If you have an upcoming cruise that will stop at Cabo, Mazatlán or Puerto Vallarta, this is one is a series of must-read articles about these ports. I will go into detail about what we typically do and what we recommended you do when visiting these three wonderful ports. In this blog post I will focus on the Cabo leg of the cruise.
Excursions & Information About the Cruise Line Stop to Cabo
First some background info: We are frequent cruisers based in San Diego who have found Mexico to be a very safe place to visit, especially the tourist areas around Cabo, Mazatlán & Puerto Vallarta. We have spent a lot of time in Mexico and Erika, my wife, is originally from Mexico. This isn’t an advertisement for the cruise lines, I will mention the ups and downs of each stop in the Mexican Riviera Cruise – while we normally don’t do excursions through the cruise line, I believe these are worth doing for various reasons which I will explain in more detail below.
In a typical 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise Cabo will be your first or last stop. My personal preference is when you visit Cabo first because you have more time in Cabo. If you visit Cabo last you typically have to leave by 3 pm in order to return to Long Beach in time.
After you read this post please read my post titled, Important & Useful Information For Your Mexican Riviera Cruise. You will find a lot of useful information there. Be sure to read that for more details.
I will give you a summary of the port and a breakdown of tours and options based on your budget.
Keep in mind that this is a tender port so you will use the Cabo tenders to go to shore from the cruise ship. The marina is not large enough to accommodate a large cruise ship. These tenders can be interesting if the wind picks up and the sea is rough. It can also cause you to miss the port entirely because the transfer from the cruise ship to the tender can be too dangerous if the wind and sea is too rough. The benefit of using Cabo tenders is that that are usually larger than the cruise ship tender boats so they can offload passengers faster. Cabo also has many tenders. I have seen as many as 20+ tenders on some cruises. This should make the transfer to Cabo fairly smooth.
Once you arrive at the marina in Cabo you will exit the secure port area and be overwhelmed with touts trying to sell you excursions. Don’t let that bother you. Just a polite no thank you or no gracias and they will leave you alone after a minute or until the next tender boat starts to unload cruise ship passengers.
Cabo is one of our favorite places to visit. Cabo offers many great options. Fishing is very popular here along with the beach and night life. On our most recent visit our day consisted of going to the beach, enjoying a wonderful breakfast at a restaurant / bar called The Office and walking next door to a fun beach club called Mango Deck. We ended our day in Cabo with a water taxi back to the Marina where we walked around and did some shopping.
What we typically do is take a water taxi over to the beach. The cost for a water taxi is usually $5 per person each way with a $1 port charge for adults paid to the port attendant as you enter the docks at the Marina. They will try to sell you a round trip ticket but I don’t suggest this because it’s a mess in the afternoon getting back to the ship when everyone else is also going back and it will be difficult to find the same water taxi. If you watch our YouTube video below about our day in Cabo you will see the circus of trying to fetch a water taxi when everyone else is preparing to head back to the cruise ship. It can be pretty interesting.
If this is your first time in Cabo then I would suggest that instead of taking the same boat over as a water taxi, negotiate a tour with the same vendor. These water taxis will offer you a tour for 1-2 hours depending on your needs. They will take you to the Arch, Lovers Beach and around the Rocks to do some snorkeling. It’s definitely worth doing if it’s your first time in Cabo. If you watch our YouTube video below you will see a trip to Cabo from a few years ago when we went out to the Arch and Lovers Beach. We didn’t actually snorkel on this trip because our kids were a little young and the water that day was a bit rough. You can expect to pay about $15-20 per person for this tour in a glass bottom boat. Also the glass bottom boats and water taxis is the same type of boat. The tour is usually an hour or two but talk to the vendor before paying to confirm. Tell them what you want to do and they will accommodate you.
After the tour you can have them return you to the original dock / marina that you arrived to from the cruise ship or you can have them take you to El Medano Beach. This is where the water taxi will drop you off if you opt for doing only the water taxi option.
