So you’re on vacation, kicking back at your resort with its infinity pool. You’ve also discovered lots of fun things to do in Cabo San Lucas.
But now you’re ready to check out what’s off the beaten path.
You’re interested in some day trips from Cabo San Lucas.
What secrets do those cacti-studded mountains and wild beaches in the distance hold?
As long-time visitors to Los Cabos, we’ve explored much of the lower reaches of the Baja Peninsula. Going beyond Cabo reveals some cool destinations and one-of-a-kind experiences.
Who knows, next time you go to Cabo, you may even want to spend a few days in one of these less-visited places?
9 Day trips from Cabo San Lucas
For your stay in Cabo, you may want to rent a car from, for example, Hertz, so you have the freedom to go places at will.
But you probably don’t need a car the whole time you’re on vacation.
We like to take a transfer from the Cabo airport, and rent a car from our hotel or resort just for the time we want to do a day trip. Or we may decide to book a guided tour for the day trip, if that makes more sense.
By the way, if you’re wondering if it’s safe to drive in Mexico, rest assured that it’s safe in Los Cabos (and the surrounding area) on the paved roads during daylight.
But we never drive on the highways in the countryside (for example, between Cabo and Todos Santos) after dark. We’ve been told that cows can wander the roads at night, so there’s always a risk of a collision.
Here, now, are the 9 best day trips from Cabo:
1) Todos Santos day trip
One of the most popular day trips from Cabo San Lucas is to visit Todos Santos.
It’s an easy one-hour drive up Highway 19, so you’ll have plenty of time in the day to enjoy some of the charming things to do in Todos Santos.
Founded as a mission back in 1723, Todos Santos later thrived on its sugar cane industry.
Today, Todos Santos is a “Pueblo Magico” or “magical town” – an official designation given to chosen towns in Mexico for their beauty, cultural riches or history.
What to do on a day trip to Todos Santos?
Travelers go to stroll its quaint cobblestone streets (which are lined with interesting artisan shops), to surf (the area is known for its great surfing) and to eat (it’s a mecca for foodies).
And if you decide you love Todos Santos so much, to stay in one of its stylish boutique hotels…
Interested in other “magical towns” in Mexico? See our post on the most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico – many are “magical towns”
Popping into all the different shops and boutiques is a joy.
You’ll find everything from exquisite silver jewelry and fine glasswork to handwoven textiles and locally designed ladies’ resort wear.
Also stop at the Emporia gallery and gift shop in the iconic Hotel California, which sells all sorts of “extravagant curiosities” from around the globe.
And in case you’re wondering, the Hotel California did not inspire the Eagles’ “Hotel California” song – but rumors still abound that the song is about this hotel.
Where to eat in Todos Santos:
Los Adobes de Todos Santos has a lovely cactus garden setting for lunch (behind their 100-year-old adobe kitchen). Watch hummingbirds as you sip jicama margaritas.
To eat? The creamy sopa tarasca (soup) with beans, avocado and panela cheese is tummy-warming.
Or try the poblano peppers stuffed with ground beef, pork and fruit, topped with a creamy walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds – delicious!
If you’re in the mood for “elevated” Italian food, try Ristorante Tre Galline. All the pasta is freshly hand-made and the pizzas are innovative.
See location map of Todos Santos.
Hey, have you gone whale watching yet? See our post on the best whale watching tours in Cabo San Lucas
2) Los Cerritos
On the way to Todos Santos, we suggest you stop at Los Cerritos Beach. It’s about 8 miles (13 km) before Todos Santos.
Playa Los Cerritos is a very popular surfing spot.
If you’re into surfing, you’ll be happy staying put at Los Cerritos for the day. You can rent boards and get a lesson at Mario Surf School, located on the north end of the beach.
Otherwise, enjoy watching the surfers before continuing on with your day trip to Todos Santos.
In the winter, chances are great you’ll see whales breaching in the background too.
Note: This is a casual hippy-expat beach, and people like to let their dogs play on the sand. There are restaurants where you can get a drink or a bite.
Where else to surf in Cabo? See #6 in our post on 8 fun water activities in Cabo San Lucas
3) La Paz day trip from Cabo
If you continue on the same Highway 19 beyond Los Cerritos and Todos Santos, you’ll reach La Paz.
