A Tale of Two Cabos: Explore the Artsy Side of San Jose Del Cabo

A far cry from wild Cabo San Lucas, slow down in the other Cabo with art galleries, artisanal shopping, and a stellar culinary scene.

When most people think of Cabo, its infamous nightlife often springs to mind—it’s long been a destination for American college students who crave bartop dancing, all-night party buses, and wet t-shirt contests. But in reality, there are two Cabos tucked on the southern end of Baja California. Collectively known as Los Cabos, each city offers a completely different experience and vibe.

While Cabo San Lucas attracts tourists with all-inclusive stays, an outrageous bar scene, and world-class waves, just 20 miles northeast (about 30 minutes by car) is the calmer San Jose del Cabo, which boasts a thriving art community, global cuisine, and colorful town center, plus comparable beaches with less-crowded shores. Not trodden by the party crowd, San Jose del Cabo is well-worth exploring, whether you’re just taking a break from the chaos of Cabo San Lucas or are planning a longer excursion. Here’s how to make the most of your visit to this beautiful city in Mexico.

hotels in cabo
Photo courtesy of Drift San Jose del Cabo

Get your bearings by staying in the artsy, historic town center

Overlapping with the emerging Gallery District, San Jose del Cabo’s historic town center is also the site of its weekly art walk, with plenty of art galleries, retail shops, and restaurants to explore.

Tucked on a quiet street just a couple blocks away, the boutique Drift Hotel features a minimalist and industrial design. With just 29 guestrooms and suites, you’ll feel like you’re at home by the end of your stay. Lounge in the courtyard hammocks, borrow a yoga mat or surfboard, or do lazy laps in the pool framed by mango trees.

When hunger or thirst strikes, the Drift Kitchen and Bar will be on hand, dishing up classic Baja fare. Plus there’s a mezcal bar on site that serves custom creations, like the Naked and Famous, made with mezcal, aperol, and yellow chartreuse.

san jose de cabo
Mitch Diamond/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Join the weekly art walk

San Jose del Cabo is relatively quiet during the week, but its cobblestone streets come alive during Thursday art walks from 5–9 pm during the busy season between November and June.

The main street of Alvaro Obregon is closed to car traffic, and artists set up booths and easels throughout the square, showing off everything from paintings to photography to handmade jewelry and more. Meanwhile, galleries, hotels, and restaurants extend their hours and offer special showings or performances.

cabo art walk
Los Cabos Tourism

If you want to get even more steps in, deepen your knowledge with a historic walking tour that points out some of the city’s oldest landmarks and tells the history of the native Pericu people, with proceeds going towards local education efforts. Beginning each evening at 6 pm, the 90-minute English- or Spanish-speaking tour is approximately one mile and is wheelchair- and stroller-friendly.

After you’re done oohing over the art, pop over to the Drift Hotel, which hosts a weekly taco and live music night from 8:30–11 pm.

restaurants cabo
Photo courtesy of Don Sanchez

Find out why lobster, quinoa, and tacos go so well together

The other Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, is known for its drinking scene—not so much for its food. Luckily, San Jose del Cabo makes up for it with numerous worthwhile options within a few easy blocks. For tacos on the go, Taqueria El Paiso is a local favorite, while El Aguamala Cevicheria is a casual spot to try fresh-caught seafood.

Pezgallo is a popular brunch option, with a sun-speckled patio, what’s likely to be the best burger you’ll eat on your trip, plenty of vegetarian and plant-based options, and fun drinks like a Coffee Mojito and a mimosa with ginger. If you need to get some work done, LAB has locations in the town center and on the beach, each with an on-site co-working hub, as well as a smattering of tables and chairs on the patio. The menu spans coffee, tea, and a full bar, plus pastries, breakfast, and lunch plates.

Head to Don Sanchez for a modern Mexican dinner that pays homage to the land and sea with a seasonal, garden-to-table menu. The rustic restaurant is string-lit and open-air with woven chandeliers and lanterns that hang from its thatched roof—perfect for date night, but also large and lively enough for families with kids. Start with the Jicama Sashimi before moving onto a ceviche of root vegetables, or opt for an oceanic journey with a quinoa-crusted lobster tail taco, though carnivorous choices like a pork belly taco and wood-fired chicken prove equally tempting. Pair your choices with a glass of wine from the comprehensive list or one of the signature cocktails.

restaurants san jose del cabo

Sleek and dimly lit, Lumbre has an international menu that ranges from fatty tuna with black truffle to a steamed bun “pambaozo” stuffed with pork belly. The restaurant also helps you keep the party going not just with a convivial open kitchen and an extensive wine list, but also thanks to Neat, a craft cocktail lounge that recently opened upstairs.

The shores of Baja collide with those of Japan in the open courtyard of Yooko Izakaya, which features sustainably-sourced seafood translated through an experimental lens. Tuck into starters like Beef Tongue Gyozas and Japanese Pizza topped with braised short rib, before moving onto a selection of crudo, maki sushi, nigiri, charcoal-grilled robata dishes, donburi and hot stone plates. Do try to save room for dessert, which includes rice churros and Kanji Tiramisu with matcha.

beach cabo
James R.D. Scott/Moment/Getty Images

Spend a day on the beach

While you won’t spot El Arco, a rock formation that draws seafarers to Cabo San Lucas to watch for whales, San Jose del Cabo is a convenient distance from several stunning beaches.

Palmilla Beach is your best bet for swimming, with white sand and sheltered waters that also make it popular for snorkeling and diving. In the winter, Costa Azul offers the chance to catch baby sea turtles hatching and crawling out of their nests, while the summer brings choppy waves that are preferable for surfing. La Playita is a great choice for families, with play structures and palapas (simple structures with roofs of leaves or branches) available to rent, plus a roped-off area for swimming inside the harbor area. For more adult-oriented fun, head to nearby No Room, a beachside vinyl and natural wine bar.

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Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist.