Feature: Culinary Cabo

The dining scene in Mexico’s ultimate seaside escape—anchored by San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas—is on the rise.

By Maribeth Mellin | Photography by Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock

It’s little wonder that Los Cabos (translation: the Capes) draws more than two million visitors a year to the tip of the Baja peninsula. Here the beaches are wild, backed by dramatic cliffs that jut along the shore from the Pacific Ocean to where it meets the Sea of Cortez. An 18-mile-long stretch of coast called the Corridor separates the area’s two main towns, historic San José del Cabo and bustling Cabo San Lucas. These days there’s yet another reason to visit the oceanfront duo: The food scene showcases talented homegrown cooks who have created a distinctive Baja-style cuisine, as well as multinational chefs who bring a cosmopolitan flair to their dishes. Read on for our little black book of picks.

Mexican Heritage

Authentic delicacies such as huitlacoche (dubbed the Mexican truffle) and chapulines (fried grasshoppers) are on the menu at Tenangos (Carr. Transpeninsular km 27.5 in the Shoppes at Palmilla, San José del Cabo; 011-52-624-144-5128; tenangosloscabos.com; dinner for two, $45*). The atmosphere is bright and airy: Traditional yarn-embroidered textiles called tenangos portraying flowers, birds and village scenes hang on the restaurant’s walls, and its terrace faces the distant sea. Chef Liana Hernández Tur is a master of moles, intense Mexican sauces made with chocolate or pumpkin seeds.

At Don Sanchez (Blvd. Mijares Edificio Eclipse, San José del Cabo; 011-52-624-142-2444; dinner for two, $84), chef Tadd Chapman puts a contemporary spin on regional dishes. Case in point: His take on aguachile, a dish typically made of shrimp marinated in chili peppers, lime juice and onion, incorporates a tart lime sorbet.

A classic cantina lunch can be had at La Guadalupana (1023 Lázaro Cárdenas, Cabo San Lucas; 011-52-624-143-4890; lunch for two, $22), where businesspeople gather beneath painted murals for two-hour meals. For an authentic street-food experience, consider ordering the lengua (beef tongue) and sharing a platter of cochinita pibil (pork marinated Yucatecan-style).

On the Farm

Southern Baja is one of Mexico’s largest exporters of organic vegetables and herbs, which have long been used by local chefs. At Flora’s Field Kitchen (Ánimas Bajas, San José del Cabo; 011-52-624-355-4564; dinner for two, $100) you can dine on chef Guillermo Tellez’s cauliflower steak with béarnaise sauce or the double-cut pork chop amid 25 acres of gardens and orchards. Reservations are essential at this open-air restaurant, where friends eat at picnic tables family-style and couples claim quieter side tables. Complete the experience with mango sorbet at the ice cream stand or souvenirs from the lovely folk-art shop.

The countryside plays second fiddle to the alfresco dining area at nearby Acre (Ánimas Bajas, San José del Cabo; 011-52-624-171-8226; dinner for two, $85). Rows of palms lead to freestanding gray walls, hand-painted tile floors and Oaxacan black clay pendant lights in the open-air restaurant. The menu changes seasonally, but you can expect satisfying dishes like buttery lemon-squash pasta and succulent roasted hen. Springtime brings corn soup and pickled green strawberries. Regulars swear the burger is Baja’s most delicious.

Continue exploring Baja’s farm country at Rancho Pescadero (Camino a la Playa, Pueblo Pescadero, Todos Santos; 910-300-8891; lunch for two, $40), in a farming and fishing community near artsy Todos Santos. Corn, tomatoes and beans grow in neat rows beside the dirt road that leads to this farm, restaurant and hotel complex. Consider pairing mixologist Danny Sanchez’s latest herb cocktail with a generous bowlful of tangy ceviche or tender grilled-shrimp quesadillas.

From the Sea

Loïc Tenoux relies on local fishing and farming families to provide ingredients that he uses at the romantic Mi Cocina (4 Blvd. Mijares, San José del Cabo; 011-52-624-146-7100; dinner for two, $82). French-born Tenoux’s cooking style reflects a passion for his adopted country, as he uses rice from Morelia, vanilla from Veracruz, poultry from Santiago and farm-raised totuava (“better than sea bass”) from San Felipe, on the Sea of Cortez. The giant scallops with cactus pads are beautifully prepared.

