the famous Arch near Lover's Beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Itzel Naranjo for Unsplash

How To Make the Most of Your First Visit to Cabo

For many solo travelers, Cabo San Lucas is the ultimate destination for sun, sand, and adventure.

From its crystal-clear waters and breathtaking beaches to its lively nightlife and delicious cuisine, this amazing city at the very end of Baja California Sur, Mexico, has everything a solo traveler could want for an unforgettable vacation.

For my first visit to Cabo, I went for 10 days to celebrate my birthday during the summer and it was a blast. From the welcoming locals and fun things to do to the warm evenings and great places to eat, I’m glad I chose Cabo to celebrate another trip around the sun.

A view of Playa Santa Maria with toes in the sand Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

Whether you’re new to solo adventures or a seasoned traveler, there’s always something new to uncover on your own in this stunning Mexican paradise.

¡Apúrate! Let’s dive in and discover how to make the most of your first visit to Cabo San Lucas!

Decide on the Best Time to Visit

Before embarking on your adventure in Cabo San Lucas, it’s wise to consider the best time for you to visit; the season and outdoor temperature can make all the difference for some solo travelers. That said, a keen focus on preparation can ensure that your trip runs smoothly and that you get to experience everything this incredible destination has to offer.

Start by researching the best time to visit based on your interests and preferences. Do you want to go when it’s super cold and bleak where you’re living, so you can enjoy some sun and blue skies? Are you OK leaving your warm home location for the equally-warm summers of Cabo San Lucas?

Here’s the deal: As you may have already guessed, Cabo is warm all year-round. Winter sees an average temperature around the mid-70s F (23° C) which becomes the mid-80s F (28° C) around the beginning of Spring and much warmer into summer.

A person smiling stands inside a large, colorful frame near Centro in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, photo ©Kate Dana

I visited Cabo San Lucas in the final weeks of July and the first weeks of August, and it was spectacular. The days were balmy, slightly humid, and with the occasional light rain shower (lasting no more than an hour), while the evenings were gorgeous: a bit warm with breezy, clear skies.

Some people prefer to visit Cabo around August or September, after the warmest months, but this is also a very popular time to visit, so consider this if you are opposed to crowds.

Consider also that families often visit Cabo San Lucas, so if you are a solo traveler and don’t want to deal with parents corralling their kids on the beaches and boat tours, plan to go when most schools are back in session.

Once you have narrowed down the best time to go, familiarize yourself with any holidays or events that may affect your visit, and be sure to take note of any climate safety tips or precautions; this will ensure a stress-free, enjoyable visit.

By planning ahead and narrowing down when you want to visit, you’ll be able to make the most of your time in Cabo San Lucas instead of panicking over last-minute details about the weather.

Fly Into San Jose del Cabo /SJD

Unless you are planning the long drive down the Baja California peninsula into Mexico, chances are you’ll be flying to Cabo San Lucas. For me, a flight to Cabo from California is relatively easy, with just one stop in between from Sacramento. For those traveling from further destinations or internationally, this will take some clever planning, which is why it’s best to book as far in advance as possible.

Look for early bird flight specials through websites and apps. Keep in mind that time is often as valuable as money. Typically, it makes sense to skip the cheapest flight and splurge a little if means you’ll be spending less time flying and more time in Cabo. When given the option, go as direct as possible!

Two airplanes on a runway line up at dusk, photo ©Asif Methar for Pexels

Take Note: There are two airports in this part of Baja California! One is Cabo San Lucas Airport (CSL) and the other is San Jose del Cabo International Airport SJD.

I did some research and found that SJD is a larger, more accessible airport with more daily flights. CSL, on the other hand, is more like a boutique airport: much smaller and with far fewer daily flights. I also learned that many resorts and all-inclusive recommend CSL to avoid the chaos and commoners-feel of SJD.

Posh is awesome but, if I’m forced to choose between the two, I usually elect time over luxury. So, for me, it was SJD all the way.

The blue water and dusty orange shore of Cabo San Lucas as seen from an airplane window approaching Mexico photo © Kate Dana

Flying into SJD is awesome if you score a window seat to catch the view as the plane creeps towards the area, revealing an orangey-pink coastline dotted with lush trees and vegetation.

Several airlines offer flights to Cabo San Lucas, so getting here is easy and convenient, whether you’re flying domestically or internationally. For my maiden voyage, I went with Volaris airlines and found it to be an effortless, worry-free flight with a friendly staff onboard and OK seats.