A 2-hour drive north of Cabo, La Paz is a mellow non-touristy city (home to about 250,000 residents), with the best marine biology university in Mexico.
A stroll along its remodeled 3-mile (5-km) Malecon, or seaside promenade, is very pleasant – it’s lined with cafés, bars and restaurants.
But the main reason to visit is to swim with the whale sharks in La Paz.
These gentle creatures (which are the largest fish in the world) congregate in the Bay of La Paz to eat krill. On a guided tour, you go out in a small panga, then slide into the water to snorkel with a whale shark when it glides by.
The best time to see the whale sharks is between October and February.
For adventure enthusiasts, visiting La Paz to swim with the whale sharks is one of the best Cabo San Lucas day trips!
Recommended reading: See our indepth post on what it’s like to swim with the La Paz whale sharks (find good guided tours also)
Drive north of La Paz for another 30 minutes, and you reach Balandra Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico.
Its glassy waters are ideal for swimming and SUP boarding.
Baja Desconocida offers SUP tours from La Paz to Balandra Beach, where you paddle the lagoon and through mangroves – spy the herons and blue crabs?
Where to eat lunch in La Paz:
It’s not right on the Malecon (so it doesn’t have sea views), but the delicious shrimp tacos and fried scallops at Mc-Fisher are ample consolation.
Another good lunch spot is Rancho Viejo. About two blocks from the marina, it serves traditional Mexican food (reasonably priced).
See location map of La Paz.
4) Los Barriles
Drive up Highway 1 from San Jose del Cabo, and you reach Los Barriles.
This very cool little beach town is found on the East Cape – a wildly scenic 100-mile stretch of mostly undeveloped coastline along the Sea of Cortez.
Laid-back Los Barriles is home to just a few thousand residents (half of whom are Canadian and U.S. expats).
It’s the kind of place that attracts an eclectic mix of escape artists, multi-millionaires, adventure-seekers and aging hippies.
You’ll see stunning designer mansions that could feature in Architectural Digest – along with goats crossing the road and white-haired grannies gunning ATVs along the red dirt streets.
The fishing is epic, and so is just soaking up the wonderfully secluded desert-meets-the-sea scenery.
Windsurfing and kite boarding:
Los Barriles is catnip for windsurfers and kiteboarders who flock here from around the world between December and March.
Chances are you’ll see their colorful parachute-like sails zipping across Las Palmas Bay.
If you’re interested in a lesson or to rent a windsurfer or kiteboard, try Vela Baja.
ATV rides are also a popular thing to do in Los Barriles.
The 20-somethings in our family have rented ATVs to ride across the sand dunes by the sea. Both Quadman and QuadGirl offer ATV rentals.
Or maybe you want to explore mountain trails and through an arroyo to La Cienega Waterfall for a cool dip? QuadGirl offers half-day guided tours.
Riding a horse on a stunning beach is often a dream for many.
Where to eat in Los Barriles:
You have some great options for lunch in Los Barriles.
For a seafood lunch on the beach, both La Playa Restaurant and El Gecko Beach Club get good reviews on TripAdvisor (and have 2020 Travelers’ Choice awards). You might see the kite boarders and windsurfers while eating!
On one day trip from Cabo to Los Barriles, we sipped mango margaritas and chowed down on big fresh grilled shrimps at one of these beachfront restaurants. (But LOL, we can’t remember which one!)
Then there’s Taqueria El Viejo – a busy local place in town under a thatch roof, known for their seriously tasty tacos.
See location map of Los Barriles.
5) Canyon of the Fox (and Santiago)
For a day trip from Cabo San Lucas that takes you off the grid, head out into the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range.
Designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1994, the protected granite mountain range is one of the least explored areas in the Baja Peninsula.
Yet with its pine forests, palms and giant Cardon cactus (elephant cactus) – rippled with canyons, waterfalls and streams – it’s one of the most beautiful places to visit.
The highest peaks reach 7,000 feet, and the unique biosphere supports all manner of wildlife, from hummingbirds and giant golden eagles to pinyon mouse and lizards.
If you want to go hiking in Los Cabos, this is the place!
