Los Cabos is a hotspot for active adventures, and through competitive and professional local tour operators and outfitters, it's easy to arrange hiking, Hummer off-roading, visits to hatching sea turtles (in summer), ATV and dune buggy excursions, surfing excursions with or without rentals and lessons, parasailing, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, WaveRunners, and anything else you can think of. These companies are based in Cabo, but all will arrange hotel pickup in San José. Our picks for Los Cabos are Baja Outback (tel. 624/142-9215; www.bajaoutback.com), Baja Wild (tel. 624/172-6300; www.bajawild.com), Cabo San Lucas Tours (tel. 800/822-4577; www.cabosanlucastours.net), and Tío Sports; check their websites and the sections below for specific offerings and prices.
The best beaches in the area that are safe for swimming aren't in San José; they're in the beautiful coves along the Corridor, the 35km (22-mile) coast between the two Cabos. Beach aficionados should consider renting a car for a day or so (from $50 per day). Frequent bus service between San José and Cabo San Lucas also makes it possible to visit Playa Médano or Playa del Amor in Cabo.
Estero San José, a natural freshwater estuary on which the ancient Pericúe Indians built their civilization centuries ago, hosts at least 270 species of birds. The estuary is a protected ecological reserve, and merits a sunset beach walk from the Hotel Presidente InterContinental to the river mouth where the spring-fed estuary meets the Sea of Cortez. Natural beaches along the edge of the estuary are usually safe for swimming. A local environmental group, Angels of the Estuary, is active in keeping the estuary clean and protecting it from industrial pollution and invasive species; find out about upcoming activities on their website, www.delestero.org (in Spanish).
Just to the east of the estuary, across the mouth of the marina harbor, La Playita is San José's only true swimming beach. Located about 3km (2 miles) southeast of the centro in the community of Puerto Los Cabos, it's a safe and well-kept stretch of sand with a designated swimming area, as well as a natural beach for surfing or fishing.
Playa Costa Azul, just south of town on Highway 1, is Los Cabos's best surfing beach, but you don't have to be a surfer to enjoy the scene. Stretch out on the sand and watch the show, or settle in with a beer at Zipper's (Km 28.5 on Transpeninsular Hwy.; tel. 624/172-6162; daily 11am-10pm), a classic beachside burger joint.
The Corridor Beaches -- All 35km (22 miles) of the Corridor are fringed by beautiful public beaches. But strong currents and wandering riptides mean only four of them are consistently safe for swimming. Of these, the loveliest by half is Playa Palmilla, which fronts the glitzy One&Only Palmilla resort 8km (5 miles) west of San José. To reach Palmilla Beach, enter the lush Palmilla community at Km 27.5 on the highway, take the road toward the beach, then take the fork to the left (without entering the hotel grounds), and park in the lot. Moving westward along the coast, Playa Chileno is a long golden cove bordered by rocky promontories that frame clear water and gentle, rolling waves. There's snorkeling by the rocks, and rare bathrooms and showers in the cement building on your left. To get there, follow signs at Km 15; you'll make a series of strange 180-degree curves, and reach the parking lot soon after. Snorkeling is terrific at Playa Santa Maria, in a small rocky cove that gets crowded on weekends. Coming from Cabo (because there are no signs coming from San José), watch for two small signs after the bridge; there will be a bus stop on the right and a dirt road immediately after. Follow the dirt road to the parking lot. Playa Barco Varado is the closest of the Corridor beaches to Cabo; it's known for tidepools along the shoreline. At Km 10, follow signs for the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar, but don't turn in to the resort; take the first left after it and follow the road to the parking lot. None of the above have shade; bring an umbrella or slather on the sunscreen.
Although a few travel agencies run snorkeling tours to some of these beaches, there's no public transportation. Your options for beach exploring are to rent a car or have a cab drop you off at the beach of your choice.
Swimming Safety -- One of the great ironies of Los Cabos is that many of its endless and spectacular beaches are unsafe for swimming. Strong currents, frequent riptides, and the absence of lifeguards mean that much of that delectable coast is "look, don't touch." Check conditions before entering the surf, and stick to the beaches we list here: La Playita outside of San José, Palmilla, Chileno, Santa Maria, and Barco Varado in the Corridor, and Médano and Playa del Amor in Cabo San Lucas.
Adventure Tours -- Baja Wild offers daylong tours by Jeep or Hummer into the desert and to beaches accessible only by 4x4, as well as desert hikes to a waterfall. Baja Outback is more nature-oriented, with offerings including visits to mountain villages and sea turtle releases, all accompanied by local naturalists. Cabo San Lucas Tours will take you ATV riding or bungee jumping, as well as on a variety of dune buggy tours.
Golf -- Los Cabos has become Latin America's leading golf destination, with a collection of top signature courses and others under construction. The master plan for Los Cabos golf calls for a future total of 207 holes. Fees listed below are for 18 holes, including golf cart, water, club service, and tax. Summer rates are about 25% lower, and many hotels offer golf packages.
The lowest greens fees in the area are at the 9-hole Mayan Palace Golf Los Cabos, in San José at Paseo Finisterra 1 (tel. 624/142-0900 or 142-0901), which is the first right turn east of the yellow Fonatur statue in the highway roundabout. The 7th hole offers a wonderful view of the ocean on your left and mountains facing you as you approach the green. The 9th is a good finishing hole, with a wide, sloping fairway with sand traps to the top, right, and bottom of the green. Fees are 787 pesos for 9 or 18 holes in low season, 1,225 pesos for 18 in high season, not including equipment; your cart is free after 1pm.
