There is something very special about the holidays, particularly in overwhelmingly Catholic México, where the festive season persists for close to two months and includes many holy days that are not commonly celebrated in the U.S. It is a period of frequent fiestas, so much so that the month-long holiday period between December 12, the day honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe, and January 6, the remembrance of Los Tres Reyes Magos (the three wise men), is only half-jokingly referred to as the Guadalupe–Reyes marathon. But despite the plethora of parties held each December in Cabo San Lucas and elsewhere around the country, the holiday season is above all a time of devout observances and intimate gatherings with family and friends.
For winter vacationers to Los Cabos, however, December may be most notable for some of its seasonal outdoor activities, which reflect not so much holiday cheer as profound natural wonder. Whale watching season, which officially begins on the 15th of the month, sees many of the world’s largest and most majestic creatures transiting the area as they head to winter breeding grounds in coves and inlets around Baja California Sur. Humpbacks are the most commonly sighted, but others species can also be seen, most spectacularly during dedicated whale watching expeditions aboard high-speed Zodiac boats.
Speaking of enormous creatures, December is a pefect time to experience swimming tours that take place side-by-side with the world’s largest fish, the whale shark. These gentle giants subsist solely on plankton so there is no danger, but their sheer size alone – adults can weigh as much as 47,000 pounds – is apt to get one’s adrenaline racing. These tours typically take place in La Paz, the state capital, with round-trip transportation provided from Los Cabos resorts by the tour operator.
December is also peak season for windsports like kiteboarding and windsurfing, thanks to world-class conditions on the Los Cabos municipality’s picturesque East Cape.
The conventional wisdom says summer is the best season for surfing Los Cabos’ Sea of Cortés side beaches, while winter conditions favor the Pacific Coast breaks found just north of the municipality off beaches like Playas Los Cerritos, San Pedrito and La Pastora. This is good advice, although the truth of the matter is that the Pacific side beaches see very good surf conditions on a year-round basis. High Tide is the best among several companies that offer surf lessons at Playa Los Cerritos, with excursions that include round-trip transportation. But if you go on your own, board rentals and lessons can be arranged on the beach. Los Cerritos is more beginner-friendly, while expert surfers favor San Pedrito at Pescadero, and La Pastora, the latter just north of Todos Santos. All three beaches are less than one hour by car from Cabo San Lucas.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: How many places can you find great surfing in the middle of winter? In Baja California Sur, Pacific Coast beaches like Los Cerritos certainly qualify.
Chris’s expert tip: Day passes are available at Cerritos Surf Town Beach Hotel and Spa, and surf rentals and lessons can be arranged right on the beach.
This beautiful old church is set amid San José del Cabo’s historic downtown area, a stone’s throw from City Hall, Plaza Mijares, and the Gallery District. Originally founded as a mission in 1730 by Jesuit priest Nicolás Tamaral, the church has undergone several moves and renovations. Tamaral remains an integral part of local lore, however, and one of the church’s most arresting features is a mosaic above the entrance depicting his killing by the area’s native inhabitants, the Pericúes. The church moved to its current location around the middle of the 19th century, but had to be rebuilt in the early 20th century after being badly damaged by a hurricane. Despite the history – this is one of the most important cultural monuments in Los Cabos – it’s an active church, and the best place in the area to attend weekly and holiday services.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is the best place in Los Cabos to attend holiday services.
Chris’s expert tip: The church is one of the most important historical and cultural sites in Los Cabos.
While most of the U.S. is weathering frigid December temperatures, Cabo San Lucas is awash in sunshine. Every day is a beach-worthy day in the Land’s End city, with daytime temperatures averaging about 81 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the holiday season. It should come as no surprise, then, given this warm seasonal weather, that winter months mark the height of the tourist season, as snowbirds flock to regional resorts and beaches. Playa El Médano (aka Médano Beach) is the biggest and most popular beach in Cabo San Lucas, with over two miles of gorgeous golden sand and a host of resorts, restaurants, cantinas, beach clubs, and water-based activities providers. Beachgoers can rent jet skis, kayaks or stand up paddle boards; go flyboarding or parasailing; have a water taxi take them out to Land’s End or Lover’s Beach, or drop them off back at the marina. Or simply relax and soak up the sunshine and muy tranquilo vibes. The water is extremely calm here, and although there aren’t any lifeguards in Cabo San Lucas, areas have been roped off for swimming.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The best and biggest beach in Cabo San Lucas is a perfect place to soak up sunshine during the holiday season.
Chris’s expert tip: Mango Deck and The Office are the most popular cantinas on the beach, and both feature plenty of seafood, cold beer, tropical cocktails, and seaside ambience.
Cabo Pulmo is the heart and soul of the East Cape, accessible via a graded dirt road that connects coastal communities – from eco-bungalows and remote campsites to off-the-grid villages – between La Ribera and Zacatitos. The Cabo Pulmo National Park and its marine sanctuary is the area’s biggest draw, an undersea fantasia of living coral reef with a remarkable concentration of marine life that includes sharks, dolphins, sea lions, eels, leaping mobula rays and endangered sea turtles. For visitors who don’t have time for a East Cape weekend getaway, but don’t want to miss Cabo Pulmo, jeep tours may be arranged through Los Cabos based company High Tide, and day trip diving adventures through Adventures in Baja, Cabo Adventures, and other area dive shops. The park has been protected since 1995, and includes over 27 square miles spanning land and sea. The beach is gorgeous here as well, with beachfront hangouts like Tacos & Beer offering chill vibes and and even chiller refreshments.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The living coral reef at Cabo Pulmo is the premier diving destination in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Cabo Pulmo National Park is home to over 800 varieties of fish, and over 2,000 species of marine invertebrates.
