So you’re on your Mexico 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 cactus-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 California 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!
10 Fun day trips from Cabo San Lucas
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, then, are the 10 best day trips from Cabo.
Several can be done year-round.
Some (like #3 La Paz, for swimming with the whale sharks) are done in the winter. And others (like #9 Espiritu Santo Island, for snorkeling with sea lions) can be done in late spring, summer and autumn.
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 nearby (the coastal 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…
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
The Green Room
On our most recent Todos Santos excursion, we discovered The Green Room. What a find!
It’s a bit out of the way – you end up following a dirt road – and then you arrive at this amazing seaside resto along La Pestora Beach.
Sit with your toes in the sand and watch the powerful Pacific surf pound the shores as you peruse the menu.
We started with mezcalitos (chili-rimmed mezcal margaritas), then moved on to the smoked tuna pate and guacamole before chowing down on gourmet tacos with bacon-wrapped shrimps.
The menu is not huge – mostly sashimi, fish-and-chips, organic salads, creative tostadas and gourmet tacos. But whatever you choose, it’s all fresh, local and delicious.
We spent pretty well the whole afternoon just sipping and eating and watching the waves, before dragging ourselves away to return to Cabo San Lucas. (Don’t worry. We had a dedicated non-drinking driver in our family group!)
We’re told The Green Room is even more popular at sunset. And whenever you go, advance reservations are a must.
Another new restaurant in Todos Santos that looks very appealing is Oystera.
Occupying an Insta-worthy, ivy-clad building in downtown Todos Santos, it’s a high-end oyster bar and seafood restaurant. Or is it a shopping gallery? The concept is unique, as art galleries and boutique shops surround the inner tables.
And then outside, there are tables under pink umbrellas in a flower-filled garden and courtyard.
Next trip we’ll try Oystera!
Los Adobes de Todos Santos
Then there’s Los Adobes de Todos Santos. It 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!
Ristorante Tre Galline
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.
How to visit Todos Santos
If you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, here’s a 5-star rated guided day tour to Todos Santos.
The small group tour is by way of a minivan, with pickup from your Cabo hotel.
It includes visits to the historic Old Jesuit Mission, the Hotel California and a coffee bean factory; a weaving demonstration; a tequila tasting; lunch; and free shopping time.
See location of Todos Santos.
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.
See location of Los Cerritos.
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.
One of Mexico’s best beach cities in the Baja area, La Paz is a 2-hour drive north of Cabo. Home to about 250,000 residents, it’s a mellow non-touristy city, with the best marine biology university in the country.
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 perhaps the main reason to visit La Paz in winter is to swim with the whale sharks.
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.
We’ve written a whole post about swimming with whale sharks in La Paz – so hop on over there for details.
For adventure enthusiasts, this is one of the absolute best excursions in Cabo in the winter months!
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 – do you 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 Mack-Fisher are ample consolation.
4) Los Barriles
Drive up Highway 1 from San Jose del Cabo, and you reach Los Barriles.
It’s one of the easiest day trips from San Jose del Cabo because it’s not too far away (about an hour’s drive).
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 in renting a windsurfing board 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 drive 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.
On one day trip from Cabo to Los Barriles, we sipped mango margaritas and chowed down on big fresh grilled shrimps at a beachfront restaurant. (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 of Los Barriles.
5) Canyon of the Fox (and Santiago)
For a day trip from Cabo San Lucas that takes you off the beaten path, 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 California 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 (depending on the route you take). The usual route is 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.
The first time we went, we didn’t encounter another soul around (apart from our small group).
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.
The Canyon of the Fox is no longer a secret.
But it’s still a place where birds and butterflies outnumber tourists. (The last time – which was high season – we only passed two other groups of people on the trail.)
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!
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.
Alternatively, go on a guided tour.
High Tide Los Cabos offers this top-rated Fox Canyon hiking tour.
If you like hiking and want to see a different side of Cabo, this is one of the best Cabo San Lucas tours you can do.
The guided 7-hour adventure includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, along with lunch at a local restaurant.
Participants are limited to eight or so – the number that can comfortably fit, along with two guides, into a large air-conditioned mini-van.
You also have the option to do this as a private hiking tour of Fox Canyon. Depending on how many you have in your group, this could make more sense (and obviously, is more customizable).
Speaking of customizing the tour, if someone in your group ends up deciding to wait under the shade of an umbrella by a canyon pool – while the rest of you continue on – the guides carry large umbrellas with them, so they can set you up.
Baja Wild and Cabo Outfitters also offer guided tours. (We’ve taken tours with both companies, and they’re both excellent.)
For example, the hiking trip with Cabo Outfitters starts with pick-up from your hotel in Los Cabos (sometimes as early as 7:00 a.m., depending on the group size).
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.
There aren’t many options for lunch.
We once stopped at Palomar Restaurant and Bar after hiking and swimming, before heading back to Cabo.