The window of an airplane showing an ocean with coral reefs, photo © Igor Fedoriv for Pexels

My flight with Volaris Airlines flew from SMF to GDL to SJD with a total time of 5 hours and 15 minutes (plus a 1-hour layover in GDL). I flew at night, departing in the evening and arriving in the morning. Guadalajara is 2 hours ahead of Sacramento.

Since Volaris is a less-expensive airline so bag size and weight does count. Whenever possible, I upgrade to a preferential fare that includes one personal item (like a briefcase or laptop bag to fit under the seat in front of me) and one small carry-on bag.

The two items together cannot weigh more than 44 pounds (about 19 kilos), so pack light!

🥥 Coco Pro Tip: Search for flights from your local airport using apps and tools like WayAway, Hopper, or Skyscanner, then book directly on the airline website. Apps are great for searching, but booking directly often helps to avoid any mishaps and financial headaches if you have to cancel or change your plans.

Book a Mini Apartment from a Local

While there are hundreds of huge hotels and condominiums available in Cabo San Lucas, for a solo traveler, staying in a small, local apartment is an excellent way to experience the town’s culture and immerse yourself in the community.

A colorful map with destinations noted on it for Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, photo © Kate Dana

When you rent a small apartment, you’ll have a chance to interact with friendly locals and practice your Spanish skills, as well as explore the neighborhoods more intimately and see a different side of Cabo San Lucas that most tourists miss.

Studio apartments are often located within walking distance of the Centro, as well as markets, cafes, and restaurants, giving you a chance to live like a local and enjoy the slower pace of life in this beautiful destination.

a colorful mural of animals on a wall in a neighborhood in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

With the money you save on accommodations, you’ll have more to spend on activities and adventures, making your trip even more memorable. Safety is everything, so be sure to do your research and read reviews on places you’re considering.

For my first visit to Cabo, I rented a fantastic studio apartment with a sizable sleeping area, a small kitchen, a private bathroom, and a lovely, sunny patio. The rental included beach umbrellas, snorkel gear, large beach towels, folding chairs, and a cooler, which made the visit (and going to the nearby beaches) even more enjoyable.

AirBnB listing for a studio apartment in Cabo San Lucas photo © Adrian Gomez

The building featured eight similar apartments, some with two beds for extra guests, and had a large parking area for cars with laundry lines for drying wet swimsuits in the afternoon sun.

The owner of the apartment building stopped by on the second day to welcome me to Cabo San Lucas. A native of Mexico with more than 20 years in Cabo, he spoke perfect Spanish and English and offered advice for the best beaches to visit as well as insider tips on the best places to shop.

If a studio apartment isn’t your style or you’re looking for luxury accommodations, Cabo has a little bit of something for everyone, so check around until you find what works best for your first visit.

homemade breakfast at a studio apartment on the patio photo ©Kate Dana
homemade breakfast at a studio apartment on the patio photo ©Kate Dana

While many of my friends love the huge hotels on the Marina with panoramic views of the downtown, located in the heart of the nightlife and action, this solo traveler lined up five days of diving, and elected beauty sleep over an all-nighter with people dancing on their balconies.

Take a SCUBA Diving Course

I earned my PADI Open Water Certification while living in Cartagena, Colombia, diving in the Caribbean water around the Rosario Islands. For my advanced certification, I decided on Mexico for its equally-gorgeous ocean and terrain.

After my rigorous training and five straight days of diving, I had no regrets about my choice of Cabo San Lucas.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure and a chance to explore the incredible underwater world, then getting SCUBA certified in Cabo San Lucas is an absolute must.

With its crystal-clear waters, abundant marine life, and stunning coral reefs, Cabo San Lucas is one of the best places in the world to dive.

a person in a wet suit making an "OK" hand symbol stands near the famous Arco in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico during PADI Advanced Certified Diver training, photo © Kate Dana

If you’re not sure diving is for you, consider this: not only will learning to dive give you the freedom to explore the depths and discover hidden treasures that most visitors never get to see, but you’ll gain the confidence to continue diving on future adventures.

I signed up online for a PADI Advance course through Cabo Adventures and communicated with their coordinator by email in the weeks leading up to my visit. By the time I arrived, I had full faith in my decision to go with this company, who is part of a franchise in other parts of Mexico including Puerto Vallarta and Cancún.

While I enjoyed working with the professional dive guides and learned a lot in theory as well as practice, I’m not going to lie: earning my PADI Advanced Open Water certification was challenging!

My dive instructor, Monik, was a petite powerhouse from Brazill who kicked my butt all around the waters of B.C.S. Monik was hard on me but explained that if she wasn’t, she would not have the confidence in me that is required to certify an Advanced Open Water Diver.

