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LGBTQ+ Los Cabos, México

Luxury, Adventure and Great Food In Mexico

by Mark Chesnut
Photo by Los Cabos Tourism Board

There are many reasons why Los Cabos is gaining ever-greater recognition with LGBTQ+ travelers.

Photo courtesy of Los Cabos Tourism Board

Los Cabos, Mexico is quickly establishing itself as a welcoming hotspot for LGBTQ+ travelers seeking luxury, outdoor experiences, sophisticated cuisine.

Long gone are the days when vacation destinations based their LGBTQ+ appeal solely on nightlife. Our community is diverse, after all, and a widening recognition of our varied interests means that more cities and countries around the world are aiming to entice us with experiences that go way beyond disco balls and go-go boys. Such is the case with Los Cabos, Mexico, which is quickly establishing itself as a hotspot for LGBTQ+ travelers seeking luxury, outdoor experiences, sophisticated cuisine, and a decidedly welcoming environment.

Celebrating at Los Cabos Pride (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

There are many reasons why Los Cabos is gaining ever-greater recognition with LGBTQ+ travelers. I witnessed several during my most recent visit, including their festive Los Cabos Pride, the destination’s annual LGBTQ+ pride celebration, and the LGBT Travel Symposium (lgbttravelsymposium.com), an international tourism conference that attracted more than 50 travel advisors, destination wedding planners, influencers and media representatives, all of whom specialize in LGBTQ+ travel.

Being present for these two major events in Los Cabos provided a unique opportunity to not only experience various aspects of the destination’s unique offerings, but also to see it all through the eyes of other travel industry experts who know a thing or two about what LGBTQ+ travelers like.

Los Cabos Background
First, a bit of history. Los Cabos is actually a collection of destinations located at the tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. Its primary towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo are divided by a long corridor that’s dotted with some of Mexico’s most luxurious hotels. Los Cabos, in fact, has become increasingly well known as more international luxury hotel brands have continued to debut there in recent years (and there are even more in the works). Increased accessibility has also helped; there are now more than 550 weekly flights into Los Cabos International Airport, with nonstop flights from most major U.S. hubs as well as many cities in the western United States and Canada.

Excursion with G-Force Adventures (Photo by G-Force Adventures)

Excursion with G-Force Adventures (Photo by G-Force Adventures)

The destination’s proximity to southern California, coupled with its wide array of exclusive, private villas and accommodations, has also helped to make this a favored getaway for Hollywood celebrities. Much like Acapulco was once a revered playground for the rich and famous decades ago, Los Cabos now attracts an A-list of visitors, although you’re not likely to run into them, since they tend to take refuge in more secluded, very posh settings, far from curious eyes.

The rise of Los Cabos as an upscale tourism hub is especially impressive when you consider that just a few decades ago, there was barely anything here. Three indigenous groups called this region home in previous centuries, but there was never a major colonial-era settlement. In the 20th century, a handful of Hollywood elite began visiting, not for glamorous accommodations or spa treatments, but rather to enjoy its peaceful isolation and great fishing. In the mid 1970s, Mexico’s government designated the region for development as a tourism destination, and growth has been exponential since then, even as Los Cabos has still maintained its strong focus on natural attractions and beauty. It may be a preferred place for luxury hotels, championship golf, and sophisticated cuisine, but it’s also a wonderful location to connect with nature, both on land and in the water.

Now, tourism officials are hoping for a surge of interest from LGBTQ+ travelers, and they’re making great efforts to push that goal forward. The Los Cabos Tourism Board (visitloscabos.travel), for example, was a cohost of the LGBT Travel Symposium, along with OutThere (outthere.travel), a British-based luxury travel magazine, and Queer Destinations (queerdestinations.com), a company that provides LGBTQ+ sensitivity training and certification for destinations and travel-related businesses.

There are many reasons why Los Cabos is gaining ever-greater recognition with LGBTQ+ travelers. I witnessed several during my most recent visit, including their festive Los Cabos Pride.

The region’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ segment became especially clear in 2022, when Los Cabos became the first destination to become certified by Queer Destinations. “It’s one of our biggest achievements so far,” said Cynthia Ontiveros, special segments manager at the Los Cabos Tourism Board. “Los Cabos is not known as a huge gay destination compared to other destinations in Mexico, so we’re trying to make it more inclusive.”

Ontiveros, who’s lived in Los Cabos since 2001, has seen lots of positive progress. “Back in the day, we didn’t really see much [of the LGBTQ+ community],” she said. “Now that the destination is working and we’re promoting ourselves, everybody is coming out of their shell and saying, ‘yes, we’ve got to make sure we don’t miss out.’ It’s been amazing.”

In addition to the tourism board, additional organizations that have become Queer Destinations certified include Hacienda del Mar Los Cabos, a luxury hotel, Wild Cabo Tours, a local tour operator, and Don Sanchez, one of the destination’s celebrated restaurants. Those businesses, as well as several others, rolled out the red carpet for symposium attendees during pride week, showcasing just how friendly they can be.

