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Cost-Free Cabo: A Guide to Free Attractions in Los Cabos



One of the most attractive things about Cabo San Lucas is that it offers memorable activities at every price point. Yes, you can drop quite a lot of money chasing blue marlin or pars at one of the area's many championship-level golf courses, enjoying your personal butler at One&Only Palmilla, or dropping the price of an economy car on magnums of Champagne at one of the high-end downtown nightclubs. Then again, there are plenty of activities that don't cost a thing. With that in mind, here are a few ways to spend a budget-free day in Los Cabos.

The Natural History Museum in Cabo San Lucas offers an excellent introduction to regional history – the wraparound murals in the lobby are, in fact, a visual representation of that history – as well as its traditional culture and incredible natural biodiversity. The museum is also conveniently located near the Land’s End city’s oldest house of worship, the 1950s era Parroquia San Lucas Evangelista. The most popular gathering places for cost-conscious travelers, however, are beautiful area beaches like Playas El Médano, Chileno and Santa María.

Sister city San José del Cabo is home to an even greater number of notable (and admission free) sites, including a beautiful old church that's located near the main square, Plaza Mijares. While you're in the neighborhood, explore the many galleries in the historic Distrito del Arte (Art District), visit City Hall and the Casa de Cultura, learn about local heroes at the Jardin de Cabeños Ilustres, or see how many avian species you can identify at the estuary and bird sanctuary.


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Whale Watching season in Los Cabos traditionally stretches from mid-December through mid-April, and sees an estimated 10,000 whales migrate south to breeding grounds at Magdalena Bay and in the Sea of Cortés. Grays and humpbacks are the most commonly sighted, but lucky visitors can occasionally see blue, sperm, fin and pilot whales, as well as the occasional orca. The annual migration is big business locally, and virtually every local tour boat offers seasonal whale watching excursions. High-speed inflatables provide the best chance for up-close-and-personal looks at these leviathans, but you don't necessarily have to sign up for a tour to enjoy sightings. Whales are often spied from area beaches, as well as coastal hotels, restaurants and golf courses.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Whale Watching is one of the most popular seasonal activities in Los Cabos.

Chris's expert tip: Humpbacks often breach spectacularly, and typically provide the best photo opportunities

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Playa Santa María is not quite as popular as Tourist Corridor neighbor Playa Chileno, but this exquisitely lovely horseshoe-shaped beach is definitely worth a visit. The protected bay includes a marine sanctuary, and there is an colorful array of marine life visible here. That's one of the reasons the bay is included on so many Cabo San Lucas dive and snorkel tours. If you're not snorkeling with a tour, you'll probably need to bring your own equipment, as there are few rentals or services at Santa María. That may change with the building of a new 39-acre resort and residential development called Montage Los Cabos, which is scheduled to open in 2017.

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Parroquia San Lucas Evangelista
Photo courtesy of Chris Sands


Parroquia San Lucas Evangelista is among the oldest buildings in town, and one of the few places in Cabo San Lucas of historical importance (the old lighthouse and the abandoned cannery are also notable). It's located just off the town square, and is open to visitors daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with three masses on Sunday (8:30 a.m., noon, and 8 p.m.), and one Saturday evening (7 p.m.). Attending mass here is a great introduction to the local people and culture, but be forewarned that masses are in Spanish with the exception of the noon mass on Sunday, which is bilingual. There is no air conditioning so dress accordingly, albeit respectfully, during the summer months.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This is the most historic church in Cabo San Lucas.

Chris's expert tip: The noon mass on Sundays is bilingual.

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Once a fresh water stop for Spanish ships plying the Manila - Acapulco Galleon Trade, San José del Cabo's estuary is still an important local water source (it's fed by the San José River), but is now best known as a bird and wildlife sanctuary home to hundreds of avian species (birdwatching towers are now under construction). Sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit the estuary, whose colorful residents include coots, cactus wrens, ducks, frigate birds, herons, pelicans, and red-tailed and sparrow hawks. Although negatively impacted by Hurricane Odile and nearby real estate developments, this remains one of the most beautiful walks in Los Cabos. The estuary is easily accessible from the Zona Hotelera, or from the downtown area.

