasailing; have a water taxi take them out to Land’s End or Lover’s Beach, or drop them off back at the marina. Or simply relax and soak up the sunshine and muy tranquilo vibes. The water is extremely calm here, and although there aren’t any lifeguards in Cabo San Lucas, areas have been roped off for safe swimming.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Playa El Médano is the largest and most popular beach in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: The name of this beach is almost always mispronounced, even by locals. The accent should be on the the first syllable of Médano, as the Spanish language accent mark suggests.