Oriol Palmies, founder of Queer Destinations, which is under contract with the Mexican government to create marketing strategies for multiple destinations around the country, praises the allure that Los Cabos has for LGBTQ+ travelers. “Los Cabos has everything from flight connectivity to diversity of accommodations. The luxury, the weather, and nature, are all the [elements you need] for a perfect product for the LGBTQ community. There’s a type of traveler in the community that is looking for luxury and high end, and Los Cabos is naturally the best place for that.”

Palmies finds lots to personally love in the destination. “Nature is the biggest part of it, combined with luxury, high-end accommodations and gastronomy, together with being in touch with nature,” he said.

“That’s the most interesting part for me. Going out there and scuba diving trip or snorkeling and being by the beach. There is so much nature and biodiversity. You can have a very luxurious experience, but still be in touch with the beauty of nature.”

Uwern Jong, OutThere’s “experientialist-in-chief ” and one of the symposium organizers, is another expert who sees the destination’s potential. “Los Cabos has long been a supporter of the LGBTQ community,” he said. “It’s really important that destinations like this reaffirm their stance. Bringing the symposium here is one of the many steps [the tourism board] is taking to reaffirm that this is a destination for the LGBTQ community.”

Customized treats for group events at Hacienda del Mar (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

Customized treats for group events at Hacienda del Mar (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

Jong said he’s especially drawn to the sun, the sea, the food, and the people of Los Cabos. “I quite like the fact that everything is very laid back and there is luxury,” he said. “For me personally, as a luxury travel storyteller, there is just so much to tell here; providers who really understand how to deal with customers. I think that goes a long way to explain why it’s such a good LGBTQ destination. People here take personalization seriously, and personalization is a key to dealing with diversity.”

Shawn Kirshenman, an advisor at Woodside Travel, a Virtuoso member travel agency in Seattle, agreed about the destination’s sales potential with upscale clients. “It’s a luxury destination with anything you could ask for,” he said. “There are luxury properties, there’s phenomenal dining, there are beautiful beaches, great weather, and many nonstop flights, so it’s easy from most places in the United States.”

The best time to witness this destination’s LGBTQ+ friendliness is during Los Cabos Pride (visitloscabos.travel/events/lgbtq-events/loscabos-pride), which takes place in June in downtown Cabo San Lucas. This vibrant parade and festival begins, thankfully, just as the sun sets, which makes for more pleasant marching temperatures.

Los Cabos Pride (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

Los Cabos Pride (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

This is the type of smaller-scale, laidback event that you can either march in yourself or simply watch. Music, dancing and chanting, as well as some fun floats, made the 2023 edition especially fun, and I was impressed that the parade, which attracts mostly locals, included large numbers of hotel staff who wore official gear showcasing the pro-LGBTQ+ stance of companies including Grupo Posadas and Marriott International. At the end of the parade route, a sizeable festival awaits, and I was wowed by the talents of local musical performers as well as an appearance by Valentina, co-host of RuPaul’s new program, “Drag Race Mexico.”

Rene Larios, co-owner and founder of Gay Cabo (gaycabo.com), a local LGBTQ+ travel company, has lived in Los Cabos for about 20 years and is thrilled with how the pride event has grown. “It’s been 17 years since we first participated in pride,” he said. “The evolution has been exponential, with more and more people. And now we’re working with the Tourism Board, so it will be even bigger. The Tourism Board [wants] Los Cabos to become a destination for pride. That’s what we’re working on.”

Luxury hotel fans will be in heaven in Los Cabos with so many different options available, so you can pick the property that best fits your personal preferences. I stayed at two host hotels during the travel symposium. Hacienda del Mar Los Cabos (Corredor Turistico KM 10, Lote D. Tel: +52-624-145-8000. marriott.com) exudes classic elegance, with architectural and design elements derived from a traditional Mexican hacienda. Bubbling fountains, winding walkways, and beautiful landscaping set the scene for an upscale stay. I was especially impressed with the cuisine at Hacienda del Mar, from rainbow-hued coffee break treats during the convention to a sizeable breakfast buffet and superb, open air lunch buffet served on a terrace. Even room service was good, especially the sopa de tortilla, a traditional Mexican tortilla soup that was rich and satisfying.

Hacienda del Mar served as host hotel for the LGBT Travel Symposium (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

Hacienda del Mar served as host hotel for the LGBT Travel Symposium (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

I also enjoyed a two-night stay at Corazon Cabo Resort and Spa (Pelicanos 225, El Medano Ejidal, Cabo San Lucas. Tel: +52-624-980-0604. corazoncabo.com). This chic, 305-room property is especially noteworthy for its location right in Cabo San Lucas, making it possible to walk or take a quick car ride to shopping, dining, and even the marina. The rooms are spacious and attractive and the cuisine is delectable, but my own personal favorite part of this hotel is the spectacular rooftop bar, restaurant, and pool, which is billed as the city’s highest.

Additional luxury hotel options in Los Cabos include Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort, Los Cabos (Carretera Transpeninsular KM 18.5. Tel: 833-8876529. marriott.com) a visually striking property that reopened in January 2023 following a major upgrade. This decidedly modern property is graced with lovely infinity pools, stylish guestrooms, a spa, excellent cuisine, and even its own museum dedicated to the region’s history.

