The Other Cabo

By Melissa Heisler

When people think of Los Cabos, they often imagine images of spring break, Cabo Wabo, and non-stop partying on the beach. Many of these images come from Cabo San Lucas, home of tournament fishing and a No Bad Days. The other part of Los Cabos, the yin to Cabo San Lucas’ yang, is the city of San José del Cabo, a more sophisticated Mexican paradise.

Just 40 minutes north of Cabo San Lucas and home of the Los Cabos International Airport, San José del Cabo is a more tranquil beach town known for its weekly art walk and expansive farm-to-table experiences. San José del Cabo is a small city built off the remnants of 1700s missionaries and the rebelling indigenous.

San José del Cabo is more of a working city, a little less touristy, and, when it is not rush hour, slower paced than Cabo San Lucas. But don’t be fooled, San José is just as desirable a place as Cabo San Lucas. More so if you are looking for all the luxury of Los Cabos with a bit more refinement.

Retire in San José del Cabo

Retire-in-San-Jose-del-Cabo-Mexico
©iStock/MattGush

Being slightly further up the Sea of Cortez coast, San José does not receive Pacific breezes and runs a little warmer in the summer than Cabo San Lucas. Still, the weather is desirable with highs in the low 80s all winter long.

The heart of San José del Cabo is Plaza Mijares, or the old town of the city. It is made up of a pedestrian-only plaza, shops, and restaurants. The cornerstone of the plaza is the Misión San José del Cabo, the city’s main Catholic church. Three distinct parts of the city converge at the old town. Travel south to the beachfront lined with hotels and condominium developments. Travel northeast to the newest residential areas being developed in the foothills of the mountains. Or head northwest to the airport, commerce center, and home to the majority of Mexican residents.

Shopping is easy at a multitude of store options along Highway 1. A Walmart is easy to reach along with the Mexican superstore La Comer, offering less expensive domestic products, handmade tortillas, fresh ceviche, and authentic baked goods. New to the area is a Súper Chedraui Selecto, offering a wide variety of organic, artisanal, and higher-end products, along with counter-service restaurants with a host of food options including sushi and pizza. Every Saturday, an organic market near the old town provides seasonal fruit and vegetables alongside local soaps, clothing, and other handmade goods. For a very authentic Mexican experience, check out the municipal market located between Plaza Mijares and Highway 1.

Healthcare has greatly improved in the area with the recent addition of the world-class H+ Hospital located an easy 10-minute drive from the city center. Locally purchased health insurance offers annual rates for the same amount most Americans pay monthly. An average doctor visit is about $60 and includes unlimited text follow-ups directly with the doctor.

Lifestyle in San José del Cabo

Lifestyle in San Jose del Cabo Mexico
©iStock/MattGush

San José offers the finer things in life from its extensive, pristine sandy beaches to world-class golf at Club Campestre, Palmilla, and other fine courses. Walk along the quiet estuary path or the exclusive Puerto Los Cabos marina lined with art from a famous Mexican artist.

The weekly art walk is not to be missed. Centered around Plaza Mijares, every Thursday night individuals walk the narrow streets from gallery to gallery to experience, and perhaps purchase, paintings, sculptures, and other unique pieces of art. Even if you are not interested in purchasing, it is fun to stroll the streets and perhaps stop in to one of the local restaurants for a bit to eat. A variety of restaurants surround the area from the well-known Baja Brewing Company where you can catch the game to restaurants like Jardín Secreto Restaurante (Secret Garden Restaurant) offering high-end Mexican cuisine and attentive service in a beautiful atmosphere.

The trending area in San Jose is in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains due to the popularity of Flora Farms. Started in 1996 to supply restaurants with fresh vegetables, Flora Farms now offers a full farm-to-table experience.  More than a farm and a restaurant, Flora Farms is also an experience for the whole family. Sign up for cooking or art classes. Buy something special at the unique shops or relax at their spa. Flora Farms even offers residential housing in the area providing a haven for upscale, environmentally conscious individuals. Down the road Acre and Los Tamarindos also offer farm-to-table experiences.

Not far from these foothills, next to the marina, is the Wirikuta Cactus Garden. During the day, walk the grounds at your leisure exploring the local flora and fauna as well as an extensive cactus nursery. In the evenings, enjoy dinner and a show based on the local culture. The venue can also be rented out for larger events.

Many of the beaches near San José offer prime waves for surfing. Watch the experts navigate the waves around the rocky shore or hire an expert to teach you how to catch a wave.

San José is also a great starting point to visit other cities along the coast. Take the rugged dirt road along the coast between San Jose and Cabo Pulmo to discover amazing beaches. Take Highway 1 up to Los Barriles or La Paz for the day or a long weekend. Take the short drive to Cabo San Lucas for some day fishing and night partying. Or bypass Cabo San Lucas via the new toll road from the airport to the slower pace of Todos Santos.

Cost of Living in San José del Cabo

Cost-of-Living-in-San-Jose-del-Cabo-Mexico
©iStock/MattGush

The city of San José del Cabo feels very divided between the local working class and expats. Most transplants live along the beach or in the new developments branching off the marina and into the foothills. Housing is luxurious, and not inexpensive. Expect to pay over $200,000 for a newly constructed one-bedroom condominium. A 23-bedroom home on the beachfront corridor between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas is currently offered at $38 million. Palmilla, located on the corridor, is the sought-after upscale neighborhood.

Bargain homes can still be found in the locals’ neighborhoods and older condominiums can still be rented at a reasonable price. And remember, even if you are not on the beach, you are just a short drive or walk to the Sea of Cortez.

Although it has a reputation as one of the most expensive cities in Mexico, Mexico still offers a significantly reduced cost of living when compared to the U.S. Since San José is located near the tip of a peninsula, almost like living on an island, delivery of goods like furniture can be more costly. The other reason for the slightly higher cost of living is the influx of foreigners who desire high-end restaurants and luxuries. However, for most expats, the cost of living is still much more affordable than they found back in the U.S.

Here is a breakdown of a monthly budget for a couple living in San José del Cabo:

Expense U.S. $
Rent (two-bedroom condo) $1,200
Utilities $75
Groceries $450
Entertainment $350
Housekeeping (weekly) $140
Medical $250
Transport – Public Transport or Car/Gas/Insurance $75 to $150
Monthly total: $2,540 to $2,615

Featured Image Copyright: ©iStock/MattGush

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