The 27-hole course at the Palmilla Golf Club (tel. 624/144-5250; www.palmillagc.com; daily 7am-7pm) was the first Jack Nicklaus Signature layout in Mexico, on 360 hectares (900 acres) of dramatic oceanfront desert. The course offers your choice of two back-9 options, with high-season greens fees of $220 (lower after 1pm), and low-season greens fees running between $130 and $180. Guests at some hotels pay discounted rates.
Just a few kilometers away is another Jack Nicklaus Signature course, the 18-hole Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol, the posh resort development in the Corridor (tel. 866/231-4677 in the U.S., or 624/145-8200; www.cabodelsol.com). Golf Magazine has ranked this course among the world's best. The 7,100-yard Ocean Course is known for its challenging 3 finishing holes; greens fees start at $205 afternoons and range to $355 in the morning. Tom Weiskopf designed the new 18-hole Desert Course, for which greens fees are $99 in the afternoon, $225 in the morning.
The 18-hole, 6,945-yard course at Cabo Real, by the Meliá Cabo Real Hotel in the Corridor (tel. 877/795-8727 in the U.S., or 624/173-9400; www.caboreal.com; daily 6:30am-6pm), was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and features holes that sit high on mesas overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Fees run $280 for 18 holes high season, $180 in low season. After 3pm, rates drop to $140 in the low season and $180 in the high season. Kids 16 and under play for $92 year-round.
The consensus among avid golfers is that two of the area's best courses are the Fazio-designed Querencia and the recently reopened El Dorado, a Jack Nicklaus design. However, both courses are private and open only to Querencia and El Dorado members and homeowners. As Los Cabos becomes increasingly exclusive, and as more luxury travelers look to own a piece of it, expect to see more private members-only golf clubs within opulent master-planned residential communities. In fact, the trend already is well underway within the new communities of Chileno Bay, Puerto Los Cabos, Cabo Pacífica, and El Dorado.
Horseback Riding -- Hire horses near the Presidente InterContinental, Fiesta Inn, and in the Costa Azul canyon for $15 to $20 per hour. Most people choose to ride on the beach, but a trip up the arroyo is less of a cliché and offers spreading desert views. For a more organized riding experience -- English or Western -- there's Cuadra San Francisco Equestrian Center, Km 19.5 along the Corridor, in front of the Cabo Real resort development (tel. 624/144-0160; www.loscaboshorses.com). Master horseman Francisco Barrena has more than 35 years of experience in training horses and operating equestrian schools, and will assist riders of any level in selecting and fitting a horse to their skill level. A 2-hour canyon ride in and around Arroyo San Carlos or Venado Blanco costs $100; a 1-hour ride to the beach or desert is $60. Private tours go for $60 per hour, and equestrian aficionados may schedule a dressage class for $75.
Fishing -- The least expensive way to enjoy deep-sea fishing is to pair up with another angler and charter a panga, a 7m (23-ft.) skiff used by local fishermen, from Pueblo la Playa, the beach near the new Puerto Los Cabos Marina. Several panga fleets offer 6-hour sportfishing trips, usually from 6am to noon, for $200 to $500. Two or three people can split the cost. For information, visit the fishermen's cooperative in Pueblo la Playa (no phone) or contact Gordo Banks Pangas (tel. 800/408-1199 from the U.S., or 624/142-1147; www.gordobanks.com). For larger charter boats, you'll depart from the marina in Cabo San Lucas.
Surfing -- Though surfers have been flocking to Baja for at least 25 years, nowadays it seems there are more and more of them as surfing becomes one of Los Cabos's main attractions. In spring and summer, the breaks are to the east, from San José up the East Cape, and in fall and winter on the Pacific side, up the West Cape. As every break has its secret -- from rocks covered in sea urchins to territorial locals -- your best bet is to hook up with a reputable surf shop or guide to take you to the break that's right for you. Baja Outback and Baja Wild organize full-day trips out to the Capes, and half-day excursions to Costa Azul (Mar-Nov), including board rentals and lessons, for kids as well.
While famous breaks on the East and West Cape are just an hour's drive away, Playa Costa Azul, at Km 29 on Hwy. 1 just south of San José, is the most popular surf beach in Baja Sur. The Costa Azul Surf Shop, Km 28, Playa Costa Azul (tel. 624/142-2771; www.costa-azul.com.mx), offers surfing lessons, surfboard and snorkeling equipment rentals, and specialized surf excursions to any of the 15 local breaks. Excursions include transportation and a DVD video of the day, and all rental boards are handcrafted in the owner's San José workshop. Just $20 per day will get you a board, leash, shade umbrella, beach chair, and rack for your rental car. One-hour lessons are $55, and other special packages are available. Cabo Surf Hotel (tel. 624/172-6188; www.cabosurfhotel.com), on Playa Acapulquito next to Costa Azul, also offers custom board orders, surf lessons, and daily board rentals for $35 (and overnight accommodations) from its Cabo Surf Shop (tel. 624/172-6188; www.cabosurfshop.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.