Recently I was able to reunite with some of my college friends in the best way possible – four days lounging on the beach and swimming in the ocean in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We went for all-out relaxation and chose to stay at the RIU Santa Fe, an all-inclusive resort right on the beach. This was my first all-inclusive experience and I have to admit I was hesitant about it because it is so different from the way I normally travel, but it’s not hard to settle in to all-you-can-eat and drink.
We had an overall amazing experience at the RIU and I highly recommend looking into it if you’re planning a trip to Cabo. The staff was very friendly and welcoming and was always around to assist with anything we needed, whether that meant answering logistical questions or starting our day with a laugh and conversation at the bar. The complex is very large so I cannot imagine feeling cramped if you wanted to take advantage of the amenities in the resort for the entire duration of your stay (although Cabo is worth getting out to explore!). The pools are expansive and have in-water lounge chairs and swim-up bars. The infinity pool over the beach has the best views for people watching during the day and stargazing at night. The main hub of the resort with shops, bars, a stage, and dance club is tons of fun at night when most of the guests come down to drink and dance.
La Baja California, the main restaurant, and one of the two infinity pools
One of my favorite activities to do in Cabo is to take any sort of boat out to see the infamous El Arco and the sea lions that lounge on the rocks around it. There are a ton of different ways you can do this. In the past, I have done booze cruises, whale watching tours, kayak and paddle board rentals, and glass-bottom boats. This trip, we opted for a water taxi that dropped us off at Lover’s Beach for a couple of hours and a snorkeling tour the next day.
View of El Arco from Caborey
Water taxis are a blast and the easiest way to cruise around the gulf. You can flag one down all along the beach, and it’s usually pretty cheap. They can bring you out to the arc or another beach or provide a ride into town via the marina. We paid about $10 each plus tip between the four of us for a round trip. Our drivers were a ton of fun and took us to see the arc and right up close to the seals – one of the spots I look forward to every trip. They’re pretty used to people so if you pick a non-motorized way to go like a kayak or paddle board you might just get lucky enough to make a new friend. I’ve had a particularly outgoing seal bump up against my kayak with his nose.
Approaching Playa del Amor, and the seals that lounge near it, on a water taxi
Playa del Amor (or Lover’s Beach) does have vendors selling beer and food, but it’s much cheaper to grab a few from the hotel and bring a bag for the day. The other side of Lover’s Beach is appropriately called Divorce Beach because of the turmoil and recklessness of the Pacific waves. We swam in the calm waters on Lover’s Beach for a little bit and then posted up on the other side to look out into the Pacific Ocean. The beach is clean and not too crowded and great to relax. There were some local boys surfing in the water on Divorce Beach, but I would highly advise against swimming in the water there because of the strong undertow. During high tide the waves make it up onto the beach and crash above the rocks. It used to terrify me to even be on that side of the beach when I was a kid!
Lover’s Beach (left) and Divorce Beach (right)
On the way back to our resort, we met some guys on the beach who were selling activities packages. They have all levels of pricing and styles of trips and are great to book with. We bartered back and forth with them for a little bit and managed to get a round trip ride to the marina, and a half day snorkeling package with drinks and lunch included for only $35 each – half of the standard price for that package. While I’d never want to rip anyone off, it’s always good to haggle the price a little bit as they will usually give you a discount if they are just trying to fill the last few spots on a tour or start trying to sell you the most expensive package right off the bat.
Early the next day, we walked down the beach a little where our taxi was waiting. It dropped us off in the marina where we boarded the Caborey and took off along the coast towards Chileno Bay with another mandatory stop by El Arco on the way. Once in the Bay, we had the chance to jump off the top deck of the boat before snorkeling which is an awesome thrill if you’ve never done it! It feels a lot further than it looks and once I jumped I was wondering when I was going to hit the water. I don’t think I kept my body as straight as they advise you to do because I definitely felt the impact of the water on my legs – ouch! It still felt amazing to jump in after sunbathing on the hot boat deck before and the adrenaline rush was great energy for swimming around the rest of the day.
The Caborey and looking off the top deck before jumping
The snorkeling in Chileno Bay is pretty good! I’m not a very experienced snorkeler so I don’t have too much to compare it to, but there’s a great variety of fish and it’s shallow enough that you can dive down a little and explore the reefs. The crew of the boat brought some food into the water and would float around and lure the fish over so all of the sudden you’d have a swarming school of fish all around you. Pretty freaky to me but I still had so much fun! They also have a couple of paddle boards you can use if you get sick of snorkeling. The lunch provided was fajitas and the whole package was awesome. I highly recommend it. It’s also not an all day outing so you can still do something else after or get in half a day of relaxing.
In-water photos taken with an old fashioned disposable camera
When we got back to the marina and decided to walk around and do some shopping. I love the open air market, but there are a ton of different shops to explore. It’s also a nice walk to get back to the hotel from the marina. You can either go back via the beach or through town, which is a little faster since you aren’t walking on sand. You can also access two of the popular beach clubs through either direction. Mango Deck is the party on the beach. Think the stereotypical spring break scene. They’ve always got 2-for-1 happy hour and do have good food. It’s a ton of fun and has people of all ages at all times. My absolute favorite restaurant on the beach is right next door. The Office was the first restaurant on Medano Beach and has amazing food, great service, and of course good margaritas. They have events every night including their Fiesta Mexicana on Thursdays which features Mexican traditions and folklore. We didn’t make it to the show this trip, but it’s been my favorite in years past.
2-for-1 Coconut Margaritas at Mango Deck, Entertainment at Mango Deck, and sunset at The Office
We walked back to our hotel at sunset and watched the giant moon rise over the ocean. During your stay in Cabo you have to go out to the water at sunrise and sunset – there’s just nothing like it. Those times of day on the beach are so calm and surreal.
By the time we got back it was dark so we went for a little nighttime swim in the ocean and then headed back to the hotel. I wish we could have stayed longer but even a weekend in Cabo is so worth it!