Cabo San Lucas Versus Los Cabos: 6 Differences

If you’re planning a trip to Cabo for the first time, you’ve likely come across some names that have got your head spinning.

Is it Cabo San Lucas you want to visit? Or, is the right name for the destination you want to visit Los Cabos?

Maybe you’ve got it all wrong and want to visit both of them. Then again, maybe you’re thinking neither of the names is correct.

Ah!

Let me start with this—there’s a difference between Cabo San Lucas and Los Cabos, although they share the same region in the Baja California peninsula.

So, I’ll help you flesh out Cabo San Lucas versus Los Cabos by highlighting six of their biggest differences. That way, you can get back to planning your trip.

Accessibility Note: If you’re a wheelchair user, we’ve put together a guide on wheelchair accessibility in Los Cabos to help with your trip planning.

The Big Question: Is Los Cabos the Same as Cabo San Lucas?

Los Cabos isn’t the same as Cabo San Lucas, per se, but Cabo San Lucas is part of Los Cabos, which is an umbrella name that includes two towns.

Below is a chart highlighting the differences between Cabo San Lucas vs Los Cabos.

FeatureCabo San LucasLos Cabos
Number of towns12
Party town YesYes and no
Car needed?NoYes
Base for toursYesYes and no
AirportNoYes
Swimmable beachesYesYes and no

Cabo San Lucas vs Los Cabos

Now, let’s explore each point in more detail.

Difference #1: Los Cabos Encompasses Two Towns

If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this: Los Cabos is a word to describe the region of the southernmost part of the Baja California peninsula. As a result, it includes the following two towns:

  • Cabo San Lucas
  • San Jose del Cabo

Cabo San Lucas is what most tourists mean when they say “Los Cabos” or “Cabo.” It’s a party town and the location of the Marina, countless shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs.

A view of the Cabo San Lucas Marina from the Mt. Solmar hike.
A view of Cabo San Lucas’ Marina from the Mt. Solmar hike.

Even if you end up following the crowds and basing yourself in Cabo San Lucas, I highly recommend taking a trip up north to San Jose del Cabo.

San Jose del Cabo is a quaint, old part of Los Cabos that has a massive outdoor plaza and colorful boutique shops lining narrow cobblestone streets. It’s where many locals live and meet up, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to get away from the tourist crowds.

The Plaza de Armas in San Jose del Cabo.
The Plaza de Armas in San Jose del Cabo.

It takes about 30 minutes by car to travel between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. The drive itself is worth the trip, given that you’ll have stunning ocean views from roads along the cliffs (it’s not as scary as it sounds, promise!).

And since Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are both in Los Cabos, you’ll be in the Los Cabos region for the entire drive.

Psst! Are you still trying to understand the difference between the “two Cabos?” If so, check out my guide on San Jose del Cabo vs. Cabo San Lucas.

Difference #2: Cabo San Lucas Is Where the Party’s At

A frog holding a tray of tequila.

Cabo San Lucas is the center of all things party-related in Cabo.

So, while Los Cabos is technically where the party’s also at, given that Cabo San Lucas sits inside it, Los Cabos is so large that the majority of it is non-party territory.

Countless bars and clubs sprawl along the Marina in Cabo San Lucas and on the side streets immediately surrounding it.

As a result, this area gets very loud at night. So, if you’re looking for a quieter Cabo getaway, I recommend booking your accommodation on the outskirts of Cabo San Lucas or along another part of the Los Cabos coast where tranquility will greet you.

Difference #3: Los Cabos Requires a Vehicle to Get Around

When comparing Cabos San Lucas versus Los Cabos, there are more colorful streets in San Jose del Cabo.
A colorful street in San Jose del Cabo.

When looking at Cabo San Lucas versus Los Cabos, another notable difference is that you can’t get around Los Cabos without a bus, taxi, or rental car.

In contrast, you can easily explore all the sights in Cabo San Lucas on foot.

So, if you’re looking for a good destination to plop where you’ll be within walking distance of restaurants, shops, and tours, Cabo San Lucas is hands-down the best option.

