There are a few important things to know before going to Cabo San Lucas that many people don’t realize until they get there.
For example, there’s a few different areas to stay, important information about beaches and swimming, and age restrictions are hotels during certain times of the year.
This post covers all the essential Cabo travel tips you should know before booking your vacation to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.
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Los Cabos vs. Cabo San Lucas vs. San Jose del Cabo – What’s the Difference?
Planning a trip to Cabo can be confusing if you’ve never been before.
Los Cabos is the name for the entire region, which includes the two main cities: Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
It’s important to know which city or area you want to stay in.
Cabo San Lucas is the more popular destination for tourists, and this is where you’ll find all the nightlife, bars/clubs, lively beach restaurants, and the marina with all the water sports.
San Jose del Cabo is about 40 minutes away, and this is where the international airport is.
San Jose del Cabo is more of a residential vibe, a little quieter and laid back, with some upscale resorts and quiet family friendly hotels.
Best Area to Stay in Los Cabos
Along the coast in between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are a lot of all inclusive resorts.
So if you want to visit each city for a half day, it might make the most sense to stay somewhere in the middle, also known as the tourist corridor.
Any of the resorts along the tourist corridor are a great place to stay as far as location goes.
If you want nightlife and beach bars, it’s best to stay at a boutique hotel or an all inclusive resort somewhere near the Marina in Cabo San Lucas.
Cabo San Lucas Airport Tips
Make sure you already have your transportation arranged before you land at the airport.
After you exit customs, but before you get outside, you’ll walk through a corridor with lots of sales reps hollering at you trying to get your attention.
These are timeshare reps, disguising themselves as transportation helpers.
They will shout at you and ask you which company you traveled with and when you answer, they will pretend to be with that company.
Avoid these people, and get outside as fast as you can. Outside is where the reputable transportation agencies are.
If you can, avoid using the currency exchange and ATMs at the airport. The rates are horrible and will be way too expensive.
Documents You Need to Travel to Cabo San Lucas
US citizens require a passport to enter Mexico, whether by air or land entry.
Canadians also need a passport to enter Mexico, it’s a good idea to make sure it will be valid for at least 6 months from your date of travel. In other words, you don’t want to arrive in Mexico with a passport that’s set to expire in a few weeks.
Keep Your Tourist Card
When you arrive at the airport in Cabo, you’ll go through customs where you’re given a tourist card (you have to originally fill this out on the plane).
Keep this card with your passport in a safe place and don’t throw it away! You need this card to depart the country.
The Beaches are not Swimmable
The most important thing to know before traveling to Cabo is that most of the beaches are not swimmable.
This is because the currents are too strong which makes it completely unsafe to swim in.
Many all inclusive resorts are beachfront, but you won’t actually be allowed to swim in the water.
You might be able to walk along the beach, however, most beaches are very rocky.
Beaches You CAN Swim in Cabo
- Medano Beach
- Chileno Bay/Beach
- Lovers Beach & Divorce Beach
There are a few beaches that are safe enough to swim in, Medano Beach near the marina in Cabo San Lucas is the most popular one.
That being said, the views of the beaches and the ocean are absolutely stunning in Cabo.
So if you prefer to sit by the pool with gorgeous views, you’ll love Cabo.
You Can’t Drink the Tap Water in Cabo
The tap water in Mexico has different bacteria than most people from the USA or Canada are used to, so it’s recommended that you just drink bottled water (which is always available and very inexpensive).
I have no problem brushing my teeth with the tap water, but just try not to swallow any of it.
You don’t have to be concerned about ordering drinks with ice either, as all ice used in restaurants, bars, hotels and resorts comes from filtered water.
So you can feel fine ordering your Margarita on the rocks in Cabo!
Uber in Cabo
Uber does exist in Cabo, but there are still a few issues being worked out.
The taxi companies do not like that Uber is becoming popular and this can cause some problems.
For instance, if you’re staying at an all inclusive resort, there is a usually a large gate with a guard to enter the property. And then it’s a 2 or 3 minute drive to the hotel lobby.
Most resorts do not let Uber through these gates.
So if you’re trying to get dropped off at your hotel, your Uber ride might not be let through.