If you go to the beach, be sure to remove your shoes and socks as you enter the beach. Toss your shoes on to the sand 10 feet past the break or put them in your bag because you will get your feet wet as you exit the water taxi to the beach.
Now you have arrived at El Medano Beach. We usually visit one of two places. The Office or Mango Deck Beach Club. The Office offers excellent food and although the Mango Deck food is also very good it’s more of a beach club and bar. We typically eat at The Office and then head next door to Mango Deck Beach Club afterwards. We like Mango Deck because it’s fun and in the afternoon and can get a little wild. They will do beach games or shows on their stage which can sometimes be very entertaining. Just watch out because you might end up in the show! They usually play music and have a good vibe at Mango Deck. The beach is also a great place to buy all types of souvenirs and trinkets but watch out because if you show any interest the beach vendors won’t leave you alone for the rest of the day. I always suggest buying what you want at the end prior to heading back to the ship.
After our day at the beach we usually get a water taxi back to the Marina and then do some shopping around the Marina. The Marina has some impressive boats docked there. Also it can be madness getting back on the water taxi so going a little early to avoid the crowd is nice. As you will see in our video it was hectic at the beach when we got our water taxi back to the Marina to return to the cruise ship. It was also a very windy day which created some roughs seas when we got back on the cruise ship.
And getting back on the cruise ship before the mad dash of people is nice but don’t stress if you arrive back to the Marina at your back on board time. As you approach the back on ship deadline, stay close to the Marina. You will see the line of people waiting to get back on the tender. This line often extends past the back on board time but make sure you get in the line as soon as the line of people shortens because if you miss the last tender back to the ship they will sail without you!
There is a small outdoor bar by the area where you board the tenders. When we see a line we just head to that bar for a beer. Once the lines dies down to a few people we head over. But watch out, if you have multiple cruise ships in port that day make sure you are watching the line for YOUR cruise ship. If multiple cruise ships are leaving around the same time you could miss your tender boat return if the line you are watching is for another cruise ship.
Map of Cabo that might help you with your planning.
Summary for Cabo
BUDGET CONCIOUS – walk around the Marina, you can even walk along the beach to Medano Beach and bring your cruise ship towel and sit and hang out on the beach. This won’t cost you anything. All the beaches are public and available for you to use.
After the beach you can then walk back towards the Marina and walk to Cabo Wabo for a few photos just to say you have been to Sammy Hagers Bar in Cabo!
After that you can walk around Downtown and enjoy the Marina. There are always some beautiful yachts and fishing boats in the Marina. This is a great day and will cost you next to nothing.
BIGGER BUDGET – WILLING TO SPEND $20-40 PER PERSON – organize a water taxi and snorkeling tour out to the Arch, head to Lovers beach and snorkel around the rocks by the Arch. Depending on the size of your group you can usually find a vender that will do this for $15-20 per person and give you an hour or two tour.
After the tour, have them drop you off at Medano Beach, hang out, grab a beer or two and relax on the beach. Most bars will sell you beers or drinks and you can carry them out to the beach area to sit in the sand and relax. If you are willing to spend a little more they will give you a chair and umbrella. Usually if you spend $20 a person.
BIG BUDGET – Do what I mentioned above but on a bigger / nicer boat. You could spend $40-50 per person and up depending on the size boat you want to do. Is this really necessary? It’s entirely up to you and what you prefer. You can book in advance or go last minute. If you are willing to spend more it would be good to book this in advance. Cabo Adventures is a very reputable company throughout Mexico. This is a link to their website and some of the tours they have to offer. FYI – most cruise lines contract out their excursions through Cabo Adventures.
Dolphin Encounter and Swim – I have no personal experience doing the Dolphin Swim or Encounter but I can tell you it’s popular and I have seen a lot of friends post their photos and videos and said it was great. That is available through the Cruise Line or on your own. Cabo Adventures offers this experience and I have found their pricing to be best.