Cabo: Beyond the Beach

From pirate ship sailings to glass blowing to volunteer opportunities, there are plenty of off-beach family activities for Cabo vacationers.

When you’re soaking up the good life in Los Cabos, it can be tough to come in from the beach. But beyond the sand and surf, Cabo teems with culture, shopping, boating, road trips and volunteer opportunities.

Culture in Cabo

Even the youngest in your entourage will be dazzled by the top-notch art on display in Los Cabos. On Thursday night art walks in San José del Cabo, you can stroll the streets sampling wine, finger foods, paintings, pottery, sculpture and indigenous art. Kids will love the amber art gallery, where they can peer through magnifying glasses at bugs trapped in tree sap tens of thousands of years old.

Part of the fun of being in another country is learning the language. If your resort doesn’t offer language lessons, try a one-week course in Survival Spanish or a two-week course in Basic Spanish at The Apple Tree. Students as young as 10 can join in the fun, and the experienced instructors also offer private lessons.

Los Cabos Shopping

Whether you’re shopping for groceries, jewelry or souvenirs, you’re in for a cultural treat. I’ve chatted with a local shopkeeper-turned-movie-extra while buying silver and ran the big churro machine while browsing at the supermercado (supermarket). 

In both Cabo San Lucas and San José, you’ll find big open air markets featuring local handicrafts like rugs, blankets, stained glass, embroidered clothing, leather goods and hand-painted pottery.

Kids of all ages will enjoy the glass-blowing factory, Vitrofusion y Arte on the Tourist Corridor (Lazaro Cardenas and Edificio Posada, Local 6-A; tel. 624-143-0120). It’s nothing fancy, but that’s part of the authenticity and charm. Be sure to visit early in the day, because they close at siesta time.

For a more upscale experience, you can’t beat the Puerto Paraiso mall in Cabo San Lucas with its marble floors and fountains. There I saw a first-run movie in the plushest theater I’ve ever encountered, with leather recliners and alcohol at the snack bar. The film was in English with Spanish subtitles, and the matinee price was less than $2. The exit onto the outdoor balcony at sunset was as spectacular as the film.

Boating for Families

A jaw-dropping visit to the marina in San Lucas will populate your dreams with yachts that rival small hotels. 

Once you’ve had your fill of eye-candy, board a glass-bottomed boat to Playa del Amante (Lover’s Beach), home of Cabo’s famous arch, where the calm waters of the Sea of the Cortez churn with the surging waves of the Pacific. It’s a tourist thing, but before my kids were old enough to snorkel, they loved peeking at all that lay beneath the waves.

Pirates once roamed the coasts of Cabo, and now families can set sail on the Buccaneer Queen, a pirate ship that looks like its straight out of the movies. Hop aboard for snorkeling tours, sunset cruises, private charters and whale watching cruises. Tickets for all tours aboard the Buccaneer Queen run around $35 plus tax.

Kids who love a fast ride will have fun on Caborey’s Rolls Royce Jet, a naval-grade vessel that’s perfect for a quick spin around the bay. Caborey also offers sunset cruises, whale watching, parasailing and snorkeling.

Cabo’s Famous Nightlife

Teens and pre-teens will love the vibrant nightlife in Cabo San Lucas. Take them out early and return to your hotel before the hard-core party crowd digs in. 

At places like Señor Frog’s, the Giggling Marlin, and Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, you provide the entertainment. Before you know it, the lively hosts will have the whole family dancing on tables. Watch out for the guys with whistles—they like to tip you back and fill you with tequila to liven things up.

No one will believe you’ve been to Cabo unless you swing through Sammy Hagar’s famous Cabo Wabo Cantina in downtown Cabo San Lucas, where they make wonderfully smooth tequila that you can sip at your leisure, sans whistle.

In San José, Havana’s open air restaurant and jazz club is a local favorite on the Tourist Corridor across from the Costa Azul Resort and Spa. Downtown, the new El Spicy Cooper’s offers eclectic live music on Thursday and Friday nights.

The drinking age of 18 isn’t widely enforced in Mexico, so you’ll need to set your own boundaries for teens. 

Day Trips From Cabo

Hate to leave the beach? On a day trip from Cabo, you can always bail from the car for a beach fix or two along the way. 

Artsy, picturesque Todos Santos makes a great excursion. Head west out of San Lucas for an hour-long ride. 

Warning: Once you reach the stunning surf, cliffs and beaches of the rugged Pacific coast, you may find it tough to keep your eyes on the road. Pull off and take a break to scramble over sands you’ll likely share with no one else. 

Eventually you’ll reach the town of Todos Santos, a contented collection of galleries and restaurants tucked among traditional homes and artists’ cottages. Stop for a drink in the courtyard of the Hotel California. Never mind that it wasn’t the inspiration for the famous Eagles’ song. You’ll still get the eerie feeling that “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

When you finally do leave Todos Santos, take time to stop at one of the fresh fruit and vegetable stands along the highway back to Cabo. I like to pick up a jicama or two. Peeled, sliced, and dashed with fresh lime juice and a little chili pepper, they make a crunchy, tart and tasty appetizer.

North of San José, East Cape beckons with rugged wind and surf.  Within an hour’s drive, you’ll come upon miles of deserted beaches and picturesque coves. There’s fantastic snorkeling at Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, but swimming is treacherous along other sections of the cape. 

Hopefully you’ll work up an appetite. At the open air Nancy’s Restaurant and Bar near Cabo Pulmo, I enjoyed the best-ever chicken in mole, a smoky Mexican barbeque sauce.

Volunteering Cabo-Style

Cabo is a great place for kids—and grown-ups—to add a little volunteer spirit to vacation time. Mexican social services are not always the same as what we’re used to back home, and many children drop out from school to care for younger siblings so parents can work. Private organizations have sprung up to fill the gap and always need donations of time or money.

Through Liga M.A.C., an organization of Mexican, American and Canadian women, I helped with art classes given free to kids in impoverished areas. I delighted in their creative efforts, and they giggled over my broken Spanish.

A similar organization, Optimist International, helps kids stay in school through their Kid Smart Cabo program. You can sponsor a student or volunteer at one of the monthly reward outings for kids who stay in school. 

Destinations: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, San José del Cabo

Themes: Family Travel, Outdoor Adventures

Activities: Arts and Entertainment, Shopping, Sightseeing, Snorkeling, Boating

User Comments

I booked it before looking into it more. Is there any affordable fishing? I hate the tourist pricing. Everyone is out to stick it to you. But there are reasoanble places and people in Mexico. How do I find them? Where in Cabo San Lucas??

Cabo San Lucas San Jose del Cabo is charming but very small. Cabo San Lucas, other than the mall area, is dirty, expensive and has a strip bar on every corner. Beaches are not safe for swimming most of the year. Great place if you are into fishing, sun and world class golf. Be ready to pay big bucks for it.