Just like any major country, Mexico has many culinary regions. Baja, the state where Los Cabos is located, has perhaps the most easily recognizable food. This is due in large part to the ubiquitous taco — and also the abundance of fresh seafood, which is familiar to coastal states.
This port is famed for its raucous gringo-ized beach bars, but it also is bursting with culinary treasures, ranging from simple and inexpensive to gourmet (and usually still not very expensive). And with every plate, it’s expected that you order a frosty margarita made with Mexico’s most famous spirit. Uno, dos, tres ... tequila!
You could eat at taquerias (taco stands) every day for a month in Cabo and never come to the end of great bites. Tacos in Cabo are not the same kind of tacos you’ll find back in the U.S. They are more flavorful and are definitely not covered in cheese and sour cream. And the pride of it all is the freshly made corn tortillas they’re served on. Chorizo tacos are some of the most popular, and thanks to the abundance of fresh fish caught daily, so are the fish tacos.
Where to find it: There are stands and carts all over the city, especially downtown in shopping areas and near hotels. Tacos Gardenias is a favorite with locals and savvy tourists.
Another Latin American dish with major crossover popularity, ceviche is raw fish cured in citrus juice and peppers; it is often (though not always) tossed with chopped raw tomato, jalapeños, fresh cilantro, onions and cucumbers. Although you can eat it on its own, most people prefer it on tostada chips. Finfish and shrimp are most commonly prepared in this manner, though you might see pulpo (octopus) as well.
Where to find it: Taqueria Rossy is a cheap-eats gem praised by Condé Nast Traveler and the Chicago Tribune. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll have about a 30-minute cab ride to get there since it’s halfway between town and the airport.
For a spot closer to port, head to the Ceviche Factory located downtown in Plaza Bonita right behind Starbucks and just one block from the marina area. It’s a small restaurant that’s tucked away from the touristy sites. The prices are low and the ceviche is delicious. They have traditional ceviche and a few unique creations.
A close cousin of ceviche but with a serious kick of spice, aguachiles is a popular Mexican specialty that features fresh shrimp soaked in a fiery marinade called “chile water.” The classic version of aguachile is made with only chilis, lime juice, onions and salt, but many recipes also incorporate fresh tomato, olive oil and/or fresh cucumber.
Where to find it: Mexico mini-chain Mariscos el Torito serves up awesome aguachile and a half-dozen variations on ceviche, which is just one section of their extensive raw seafood selection.
Fresh clams — specifically the large, brown-colored and briny “chocolate clams” — are a favorite Cabo delicacy. The question is always, how fresh do you want to go? Because one favorite way to eat them is raw … and alive, so they still move when you sprinkle a little salt and lime juice on them. If that’s too extreme for your tastes, another popular recipe is clams stuffed with cheese, bacon and vegetables, then fire-roasted.
Where to find it: Claro Fish Jr. has an exhaustive and endlessly tempting fresh seafood menu that includes clams raw, stuffed and in three other preparations.
This soft, mild-flavored white cheese shows up in markets, deli cases and on menus all the time. It can be deep-fried or grilled, is often dressed simply with olive oil and served in a salad, but it also accompanies meat and/or eggs.
Where to find it: Located right on the beach you’ll find The Office, which serves a grilled panela cheese and organic tomato salad.
Translated to chilies in walnut sauce, this is the official dish of Mexican Independence Day (September 16), both because of the red/white/green color scheme of the ingredients that match the Mexican flag and the seasonal availability of poblano chili peppers (summer and early fall).
The poblano chili peppers are roasted and then stuffed with minced picadillo meat or chicken and fruit, then fried and drizzled with nogada sauce (pureed mixture of goat cheese and walnuts) and garnished with pomegranate seeds.
Where to find it: Mi Casa, located in the heart of Cabo San Lucas, has become a landmark and must-visit for authentic Mexican food. They serve up a great rendition of this classic dish, but of the restaurants close to the dock, La Cantina de Los Deseos at 38 Paseo de la Marina is your best bet, especially if you are short on time.
While Veracruz-style red snapper might not be strictly local, it’s definitely a Mexican treasure that Los Cabos does very well, thanks to its abundance of fish fresh caught daily. Traditionally, a whole red snapper is marinated in a simple blend of lime juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg and garlic and then baked in tomato-onion-pepper (and sometimes jalapeño) sauce. It’s often served with beans and rice, though you’ll also find it with fresh avocado on top or with French fries as a side.
Where to find it: Solomon’s Landing is one of the most popular restaurants near the cruise terminal, and it serves a classic huachinango either grilled or fried. This is part of the Mexican Specialties section, which comprises about half the menu. The other half is American bar/grill food.
Give thanks to Yucatan traditions for this mouthwatering Mayan version of slow-roasted pulled pork. Traditionally, cochinita pibil is cooked in a pit, very similar to “low and slow” barbecue; but the pork is either marinated or wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked with citrus fruit and pungent achiote, giving it a distinctive flavor.
Where to find it: Los Tres Gallos is known for its cochinita pibil nearly as much as its signature moles. This is one of Cabo’s top culinary experiences, and it is only three blocks from the cruise tender dock and relatively inexpensive, so there’s no reason to deny yourself a delicious lunch.
This tequila cocktail has become popular throughout the world, and while no one really knows who created the margarita, Cabo is its spiritual home — even more so than in Jalisco, where tequila originates. The sandy beaches, surf culture and sunshine provide the perfect setting, while the hopping bar culture has inspired a thousand versions of the margarita.
Where to find it: Everyone has their own favorite, but a great place to begin your taste test would be Monkey Business Bar in Plaza Marlin.
Skip orange juice and its canned cousins; fruit juices get much more interesting in this city. Some aguas frescas feature only one fruit juice infused into water with sugar. Others combine multiple flavors, including chile and perhaps tequila. Popular ingredients include hibiscus (tart and red), cantaloupe (sweet melon), cucumber and tart lime. This can be the perfect early-morning refresher or a deceptively healthy-tasting mid-day cocktail if alcohol is added.
Where to find it: Many bars — even the high-end hotel bars — serve a variety of aguas frescas as coolers or as part of specialty cocktails.