Cabo San Lucas vs San Jose Del Cabo: Which Is Better?
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If you’re planning a trip to Baja, and trying to decide between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, there are a lot of factors to consider. This in-depth guide compares Cabo San Lucas vs San Jose del Cabo, to help you decide which area is better for your trip.
One of the most important Cabo travel tips to know when planning your vacation is that the two towns are quite different from one another! Read on for everything you need to know to decide whether to visit Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo.
- Cabo San Lucas vs. San Jose del Cabo: What’s the Difference?
- Comparing Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo
- Pros and Cons of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo
- Which is Better: San Jose del Cabo or Cabo San Lucas?
- What is the Tourist Corridor in Cabo?
- Where is Los Cabos?
- How Far Apart are Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo?
- How to Get from Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo
- Frequently Asked Questions About Los Cabos
Cabo San Lucas vs. San Jose del Cabo: What’s the Difference?
Collectively referred to as “Los Cabos”, the Los Cabos area encompasses three distinct regions: Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, and the “Tourist Corridor”, which is the coastal strip that connects the two cities.
Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are separate, individual towns. Each town has a distinct atmosphere, and there are pros and cons of staying in both areas.
This guide compares the differences between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, and reviews the pros and cons of staying in each town. By the time you’re finished with this post, you’ll know which of the cities in Los Cabos is best for your vacation!
Comparing Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo
Let’s start by comparing the overall atmosphere of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Both are perfect vacation destinations, but since they’re so unique, one is likely to suit you better as a traveler, depending on what you want.
Cabo San Lucas is the livelier, more popular town, and also serves as the hub of traditional tourist activities in Los Cabos such as sunset cruises, water sports, and land excursions. It’s where nightlife-seekers flock, and there are countless things to do, along with loads of shops, bars, and restaurants.
San Jose del Cabo, on the other hand, is the smaller, more bohemian, sleepier town of the two, with more authentic Mexican charm. While there are plenty of things to do in San Jose del Cabo, the nightlife is much more laid-back, and the overall pace is a lot slower.
In other words: you’ll find neon signs in Cabo San Lucas and cobblestone streets in San Jose del Cabo.
Location and Transportation
Cabo San Lucas is a 45 minute drive from Los Cabos International Airport. Downtown Cabo San Lucas is a relatively compact area, and it’s easy to navigate the main tourist areas on foot.
Many of Cabo San Lucas’ accommodations are located within walking distance of the beaches, downtown area, and marina, so it’s easy to get around the area as you go about your trip.
Cabo San Lucas is also located at Land’s End, the very southern tip of Baja California, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Gulf of California.
Land’s End is where you’ll see the beautiful rock formations that extend into the ocean and that many travelers associate with Cabo. The most famous of all is El Arco (the arch).
San Jose del Cabo is a 20 minute drive from the airport, on the eastern side of the Baja peninsula and the Sea of Cortez.
Once you’re in San Jose del Cabo, though, the town is more spread out. It’s possible to explore San Jose’s downtown gallery district on foot, but in order to get to and from your accommodations, downtown, and the beach in San Jose, you will most likely need to take a taxi or an Uber.
There are a wide range of accommodations available in both Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, but each area has its strength.
Most of the best all-inclusive resorts in Los Cabos are located in and around Cabo San Lucas, so that area is a great option if you’re looking for a package holiday, or just don’t want to pull out your wallet every time you want a margarita. To make your trip even easier, this Mexico packing list for all inclusive resorts has everything you should bring to Mexico!
Cabo San Lucas is more developed, so it has MORE accommodations overall, and there are lots of options to choose from. There are a wide variety of budget hotels, AirBnbs, all-inclusive resorts, as well as several high-end resorts in Cabo San Lucas.
San Jose del Cabo has several luxury resorts, including the Viceroy and the Ritz-Carlton, both of which are gorgeous. Many of the newer properties in Los Cabos are being built in the San Jose del Cabo area given its rise in popularity and the fact that it is less developed than Cabo San Lucas.
While there are a variety of accommodations available in San Jose, there are fewer in San Jose del Cabo than in Cabo San Lucas.
Cabo San Lucas is the hub of all activities in Los Cabos. Whether you want to take a glass-bottomed boat ride, do a sunset cruise, go deep sea fishing, or take a day trip, most activities depart from Cabo San Lucas.
So if you’re planning to have a vacation that’s filled with activities, it will be more convenient to stay in Cabo San Lucas.
There are plenty of things to do in San Jose del Cabo, but the closest activities are just a bit different than those in Cabo San Lucas.
Most visitors to San Jose enjoy the area’s natural beauty, culture, food scene, and exploring the downtown gallery district for local artwork and handicrafts.
Even if you stay in San Jose del Cabo, you can still access everything that Cabo San Lucas has to offer, you will just need to drive 30-40 minutes to do so.