A PADI Dive Experience brochure with a Certified Advanced Diver Card photo © Kate Dana

In the end, it was worth the struggle and hardship to learn what I did as part of my certification and I am grateful to Monik for not letting it be easy.

In addition to Cabo Adventures, there are smaller, equally-reputable dive shops and instructors in Cabo San Lucas offering SCUBA certification courses.

Most shops will provide all the necessary equipment and transportation to and from the dive sites, either included as a package or as an a-la-carte add-on if you bring your own approved gear.

Cabo is well-known for its gorgeous beaches and the famous Arco, which you probably will dive near while earning your certification.

If the arch doesn’t impress you, imagine swimming with sea turtles, encountering schools of colorful fish, and exploring underwater caves and shipwrecks. This should be enough to give you an idea of an experience you’ll never forget.

If diving piques your interest, then don’t wait. Discover the adventure of a lifetime and become SCUBA certified in Cabo San Lucas as part of your solo first-time trip here.

Indulge in Local Eateries

Like many cities in Mexico, especially those that thrive on tourism, Cabo San Lucas is a culinary paradise offering local dishes to tantalize your taste buds.

From delectable seafood dishes to simple fruit juice bateas, this Mexican city offers an array of delicacies waiting to be sampled.

I like low-key dining and the occasional special meal, so I found myself returning a few times to Tacos Los Claros for their fish tacos and tostadas de camerón (shrimp tostadas), both of which were bursting with flavor and topped with fresh salsa.

For a real treat, try the mouth-watering ceviche, a zesty and refreshing dish made with fresh fish marinated in lime juice and seasoned with chili peppers and cilantro. Humbly served with crackers, it’s a great post-beach day.

the colorful painted sign and outdoor facade of Tacos Los Claros in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

Insider Tip: Los Claros is an informal place with outdoor seating. Also, they may not adhere to the hours posted, so you may want to pass by ahead of time and check when they’ll be open that day.

If you’re craving something other than Mexican food, there are other places in Cabo San Lucas featuring far-corners flavors such as Burmese, Italian, and Szechuan.

Delicious fish tacos and ceviche de camaron tostadas at Tacos Los Claros in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

For my birthday dinner, I enjoyed a brick-oven pizza on the casually-elegant El Rincon de la Pizza Suc Centro, accompanied by live music and stellar service from friendly servers. I devoured slices of a large, crusty pie with fresh tomatoes, feta, and gorgonzola cheeses, plus the right blend of herbs, as a duet playing Mexican songs at the table next to me serenaded the crowd. ¡Orale!

A person enjoys live guitar from two musicians playing at an outdoor restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, photo © Kate Dana

Finally, don’t miss the sweets and treats of Mexico, most notably, its paletas (popsicles) and helado (ice cream).

While it’s true you can buy ice cream from a street cart, if you’re looking for a local favorite, head over to Neveria Michoacana, on the corner of Venustiano Carranza and C. José Ma. Morelos y Pavón, just a few blocks away from the Centro. Warm summer nights in Cabo San Lucas may mean a long line, but the creamy postres (desserts) of Neveria Michoacana are worth the wait.

A large, automatic burro ride for children near the Heladeria Michoacan in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

Walk Everywhere

A visit to Mexico always means breaking out my favorite casual but fashionable – and definitely walkable – shoes. Cabo San Lucas is no exception, so grab those arch-supporters and lace up your best zapatos!

With its medium-sized downtown, Cabo San Lucas is a pedestrian-friendly paradise that allows visitors to explore and discover the city on foot. The Centro features charming shops and lively outdoor cafes, making it a delightful place to stroll around and soak up the vibrant atmosphere.

A man gestures playfully at a sleeping dog wearing sunglasses in the Marina of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, photo © Kate Dana

While in Cabo, you’ll enjoy wandering through colorful streets and alleys admiring the historic architecture and local artwork.

Head up and out to visit the Cerrito del Timbre for panoramic views of the city in a park dotted with local artwork and sculptures, before making your way down and around the city’s popular Squid Row area, filled with bars, cafés, and restaurants.

Colorful artwork depicting graduating students on a wall at Cerro del Timbre, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

In the evening, take a leisurely stroll along the marina and watch the fishing boats come in with their catch of the day, or the charters dropping off sunburned, satisfied tourists.

Overall, for the walking crowd, Cabo San Lucas is a super fun place to explore. For the solo traveler, it’s a perfect destination, especially for anyone who loves to take in the sights and sounds of a lively city on foot.

