Visiting Cabo and Spending Less

 

Audience: Travelers who are trying to save money while still enjoying Cabo San Lucas

Source: Ideas shared by numerous travelers in forum posts over the years. 

 

The Baja Peninsula is basically like an "island economy" where many goods are imported. In general, that makes it more expensive than mainland Mexico .  But all of Mexico’s prices have increased in the past 30 years.  In Los Cabos you’ll find better roads, more services, more resorts with drinkable treated water, and more luxurious facilities than in the 70’s.

If you want a dirt cheap, palapa on the beach, no amenity vacation, then Cabo may not be right for you.  But if you want to spend some time where the desert kisses the sea, folks are happy to see you, the weather is good year round, the food is delicious & affordable, and you feel safe day or night, then Cabo is for you! 

Transportation

  • Avoid taxis. Take the collectivo bus (a very local experience indeed), walk, or stay at a hotel close to town (best option). If you need to take a cab, find someone at your hotel to share the ride. If you’re staying out on the Corridor and plan to come into Cabo often, think about renting a car.  Car rental can make a vacation more affordable, if it's the right choice for you.  Taxis are very expensive in Cabo.
  • From the airport, prebook a shared shuttle transfer if your group is small.  A private shuttle is a better deal for groups of 4 or more.  Traveler Article about airport transportation here.

Money:

  • Use pesos.  You will get a better value.  Check to see if your bank has an agreement with a Mexican bank and doesn’t charge transaction fees for using the ATM.  Whenever possible, use an ATM that is affiliated with a bank; stand-alone ATMs often charge a high use fee.  Most restaurants will convert into dollars and show the amount in both dollars and pesos on your bill.  If you are using a no-transaction-fee credit card like Capitol One, you can then tip in dollars.
  • If you prefer to tip in USD, bring enough small denomination bills. It is difficult to get change for a large denomination bill, and you will get pesos in return for your USD, often at a poor exchange rate.  Note that pesos are preferred, but any currency is appreciated as a tip.

Vouchers, Discounts, Coupons, and such:

  • Los Cabos Guide.  This program has been around for many years.  You prepurchase discount vouchers and spend them like cash at the specific business.  Vendors include restaurants, activities, sometimes rental cars, and lodging.  Purchase in smaller denominations as you will not receive any cash change.  (For example, if the bill is $45 and you give them a $50 voucher, you will not receive change.  It's better to spend two $20 vouchers and $5 cash.)  Vouchers can be returned.  Delivery to your hotel available.
  • Los Cabos Passport. You purchase a card and use it for a 50% discount or 2 for 1 on restaurants, activities, fishing, spa, golf, or car rental. If you like a specific restaurant, activity or service you can use it again and again for as long as your card is valid! Unlike the coupons, that limits you to use it only once at the certain place, this card becomes a true passport for unlimited savings. Delivery to your hotel available.
  • Cabo Fun Card.  The only free discount card in Cabo, it is distributed free exclusively by Cabo San Lucas Tours to anyone who books an airport transfer, tour or excursion with them.  You can use it to save up to 40% at over 35 different shops, restaurants, and services in Cabo.
  • Marina Tourists Information Booths   There are Tourist Information Booths operated by Publiport (http://www.publiport.com/) on the Marina. Their trained & friendly staff will provide you with information about the different activities, restaurants & shopping in downtown Cabo. They offer maps and coupons to save money on dining & activities. Be aware, though, that there are many "information booths" in Cabo that also serve as a front for timeshare salespeople.
  • Coupons Cabo. Here you will find saving discounts without the need of a card. You won't need to pay or register to use these coupons. Just find the ones you like, print them out (or make your reservations using a promo code) and enjoy!