Hiking the Canyon of the Fox:
The Canyon of the Fox (Canon de la Zorra) is a moderate 5-mile (8-km) roundtrip hike to the Sol de Mayo waterfall. It’s mostly flat with a slight elevation change.
What makes it moderate is that you’re hiking through the canyon – along the undulating golden riverbank – negotiating large boulders and climbing over rocks.
You’ll be astonished at how different it is from the surf-and-sand beach experience.
Apart from our small group, we didn’t encounter another soul around.
Instead, we saw tiny turquoise frogs jumping out from rock pools, white winged doves in the scraggy pine trees, and brilliant Monarch butterflies flitting from bush to bush.
Sol de Mayo waterfall swim:
It’s a scramble up a cliff face to get to the top of the waterfall.
But the effort is worth it.
If you feel really adventurous, you can jump 45 feet (14 meters) down into the deep clear water below. Or you can simply wade in from lower down.
However you get in, let us tell you, there’s nothing better than diving into that refreshingly cold, waterfall-fed pool at the end of the hot scenic hike!
See location map of Canyon of the Fox.
How to do the Sierra Laguna waterfall hike:
You’ll need a vehicle with 4-wheel drive to do this Cabo day trip on your own.
The day trip starts with pick-up from your hotel in Cabo San Lucas (sometimes as early as 7:00 a.m., depending on the group size).
Participants are limited to eight or so – the number that can comfortably fit, along with two guides, into a large, air-conditioned mini-van. A stop – perhaps in San Jose del Cabo – for coffee and fresh-baked croissants allows everyone to get acquainted.
The pace on the hike is leisurely, with the guides pointing out interesting things to see and explaining the eco-system around you.
Lunch in Santiago:
The drive to and from the mountains and the Canyon of the Fox passes through the small town of Santiago.
Built on an oasis in the desert hills, its main boulevard is lined with scarlet hibiscus, and surrounding gardens nurture lush mango, orange, banana and palm trees.
Palomar Restaurant and Bar in Santiago is the place to stop for lunch after your hike and swim, before heading back to Cabo.
In the pleasant outdoor garden setting, tuck into super-fresh fish, wrapped in giant tortillas (with lots of salsa and guacamole) and hot cheese quesadillas. Wash that down with cold Coronas and limes.
And toast your companions on the fine day you’ve just enjoyed!
6) El Chorro and Santa Rita hot springs
There are many thermal springs within the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere.
Most are inaccessible for day trippers, but two natural hot springs near Cabo San Lucas can be visited – El Chorro Hot Springs and Santa Rita Hot Springs.
Taking a dip in the hot springs is a great add-on to hiking the Canyon of the Fox, as they’re located in the same area.
El Chorro Hot Springs:
The El Chorro Hot Springs are located at the base of the narrow Agua Caliente Canyon, where water flows down into a large pool of water by a steep canyon wall.
A dam has been built in front of the pool to protect the water from overflowing onto neighboring farmland. The water near the dam is warm, but the best spots to soak are the even warmer waters closer to the canyon wall.
See location map of El Chorro Hot Springs.
Santa Rita Hot Springs:
The Santa Rita Hot Springs are found near the small village of San Jorge.
After parking on a rancher’s property, you’ll trudge a short distance through the bush until you reach a beautiful oasis of palm trees and lush bamboo groves.
A spring-fed river running through an arroyo there is punctuated by large smooth granite boulders, which form a series of pools. Small sand beaches curl around the rocks and nudge up against the river’s edge.
Some of the pools are deliciously warm, fed by underground hot mineral springs.
Stripping down to our swimsuits, we settled into one large, particularly inviting hot pool, where we happily lounged in our own private garden of Eden.
Tip: The Santa Rita Hot Springs are nicer than the El Chorro Hot Springs (they feel more secluded).
See location map of Santa Rita Hot Springs.
How to visit the Sierra de Laguna hot springs:
It’s possible to rent a car and visit the hot springs on your own – if you can find your way there.
Be aware that the narrow dirt roads leading from Santiago to the hot springs are very bumpy, and driving along them is an adventure in itself. You’ll want a Jeep (not a regular car rental).