A black and white comical painting of a cat in glasses on a wall in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

Snorkel with the Fishes

Cabo San Lucas has many beaches around the area that feature gorgeous blue waters lapping on soft sand, white-capped waves rushing over rocks, and tranquil tide pools perfect for wading.

The three beaches I fell in love with on my first visit to Cabo San Lucas were Playa Medano, Playa El Chileno, and Playa Santa Maria.

Located within walking distance of the Centro, Playa Medano is a popular spot for tourists and locals. From my studio apartment and past the Marina, the walk was about twenty minutes over downtown streets.

people splash in blue water with a mountain in the background of Playa Medano in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, photo © Kate Dana

Though it has a vast stretch of beach and is easy to access, Playa Medano has many vendors hocking generic souvenirs and tends to be a bit crowded for its close proximity to downtown.

However, you can explore the fascinating rock formations and the diverse array of marine creatures that make their home here or just relax on the sand and people-watch.

Further away from downtown Cabo San Lucas, Playa el Chileno (or Chileno Bay) is a popular spot for snorkelers, with its tranquil turquoise waters, coral reefs, and schools of colorful fish.

The playa features parking, public showers, and restrooms, and is easily accessible by taxi or Uber, or there are public buses that drop off passengers a short walk to the beach.

Soft sand and white-capped waves of blue water at Playa el Chileno near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © KateDana

Playa el Chileno has several private residencies on its shore, but it is still a public beach and a great place to snorkel. Rumor has it you can catch a pretty excellent sunset here sometimes, too.

As with any water adventure as a solo traveler, you’ll want to keep an eye on your items and invest in a good, waterproof bag or carrier for stashing essentials like your wallet or cell phone on your person while you snorkel.

A giant, wire fish sculpture opens its mouth to receive "garbage" recycling cans near the entrance to Playa Santa Maria in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

In fact, it is not uncommon to see a snorkeler on the beaches of Cabo San Lucas tethered to a 10L dry bag floating at the surface nearby: a good way to mark your presence in the water to others!

Saving the best for last, Playa Santa Maria is an incredible, half-moon-shaped cove with pristine waters and a variety of marine life, including sea turtles, rays, and tropical fish.

Soft sand and white-capped waves of blue water at a beach near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © KateDana

The water is a gorgeous deep blue and – swimmers take note – drops off significantly just past the shore. While there are rocks nearby, they aren’t the kind you can easily swim to for refuge. As with any water adventure, always know your capabilities and don’t take any unnecessary risks.

I spent an entire day at Playa Santa Maria, completely enamored with its soft-sand beaches and unbelievably clear water, where gorgeous pescas like Moorish Idols, Barber Fish, and even Stone Scorpionfish swim in groups, clinging to the rocks that plunge deep below the surface: a treat for the eyes of anyone who appreciates marine life.

colorful fish swim in large batches in this underwater photo representing the sea life of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, photo © Kate Dana

Whether you’re an experienced snorkeler or a beginner, these beaches offer something for everyone, from shallow waters to more challenging deeper areas.

With warm waters and stunning natural scenery, snorkeling at Playa El Chileno, Playa Medano, and Playa Santa Maria is a must-do activity when visiting Cabo San Lucas.

Visit Nearby Cabo Pulmo

Have you ever seen the amazing photo of the Fishnado, a large group of fish swimming in a tornado formation, by Octavio Aburto? That photo was taken in Cabo Pulmo National Park, Mexico, in the Sea of Cortez!

A large mountain looms in the background over blue ocean water on the way into Cabo Pulmo National Park upon arrival from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

If you have the chance, be sure to plan a day trip to nearby Cabo Pulmo from Cabo San Lucas. If you are a diver, this is a must-do activity! But even if you only enjoy snorkeling, a visit to Cabo Pulmo is an exhilarating experience.

Located about 2-hours by car from Cabo San Lucas, the marine park of Cabo Pulmo is home to one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet.

The tiny town has few amenities but the water of the Sea of Cortez offers a stunning variety of marine life including schools of tropical fish, giant groupers, sea turtles, and a variety of sharks.

The sunny blue sky and white sand road make a wonderful view of Cabo Pulmo National Park upon arrival from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

For my solo trip to B.C.S., I joined Cabo Adventures for an early-morning drive to Cabo Pulmo. Upon arrival, after a leisurely drive through the scenic terrain, another diver and I suited up with gear from Tornados Dive Center and immediately headed out with our guide in a small boat.