Food & Eating Out:

  • Go to the grocery store.  Stock up on breakfasts, lunches, drinks, snacks, even take-out dinners.  The larger stores have a better selection and lower prices, but you’ll need to pay for bus or taxi transportation unless you have a rental car.  Almost all the resorts are also timeshares so the suite includes a mini-kitchen, perfect for eating in.
  • Use Trappers List   to find the least expensive and well recommended restaurants.  Price shop on the menus outside.
  • Share entrees.  It’s okay, and some places have huge servings.  You could also take the leftovers back to your lodging for lunch or dinner the next day.
  • Have a beer or an ice cream on the marina, but skip the high priced restaurants, though marina restaurants such as Playa Cantina will cheerfully let you split a big meal..
  • Don’t order drinks with your dinner.  Just have water, but be careful!!  Most restaurants at Marina and at Medano Beach insist their water is purified, but is it?
  • Bring some of your favorite foods with you in your luggage.  Some folks bring instant oatmeal, coffee, or snacks.  You can purchase these items in Cabo but they’ll cost more and depending on where you are staying, it can require a taxi ride.
  • Skip the resort restaurants for the most part.  They are too expensive for a budget traveler, but you can split the meals.  A fancy restaurant in the Hacienda actually promotes meals to split (called "family meals.").
  • If you do choose to go out to a nice place one night, really enjoy your splurge!

Drinking:

  • Purchase alcohol at a grocery store or liquor store.  Mix drinks or refrigerate cans of beer in your room, and take them down to the pool in an insulated cup or small cooler.  Tip the pool waiter anyway.
  • Check the price before you order.  Some beach bars offer 2 for 1, but if the cost is $10 per drink you really aren’t saving much by drinking there.
  • Nightlife: drink at a cheaper neighboring establishment before going in to a nightclub with higher drink prices.   For the price of two beers you can dance at a club for hours.  No cover charge at most places.

Lodging:

  • Downtown: There are several basic and even quite upscale hotels downtown and nearer to Medano Beach, each offering something different (access to a great restaurant or the beach, a pool, breakfast). Ask on the Cabo forum for details.
  • Timeshare: rent a week from a timeshare owner.  The best deals can be found at the last minute; owners are desperate to get some money to cover their annual maintenance fee.  How about a week at a popular resort for only $500?  You get all the services and amenities as if you were paying full hotel prices, but pay the timeshare owner and no hotel tax.

Activities:

  • Walk.  Everywhere is available to the visitor.  Walking from Medano Beach to the marina looks dicey but it really isn't.  It's about ten minutes. Beaches are public property, so you are allowed to walk through resorts to access the beach.  Walk around town and visit with shop owners, locals, and other tourists.  People are really friendly!  Walk along the marina or on Medano Beach; people watching is easy everywhere.
  • Lover’s Beach.  Walk/climb from Solmar Beach or pay $3 per person each way for a water taxi, though when you arrive the operator may insist that you pay an additional dock fee of $1 or $2 if you are going back to the marina.  Spend an hour or two or the whole day, but remember there are no facilities on this beach or at Lover's Beach.  This is almost a "must do" for Cabo visitors. 
  • Wave Runner rental or other water sports off Medano Beach. There are many operators along Medano Beach. Do not bother booking this ahead as most quoted charges of $90/hr (as of Feb 2011). Wait until late in the afternoon to negotiate a better price, perhaps $60/hr for a wave runner. Walk down the beach and there are activities vendors (operators) along the way. Check with various activities operators--price will become flexible. Usually 30-45 minutes on a waverunner is plenty for most folks; you can zip out the Arch, around the marina, and throughout the bay.
  • Snorkeling.  Tour operators like Cabo Escape have good deals for a boatride  to Chimeno reef/beach including equipment (wet suits extra) open bar and lunch, or ride the bus (but if you do, be prepared to walk a good mile to the beach from the road and to stand beside a busy road to get a bus back to town), or rent a car and park in the parking lot ... all the options are described in the Snorkeling Traveler Article.  Note that the water is cool from January - June, and some people like to wear a wetsuit.
  • Use a water taxi for a sunset tour ... skip the pricey booze cruises and get a water taxi to take you out to see the sunset. Buy beer and chips at the gas dock for a little extra adventure.  But remember the "dock fee" at the Marina!