Most visitors to Cabo San Lucas rarely leave the confines of their resorts, or limit their off-property visits to Marina Cabo San Lucas, home to touristy bars like Cabo Wabo (famous for strapping folks into harnesses, hanging them upside down, and feeding them shots of tequila), and El Squid Roe (famous for long tubes of colorful, neon-lit concoctions). But beyond the gates of the all-inclusive resorts are many hidden gems in the ultra-touristy Cabo.
One of the best parts about eating in Cabo San Lucas is the confluence of flavors and recipes from across Mexico that make it onto restaurant menus. Once a desolate desert, Cabo San Lucas has been virtually formed by tourism. An influx of culinary talent affords visitors and locals the opportunity to eat their way across Mexico without having to leave the Baja peninsula.
After a day of whale-watching in the Pacific Ocean and strolling along Lovers Beach (one of only two beaches in Cabo where the waters are calm enough to swim, thanks to the Sea of Cortez), check out these six restaurants beloved by locals — many of which are a quick taxi ride from the mega resorts.
Open for breakfast and dinner daily, La Roca at Grand Solmar Land’s End boasts one of the best spots in Cabo San Lucas to whale-watch, as diners can spot gigantic humpback whales from the outdoor terrace. The kitchen staff is adept at catering to dietary restrictions like vegan and gluten-free, and the resort will soon launch a whole gluten-free menu. Chef Hector Lucas’ menu is influenced by Baja-style cuisine, incorporating regional products like organic vegetables and seafood. The menu is “mostly international flavor, but I always try to add Mexican flavor,” said Lucas, who likes to use ingredients from his grandmother’s recipes, particularly seafood and fish.
One of chef Lucas’ favorite restaurants is Pitahayas at Hacienda del Mar. German chef Volker Romeiker excels at creating Pacific Rim gastronomy, a fusion of Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Malaysian, and Filipino cuisines prepared with European techniques. The dining room rests under a traditional Mexican palapa (an open-sided dwelling with a thatched roof made of dried palm leaves) overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Dishes include yellowfin tuna Napoleon with crispy wonton, blackened and spicy tuna, tobiko, wasabi mayo, soja, and eel sauce; broiled shrimp with coconut rice, grilled pineapple, lemon, ginger-kaffir aïoli, Swiss chard, mushroom, and red onion; and xango (roasted banana and cheesecake eggroll with crème Anglaise). The restaurant and bar also boasts La Cava de Santiago, a stone and wrought iron wine cellar with more than 400 domestic and international wines.
Long before Cabo San Lucas became overrun with tourists, The Office catered to locals and a handful of tourists on Médano Beach. The rustic palapa on the beach has a small kitchen and bar that turns out beach staples like tuna tiradito (slices of fresh tuna with arugula, chopped garlic, jalapeños, chile, red onion, lemon juice, soy sauce, and olive oil); Baja-style jumbo shrimp with oil-browned chopped garlic, tomato, avocado, basil, refried beans, rice, and flour tortillas; Baja burritos (three flour tortillas stuffed with shredded beef, sautéed garlic, onion, poblano peppers, tomatoes, and herbs served with guacamole, pinto beans, and grilled fresh cheese) and margaritas with tequila sourced by The Office’s own tequilero Jesús Nava.
Los Tres Gallos
It only rains a handful of days annually in Cabo San Lucas, affording diners the opportunity to dine alfresco most of the time. The intimate outdoor restaurant Los Tres Gallos is worth seeking out. Everything from the classic margaritas to the sublime tres leches is served fresh (the restaurant doesn’t freeze any of its ingredients or dishes; once something is sold out, the kitchen either makes more or it remains sold out for the day). There are classic touches of Mexican artistry everywhere, from the handmade, fringed white napkins to the woven placemats to the colorful hand-painted dishware. Chef Carmen Peralta crafts classic Mexican dishes from across the country that are based on the recipes of the owner’s grandmother. Open for lunch and dinner daily, diners have the opportunity to sample signature regional dishes, including nopalito con queso (griddle cactus and panela cheese topped with Mexican salsa, served with black beans with a touch of epazote and chile serrano); chile relleno (poblano pepper stuffed with Oaxaca cheese, battered, deep-fried, covered with tomato sauce, and served with refried beans and rice); Huauzontle (a Mexican vegetable that resembles broccoli but the stems and flowers are thinner, which is battered, deep-fried, and covered with chile pasilla or tomato and Oaxaca cheese, and served with refried beans and rice); and pozole (hominy and pork stew served with lettuce, radish, avocado, red onion, oregano, chile piquim tostadas, and cream).
New York-trained Mexican chef Enrique Olvera helms the kitchen at Manta (the name has a double meaning: Manta means blanket in Spanish, conveying the chef’s emphasis on comfort, and also the manta ray symbolizes the menu’s focus on seafood). Located between Cabo San Lucas and Cabo San Jose at The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, Manta serves Asian-inspired Mexican fare in the Japanese izakaya tradition of dining in a casual and informal setting. Offerings include shrimp-and-salsa-verde-stuffed chile; sea bass ceviche with coconut, avocado, and sweet corn; black miso fish tacos with cabbage and flour tortillas; suckling pig “carnitas” tacos with radish, cilantro, and “borracha” sauce; and desserts like merengue with sweet potato, coconut, and cacao nibs.
Mi Casa has become such a popular restaurant in Cabo San Lucas that a second location has recently opened in neighboring San Jose del Cabo. Located in a hacienda-style home steps from the Marina Cabo San Lucas, Mi Casa offers a culinary tour of Mexico with dishes from many of the country’s regions. It’s a testament to the recipes that most dishes have remained constants on the 20-year-old menu. Don’t miss the “los sopes de Cochinita” (corn dough patties loaded with shredded pork in Axiote, black beans, onion, and cheese) and grilled fish of the day with a choice of four classic seasonings: zarandeado (a chile- and garlic-based seasoning), mojillo (chile guajillo and garlic), talla (a mixture of dried chiles and herbs) and Veracruzana (tomato, jalapeño, capers, and olives).