The Best of Mexico: Cabo and Cancun

Mexico's most popular beach destinations, Cabo and Cancun, have totally different vibes. Find out which one is right for you.
By: 
Donna Heiderstadt

Your just-married friends adored the desert-meets-sea ambience of Cabo. Your guy has dreamed of going back to anything-goes Cancun ever since he spent Spring Break there (at least what he can remember of it). If you’re facing a split decision over Mexico’s two best-known honeymoon destinations, we’re here to help you choose which is right for you. Why? Because Cabo and Cancun couldn’t be more different — aside from the sunshine, tequila and fact that they both begin with the letter “C” that is. Read on for details on their alluring yet unique personalities.

mexico beach

Photo courtesy of Excellence Playa Mujeres

 The Dish on Cabo

There’s a reason celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and George Clooney jet down again and again to Cabo, located at the tip of the Baja peninsula: It’s scenic, sunny (an average of 350 days a year), manicured and upscale. With nonstop flights from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas and Houston, Cabo (also referred to as Los Cabos and formally known as Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo) draws frequent visitors from the West Coast, although plenty of couples from the rest of the country are discovering its charms. These include the aforementioned almost perfect weather, glorious sunsets, super-fresh seafood, sublime spas, world-class golf courses, whale watching, horseback riding and loads of other land and sea activities.

sailing in cabo

Photo courtesy of Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau

What’s not to like? Well, swimmers and snorkelers may be disappointed to know that the deep blue waters of the Pacific are prone to larger waves and more dangerous undertows than the more placid turquoise Caribbean. (Scuba fans however, will find much to love as Los Cabos Bay and the Sea of Cortés have some cool dive sites.) While Cabo’s top resorts may tempt you with pretty, yet unswimmable, beaches, they also have spectacular pools that are the safest spots to take a refreshing dip. 

cabo hotel

Photo courtesy of Hilton Worldwide

Dining and nightlife are centered in Cabo San Lucas, the larger of the two adjacent towns (the other is San Jose del Cabo) linked by a resort-lined coast. Cabo San Lucas, set around a marina, has its share of lively bars (Cabo Wabo and El Squid Roe, for example) for drinking, dancing and people watching, but the crowd is a little older and a bit less bawdy than in Cancun. Cabo’s real draw for romantics is its postcard-perfect scenery — especially at sunset. Be sure to book a cruise to picturesque Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach), which culminates with a sail by El Arco, a landmark stone arch.

Cabo is widely known for its simple yet satisfying fish tacos, but you’ll also find a great selection of more sophisticated eateries.

 Heavenly Hotels

There’s no shortage of romantic and luxurious accommodations here. The newest is 96-room Capella Pedregal, set beachside adjacent to Cabo San Lucas and accessed via a dramatic 900-foot tunnel carved through a mountain. Rooms and suites are luxurious and super sexy, especially the Estrella Suites with their private plunge pools and fire pits (room rates start at $525 a night; capellahotels.com).

capella pedregal
 

Photo Credit: Robert Reck

To be a bit removed from the hubbub, consider Esperanza, An Auberge Resort, a tranquil 57-room property featuring thatched-roof casitas (with private plunge pools) as well as villas overlooking lovely cliffs and sandy coves (room rates start at $495 a night and include breakfast; esperanzaresort.com).

esperanza

Photo courtesy of Esperanza, An Auberge Resort

Larger and easier on the wallet, yet still offering an inviting Mexican ambience, the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort offers 375 spacious rooms, all with a balcony, plus two pools with swim-up bars (room rates start at $199 a night; hiltonloscabos.com).

Delicious Bites

Cabo is widely known for its simple yet satisfying fish tacos, but you’ll also find a great selection of more sophisticated eateries. For colorful ambience and flavorful Baja specialties, head to open-air Edith’s in Cabo San Lucas, where the mesquite grilled shrimp and steaks are the specialty. At Mi Cocina at Casa Natalia Hotel in San Jose del Cabo, dine amid flickering candles on local ingredients transformed with Mediterranean flair. Get your sushi fix by booking a table at popular Nick-San, in Cabo San Lucas.

Active Options

Those who want to tee off will be wowed by their choices: Cabo has nine courses, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed Palmilla. For a wilder ride, book a sand-buggy excursion through the cacti-studded landscape with Sierra Buggies or a zipline adventure with Flying Tortuga Ziplines.

los cabbos church

Photo courtesy of Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau

Next: The Scoop on Cancun >>