Also of note is the beautiful Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal (Camino del Mar 1, Cabo San Lucas. Tel: +52-624-163-4300. waldorfastorialoscabospedregal.com). Reached via what is billed as “Mexico’s only private tunnel,” the property is a sumptuous oasis of calm, with accommodations including villas, casitas, and private homes furnished with all the luxuries of home and then some. The Waldorf Astoria Spa provides an array of treatments, while the multiple restaurants serve cuisine from around the world (the hotel even hosts culinary weekends from time to time).

I toured yet another stunning accommodation option during an LGBT Travel Symposium cocktail party: Villa Peñasco, a private villa managed by Cabo Villas (Tel: 800-745-2226. cabovillas.com). This six-bedroom, 9,000-square-foot residence, available for just over $4,000 a night, provides an absolutely gorgeous setting for a friends or family getaway, destination wedding, or other celebration. Its swimming pool and vistas are the things that Hollywood movies are made of. For private catering for special events at locations like this and elsewhere, I can personally recommend Matter of Taste (cateringincabo.com) and the Main Event Cabo (maineventcabo.com), both of which provided outstanding service to our group.

If you were expecting nonstop, Puerto-Vallarta-style LGBTQ+ nightlife in Los Cabos, think again. There is only one dedicated gay bar in Los Cabos: Chandelier’s (Francisco I Madero 8, Centro, Cabo San Lucas. Tel: +52 624 121 5302. facebook.com/ChandeliersNightClub), a dance club that hosts drag queen and go-go boy performances. Most LGBTQ+ travelers, however, don’t visit Los Cabos for the nightlife. This destination shines more in its ability to satisfy the needs of travelers looking for luxurious accommodations, eye-catching natural beauty, attentive service, and great cuisine.

Los Cabos is, indeed, a culinary hotspot, and I sampled many tasty dishes at several LGBTQ+ friendly venues during my most recent visit. Among my favorites was Nao Cabo (El Merkado, Corredor Turístico KM 24.5. Tel: +52-624-317-9672. naocabo.com), a trendy hotspot for Mediterranean specialties with all-white décor. Its headed by Chef Alex Branch, who was also known for his gustatory creativity at luxury hotels including the Capella Pedregal Resort and One&Only Palmilla.

Don Sanchez restaurant in San Jose del Cabo (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

Don Sanchez Restaurant in San Jose del Cabo (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

I also thoroughly enjoyed my time at Don Sanchez (27 Antonio Mijares Boulevard, San Jose del Cabo. Tel: +52-624-142-2444), where the lovely setting, a giant, thatch-roofed palapa on a terrace, just steps away from San José del Cabo’s many art galleries, matches perfectly with the menu of Mexican contemporary cuisine. Another excellent choice for Mexican favorites is Los Tres Gallos (Leona Vicario esquina, 20 de Noviembre S/N, Cabo San Lucas. Tel: +52-624-130-7709. lostresgallos.com), where I dug into a generously proportioned buffet served in a picturesque interior patio.

There are lots of ways to arrange memorable activities in Los Cabos. LGBTQ+ travelers will do especially well if they work with a friendly operator that can tailor experiences to their needs. Gay Cabo (gaycabo.com), for example, crafts bespoke experiences that range from tourism activities to shopping excursions, restaurant recommendations and reservations, destination weddings, and even real estate shopping for those looking to buy a piece of paradise.

It’s pretty much a given that any first-time visitor to Los Cabos will want to spend some time on the water. I’ve enjoyed countless yacht excursions from the Cabo San Lucas marina, and the sight of the iconic arch, a natural rock formation that juts from the water, is one of the biggest rewards. During this visit, Queer Destinations-certified Wild Cabo Tours (Calle Melchor Ocampo 3320, Cabo San Lucas. Tel: +52-624-105-0117. wildcabotours.com) hosted a sunset boat tour, which is one of the best time of days to head out and enjoy the sights. The company also offers whale watching tours, which are among the most rewarding activities for nature lovers.

I also found myself wonderfully challenged during an excursion with Cabo Adventures (Boulevard Paseo de la Marina Lt 7-A, Cabo San Lucas. Tel: +52-624-191-9799. cabo-adventures.com). The Electric Bike Beach and Desert Adventure included a fast-paced ebike ride through the sands of the desert and the beach, with lots of dramatic scenery and great photo opportunities.

Class-made salsas and chips at Flora Farms (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

Class-made salsas and chips at Flora Farms (Photo by DepartureLevel.com)

Visitors can also immerse themselves in the Los Cabos culinary world. I learned a lot during a salsa-making class at Flora Farms (Animas Bajas, San Jose del Cabo. Tel: +52-624- 142-1000. florafarms.com), a lovely, 25-acre organic farm where you can dine from a menu made with locally sourced produce and even join a variety of open-air cooking classes. There’s also a spa and a limited number of private residences available for vacation rental, if you’re in the mood for true immersion.

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