BACK IN THE 1940S, THE TIP OF MEXICO'S BAJA PENINSULA was a sleepy Mecca for sportsfishermen who didn't mind rustic accommodations and simple fare—a no-frills destination that also attracted Hollywood stars like John Wayne and Bing Crosby. In the '80s, tourism players realized what a treasure they had, and the destination saw rapid development including five-star resorts and world-class spas and golf courses. Now, even more celebrities—such as Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Eva Longoria, George Clooney, Bono, Oprah Winfrey and Sheryl Crow—vacation here.
Los Cabos is actually comprised of three destinations at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. The tourist town of Cabo San Lucas to the west of the tip, the colonial town of San Jose to the east, and a 20-mile Tourism Corridor linking the two towns, where most of the region's finest oceanfront resorts are located.
If you're wondering what the difference is between the two towns, it's simple. Cabo San Lucas is the high-powered tourism player of the two, with a cruise port and tons of restaurants—many of them offering al fresco dining along the Marina Boardwalk. Strolling along the boardwalk, you are treated to views of rugged desert mountains as well as stunning sea vistas that include the destination's signature landmark, the El Arco rock formation.
Cabo San Lucas is easily explored on foot: Most of the major attractions are within a block of the Marina Boardwalk. There's also excellent and varied shopping, for everything from Mexican silver to Cuban cigars.
In San Jose del Cabo, 20 miles from Cabo San Lucas, you'll find authentic Mexico in a town dating back to 1730. It's a great place for picking up souvenirs, with real finds in some of the art galleries and boutiques that ring Plaza Mijares, the town's main square.
Growing Beyond the Peninsula
Being at the tip of a peninsula, Los Cabos can only grow so much. Growth is also being carefully controlled—after all, the beauty of the environment and open spaces are lures for visitors. Development is now moving up the peninsula as well as to the East Cape, which begins east of San Jose del Cabo and extends north along the Sea of Cortes to Los Barriles and Rancho Buena Vista.
In addition to soaking in the natural beauty of the region, visitors driving along Highway 1 through the East Cape have the option of stopping at the village of Santiago for some authentic local color. Santiago is also home to a historic 1723 Spanish Mission.
Increasingly popular are day or overnight trips to the towns of Todos Santos and La Paz. On the Pacific side, Todos Santos has been declared by the Mexican government as a "Pueblo Magico" or Magic Town (small towns overlooked but having history and charm), the first in Baja Sur. With the increase in visitors, Todos Santos, which is only an hour's drive from Cabo San Lucas, now has a number of fine restaurants, art galleries and boutique hotels. One of the town's claims to fame is being the home of the actual Hotel California, which was immortalized by the Eagles in the song of the same name.
La Paz is a tranquil port city that is currently a two-hour drive northeast of Los Cabos (the drive will be cut to 90 minutes when highway construction is completed). Here, explorers will find a seaside malécon, the town's coastal promenade, and the Plaza Constitution.