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San Jose del Cabo: The Heart & Soul of Los Cabos

San Jose del Cabo: The Heart & Soul of Los Cabos

Los Cabos has a double personality. There’s Cabo San Lucas, the deep-sea fishing mecca and party capital at Land’s End; and, 20 miles away, San Jose del Cabo (St. Joseph of the Cape), a charming colonial town situated on the west bank of the nearby Río San José. 

The settlement has a rich history. In the early 1530s, Hernán Cortés organized the first expedition to explore the region. Treasure-laden Spanish galleons returning from the Philippines watered in the river’s estuary in the late 1500’s. British privateers often attacked them, plundering gold and booty.

Long before Cortés arrived, the region was inhabited by the Pericues, an ancient culture of agile runners and tireless walkers. They were hunters, fishermen and gatherers who lived under palm trees. They also cultivated pearl-bearing oysters in the coastal waters, a source of inspiration for “The Pearl” by John Steinbeck.

In 1730, the Mission of San José del Cabo was founded by the Jesuits. This twin-spired church remains the heart of the town’s historic colonial center. It adjoins Plaza Mijares, a large square shaded by century-old Indian laurel trees with a kiosk at its center. Radiating out from the plaza are quaint cobblestone streets lined by 18 th -century buildings now occupied by art galleries, garden bistros and colorful shops carrying silver jewelry, wooden sculptures, hand-painted ceramics and other artisan-produced items. Fans of colonial architecture can pause to admire the City Hall of San José del Cabo, a building that dates to 1891. Bird lovers can visit San José Estuary, a verdant nature reserve with migratory species such as hummingbirds, ibis, herons and many more.

The Art Walk, held on Thursday evenings from November through June, is one of the best ways to enjoy the cultural heritage of San Jose del Cabo. Obregon Street, the main road, is closed to vehicular traffic during Art Walk, transforming the center of town into a pedestrian thoroughfare where live bands (from rock ‘n roll to traditional mariachi) perform on street corners and rooftops.

More than a dozen Gallery District Association members, recognizable by a bronze plaque posted outside each gallery, invite strollers to meet artists, view exhibits and enjoy a complimentary glass of wine or tequila in a welcoming, convivial atmosphere. Genres range from painting and sculpture to folk art, ceramics, jewelry and photography by Mexican and international artists.

In the past year or two, San Jose del Cabo has emerged as a culinary hotspot, notably in the colonial quarter’s newly minted 23400 District. Here’s the place to celebrate food as a universal language and discover what makes the town’s
cuisine so special. Stroll the intimate lanes and savor the town’s essence in every bite, from fusion restaurants to authentic food trucks and open-air stalls. 

Chefs from around the world have been drawn to this peninsular village to debut their culinary personalities and celebrate with others the town’s multicultural gastronomy. Each has brought a part of their own culture and combined it with regional Baja ingredients to create new tastes and colors found only here. Expand your palate on Tasty Tuesdays, when area restaurants offer prix fixe menus to showcase signature dishes and local favorites.

From its colonial history and natural beauty to its status as a foodie destination, you could say that San Jose del Cabo is the ‘whole enchilada.’