If you plan to do any day trips, Cabo San Lucas is located closer to Todos Santos, while San Jose del Cabo is located closer to Cabo Pulmo, a protected National Marine Park on the East Cape that is excellent for scuba diving or snorkeling among the coral reefs and tropical fish in the area. Both cities are relatively equidistant from La Paz.
In Cabo San Lucas, you will find a huge variety of restaurants, from casual fare to fine dining, and everything in between.
In addition to traditional Mexican food, there is also a broad range of cuisines in Cabo San Lucas including sushi, Italian, and plenty of seafood options.
While there are plenty of restaurants in San Jose del Cabo, overall it has fewer options than Cabo San Lucas. However, I personally prefer the food scene in San Jose del Cabo because I find it to be higher quality, and I like that it is focused on authentic Mexican cuisine and farm-to-table dining.
San José del Cabo is also home to two of the best restaurants in Los Cabos, Flora Farms and Acre. They’re a must, no matter where you stay!
To put it simply, Cabo San Lucas has more restaurants, but personally, I think the restaurants in San Jose del Cabo are better. Either way, you definitely won’t go hungry in Cabo.
In terms of nightlife, Cabo San Lucas is home to plenty of dance floors and DJs. If you want to party while you’re in Cabo, head to Cabo San Lucas.
At night, you will find lots of spring breakers, college students, and other party-goers enjoying famous spots like El Squid Roe and Cabo Wabo Cantina.
Nightlife in San Jose del Cabo, on the other hand, is much sleepier. Evenings in San Jose look more like lingering over a long dinner, or enjoying handmade craft cocktails at a bar downtown.
One of the most popular things to do in San Jose del Cabo is the city’s weekly art walk, held on Thursday nights. During the art walks, you can pop into the galleries to check out work from local artists, among live music and street vendors in the main square.
If that sounds fun to you, you’ll love San Jose del Cabo! But if you came to Los Cabos looking to party, you might be bored by San Jose’s social scene at night. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in San Jose del Cabo, but they just aren’t focused on dancing and DJs.
There are so many beautiful beaches in Los Cabos. If you want to spend your vacation on the beach, which area is best to choose?
Cabo San Lucas is home to two of the most famous beaches in Cabo: Lover’s Beach on Lands End, and Medano Beach (Playa Medano).
Visiting Lover’s Beach is a must-do when visiting Cabo, and is often a trip highlight because of its postcard-perfect views. You cannot access Lover’s Beach by land. To get to Lover’s Beach, you will need to take a water taxi or boat cruise from Medano Beach but it’s well-worth the trip.
Medano Beach is the main beach in Cabo San Lucas and is located within walking distance to downtown. It is one of the few swimmable beaches in Cabo, although conditions can vary and you should take care if you plan to swim on the beach.
The atmosphere on Medano Beach is crowded and lively. There are many restaurants with tables in the sand, along with vendors hawking everything from handmade bracelets to cold juices.
Most of Cabo’s boat tours, watersports and cruises leave from Medano Beach, so there is no shortage of things to do on the beach if you’re feeling active. Medano Beach is also Cabo’s most beautiful and iconic beaches, due to the direct view of the rock formations and the Arch at Land’s End.
The two main beaches in San Jose del Cabo are Costa Azul beach and Playa La Hotelera. Both are quieter beaches, and far less lively than Medano Beach.
While both beaches are beautiful, neither are generally swimmable due to the strong surf and undertow in the area. Conditions at Costa Azul can vary, but in general, don’t expect to do much swimming at either beach.
San Jose del Cabo’s beaches are located about a 20 minute walk from the downtown area, so they are less proximal to the main part of town than those in Cabo San Lucas.
Pros and Cons of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo
Pros of Cabo San Lucas
What are the reasons to choose Cabo San Lucas for your vacation? Choose Cabo if you want:
- Proximity to activities and excursions
- More options for local restaurants
- A wide range of accommodations and all-inclusive resorts
- Lively nightlife
- Ease of getting around
- Cabo’s famous Land’s End rock formations
Cons of Cabo San Lucas
So what are the downsides of staying in Cabo San Lucas? Cabo San Lucas has more:
- Crowds (including cruise ships)
- Rowdy spring breakers (a con if that’s not your thing!)
- Touristy atmosphere and less authentic Mexican culture
Pros of San Jose del Cabo
Why should you choose San Jose del Cabo? Choose San José del Cabo if you want:
- A vacation focused on relaxation
- A quieter atmosphere with fewer crowds
- A more authentic travel experience
I like to think of San Jose as more of a sophisticated, unvarnished, and refined version of Cabo San Lucas. Both towns have their appeal and charm, but San Jose is far less crowded and appeals most to those who enjoy culture, food, and relaxation.