Sushi master Angel Carbajal of Nick-San (Blvd. Marina at Plaza de la Danza, Cabo San Lucas; 011-52-624-143-2491; dinner for two, $70) finds inspiration in the considerable time he spends at sea. Arrive early to claim a bar seat and dine omakase-style (in which the chef selects an array of dishes for you). The sashimi with cilantro sauce is so silky you’ll want to lick the plate. Or linger over lunch above bustling Playa Medano at Hacienda Cocina y Cantina (El Medano Ejidal, Cabo San Lucas; 415-259-4170; lunch for two, $66). On the menu: pozole (hominy soup) studded with chunks of sea bass and scallops—plus, one of the smoothest margaritas in Los Cabos.

Chef’s Tables

Celebrity chefs are bringing global cachet to the local dining scene. Jean-Georges Vongerichten kicked off the trend by overseeing Seared steakhouse (Carr. Transpeninsular km 7.5, San José del Cabo; 011-52-624-146-7000; dinner for two, $240), which is the spot for elegant repasts. Beautifully constructed black-truffle fritters are delicious, as is the pepper-seared foie gras with strawberry rhubarb marmalade.

Take as many folks as possible to Toro (Carr. Transpeninsular km 6.5, Cabo San Lucas; 011-52-624-104-3806; dinner for two, $80), chef Richard Sandoval’s paean to small plates. Highlights include the giant wood-grilled shrimp. The cooks don’t shy away from Mexico’s many chilies, so it’s worth asking if your dish will be picante (spicy). After dinner, consider taking a cab to Sandoval’s Biblioteca de Tequila (4750 Paseo de la Marina, Cabo San Lucas; 011-52-624-104-9500) to sample tequila and mescal.

Chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol restaurant in Mexico City tops best-of lists. At Manta (Carr. Transpeninsular km 5, Cabo San Lucas; 011-52-624-163-0000; dinner for two, $90), he adapted his Mexican/Japanese cuisine to incorporate Baja ingredients. Consider starting with Baja’s meaty chocolates (clams named for their brown shells) and ending with the almond cake with green-tea ice cream. In the middle, you can’t go wrong with the ginger garlic sauce drizzled over the day’s catch. From a terrace table, you can watch the sun as it sets behind the famed rock arch at land’s end and casts its rays over the shimmering surf at Monument Beach below.

RCI® affiliated resorts in Los Cabos include:
Pueblo Bonito Resort at Sunset Beach 5704

Luxe accommodations come with marble bathrooms and oceanfront views. Predio Paraíso Escondido, Cabo San Lucas

Hacienda del Mar Resort 3622

The tranquil setting on the Sea of Cortez is great for couples and families. Carr. Transpeninsular km. 10, Cabo del Sol Lote-D, Cabo San Lucas

Marina Fiesta Resort 2474

Within walking distance of restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Marina Cabo San Lucas Lotes 37/38, Cabo San Lucas

Breathless Cabo San Lucas Resort & Spa by UVC DC17

All 169 suites have their own private terrace with a view. No. 4750 Paseo de la Marina, El Medano Ejidal, Cabo San Lucas

Dreams Los Cabos Golf Resort & Spa by UVC C590

Guests have the option of 24-hour room service and a daily restocked minibar. Carr. Transpeninsular CSL-SJC km. 18.5, San José del Cabo

RCI® Tip

Los Cabos offers something for everyone! Many resorts offer world-class spas, as well as access to some of the finest golf courses in Mexico, where you can play a few rounds while taking in the ocean views.** Feel like exploring on your own? Visit the Marina at Puerto Los Cabos, where you can book a deep-sea-fishing or whale-watching tour and even swim with dolphins.

For member reviews 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 in Los Cabos include:
Bahia Hotel & Beach House

A comfy boutique inn with one of Cabo’s most popular bars. Av. El Pescador, Cabo San Lucas; 866-224-4234; bahiacabo.com; doubles from $127 a night

Casa Natalia

Chic boutique inn in the heart of San José’s artsy historic district. 4 Blvd. Mijares, San José del Cabo; 888-277-3814; casanatalia.com; doubles from $107 a night

Los Milagros Hotel

A flower-filled courtyard and friendly clientele. 3738 Mariano Matamoros, Cabo San Lucas; 718-928-6647; losmilagros.com.mx; doubles from $80 a night

  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • **These vacations are limited and subject to availability.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Spring 2017