For a Good Time Call 555-Cabo San Lucas

It’s a high school girl’s worst nightmare, discovering that her phone number has been scrawled on the boy’s room wall. Those five words: “for a good time call….” speak shameful volumes about a girl who has given in to temptation, in search of elusive popularity, love, excitement.

Not so long ago, virginal Cabo San Lucas was a sleepy village of sand streets and gaily painted wooden fishing launches, where excitement meant the sight of migrating whales or a fiery sunrise bursting through the rocky arch at Land’s End. Although sportsmen discovered Cabo’s legendary marlin fishing in the 1950’s and 60’s, it was the construction of a trans-peninsular highway in 1973 and completion of Los Cabos International Airport in the ’80’s that finally launched Cabo as a tourist mecca. During the ensuing development, lady Cabo not only spread her skirts across the broad coastal plain, she lifted them.

Boats jockey for position around Land’s End
Medano Beach, just another string of upscale Americanized resorts

Cabo San Lucas was not one the places I planned to see on this trip but as with all long-term travel, my plans were fluid. For two nights I had been a hosted guest of the spectacular new Rancho Pescadero Resort, located about 45 miles north of Cabo, and the owner invited me to stay another two days. Since Rancho Pescadero is one of the most stunning properties I have ever visited, I jumped at the chance, but the resort was sold out for the next four days. In the interim, I decided to check out  Cabo San Lucas.

Darsena Marina from the upper level of Puerto Paraiso shopping center

I expected crowds, cruise ships, and cheap souvenir shops. I even expected to be pressured to sign up for tours. But I could not possibly have anticipated the depths to which Cabo has sunk. At Darsena Marina I was accosted every ten feet by salesmen offering the deal of the century. Timeshare salesmen promised me $180 to attend an 89 minute presentation for a new condo project and one boat captain after another insisted his glass bottom boat tour was the best in town. Puerto Paraiso shopping center, anchoring one side of the marina, was an abomination of man-made waterfalls cascading over fake rocks and ubiquitous franchise operations. I could have been anywhere in the world; nothing hinted of Mexico.

Puerto Paraiso shopping center

Beyond the marina, music blasted from the bars lining the main drag. At the most famous of the clubs, “Squid Roe,” the beat went on – literally all day and almost all night. Three of the four days I was in Cabo, a DJ took up the mike at 11 p.m. and screamed non-stop until 5 a.m. Although my hotel was three blocks away, I might as well have been next door.

Squid Roe nightclub

I am not alone in my criticism. Many of the locals I spoke to expressed sadness and regret over what has happened to their city, although most confessed to initially believing tourist dollars would make their lives better. The young girl whose phone number is scrawled on the bathroom wall may find redemption, but for Cabo there is little hope. Its Mexican soul was sold long ago.

17 thoughts on “For a Good Time Call 555-Cabo San Lucas”

  1. I can agree with 99.9 % of people on here, cabo has to be the worst place I have ever been in Mexico, I worked and lived there for 2 months and that was it I quit my job and came home, I hated walking to work in the morning hassled every step of the way by street peddlers selling tat,massage girls every other shop shouting amigo massage,it become to much in the end, time share and the continuous hassle,I can safely say I will never go back to cabo san Lucas not even if you paid me, Cozumel is the best place I have ever been, the people in cabo are very desperate in the way they try and extract money from people even stooping to use children at bars, the prices in cabo are no reflection of Mexico at all, the prices all jacked up for tourists, to cut it short cabo is full of parasites that would turn there nose up at a ten dollar tip as if to say is that all, in short I hate cabo San Lucas

  2. Been going to Cabo for 20+ years
    ..Yes You missed it if you didn’t go until 10 years or so but..
    It still has the seafood (3xt the $)but still worth it.and the locals are COOL!
    What alarms me is the TSA at the airport STEALS your goods
    I watched it over and over for whatever reason they took stuff out of CHECKED
    Baggage and put it into bins to be split up later .I watched them going thru it
    after i seen them single out a bottle of $180.00 agave and let the cheaper stuff
    go thru..the owner had a fit (big one) and he got to talk to the guy with a gun..
    he still didn’t get it back. (and he went ballistic)!
    So be aware, the last moment of your vacation is to be ripped of at the airport,
    stand with the other people at departure and drink or destroy the items you might get through and give them up to the gods of the day..TSA!!(mexico)
    I’ll still go back, but no more good booze for my friends!!! 🙁

