Cabo and Puerto Vallarta are two beach cities in Mexico that are extremely popular amongst U.S. travelers for very good reason.
Cabo San Lucas
Cabo, at the tip of California, flanked by the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean, has great beaches, museums, art galleries, sailing, snorkeling and hiking.
For beach lovers, one of the prime spots is Médano Beach, spanning Cabo Bay. If you're feeling adventurous try water sports, or take a dip in the Sea of Cortés — this beautiful body of water is home to nearly 1,000 types of fish and more than 2,000 species of marine life.
Other top attractions are the Cabo Pulmo marine park, known as the aquarium of the world; golf courses designed by Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman; and Cabo San Lucas Marina, home to the city's best restaurants, shops and nightlife.
Those seeking an adrenaline rush can sign up for off-road trips in Baja on dune buggies, four-wheel-drive Jeeps or three-wheel ATVs. Also consider zip lining — Cabo Adventures, Mexico's longest and fastest zip line, has nearly 4,000 feet of zip line and speeds of up to 60 mph.
If you're interested in exploring arts and culture, dive into this city's lively offerings. In October, attend the Los Cabos Comedy Festival, which features top comics from around the world. The following month is the Los Cabos International Film Festival, which features movies from North America. And on Thursday evenings from November through June, the city offers Art Walk, which spotlights the wares of artists in the region.
Thanks to its location, seafood is a crucial part of Cabo San Lucas experience. Regional favorites include clams grilled on beach rocks, shrimp tacos and smoked marlin. Other popular dishes include tamales fajados, filled with steamed corn and chicken, and comida de pobres, a seafood soup served with warm flour tortillas. The city is also home to Japanese, French and Chinese cuisine.
If you plan on going to Cabo San Lucas, the best times to visit are between May and June, after the winter crowds depart and temperatures are in the mid-70s, and October and November when the weather is still quite nice with temperatures in the low 80s.
Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico's West Coast and the Pacific Ocean, is home to great beaches, artisan markets, sailing, diving, whale watching and botanical gardens.
If you're a beach lover, Los Muertos, in the southern part of Puerto Vallarta, should make it on your itinerary. This beach was made famous by actors Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s, and you can enjoy the golden-sand beach or participate in activities like volleyball and banana boat rides. El Malecón is a can't-miss attraction, a promenade in the city center that is next to the sea and home to restaurants, bars, art galleries and shops. There's also the Botanical Gardens of Puerto Vallarta, which focuses on orchid conservation. It also has a collection of oak trees, cacti, wild palms and agave, the plant used to make tequila and mezcal.
Like Cabo, there's plenty to do for adventurers in Puerto Vallarta, including game fishing, diving, jet skiing, ATV riding, mountain biking, parachute jumping, paddle surfing and the Tsunami Jet Boat. The city is also home to many golf courses, including ones designed by Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tom Weiskopf.
Off the beaten path is Marino Los Arcos Park, a group of small granite arch-shaped islands great for snorkeling and diving in the surrounding caves and tunnels. Catch an event at the Vallarta Theatre, home to dance shows, concerts and plays, or take the Viva Tequila Experience tour with a ride through the city, a tequila tasting tour and a visit to a tequila museum.
The cuisine of Puerto Vallarta takes advantage of its proximity to great fishing, featuring dishes made with the local catch. A popular dish is lime-marinated fish that's grilled on a stick over coals and served with fresh salsa. There's also birra, a spicy stew made with goat or lamb, and pozole, a hominy-based stew that is also Mexico's national dish. Puerto Vallarta's version of pozole is made with pork or chicken and served with a special popcorn garnish and lettuce or tostadas.
April and June are the best times to visit Puerto Vallarta, where it tends to be less crowded, with temperatures in the low 80s. January through March is also a good time to visit, especially if you're interested in whale watching, with temperatures in the mid-70s.