If San José del Cabo sounds like it’s up your alley, you will also love visiting San Miguel de Allende!
Cons of San Jose del Cabo
What are the downsides of staying in San Jose del Cabo? San Jose del Cabo is:
- 40 minutes from the action of Cabo San Lucas
- More spread out; you’ll need a taxi/Uber to get around
- Not a lively nightlife scene
- Not close to the famous Land’s End rock formations unique to Cabo
If these are dealbreakers, you may be happier choosing Cabo San Lucas for your vacation.
What’s My Favorite?
I’ve been to Cabo many times and have visited both Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo.
Overall, San Jose del Cabo is my personal favorite of the two. I love San Jose de Cabo because it feels like a more authentic Mexican town, and the restaurants and art galleries in San Jose are so wonderful to visit. In general, the overall experience in San Jose is much less “touristy”.
That said, I love the natural beauty of Land’s End, and it’s part of what makes Cabo such a special place! For the perfect balance, I love to stay in San Jose, and then spend one day in Cabo San Lucas, soaking up the scenery.
Which is Better: San Jose del Cabo or Cabo San Lucas?
Based on the comparisons above, here is a summary of which area in Los Cabos is best for your vacation: Cabo San Lucas vs San Jose del Cabo. The bottom line: since they’re both wonderful vacation destinations, it really depends on what you’re looking for.
- Best for Water Sports: Cabo San Lucas. You will be close to the action!
- Best for Families: Either one! It really depends on what you’re looking for, but I would recommend either San Jose del Cabo or the Tourist Corridor for younger kids because those areas are quieter and further from the college student crowds of Cabo San Lucas.
- Best for Foodies: San Jose del Cabo. You will love Acre and Flora Farms!
- Best for All-Inclusive Resorts: Cabo San Lucas
- Best for Romantic Trips or Luxury Resorts: Tourist Corridor. Three of Cabo’s most luxurious resorts (Las Ventanas, the One & Only Palmilla, and the Montage) are located on the Tourist Corridor. Even though there are fewer things to do in the Tourist Corridor, if you’re staying at one of these resorts, you probably won’t want to leave!
- Best for Nightlife: Cabo San Lucas
- Best for Views: Cabo San Lucas
- Best for Golf: San Jose del Cabo. Most of the area’s best golf courses are located much closer to San Jose.
What is the Tourist Corridor in Cabo?
What do I mean by the “Tourist Corridor”?
The “Tourist Corridor” in Cabo refers to the 20-mile strip of coastline that runs along the Pacific Ocean between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. The name comes from the numerous hotels, resorts, and condos that are located in this area.
Unlike Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, the Tourist Corridor doesn’t really have its own personality, because there are few things to do in the area outside of the resort activities and restaurants.
For that reason, I haven’t included the Tourist Corridor in this comparison. If you are staying in the Tourist Corridor, though, this guide will help you decide which town to visit.
Depending on where you stay in the Tourist Corridor, you will be a 10-30 minute drive from either Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo.
Where is Los Cabos?
Los Cabos (the capes) refers to the two cities, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. You’ll often hear this desert paradise referred to as just “Cabo”.
The cities of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are located on the very southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, in the state of Baja California Sur in Mexico. It is at this point where the Pacific Ocean on the west coast of the peninsula meets the Gulf of California on the eastern side.
This area of Baja, and the rock formations that extend into the water, is also called Land’s End, so named by early explorers and pirates because it was believed to be the last point of land before hitting Antarctica!
How Far Apart are Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo?
Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are located about 20 miles apart. It takes about 40 minutes to drive from one town to the other.
Both cities are coastal; Cabo San Lucas is located on the Pacific Ocean on the very southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, and San Jose located on the East Cape, on the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez.
How to Get from Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo
If you’re staying in either Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo, it is easy to get from one city to the other, although it can get expensive if you go back and forth frequently during your vacation.
There are four options to get between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo:
- Drive yourself: If you decide to rent a car in Cabo, you can drive yourself. Parking can be limited in Downtown Cabo San Lucas and you will likely have to pay to park your car.
- Taxi: Taxis between Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo generally run about $40-$50 each way. Agree on the price with the driver before you start your journey.
- Uber: Ubers generally run about $15 each way. Wait times to get picked up can vary depending on where you are, but taking Uber is generally a reliable means of getting between the two cities in Cabo.
- Bus: A public bus system runs between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo and costs about $2 each way.
Frequently Asked Questions About Los Cabos
Taxis between Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo are generally $40 – $50. Drivers accept US dollars.
No. San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are two distinct towns at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. They are located about 20 miles apart, but are collectively referred to as “Los Cabos”, or The Capes. While the areas are close geographically, they each have a distinct atmosphere and unique appeal to visitors.