New Year’s Eve is the biggest party night of the year in virtually every North American destination, and that certainly holds true for Cabo San Lucas, too. There are a wealth of celebrations and themed parties held at regional resorts and nightspots, with the most sought-after in the neighborhood of Médano Beach, the city’s biggest beach and ground zero for the year’s biggest and best fireworks show. Virtually every Mexican celebration features fireworks, but the New Year’s Eve display is particularly dazzling and long-lasting. Médano based hotspots Mango Deck and The Office on the Beach are always packed for New Year’s Eve, and nearby Casa Dorada’s annual costume party is a popular standby as well. The latter is showcasing a “masquerade” theme this year, plus a buffet dinner, drinks, live music, and dancing. Hilton’s Gatsby themed fête, meanwhile, highlights the Tourist Corridor based party options.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: New Year’s Eve is the premier party night of the holiday season in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Casa Dorada Resort & Spa on Médano Beach hosts one of the area’s best New Year’s Eve parties, with a Masquerade theme planned this year.
Whale watching isn’t the only seasonal activity to get excited about in Los Cabos. Each winter, from approximately mid-November through mid-March, strong El Norte winds blow hundreds of miles down the Sea of Cortés, creating optimal wind and kite surfing conditions in many coastal areas of Baja California Sur. During this yearly breezy season, small East Cape communities like Los Barriles become meccas for world-class kitesurfers, kiteboarders and windsurfers, who flock to regional beaches for a chance to grab big air over inshore waves. Exotikite in Los Barriles is the top option for rentals and lessons, and also offers beachfront accommodations.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: December is peak season for kiteboarding, windsurfing and kitesurfing on Los Cabos’ East Cape.
Chris’s expert tip: With the Lord of the Wind Showdown permanently done in Los Barriles, there are no windsports competitions scheduled this season.
México offers a wealth of holiday beverages – from ponche navideño (Christmas punch) and rompope (rum-based eggnog) to seasonal Noche Buena beer – but most visitors to Los Cabos will be more interested in the country’s traditional liquor: tequila. Fortunately for visitors, one of the country’s benchmark tequila makers, Clase Azul, recently opened a bar, restaurant, and tasting center in Los Cabos. The new hospitality center is now a mecca for those who’d like to learn more about the spirit, and to enjoy some of the finest currently being made. The Taste of Culture experience is the best place to start, as it not only offers the opportunity to taste five great tequilas, but some enjoy interesting pairing options designed to bring out even deeper flavors. Clase Azul’s boutique, meanwhile, is a tequila lover’s dream, and a good spot to pick out gifts for tequila lovers in the family who weren’t able to make the trip.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is the best tequila tasting option in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Clase Azul is located at the Shoppes at Palmilla, one of the area’s best upscale shopping plazas, and a great place to do some last minute holiday shopping.
There are a lot of different seasons in Los Cabos. There’s a whale watching season, a windsports season, a sea turtle season, and of course a whale shark season. The latter refers to the period from October through April, when Los Cabos visitors can be driven up to the state capital of La Paz to swim side-by-side with these majestic creatures off the tip of the El Mogote peninsula. As large as 40 feet in length and over 20 tons in weight, whale sharks are awe-inspiring when encountered in their natural habitat, and of course completely safe to swim with thanks to their plankton-based diet. Cabo Adventures is one of the largest and most reliable tour operators in Los Cabos, offering round-trip transportation as well as the services of a professional photographer to document the unforgettable experience.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is one of the best seasonal adventures available to December visitors to Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: For more information on swimming with whale sharks in Los Cabos, visit Cabo Adventures at cabo-adventures.com.
The Thursday evening Art Walk is one of highlights of any visit to San José del Cabo, running weekly from 5 to 9 p.m. during high tourist season (November through June). Sip wine, sample cheese, wander the area’s beautiful cobblestone streets, and interact with some of the top artists and gallery owners in Baja California Sur. Of course, most paintings, sculptures and the like are for sale to those with a discerning eye or an interest in regional art, but it should be noted that this event can also be enjoyed at no cost whatsoever. And the pleasures of Art Walk extend beyond the boundaries of the Gallery District. The historic church is close by, as is Plaza Mijares, the town square, and City Hall, with its historic clock tower and colorful interior murals that trace the history of México.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is the best seasonal cultural event in Los Cabos and a must-see for December visitors.
Chris’s expert tip: Several excellent bars and restaurants are located in the Art District, including the original location of Baja Brewing Company.
Whale watching season in Los Cabos traditionally stretches from mid-December through mid-April, and sees an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 whales migrate south to breeding grounds at Magdalena Bay and in the Sea of Cortés. Grays and humpbacks are the most commonly sighted, but lucky visitors can occasionally see blue, sperm, fin and pilot whales, as well as the occasional orca. The annual migration is big business locally, and virtually every local tour boat offers seasonal whale watching excursions. High-speed inflatables provide the best chance for up-close-and-personal looks at these leviathans, but you don’t necessarily have to sign up for a tour to enjoy sightings. Whales are often spied from area beaches, as well as coastal hotels, restaurants and golf courses.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Whale watching is the number one attraction during the holiday season in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Humpbacks often breach spectacularly, and typically provide the best photo opportunities.