The Party That Never Ends: Downtown Cabo's Uninhibited Nightlife Scene

Rowdy, rollicking, boisterous, spirited, uninhibited...the nightlife scene in Cabo San Lucas has been called many things, but boring isn't one of them. Although beach bars and waterfront cantinas have certainly contributed to the city's well-earned reputation as a party hearty paradise, the heart and soul of Cabo's vibrant nightlife scene is the downtown tourist district, particularly the two block stretch surrounding Plaza Bonita.This hip, dance club filled quarter showcases Cabo San Lucas at its late night best, and is home to signature nightspots like Mandala, Rockstone Tavern, La Vaquita and El Squid Roe.

Rather rock n’ roll all night? Former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina serve up hard rocking live entertainment on a regular basis, as do downtown neighbors like Cabo Blue and Tanga Tanga. But like the KISS song says – KISS members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, by the way, have their own place in San José del Cabo – to do it right, you have to “rock n’ roll all night” AND “party every day.” So during daylight hours, these popular haunts also feature plenty of pub-style grub, happy hour drink specials and televised sporting events.


Tanga Tanga is a favorite of locals, and a great place to hang out if you want to end up in a conversation with a grizzled expat or a member of the local drinking society. It's located at the Plaza de la Danza near Nick-San and the Tesoro Los Cabos resort, and features plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Great live music is a semi-regular occurrence, and this is one of the more popular places in Cabo San Lucas to watch live sporting events. The bar draws big crowds for hockey, football, basketball, and soccer matches from around the world. The outdoor section features umbrella-shaded tables, and offers prime people watching along Marina Boulevard.

Named for the village in Gabriel Garcia Márquez's 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, Macondo is the Cabo San Lucas version of "magical realism." Nothing about it is like other downtown bars, from the Spanish galleon bursting through the front of the building to the backgammon and chess boards scattered around the seating area. It's not even clear what's the best description for the place: café, bookstore, bar or theater? The short answer is that it's all of the above. You can grab an espresso here, buy a local history book or collection of poems, chill out over mojitos, or even watch a staged play or a performance by talented local musicians. Macondo is managed by acclaimed two local writers and cultural figures - poet Vico Caballero and writer and actor Jorge Chávez (AKA El Marlin Rojo) - and their artistic sensibilities have made Macondo the only real literary and bohemian hangout in Cabo San Lucas.

A chic and sexy downtown nightclub with boutique boudoir décor and lots of high-end bottle service, Pink Kitty has, for at least seven years now, been among the premier places to see and be seen in downtown Cabo San Lucas, and a landmark of the local late night scene. Once a popular stop for visiting celebrities, it remains one of the few places visitors can really show off their upscale tropical wardrobe. It's also a great place to dance the night away, thanks to a rotating cast of great international DJs. In addition to the terrific dance music, there are also many theme parties and special events.


This place has a loyal clientele, and it's easy to see why. Their ongoing offer of two beers and two tequila shots for five dollars remains the best deal in town. Unlike many bars in Cabo San Lucas that don't really hit their stride until after midnight, Happy Ending is a perfect spot to while away the afternoons and early evening hours - beer pong, anyone? - as well as a congenial stop for happy hour. The sound system plays rock and country standards, their televisions show all the latest sporting events, and there is plenty of shaded seating. And don't forget the bar menu, and the area's best souvenir t-shirts. Free phone calls to the U.S. and Canada are another added benefit.

Jungle Bar has never quite been the same as it was during the heyday of Strogeno, when lead singer Monster and the boys would kick out the jams four nights a week - in two languages - and the crowds would spill far out onto the sidewalks. But this is still a popular hangout for night owls who want to avoid the disco/DJ scene: those who don't want to feel out of place in their ripped jeans and concert shirts, or need a place to wash out the road dust after stabling their Harley. Sports are shown on the high-def televisions, but the sound is turned down whenever there's a good band playing, which still happens on a regular basis. Thursday is ladies' night.

Owners Scott and Amanda Osborne have helped make this one of the most popular downtown bars, fusing great pub-style food and eclectic music to create a thriving late night party atmosphere in their courtyard location at Plaza Real (next door to Happy Ending). The music varies according to the time of day (or night), ranging from country to hard rock to late night dance mixes. A hard rocking band plays six nights a week, and the crowds are generally going strong well after midnight. But perhaps the best thing about Cabo Blue is that it not only draw hordes of tourists, but has also become popular with the local crowd via competitive prices and daily specials. The food is consistently good, particularly the hamburgers and french fries.

The Cabo San Lucas version of Mandala (their original location is in Cancún) offers a more traditionally club-like atmosphere than next door neighbor El Squid Roe, with great dance music from a rotating cast of international DJs, colorful lighting, upscale décor, and a full slate of VIP amenities. Along with Pink Kitty and El Squid Roe, this is the top nightclub in the traditional downtown nightlife district, and one of the better spots for after midnight, bottle service related revelry. The dance floor is huge, with celebrity DJs imported for special occasions. Mandala throws the region's best Halloween party, crushes New Year's Eve, and is among the top local late night hangouts for visiting celebrities.

If Cabo San Lucas had a hall of fame for drinking establishments, Giggling Marlin would be in it. Although not as popular as it once was - its halcyon days as a party mecca were in the 1990s - the place still retains an esteemed spot on the local nightlife circuit. Things get crazy here after dark, with generous shots and people being voluntarily hung upside down on a fish scale (getting their pictures taken for the "well-hung club"). But by day or night, this is a good spot to stop for something to eat. Their menu is simple but good, with many affordable options. Breakfast offerings run to breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros, while all-day options include tamales, enchiladas and chile rellenos.

Cabo Wabo has come a long way in 28 regards its surroundings and its business, which has spun off a tequila brand and several U.S. locations. Originally opened in 1990 by Sammy Hagar and his then Van Halen bandmates - who can forget the eponymous song, off the OU812 album? - Cabo Wabo has since become a mandatory stop for just about everyone who visits Cabo San Lucas, even those who only come ashore for a few hours. Live music and "waboritas", the house version of the margarita, are the premier attractions, but snacks are also available from the cantina (shrimp and ceviche platters) and the patio grill (burgers, wings and chicken fingers). The best time to visit is during October, when Hagar hosts his annual birthday bashes with plenty of big-name guests.

Cabo Wabo is where you go if you want to see a rock star. This is where you go if you want to party like one. The downtown nightspot supreme, El Squid Roe has been packing in the crowds for decades, and is one of the landmarks of the Cabo San Lucas nightlife scene. Whenever you see unfortunate after midnight-photos of celebrities in Cabo, odds are this is where they were taken. Everyone goes here, both locals and tourists, and the multiple levels are usually crowded by midnight. After midnight, the pace accelerates, as do the jello shots. Late night ballast is available from the Billy Kitchen.


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