  3. Cabo San Lucas is a wonderful place to vacation (especially if you stay at the Hilton) It has been sad to see the LACK of tourism on our trips the last few years. The locals are so friendly and work to make your vacation a great one. yes, there are the kids selling chiclets and people holding menus to get you in but it’s a part of the charm and they are just trying to make a living in a depressed economy. and by the way, if you do take a chance after looking at one of the menis you likely not be disappointed – Cabo has GREAT food if you know where to go. We have visited 2x’s a year for the last 4 years and Im sure we will continue to do so for a long time to come…great weather, good food & wine, friendly people and a beautiful canvas left by mother nature…why wouldnt you like it???

  4. Needless to say, what a fantastic website and educational posts, I’ll bring backlink – bookmark this web page? Regards, Readers.

  5. While it sounds like Cabo may have some decent people, it is very sad that tourism has taken over at the expense of the character of the place. It is an interesting contrast to your recent descriptions of Mazatlan that appears to have maintained its character and grown much more in balance. And timeshare salesmen on the marina – pleeeaaase….

  6. I guess you never ventured any further than downtown. We all know downtown anywhere can be annoying and disappointing. I have lived here 40 years and seen Cabo grow. But as Jim has mentioned there are some things you cannot take away from Cabo. Primariy the wonderful people who have lived here for years. Life in Cabo still retains the solid values we once experienced in the United States. You failed to mention the lack of crime. We have no home invasions, no drive by shootings,and no drug war here. And perhaps the greatest feature of all, we have perhaps, no absolutely the best weather in the world. No pollution here. Temperatures never dip below 50 degrees. We who live here and others who make this a second home welcome a lot of the changes in Cabo which make our life easier. We have choices now. It is a shame your vew of Cabo was so negative. But you have choices too. Stay away from Cabo and leave it to us who love it.

  7. I haven’t been there. Bit I worked in a travel agency once and people either liked it – because things were so familiar to them – or they didn’t and brought back similar stories like yours. From what I’ve heard I thought it wouldn’t be a place for me, and your account just cemented that.

  8. I suppose it is what you are looking for and what you see.

    Are the migrating whales now gone? Who took away the fiery sunrise bursting through the rocky arch at Land’s End. Did someone steal away Cabo’s legendary marlin fishing? No as to all three of the things you said made the place nice years ago. You were not accosted every ten feet at Darsena Marina. I have been there many times. The restaurants hock there menus as in Europe. The time share salesman are on the streets, not on the sidewalks of the Marina (and yes they can be annoying).

    I suppose then you missed the many great restaurants, and people and things to do, etc.

    I suppose the other people that are going there just don’t get it do they?

    It must be nice to be the only one that does…

    • Well Jim, perhaps you appreciate a guy who screams obscenities from his bar from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. every night, and a town that would allow that to occur. I do not. I did have nice meals and met some nice local people, all of whom agreed with me that Cabo has followed the wrong path and has turned into a tourist abomination. Perhaps saying I was accosted every ten feet at Darsena Marina was a bit of a stretch – but only a bit. It may have been every twenty feet, but I was constantly subjected to the hard sell by timeshare salesmen (who stayed in their booths) and glass bottom boat and various other tour operators, who were on the sidewalk and didn’t hesitate to follow me around. After a while, I just wanted to ask them what part of “no” they didn’t understand. The rocky arch and migrating whales are still there, but I frankly have no interest in battling the carnival midway to get to see them. I really don’t care about what other people think of Cabo. I write my opinion, and I didn’t like it. For those of you who do, great.

  9. For many years I avoided artificial tourist stops – like Las Vegas, Cancun, and Cabo San Lucas – because I really don’t have a reason to go to them. Like you say, 45 miles outside of these places, the landscape is a lot more beautiful and authentic, and the locals a lot less pushy.

    I’ve started to think of these places instead as one big conceptual art piece about artificial environments, and I’ve recently thought about visiting some of them and writing about them from that point of view.

  10. That’s too bad. The economy of such places becomes so integrated that I don’t think it can ever really go back. Lots of money but I’m not sure who benefits from it all.

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