Going on vacation in another country like Mexico can be a daunting adventure if you’ve never traveled outside the United States before and having travel tips can always help. We’ve traveled down to Cabo San Lucas many times as we own a timeshare at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar. We’ve put together this list of Cabo San Lucas travel tips from our years of experience and desire to always make the next trip easier than the last. Please feel free to share this page with your friends and please feel free to comment below if you have something to ask us or to add to the page. Thanks!
Getting a Rental Car in Cabo at the Airport
If you stay at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar or at another resort in the area you will probably want to rent a car. I recommend getting a reservation online with one of the major rental car companies (Thrifty, Budget, AVIS, etc.). Typically with these companies you do not need to pay for your rental when you reserve it. Make sure you have your confirmation number printed out. If you never use the reservation you won’t be charged. The reason I recommend having a printout of your reservation with the total cost is because you are going to see what other options are available at the airport. When you arrive in Cabo and get through customs, you will be spit out the other side with your luggage. Walk up to the major rental car companies and start asking them how much a weekly rental is for a small car. If you are traveling with more than two folks, just figure out what size car you have reserved, and how big of a car you need to travel to and from the airport with your luggage. Once you get to the resort, you’ll leave your luggage so you won’t be as cramped when you drive downtown, but heading to the resort after you arrive with a bag or two on your lap, could save you quite a bit of money on your rental.
So here’s how to save money on your rental car in Cabo, start asking the attendants at the rental car kiosks within the airport how much it will cost for one week in whatever size car you think you need. Know in your head how much your current reservation is and see who can beat it. You may even want to tell them “Hey, I have a reservation for a full-size car with Thrifty for $300 a week, can you do better than that?” More often than not they can! I recommend using an American Express card for your rental (at home or in Mexico). Check with your insurance company at home but you will likely have to purchase the Mexican car insurance for the rental. Using this negotiation technique can save you 30% off your car rental reservation that you made prior to arriving in Mexico. I have had once where I couldn’t find a better deal that I was comfortable with and just had to settle with my actual reservation. Always have that back-up reservation just in case, you don’t want to be stuck without a car if you are staying anywhere outside of downtown Cabo San Lucas.
You may also be able to rent a car at your resort but you won’t be able to negotiate at all, you’ll be stuck with their high resort prices. The best option for getting a rental car is to do it at the airport.
Save Money on Activities in Cabo
Do you want to do some fun activities when you’re in Cabo? Ride jet skis, do an ATV tour, maybe some zip lines? The easiest way to get reduced or cheap activities is to go through your resorts timeshare presentation. Some resorts like the Hacienda del Mar will give you reduced rates on activities if you listen to their timeshare sales pitch for 2 hours. Not only do you get reduced activities, you usually get a pretty decent breakfast, all for free. There is one catch, you do have to qualify financially. I don’t think that they check your credit or anything but you do need to make a certain amount in annual salary. Depending on the activity you can get up to 50% off the regular price. One year, my wife and I were able to get an hour of jet skis in the Cabo bay for $40 per hour through the resort while the regular price was $90 per hour. The last time we purchased activities after doing the timeshare presentation, we were able to buy as many different activities that we wanted. So if you are planning on doing a few things, the timeshare presentation is a no-brainer. One year we got reduced prices for jet skis, dinner cruises, ATV tour, and zip line. We did all of those activities in one week!
So as long as you qualify financially for the timeshare presentation, the easiest thing to do is to act interested and then at the end when they try to put the “hard sell” on you, just say you cannot commit that much money to something you aren’t sure you will even use. Just say that you don’t travel much and you’re not interested. You will have to run the gauntlet as the manager will come over to sweeten the deal and then finally they try to sell you an ancillary package that is like a junior timeshare option that is good for a certain brand of hotel/resort, just keep telling them no. Trust me, getting activities for up to half off is worth the 2 hours out of your day. It’s really easy if you have no intention of buying.
Save Money on Food in Cabo
If you’re staying in a timeshare at the Hacienda del Mar in Cabo you’re probably wondering what to do about food. I can give you a recommendation regarding the restaurants on-site at the Hacienda del mar property, they are excellent but also very expensive. My wife and I usually eat one or two dinners “out” at Pitahayas or De Cortez Grill, but it is really hard to justify eating there every single night as these are 5 star establishments. The other restaurants are also very good, there’s a Sports Bar Sushi restaurant, Delfines the swim up pool bar restaurant, Tomatoes which has Ocean views and serves Mediterranean style food, and Girasoles which serves breakfast and then a full menu of food later in the day. These restaurants are all pretty good but for two you’re looking at $40 – $50 for every meal if you include an alcoholic drink or two.