In the pleasant outdoor garden setting, we tucked into super-fresh fish, wrapped in giant tortillas (with lots of salsa and guacamole) and hot cheese quesadillas.
We washed that down with cold Coronas and limes.
And toasted our companions on the fine day we’d just enjoyed!
See location of Canyon of the Fox.
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 in are the even warmer waters closer to the canyon wall.
See location 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 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 rental car).
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?
If you’re screaming “Yes!” then one of the best day trips from Cabo San Lucas is to visit Cabo Pulmo.
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.
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.
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!
How to visit Cabo Pulmo
We’ve mentioned that one of the best tours in Cabo in the summer (and also in the late spring and autumn months) is to venture to Cabo Pulmo.
A full-day guided trip is the no-hassle way to go.
Offered by Cabo Outfitters, this excellent guided tour combines snorkeling and kayaking.
You’ll be picked up by van for the drive to Cabo Pulmo, and once there, you’ll hop in a kayak for an awesome day on the water.
You’ll see a remote sea lion colony and have the chance to slide into the water at different snorkeling stops to check out the underwater show.
Another great day tour from Cabo is this Cabo Pulmo snorkel expedition (offered by Cabo Adventures). No kayaking, but lots of epic snorkeling!
Or how about a thrilling 4×4 jeep tour to Cabo Pulmo?
This private tour takes you off-road along mountain trails on your way to Cabo Pulmo.
You’ll snorkel when you get there, and have lunch at a Mexican resto in Miraflores on your way back.
See location of Cabo Pulmo.
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 of Miraflores.
9) Espiritu Santo Island
In the warmer spring, summer and fall months, you can do an excursion from Cabo to Espiritu Santo Island (Isla Espiritu Santo).
This uninhabited island in the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California) is one of 240 islands protected by UNESCO as part of a biosphere reserve, the Islas del Golfo de California Biosphere Reserve.
Jacques Cousteau once famously referred to the Sea of Cortez as the “aquarium of the world,” and the protected area teems with marine life – manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins and many different species of tropical fish.
As for Espiritu Santo Island, it’s home to blue-footed booby birds and a colony of more than 300 sea lions.
The island is about a one-hour boat ride from La Paz.
Sailing trip from Cabo to Espiritu Santo Island (Baja Charters)
This fantastic sailing day trip to Espiritu Santo Island is with Baja Charters, a premier tour company providing a top-notch experience. (We know! We’ve gone on a whale shark day trip with them from Cabo San Lucas.)
You’ll be picked up from your Cabo hotel at 7:00 am, then driven to La Paz to board the Baja Cat, a large and very comfortable catamaran.
After a light breakfast onboard and an hour’s sailing, you’ll stop to snorkel at San Rafaelito Island. You may be able to snorkel with the sea lions there too!
Later, you arrive at Isla Espiritu Santo, and take a power dinghy to shore. On the island, you can hike nature trails, go kayaking, snorkel and swim.
Back onboard, you’re treated to a chef-prepared hot lunch of freshly grilled chicken, steak and fish (accompanied by salads and guacamole, etc.).
The Baja Cat has kayaks, SUP boards and snorkeling gear – and private bathrooms with hot showers. The all-inclusive trip includes an open bar too.
Offered from May to November, this day trip is rated 5 stars.
Snorkel with Sea Lions in La Paz (Cabo Adventures)
A less expensive alternative is to go with Cabo Adventures on their boat trip to Espiritu Santo Island.
It also includes transportation by mini-van from your Cabo hotel to La Paz, breakfast and lunch on their catamaran (plus an open bar), snorkeling with sea lions and relaxation time.
Offered from June to November, this day trip is also 5-star rated.
Note: Swimming with the sea lions is restricted in June, July and August to protect them. (This is their breeding season.)
10) 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.
The town is known for its many art galleries and great restaurants.
On Thursday evenings (November to June) there’s a free Art Walk in San Jose del Cabo. Sip wine and view fine art as you wander the narrow side streets in the art district.
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.
A must-do excursion from Cabo San Lucas
Shop for authentic souvenirs. Go on the Art Walk. Eat a fine dinner.
Yes, visiting San Jose del Cabo is one of the best Cabo San Lucas day trips and a must-do on your vacation!
See location of San Jose del Cabo.
Now you know the best Los Cabos day trips!
It’s worth ditching your beach chair for a day or two and doing at least a couple of Los Cabos excursions.
Whether you fancy browsing the art galleries of Todos Santos or would prefer to hike along the pools in Fox Canyon, there are day trips for everyone.
You won’t want to miss out on these fun Cabo activities that take you to Baja’s other gems!
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Photo Credits: 3 to 8, 12, 13, 28, 29, 31 to 35 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 9 to 11 The Green Room | 14 Los Adobes de Todos Santos | 15 Mario Surf School | 22, 25 QuadGirl | 28 Cabo Outfitters | 30, 38 to 40 High Tide Los Cabos | 42 to 45 Baja Charters | 48 to 50 Mi Cocina