Going to San Jose del Cabo – The other side of Cabo

When you think of Cabo, or Los Cabos, you might imagine celebs at the Palmilla Hotel, or the cruise ships lining the coast and shuttling passengers to and from the mainland. In March, Spring Break students take over this sunny coastal town in Baja California, Mexico.


A fleet of glass-bottom boats waits to take tourists to the Arch. Photo by S. Valle

However, Cabo San Lucas isn’t all fun and no business.

In the nearby town of San Jose del Cabo, 20 minutes away, you’ll find a thriving art community nestled in a traditional Mexican residential area.  Yellow, terracotta, cobalt blue and Mexican pink-painted facades line narrow cobble-stoned streets housing an abundance of unique, hand-made pieces awaiting those looking for treasures to take back home.


Glass-blown hearts are popular souveniers in Cabo. Photo by S. Valle

Walking along the uneven sidewalks, and peeking through the oversized wooden arched doorways will reveal hacienda-style living areas with art galleries at the front, a courtyard, and a restaurant tucked deep in the large interior gardens.


Sidewalk galleries in San Jose del Cabo, Baja California. Photo S. Valle

It is on this side of Cabo where the locals live, work, go to school and about their everyday lives while the tourists have fun down the road. San Jose del Cabo reminded me of San Miguel de Allende in many ways; there’s an overabundance of crafts, paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and assorted souvenir stands.  To our surprise, this week in March also coincides with the town’s largest fiesta honoring San Jose (Saint Joseph), the city’s patron and name sake. Food stands, music, and the local folklore take over the main square.


Typical Mexican candy stand at the Festival de San Jose del Cabo. Photo S. Valle

We traveled to Baja to join our friends Julian and Paulina Gutierrez celebrate the fifth anniversary of their one-stop decorating complex at a very special evening soiree with close friends and family.


Julian Gutierrez and his latest masterpiece at his gallery. Photo S. Valle

Business has been very good for the successful interior design studio Casa Paulina: Art Gallery, shop, restaurant and work studio to Julian, an accomplished painter and sculptor. The husband-and-wife team own the two story building where many locals and foreigners go to get their vacation homes furnished and decorated in the upscale Mexican style unique to this area. 

Casa Paulina, San Jose del Cabo Photo S. Valle

We stayed at the charming all-suite hotel, El Encanto Inn, (The Enchantment), right across the street from Casa Paulina. Wrought iron gates and chandeliers line the entrance and exterior hallways leading to the uniquely-decorated rooms surrounding the pool area of this property. A few steps beyond the pool deck are another large patio area and a chapel where private weddings are held.


The owners are Cliff Ullen and Blanca Pedrin, he is a native of Minnesota who married a Cabo-born woman. Together they own the two separate buildings, one with traditional hotel rooms and the other with spacious suites, which make up the enchanting lodgings fit for those seeking a more mature vacation in Baja.


Mi Casa restaurant in San Jose del Cabo. Photo S. Valle

If you’ve been looking to take a trip to a traditional Mexican town, but dread the long flights further into Mexico, or loud tourists typical of Cabo San Lucas, head to San Jose del Cabo. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that neither Cabo Wabo nor its usually-raucous clientele are anywhere to be found.

Going to San Jose del Cabo:

          Transportation – After you de-plane, avoid the ambush of private cab drivers hawking time shares. Go straight to the front of the airport and hire a taxi for about $30 to take you to San Jose. You can also pay approx. $13 p.p. for a shuttle bus that stops at the hotels in Cabo San Lucas if you’ll be staying there. The taxi ride is about 20 minutes to the city center of San Jose del Cabo.

          Accommodations – Stay at El Encanto Inn in San Jose del Cabo (tell them Alex and Suzette sent you!).

          Food – At the Encanto Inn, breakfast is usually included in the room rate, but the restaurants are off property. The hotel will recommend a place and give you a voucher to use for payment.  

o   We had a lovely, traditional breakfast at the nearby Jasmin restaurant. The French Riviera is a small bakery with crepes, croissants and cappuccinos.

o   Lunch or dinner at Mi Casa, also within walking distance, is a sensory experience!

o   There are a number of places for dinner: El Paragon is a hacienda style building. Morgan’s is close to the hotel and a popular spot.

          Take long, slow walks along the side streets and  visit the numerous art galleries and shops dotting the way to the city’s main plaza where you’ll find the Cathedral and government buildings.

          There are plenty of coffee shops (no Starbucks here!) and bars to take a much needed break and recharge.

–   Safety – I met quite a few Americans living comfortably in San Jose del Cabo, and they told me they feel as safe as they do in their own country.

          The beach is not the focal point at San Jose, but a short cab ride or a brisk walk will get you to the water’s edge.

Disclosure: Our accommodations at El Encanto Inn were complimentary.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Suzette for these great tips! Steve and I are headed there soon so we will keep them in mind! : ) I can't wait!

  2. Anonymous says:

    How timely! You'll be joined by several thousand spring breakers in Cabo. have a great time!

  3. Anonymous says:

    We took a cruise when I was pregnant with Pickle…we hit Cabo, Puerta Vallarta, and Mazatlan. We didn't want to hang out in Cabo the whole time, so we took an excursion away to San Jose…it was quite possibly my favorite part of the entire trip! We even talked about the possibility of eventually buying a house in the area, because we loved it so much. We did some shopping while we were there, and brought back a piece of artwork for our home.
    Great post, and awesome tips…I will definitely keep this bookmarked in the event that we get to go again soon!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful photos Suzette! I've never been to Cabo, but I've always imagined it to be a Mexican version of Ft. Lauderdale. Clearly, it isn't. Nice post!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I'm so glad to hear you've been there. I wish I would have been able to bring back a larger piece of art work, though. Thanks for popping by!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the compliment on the photos, Jennifer. considering you are a photographer it mean a lot to me. Now, we have to do something about you visiting Cabo…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for all of the info! In addition, I have heard that Cabo is the safest tourist destination in Mexico.

  8. Anonymous says:

    That's right! I forgot to mention that. Residents told me the same thing, they're not afraid of drug cartels, violence and kidnappings in Cabo because they are not at alll common like in other parts of Mexico.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Discover the easiest way to build beautiful sheds even if you have little or no experience with woodworking. This article will show you the guidelines and essential steps involved in how you can easily and with minimal cost build your own storage shed.

  10. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve been wanting to go and now that I have a great recommendation I’ll be sure to make this trip happen.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.