The three of us were dropped off by our captain for a drift dive, meaning we’d enter the ocean at one point and let the current take us far from the entrance area to be picked up later by the boat.

Diving in what Jacques Cousteau called the “living aquarium” – a place he loved so much that he lived in a small hut on its shores to study the marine life close up – was truly an honor and a thrill.

Swimming below in the crystal-clear waters of the Sea of Cortez was amazing. We explored colorful coral reefs teeming with life and vibrant colors and swam alongside majestic manta rays, as well as a few non-threatening baby Bull Sharks.

Our experienced guide showed us a great time and we enjoyed a safe and memorable underwater adventure. Back on shore, we relaxed in the sun while the staff at Tornados prepared us a simple, delicious lunch, which meant frijoles, arroz, and huveo frito – the vegetarian dish for me!

a plate of fried eggs, frijoles and rice for lunch in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico, photo © Kate Dana

The drive home was effortless and enjoyable as we watched the sun setting over the lush green landscape heading back to Cabo San Lucas.

If you’re a diver, or even if you’re just seeking a day trip to explore new terrain, keep Cabo Pulmo National Park near the top of your list of things to make the most of your first visit to Cabo.

Shop in the Centro

Visiting local shops, vendor alleys, and artists’ kiosks in Cabo San Lucas is an adventure that promises to take any solo traveler on a colorful journey through the city’s vibrant culture and art.

The shops along Paseo de la Marina heading towards Francisco I. Madero are packed with tiny shops, chuzitos, and kioskos offering unique and authentic Mexican treasures, from handmade pottery to intricately embroidered textiles and vibrant woven baskets.

You’ll find leather goods, including handmade huaraches and stamped bags, as well as colorful paintings, hand-carved wooden sculptures, and beautiful jewelry made with precious stones.

Shoes with images of iconic artist Frida Kahlo in a shop window in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

If you encounter a particularly friendly vendor, be sure to appreciate their warm hospitality, and don’t be afraid to ask for a rebaja (discount), when dealing with a local seller, who usually will work with you if you’re buying more than one item from their location.

More popular stores include Papagayos or the colorful, sizable Zen Mar Artes, famous for its carved religious masks and Otomi embroidery: a style known as “Tenangos” that uses vibrant colors to create unique designs featuring flowers and animals.

The vibrant lilac and blue facade with a colorful large mask outside of Zen Mar Mask Store in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

If the charming owner at Zen Mar Artes is present, be sure to chat him up, his knowledge of the arts and culture of the area is very enlightening!

Whether you are shopping for a unique gift or souvenir to bring home, or just browsing to satisfy your inner creative, visiting the local shops and artist kiosks in Cabo San Lucas is an exciting and unique way to immerse yourself in the city’s rich cultural heritage or take home a piece of Mexico’s vibrant art scene.

Hang Out in the Marina

No visit to Cabo San Lucas is complete without a trip to the popular Marina: a vibrant hub of activity that promises endless entertainment and excitement for visitors of all ages.

The colorful facade of Squid Roe bar and nightclub behind two tall palm trees in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

Located close to the popular El Squid Roe nightclub, La Bamba nightclub, and the Hard Rock Café, the Marina is a centralized, easy-to-remember meeting point or place of reference for almost all travelers.

A huge silver sailfish statue points upward in the Marina area in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico photo © Kate Dana

Whatever you choose to do, the Marina is open 24 hours, just be sure to stay aware of your personal belongings and, as always, err on the side of caution but still have fun.

As a solo adventurer, you may enjoy walking among the crowds or just people-watching in this usually-busy district, where restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues buzz along the water and docked boats park for the night.

If hunger strikes while in the Marina, you’re in luck. Depending on your appetite, you can enjoy a simple snack like elote (roasted corn) on a stick or a sliced mango with chile from one of the many cart vendors, or indulge in a full meal at an upscale restaurant offering fresh seafood with a picturesque view. The Marina seems to have something for everyone… and every budget.

Don’t leave the Marina without visiting the two main spots for excellent selfies: the colorful Cabo sign at Plaza del Pescador, a small mall located on the Paseo Malecon San Jose, and the bright red Hashtag Ciebeous #CABO Sign, the latter of which bears a close resemblance to Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE sign.

the large, colorful, cutout CABO letters in the Marina area in Cabo San Lucas photo © Kate Dana

So, now you know some great ways to make the most of your first visit to Cabo. Whether you decided to follow all of this advice or just try out a couple of tips, the most important thing is that you have fun, be safe, and enjoy your time in this gorgeous, exciting location in Mexico. ¡Disfrutar!