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The new Tropic of Cancer monument is located just outside of Santiago, and celebrates the northernmost of earth's three important lines of latitude. This monument replaced smaller, less impressive markers that had previously denoted the 23.5N parallel, and it currently serves as the centerpiece for a tourist attraction, Plaza Turística y Artesanal Trópico de Cáncer. The plaza was built to help support neighboring communities and showcase regional artists, which it does most notably during monthly full moon parties featuring live music, poetry readings, and local arts and crafts. The monument itself is quite photogenic, and the surrounding desert and mountain landscapes are also quite picturesque.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Tropic of Cancer monument is a popular stop for photo opportunities.

Chris's expert tip: The monument is located at Km 81.5 on the highway between Los Cabos and La Paz.

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Playa Chileno is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area, and has been consistently "blue flagged" for excellence by the IMNC (a Mexican regulatory agency) for its water quality, safety and services. As one might imagine, Chileno Beach is quite popular, particularly on weekends during the high season. Shade is provided by palapas or rental umbrellas, and some water-based activities rentals are also available. The snorkeling is very good, and many charter companies from Cabo San Lucas offer tours to Chileno Bay, including Caborey, EcoCat, Slippery Lizzard and Sun Rider. There is plenty of parking and most basic services, including handicap access. A new boutique hotel and residential development called VieVage Los Cabos is scheduled to open at Chileno Bay by the end of 2016.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Playa Chileno is one of the most beautiful beaches in Los Cabos.

Chris's expert tip: Motorized water-based rentals like wave runners are not permitted in Bahia Chileno, which only enhances the charming atmosphere at this beautiful beach.

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The Thursday evening art walk is one of highlights of any visit to San José del Cabo, and runs from 5-9 p.m. during high tourist season (November through June). The participating galleries are all clustered together in the city's historic Distrito del Arte (Art District), which is one of the reasons you should forget the guided tours and enjoy this weekly event at your own pace. Sip wine, sample cheese, wander the area's beautiful cobblestone streets, and interact with some of the top artists and gallery owners in Baja California Sur. Afterwards, explore the art district's many fine bars and restaurants, which include neighbors Baja Brewing Company and La Lupita Taco & Mezcal.

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This beautiful old church is set amid San José del Cabo's historic downtown area, a stone's throw from City Hall, the Casa de la Cultura, and the Distrito del Arte (Art District). Originally founded as a mission in 1730 by Jesuit priest Nicolás Tamaral, the church has undergone several moves and renovations. Tamaral remains an integral part of local lore, however, and one of the church's most arresting features is a mosaic above the entrance depicting his killing by the area's native inhabitants, the Pericúes. The church moved to its current location near the middle of the 19th century, but had to be rebuilt in the 20th century after being badly damaged by a hurricane. Despite the history - this is one of the most important cultural monuments in Los Cabos - it's a living church, and the best place in the area to attend weekly and holiday services.

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Playa El Médano is ground zero for the Spring Break madness in March, and remains busy throughout the year. In many ways, it's the center of social life in Cabo San Lucas. The beach is huge, about two miles long, and filled with restaurants, bars, souvenirs vendors, and water-based activities rentals. You can rent wave runners, kayaks, go parasailing, have a water taxi take you out to Land's End or Lover's Beach, or drop you off back at the marina. The water is extremely calm here, and although you won't find any lifeguards in Cabo San Lucas, areas are roped off for swimming.

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Museo de Historia Natural de Cabo San Lucas
Photo courtesy of Chris Sands


The local natural history museum is located on the town square, Plaza Amelia Wilkes, and is easily identifiable by the whale skeleton out front, although a distressing number of bones were blown away during Hurricane Odile. The museum is free (donations are very much appreciated, of course), and features exhibits detailing the geology, paleontology, archaeology, biodiversity, and culture of the inhabitants of Baja California Sur. Highlights include details on the life of the Pericúes, the original inhabitants of Los Cabos; information on local flora, fauna and marine life such as whales and porpoises; a history of Spanish colonization and episodes of piracy along the coast; an exhibit of early tools; and old technology donated by local inhabitants. The most important and unusual exhibit is a two million year old fossil of a zebra jawbone, discovered in the nearby Sierra de la Laguna mountain range.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This is the best museum in Los Cabos, and a great introduction to the history of Baja California Sur.

Chris's expert tip: The information placards are in English and Spanish.

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Meet Chris Sands

Chris Sands is co-founder of CaboVivo, co-writer of Fodor's Los Cabos travel guidebook, and a contributor to 10Best at USA Today, as well as other websites and publications. His specialty is...  More About Chris

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