To be fair, you can get away with plopping in a more remote resort along the coast of Los Cabos and have everything at your fingertips too; many resorts offer all-inclusive packages, and tour boats and water taxis will pick you up if you’re willing to pay the price.

However, people staying in Los Cabos outside of Cabo San Lucas often enjoy the freedom of having a vehicle to get around.

Difference #4: Cabo San Lucas Is the Best Place for Tours

A lifesaver on a boat in the water on the Sea of Cortez.

As mentioned above, you’ll be able to start a tour from just about any point in Los Cabos. However, if you want access to the best place to barter for a good deal and join group tours, Cabo San Lucas is it.

The Marina in Cabo San Lucas boasts dozens of tour vendors that’ll vie for your attention and pesos.

This works in your favor as the tourist, given that the vendors can watch you jump from one person to the next, bartering prices and comparing what they offer on the tours.

In contrast, by staying in a more remote part of Los Cabos, you may only have the option to use the tour operator through your hotel or an online booking site like Viator.

Difference #5: Los Cabos Has an International Airport

People boarding a plane in Los Cabos.

If you’re trying to compare Cabo San Lucas vs Los Cabos in terms of the best place to stay upon a late-night arrival at the airport, San Lucas isn’t it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) is located in Los Cabos.

The airport is closest to San Jose del Cabo, the other town that makes up Los Cabo. It’s a solid 30 – 40-minute drive to get from the airport to Cabo San Lucas.

So, does Cabo San Lucas have an airport?

No, San Lucas doesn’t have a commercial airport. So, regardless of where you end up staying in Los Cabos, you’ll travel through the SJD airport if you’ll be arriving by plane.

Difference #6: Cabo San Lucas Has Medano Beach

When comparing Cabos San Lucas versus Los Cabos, San Lucas has this swimmable Medano Beach.

Medano Beach is a big deal in the Los Cabos region, given that it’s one of the only places where it’s (usually) safe to swim.

Much of the Los Cabos coast contains steep ocean floor drop-offs, frequent rip tides, and pummeling waves that make it dangerous for even experienced swimmers to venture a dip.

Some of the reason for these intense wave conditions is because the San Andreas fault line cuts close to Los Cabos’ shore. But the long, crescent-shaped Medano Beach typically offers respite from these waves.

And it just so happens that Medano Beach sits in the heart of Cabo San Lucas by the Marina.

That said, so you can’t say I didn’t warn you, the water temperature is cold year-round in Los Cabos. So, unless you’re a brave soul, you’ll likely only want to venture a dip in Medano Beach’s water if you’re there during the summer.

So, Is Cabo and Los Cabos the Same?

Now that we covered Cabo San Lucas vs Los Cabos, here’s another question to consider: Where does the word “Cabo” fit into all this?

Cabo and Los Cabos should technically mean the same thing. After all, “Cabo” is a word that English-speaking people started saying—ahem, butchering.

The origin of “Cabo” could be because many Spanish speakers drop the letter “s” when they speak, so “Cabo” is all some English speakers would hear, but I’m guessing and digressing.

Nevertheless, nowadays, when you hear an English speaker say “Cabo,” they’re usually referring specifically to the party town of Cabo San Lucas.

But the unknowing tourist also sometimes means Los Cabos as a whole when they say “Cabo.” It’ll be up to you to determine the context of what they’re saying.

The good news is that you won’t have to be confused when you hear Mexicans speak. They, of course, understand the difference, as it sounds silly to call a region with two towns the singular “Cabo” instead of the plural “Los Cabos.”

The Verdict: Is Cabo San Lucas the Same as Los Cabos?

The famous arch in Los Cabos.

Cabos San Lucas isn’t the same as Los Cabos, but San Lucas belongs to the Los Cabos region.

So, now that we’ve compared Cabo San Lucas versus Los Cabos, what are your thoughts? Are you leaning more towards staying in Cabo San Lucas or exploring the much larger and mostly quieter area of Los Cabos?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and opinions in the comments section. And, of course, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

P.S.—Don’t miss my guides on 14 must-know tips before embarking on the glass bottom boat tour in Cabo and doing the Mt. Solmar hike with dogs.