If you’re staying at the timeshare for a week then you’re going to need a more economical option. Assuming you’ve rented a car, if you travel approximately 2 – 3 miles towards downtown Cabo San Lucas from the Hacienda del Mar, you’ll find a Costco and Walmart. When my wife and I travel alone as a couple we usually find that Walmart does the trick. We buy all of our beer and alcohol there which will save you a lot of money right off the bat. Then we try to get a rough idea of what meals we’ll be eating while we’re vacationing. The timeshare rooms all come equipped with everything you need to cook most everything. Depending on the size of the room you may be stuck with a toaster oven vs. a regular oven so plan accordingly.
We find that our staples are bread, sliced cheese, and lunch meat for sandwiches which work great as quick meals or to take with you when you are on the go to an activity. We also get spaghetti or some form of pasta along with sauce as that’s an easy meal to cook in the room and also provides good leftovers. Again, if you have an oven then frozen lasagna works good, it does not work well in a toaster oven! Bagels and other pastry are good for breakfast, we also usually get some eggs, and tortillas for breakfast burritos. Don’t worry about the eggs at Walmart in Cabo, they do not refrigerate them! My wife usually gets a package of the queso fresco paired with a box of Triscuits for snacks. They have all of the usual products you’ll find in the States, from Diet Coke, to Oscar Meyer hotdogs. Speaking of hotdogs, we also buy small containers of condiments and anything we don’t use we leave for the staff, even i0f they don’t use it, a small bottle of mustard is usually pretty cheap. You’ll find that most of the product pricing is in-line with what you’d expect to pay in the States.
The best meals to cook in the timeshare rooms are with items that can be boiled or cooked (fried) in a pan. You will also have a microwave but like I said, ovens are few and far between.
If you do go out to eat in the town of Cabo itself, always look for something that isn’t located in the main tourist areas. There are decent places to grab a bite like Cabo Wabo and other more touristy places but if you are in the downtown area, just walk a few blocks away and see what you can find. One trip, my wife and I walked about 2 blocks to the west from the downtown area and we happened upon a local selling tacos and Tecates in his garage, we both ate tacos and had a few beers for half the price of what we would have paid in the harbor area for food that probably wasn’t as good. So just look around and find spots that are saf0e but off the beaten path a little bit, you’ll be surprised what you find!
Other Cabo Travel Tips
Pack a small cooler. It can be as big as to hold a 6 pack of beer or a lunch cooler. This will come in handy when you go to the pool so you can take a couple of your own beers. The Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Cabo has a rule that says you cannot bring your own drinks to the pool but as long as you are discreet (and not completely drunk), I’ve never seen this rule enforced in the 6 times I’ve stayed there. We usually take a few beers with us to the pool and end up buying a round of Lava Flows or other blended drinks while we’re there so I don’t really worry too much about it. The other good thing about the cooler is you can pack a lunch (or take drinks too) if you go down to the harbor or beach to do an activity or just hanging out. Eating out can really take a big bite out of your budget.
Bring things from home that will be handy. I would grab things like batteries, zip-lock bags of all sizes for sandwiches & leftovers, Koozies, coffee, coffee filters, and other things in your pantry that you can easily pack but otherwise might have to buy if you didn’t have it with you.
Your cellphone will work if you add an International plan to it. Before we leave, we usually call AT&T and add an International plan option to one of our phones before we go, just in case we might need to make a phone call in an emergency or to be able to text another person in our party it really does come in handy for the nominal fee, which I think is just a couple extra dollars a month depending on your plan and service level.
Do you like to have music when you travel? Plan to take a Bluetooth speaker with you as it will work very well in your room. Plan to have all of your music loaded on your phone or other device and if your phone is in airplane mode, you can play music all day long and not incur any data charges. Another recommendation if you use Spotify or some other music service, you can save music from these services for use off-line. I use Spotify and the last time I went to Cabo, I went into Spotify and saved a bunch of music (playlists, albums, etc.) off-line that I wanted to listen to and the music is then stored on my phone and I can listen to it just as I would if I had purchased the music from iTunes. I used my iPhone and iPad because either of those can connect to the Bluetooth speaker and my iPad has much more storage than my phone. Also, each room at the Hacienda del Mar Cabo has a safe so you can lock up your devices, money, and any other valuable you bring on vacation.
A note on money, most places in and around Cabo will take US dollars and to that end, actual cash. You should keep in mind the current exchange rate to make sure you get the correct amount of change! Also when you go out to eat or go anywhere that a credit card can be used, this is usually the best bang for your buck because the electronic exchange rate is not subject to the rounding errors vendors may make! I would also call your credit card company ahead of your trip to let them know where you are going and for how long. They will then authorize your card for transactions from Mexico. The first time we went a credit card was declined and put on a security hold because we didn’t call in advance to tell them so they thought it had been stolen. Also make sure you ask your credit card company if there are any fees associated with foreign transactions, sometimes there are. Also, make sure to use an American Express card when renting the card as it has protections in case of damage and AMEX is just a good recommendation in general as it is an international credit card company.
Please share this page with your friends and add a comment below if you have any questions about the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar, or Cabo in general. Please leave a comment if you have anything to add to our Cabo travel tip list.