Thus, if you’re booking a private car to or from the resort, it’s best to stick with a taxi.
Also, you can’t take an Uber from the airport.
However, if you’re hanging out in either Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo, using an Uber to get around the cities is no problem.
Safety in Cabo
If you’re traveling to Cabo as a tourist on vacation, you’ll have no issue with safety. Especially if you’re planning to stay at your resort the entire time.
If you do plan to spend some time walking around downtown Cabo San Lucas, as long as you don’t make yourself a target, you won’t have any issues.
This means being aware of your surroundings, not wearing flashy and expensive looking jewelry, not having large amounts of cash on you and not becoming completely inebriated.
As long as you use common sense and don’t go looking for trouble, you won’t run into any safety issues.
Los Cabos is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico and there is no need to feel unsafe.
Expect Vendors Selling You ANYTHING
From dusk into the night, as you walk along the Marina and the beach, there are many vendors trying to sell you items that you shouldn’t buy.
I’ll call these ‘party favors’ if you know what I mean.
You’ll likely get bombarded, with vendors asking you to buy things every 30 feet.
This surprises a lot of first time visitors to Cabo, but this is just the way it is. You can simply ignore them and keep walking or say ‘no gracias.’
Check the Age Restrictions of Your Hotel
Cabo is well known as one of the trendiest and also high-end places to vacation in Mexico. It’s also one of the most popular places for spring breakers to visit.
Because of this, some hotels have minimum age requirements for check-in.
While the minimum drinking age is 18, many hotels and resorts require someone to be 21 to check-in.
Additionally, for the months of March and April, some hotels require you to be 25 years of age or older.
Is It Better to Use Pesos or US Dollars in Cabo?
Technically, you can use either Mexican Pesos or US dollars to pay for things in Cabo.
While USD is widely accepted, you won’t get as good of an exchange rate, and you’ll end up overpaying slightly.
Also, each bar and restaurant might have their own exchange rate.
Mexican pesos is the local currency that should be used in Cabo, and you’ll get a better rate by paying in pesos.
If it’s your first trip to Mexico, there are a few things you should know about the local currency, like tipping, using small bills and how to get change.
For more details, I suggest reading my full guide to Mexico travel tips.
How Many Days Do You Need in Cabo?
Most people spend between 5 to 7 days in Cabo. If you’re staying at an all inclusive resort (like most people do), one week is the perfect amount of time to vacation in Cabo San Lucas.
This allows you enough time to enjoy the resort’s amenities for a few days, as well as one or two excursions, and a day or evening checking out the nightlife in Cabo San Lucas.
When to Avoid Cabo
Cabo is a great place to visit most of the year, but mid-August throughout September is when you should avoid Cabo. This is when the short rainy season starts, and it could become very stormy.
August and September are also the most humid and hottest months, making the weather a little too unbearable for many people.
Many people avoid October as well, due to the heat and humidity. However, fishing can be really good during the month of October.
Be Aware of Timeshare Presentations
Many resorts and hotels will offer you free activities, vouchers, spa credits, transportation, etc., in exchange for going to a 2 hour timeshare presentation.
To some people, this is worth it, but you should know what you’re getting into beforehand.
The timeshare reps usually approach you after you check-in, and offer to give you a tour of the property and show you around.
This happened to us when we stayed at the Grand Palladium in Puerto Vallarta.
First, the sales reps usually say it’s only 90 minutes to 2 hours long. It’s usually during a complimentary breakfast.
Note that it usually lasts much longer than this, and often takes up to a half day by the time you leave.
If you do attend, you should also know that you will be pressured to sign up. They use very skilled salespeople to ‘hard close’ you.
It can be too pushy and very uncomfortable for some people.
If you are not interested in purchasing any timeshare contracts and are confident in saying no, then the free activities might be worth it.
Inside tip – sales people try to disguise timeshares as something else. Sometimes it will be called vacation rentals, club membership, or even a welcome breakfast or cocktail hour.
- Always ask if there is a presentation associated with this. If so, this is a timeshare sales pitch.
You can also watch my video below where I explain these travel tips from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico!