Cabo for Grown-ups

Renowned as a party spot, the town of Cabo San Lucas also has a sophisticated side.

By Maribeth Mellin

Cabo San Lucas draws travelers in droves who can best be described as spring breakers. They come for the beach, the bars, the Cabo Wabo T-shirts. But Coronas and cheap tequila aren’t the only diversions in town. From chic cantinas overlooking the Sea of Cortez to urbane lounges where jazz accompanies innovative cocktails, these seven under-the-radar settings offer an alternative to the all-night party.

Cocina del Mar

As evening settles over the open-air Cocina del Mar at the Esperanza Resort, a tequliero fills two of the six glasses in a tasting chandelier with red and green sangritas, which serve as palate cleansers. Bottles of Tres Generaciones, Azul, 1800 and other fine tequilas flow and fans of Mexico’s treasured elixir are escorted on a Tequila Journey (open to nonguests, $65* per person, reservations required). The course helps tasters recognize the -differences between 100 percent pure distilled blue agave, añejo (aged) tequilas and smoky mescal; graduates are initiated into the resort’s Blue Agave Society. Afterward everyone moves onto the overstuffed sofas at the adjacent Lounge Bar for specialty margaritas flavored with cucumber, cilantro and lime while the waves crash against the shoreline to the sounds of live Latin music. Carr. Transpeninsular km 7; 855-331-2226; esperanzaresort.com

Bar Esquina

Urban chic meets laid-back Baja at Bar Esquina, a corner bar and restaurant that would fit in just fine in Manhattan or Mexico City. Stylish locals stop by for after-work cocktails and pre-dancing bites or to gossip over leisurely dinners beside blazing fire pits. Tourists in shorts and T-shirts are welcome, but sexy sundresses are a better match for the glowing pendant lamps, crystal goblets, marble bar and lively entertainment. Seasonal menus rely on local organic ingredients right down to the freshly muddled fruit cocktails. The kitchen is open until midnight, so you can pop by for hearty lobster pasta, braised short ribs or an incredible mushroom-and-truffle-oil pizza after a night on the town. Should you need a pick-me-up instead of dinner, the adjacent coffee bar blends healthy smoothies and cappuccinos to your specs. Bahia Hotel & Beach Club, Av. El Pescador; 52-624-143-1890; baresquina.com

Mandala

At first glance, it’s hard to tell the difference between this upscale dance club and the raucous El Squid Roe next door. Party-seeking tourists in flip-flops and shorts clog the bars at both clubs in the early evening, but by midnight, when Cabo residents begin arriving at Mandala, beachwear gives way to slinky dresses, strappy sandals and linen shirts. Bottles of Grey Goose and Don Julio replace plastic beer cups at private tables set beneath glittering chandeliers and disco balls. There’s still plenty of dancing to be done—revelers fill the dance floor and move to anything from electro house to pop—but the ambience is somehow still refined even as the DJ keeps the party going well into the night. 1112 Av. Lazaro Cardenas; 52-624-143-2056; mandalanightclub.com

Hacienda Cocina & Cantina

At midday, when the sun is bright and the air hot, the beach bars are thick with people indulging in Pacifico, tacos and deafening hard rock. Skip that scene and instead reserve an umbrella-shaded table on the sand or breezy terrace of this classy cantina. The iconic 1960s retreat is now a gated community with million-dollar villas, but the restaurant and bar remain open to the public, and lingering is encouraged. Take a seat on one of the blue and yellow cushions, order an icy michelada (beer with lime juice) and settle in for a lengthy -alfresco lunch of ceviche, crab flautas and grilled fish. Bonus: On this quiet stretch of popular Playa Medano, vistas are usually free of parasails, WaveRunners and other noisy distractions. Medano Beach; 52-624-163-3100; haciendacocina.com

Restaurant at Los Cabos Winery

California oenophile and art collector Robert Turnage opened his winery here in 2009, shipping barrels of California wines to age and bottle with a Los Cabos label. After amassing an eccentric collection of paintings, sculptures, vintage cameras and Hollywood memorabilia, he opened a small supper club here, where loyal patrons dine on lobster and filet mignon. Original art, lots of cozy spaces for lounging and live jazz vocalists lend a European vibe to this semi-secret escape from Cabo’s mayhem. On most evenings a pianist provides the soundtrack for quiet conversation; by night’s end, guests are mingling like old friends in a Park Avenue apartment. 2518 Francisco Villa; 52-624-143-8078