El Chorro is easier to find. (Drive from Santiago to the small village of Agua Caliente, then follow the signs to the El Chorro Hot Springs). But you might find it difficult using Google Maps to get to Santa Rita Hot Springs.
A good option is to visit these hot springs on a guided tour. That’s how we visited.
The hot springs aren’t offered on their regular list of tours. But ask if you’re interested. And if you book a Cabo Pulmo tour, for example, and the weather is too wild when you get there, going to the hot springs may be offered as an alternative.
Tip: The best time to visit the hot springs is during the week – you might have them all to yourself! On the weekends, they’re a little busier, as locals like to soak in them too.
Note: You’ll have to pay an attendant at both hot springs a small entrance fee.
7) Cabo Pulmo
No crowds and a tiny village in a wild and remote place?
One of the world’s most epic national marine parks where you can snorkel, kayak with sea lions and scuba dive?
An endless stretch of beach and a handful of seafood shacks serving up the freshest shrimp tacos?
Cabo Pulmo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with colorful coral reefs teeming with manta rays, sharks and galaxies of tropical fish.
A Cabo Pulmo day trip is a true adventure – it will be a highlight of your trip to Cabo.
See location map of Cabo Pulmo.
Note: The winter months can get very blustery and the seas too rough for kayaking or snorkeling. If you’re on a guided tour, the guides will then look at “Plan B” – which could be an excursion to the hot springs (see #5) instead.
What’s it like to go diving in Cabo Pulmo? It’s an underwater world of wonders (we saw lots of sharks!) – see our post on scuba diving in Cabo San Lucas
Lunch in Cabo Pulmo:
Tacos & Beer Cabo Pulmo hits the spot for lunch, with picnic benches under umbrellas right on the beach. And the fish tacos are yummy!
Miraflores is a sleepy little village about 45 minutes’ north of San Jose del Cabo.
The main reason to visit is to stop at its old leather workshops and shop for leather goods. You’ll find a range of finely tooled purses, belts, wallets, horse saddles and other equestrian products.
You probably wouldn’t want to make a special trip just to Miraflores. But it makes for an interesting stop if on a day trip to Los Barriles, the hot springs or the Canyon of the Fox.
See location map of Miraflores.
9) San Jose del Cabo day trip
If staying in Cabo San Lucas or at a resort on the Corridor, and you’re looking for an easy close-by excursion, then you must make a day trip to San Jose del Cabo.
You don’t even need a car, as you can easily take the local bus.
Less touristy and quieter than Cabo San Lucas, the town of San Jose del Cabo clings to its Mexican heritage.
Founded as a Jesuit mission community in the 18th century, the historic center has retained its Spanish colonial architecture.
In front of the cathedral, a large central tiled plaza is popular in the evenings with local families and children who play hopscotch, eat ice-cream and listen to the Mexican bands that often play.
See location map of San Jose del Cabo.
The town is known for its many art galleries and great restaurants.
On Thursday evenings (November to May) there’s a free Art Walk through the art district. Sip wine and view fine art as you wander the narrow side streets.
Recommended reading: Read our post on art and wine at the Art Walk in San Jose del Cabo
Where to eat in San Jose del Cabo:
With so many excellent restaurants in San Jose del Cabo – from fine dining to casual – it’s hard to narrow the list down to just a few suggestions.
Let’s assume, however, that you want dinner in the historic part of town.
Mi Cocina offers innovative European-Mexican food in a beautiful courtyard setting. Be sure to finish off with the incredibly light Key lime pie.
Nearby, La Revolucion is trendy with show-stopping art. Its signature cocktails are unique (try the gin, mint, anise liqueur and cardamom syrup, garnished with dry hibiscus).
For Mexican food with a contemporary twist, Don Sanchez is solid.
Don’t miss! Be sure to check out our free Los Cabos Travel Guide. It’s packed with crazy useful information on accommodation, bargaining tips, taking the local buses, best tours and more!
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Photo Credits: 3 to 8, 12, 14, 16, 23, 25, 26 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 10 Tre Galline | 9 Los Adobes de Todos Santos | 11 Mario Surf School | 16, 19 QuadGirl | 20, 21, 24, 27 Cabo Outfitters | 30 Mi Cocina