Staying in Cabo: San Jose del Cabo vs Cabo San Lucas of Los Cabos

Staying in Cabo: San Jose del Cabo vs Cabo San Lucas of Los Cabos

While everyone has heard of Cabo as the beachy party resort city of Mexico’s Baja California, its actual full name is Los Cabos or “the capes” in Spanish. That’s right - plural capes! 

That’s because Los Cabos refers to both the towns Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo. Both are on the coast, about 20 miles away from each other. 

So one of the big questions when visiting Los Cabos is where to stay: San Lucas or  San José? 

Playa el Medano in Cabo San Lucas
Playa el Medano in Cabo San Lucas


Cabo San Lucas Vs. San José del Cabo

Both towns are on the coast and are famous for their beautiful beaches with crystal-clear turquoise waters, but the experiences of the two are different, so you’ll want to plan your stay according to which activities you are interested in. 

Can you visit both San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas on one trip? 

While you’ll have to pick one to stay in, you can definitely make the 30-minute drive to visit both towns as Ubers are easily accessible. Our Uber from downtown San José to our resort in San Lucas cost $31.50.  

Art Gallery District in San Jose del Cabo
Art Gallery District in San José del Cabo

‍Vibes of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas

The main difference I see a lot is that Cabo San Lucas is the party town. It has a downtown area filled with restaurants and bars and is famously known as a spring break favorite for college students. It’s known for its bustling nightlife, more affordable all-inclusive resorts, and a busy marina filled with activities. You’ll also find it more touristy: people walking up and down the beach, on every corner downtown, and along the pier selling tourist activities and knickknacks.

You’ll find many college-aged visitors taking advantage of Mexico’s 18+ drinking age, young couples on a quick getaway trip, and families looking to be close to water sports.

San José del Cabo is much more laid back compared to San Lucas. They have a historic center and main square Plaza Mijares, and the art gallery district is filled with restaurants and boutique stores. The hotels and resorts are also more on the luxe side, further apart and quieter. While San Lucas is famous for its nightlife, there are still many restaurants and bars in San Jose, just think more live music in a bar vs mega DJ at a club till dawn. 

If you’re looking for a more relaxing trip and don’t care about going out at night, traveling to San José del Cabo may be your preferred option, but note that you may have to travel further for some activities like snorkeling packages or a sunset cruise to see The Arch.

Sunset cruise to the Arch in Cabo San Lucas
Sunset cruise to the Arch in Cabo San Lucas
San Jose del Cabo Sign

San José del Cabo Sign in historic town square

Beaches in San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas

While both towns have beautiful beaches, they differ a lot in terms of crowds.

Cabo San Lucas, as the party town, is more crowded and livelier. There are plenty of beachside bars and restaurants blasting music and a walk down the beach will have sellers pitching activity packages and souvenirs. Playa El Médano is known for its party atmosphere (We stayed in Pueblo Bonito Rose which walks straight onto the beach). Playa del Amor is a secluded beach that can only be accessed by boat. You can also find plenty of resorts with private beach access for a quieter atmosphere.

Because it's a more crowded area, you'll find many of the water activities start off and are closer to San Lucas Marina. It's closer to attractions like The Arch, so if you plan on doing many activities you may want to stay closer to this side. 

San bar in Cabo San Lucas
Playa El Médano has lively beachfront restaurants, bars, and even massages!

In San José del Cabo, beaches are more secluded and less crowded, with popular ones being Playa Palmilla, Playa Santa Maria, and Playa Costa Azul. 

You can swim and surf in both areas, so pack your swimsuits, hats, and reef-safe sunscreen! 

Activities in San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas

While both places you can lounge all day poolside in the resort, what other activities are there to do?

Cabo San Lucas has more lively bars and restaurants, but also a busy pier from which you can go do water activities like snorkeling, sailing, and whale watching. 

San José del Cabo has more art galleries and museums, the historic main square, and a number of more remote and gorgeous farm-to-table restaurants. 

Monte Cardon near San Jose del Cabo
Monte Cardon near San José del Cabo


Safely Reminders for Women in Los Cabos

Along the marina in Cabo San Lucas, you'll find restaurants reminding women to not hang their purses on the backs of their chairs facing the walking area. Purse stealing and pickpocketing can be a problem in any crowded touristy area but with some precautions, you'll be perfectly safe. 

All four girls on our trip carried Arden Cove anti-theft purses and backpacks. I used the Carmel Backpack, and the other girls used the Crissy Full, Crissy Mini, and Surie. You can detach the strap and wrap it around the chair to secure it, keep your purse on your lap, or make sure to lean against it in the chair so you feel it at all times! Here are more tips on deterring pickpockets.

Have fun and stay safe visiting Los Cabos!  


Karin is the co-founder of Arden Cove and co-creator of the Anti-Theft Waterproof Crossbodies - bags created for women who want all the practicality and safety features without compromising in style. Shop

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