Sunset da Mona Lisa

Unparalleled views of the Sea of Cortez and that famous rock arch at land’s end make this a quintessential sunset restaurant. The light show is dazzling when a golden glow shimmers on the waves and the sky takes on a rosy hue. Diners feast on pastas and seafood before catching the night’s star show on the restaurant’s high-powered telescope. As a nightcap, there’s live piano music and a great selection of Prosecco and grappa at the adjacent Sunset Point Lounge. Carr. Transpeninsular Km 6; 52-624-145-8077; sunsetmonalisa.com

The Nowhere ¿Bar?

Nowhere may seem like every other joint in the jam-packed area along the marina, with a decor that consists of a few plasma screens playing music videos. But you’ll never see its waiters waving menus and coupons at passersby—they don’t need to. The outdoor tables draped in wine-colored cloths, narrow indoor bar and tiny dance floor have been packed nearly every night for the past 20 years, and diehard locals and frequent visitors wouldn’t dream of celebrating elsewhere. So what’s the big deal? It must be the friendly staff, top-shelf drinks and eclectic music selection. Or perhaps its unwavering popularity is owing to something as simple as its tagline: “Because Nowhere is exactly where you want to be.” 17 Paseo de la Marina Blvd.; 52-624-143-4493; nowherebar.com

STAY
RCI affiliated resorts in Los Cabos include:
Pueblo Bonito Resort at Sunset Beach 5704
A quiet, peaceful beachfront resort that offers easy access to downtown Cabo San Lucas. Predio Paraíso Escondido, Cabo San Lucas
Member Review: “The staff is amazing, the grounds are stunning, the beach is beautiful, lots of pool options, large suites, organized check-in and checkout.”
Hacienda del Mar Resort 3622
An unforgettable, expansive resort complex adjacent to the Jack Nicklaus Championship Golf Course. Carr. Transpeninsular km 10, Mega Desarrollo, Cabo San Lucas
Member Review: “The pools are absolutely awesome. Lots of eating choices, and a great value for the ambience and quality of the food.”
Marina Fiesta Resort 2474
In the heart of Cabo San Lucas, near restaurants, shopping, nightlife and outdoor activities. Marina Cabo San Lucas, Cabo San Lucas
Member Review: “The service here was excellent. Very helpful staff.”
Playa Grande Resort 4364
A hacienda-style beachfront resort. 1 Av. Playa Grande, Cabo San Lucas
Member Review: “I don’t know where to begin! It was clean, beautifully decorated, spacious; staff were incredible.”
Club Solaris Cabos 5925
A beachfront resort surrounded by beautiful gardens. Sección Hotelera, Zona Turística, San José del Cabo
Member Review: “We loved the breakfast deck where we could watch the pelicans fish while we ate. The nightly dinner shows were very good. We were impressed with the talent of the dancers.”
The Grand Mayan Los Cabos 7102
An upscale property with a full-service spa, pools, a golf course and more. Zona Turistica, San José Del Cabo
Member Reviews: Not yet posted.
Dreams Los Cabos Suites Golf Resort & Spa by UVC C590
An all-inclusive resort with an infinity pool overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Carr. Transpeninsular, San José del Cabo
Member Review: “There are tons of activities and dining choices. Great for families or couples.”
Secrets Puerto Los Cabos by UVC D525
This new resort has large suites with balconies and ocean views. Puerto Los Cabos, San José Del Cabo
Member Reviews: Not yet posted.
For complete member reviews (as member reviews have been condensed) and additional resort listings, visit RCI.com or call 800-338-7777 (Weeks) or 877-968-7476 (Points). Club Members, please call your specific Club or RCI telephone number.

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Non-RCI affiliated resorts
Bahia Hotel & Beach Club
Av. El Pescador; 52-624-143-1890; bahiacabo.com; doubles from $169 per night
Esperanza
Carr. Transpeninsular km 7; 52-624-145-6400; esperanzaresort.com; doubles from $750 per night
Los Milagros Hotel
116 Mariano Matamoros; 52-624-143-4566; losmilagros.com.mx; doubles from $85 per night
The Bungalows Hotel
Nuevo Blvd. Miguel Angel Herrera; 52-624-143-5035; thebungalowshotel.com; doubles from $95 per night
  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Spring 2014