There is something very special about the holidays, particularly in overwhelmingly Catholic México, where the festive season persists for close to two months and includes many holy days that are not commonly celebrated in the U.S. It is a period of frequent fiestas, so much so that the month-long holiday period between December 12, the day honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe, and January 6, the remembrance of Los Tres Reyes Magos (the three wise men), is only half-jokingly referred to as the Guadalupe–Reyes marathon. But despite the plethora of parties held each December in Cabo San Lucas and elsewhere around the country, the holiday season is above all a time of devout observances and intimate gatherings with family and friends.
For winter vacationers to Los Cabos, however, December may be most notable for some of its seasonal outdoor activities, which reflect not so much holiday cheer as profound natural wonder. Whale watching season, which officially begins on the 15th of the month, sees many of the world’s largest and most majestic creatures transiting the area as they head to winter breeding grounds in coves and inlets around Baja California Sur. Humpbacks are the most commonly sighted, but others species can also be seen, most spectacularly during dedicated whale watching expeditions aboard high-speed Zodiac boats.
Speaking of enormous creatures, December is a pefect time to experience swimming tours that take place side-by-side with the world’s largest fish, the whale shark. These gentle giants subsist solely on plankton so there is no danger, but their sheer size alone – adults can weigh as much as 47,000 pounds – is apt to get one’s adrenaline racing. These tours typically take place in La Paz, the state capital, with round-trip transportation provided from Los Cabos resorts by the tour operator.
December is also peak season for windsports like kiteboarding and windsurfing, thanks to world-class conditions on the Los Cabos municipality’s picturesque East Cape.
Maratón Guadalupe-Reyes is a phrase often used in México to describe the month-long binge of holiday parties and festivities, but in Los Cabos this marathon begins a little earlier. Typically held around the first of December, Sabor a Cabo is an enormous food and wine festival that brings together chefs from over 50 of the best local restaurants, as well as representatives from a wide array of domestic wineries and tequila and mezcal distilleries for a bacchanal of eating, drinking and live musical entertainment. Past events have drawn as many as 3,000 people and seen performances from legendary musical acts like Earth, Wind and Fire and Mexican supergroup Maná. This year’s bash is scheduled for November 30th at Club Campestre, a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course in San José del Cabo, and will be followed December 8th with a rural food and wine tasting showcasing the region’s abundant organic farm produce and fresh seafood.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is the best annual food and wine festival in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: For information about tickets and affiliated events, visit www.saboracabo.mx.
This beautiful old church is set amid San José del Cabo’s historic downtown area, a stone’s throw from City Hall, the Casa de la Cultura, and the Distrito del Arte (Art District). Originally founded as a mission in 1730 by Jesuit priest Nicolás Tamaral, the church has undergone several moves and renovations. Tamaral remains an integral part of local lore, however, and one of the church’s most arresting features is a mosaic above the entrance depicting his killing by the area’s native inhabitants, the Pericúes. The church moved to its current location near the middle of the 19th century, but had to be rebuilt in the early 20th century after being badly damaged by a hurricane. Despite the history – this is one of the most important cultural monuments in Los Cabos – it’s a living church, and the best place in the area to attend weekly and holiday services.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is the best place in Los Cabos to attend holiday services.
Chris’s expert tip: The church is one of the most important historical and cultural sites in Los Cabos.
Los Cabos has a windsports season that largely mirrors that of whale watching season, although it starts a little earlier; in November, to be exact, when strong El Norte winds start to blow hundreds of miles down the Sea or Cortés, creating world-class windsports conditions on the Los Cabos municipality’s gorgeous East Cape. The La Ventana classic in January is the biggest single regional event, but from mid-November through mid-March, small communities like Los Barriles and La Ventana become meccas for destination windsurfers, kiteboarders and kitesurfers. Exotikite in Los Barriles is one of the best locations for rentals or lessons.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: December is peak season for kiteboarding, windsurfing and kitesurfing on Los Cabos’ East Cape.
Chris’s expert tip: The next La Ventana Classic is scheduled for January 16 – 20, 2020, and will feature competitive events for kiteboarders, windsurfers, stand up paddle boarders and mountain bikers.
Holy Innocents Day, also known as Childermas, on December 28th is a remembrance of King Herod’s decree that all male infants in Bethlehem should be killed in order to eliminate the threat to his throne posed by the baby Jesus, whose birth he had learned of from the three wise men. The day is also celebrated as a Mexican version of April Fool’s Day, with jokes, pranks, tall tales, and elaborate hoaxes. One should greet all statements made on this day with a healthy amount of skepticism, and under no circumstances should money be lent, as tradition holds that any debts incurred on this day do not have to be honored.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is a sort of Mexican version of April Fool’s Day, and one of the many holidays celebrated during the Christmas season.
Chris’s expert tip: After someone has been fooled, it is traditional to say “Inocente palomita, que te dejaste engañar, sabiendo que en este día nada se debe prestar!” Translation: “Innocent little dove, you let yourself be fooled, knowing that on this day nothing should be lent!”
There are a lot of different seasons in Los Cabos. There’s a whale watching season, a windsports season, a sea turtle season, and of course a whale shark season. The latter refers to the period from October through April, when Los Cabos visitors can be driven up to the state capital of La Paz to swim side-by-side with these majestic creatures off the tip of the El Mogote peninsula. As large as 40 feet in length and over 20 tons in weight, whale sharks are awe-inspiring when encountered in their natural habitat, and of course completely safe to swim with thanks to their plankton based diet. Cabo Adventures is one of the largest and most reliable tour operators in Los Cabos, offering round-trip transportation as well as the services of a professional photographer to document the unforgettable experience.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is one of the best seasonal adventures available to December visitors to Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: For more information on swimming with whale sharks in Los Cabos, visit Cabo Adventures at cabo-adventures.com.
Las Posadas last for nine days, from December 16th through the 24th, and commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Each night there are candlelit processions and reenactments, which culminate in house parties after admittance has been granted at the “inn.” The most important day of the season in México is not Christmas, but Christmas Eve (Nochebuena). This is the last night of the posadas, and the birth of Christ is celebrated at midnight. Traditionally, families then attend a midnight mass, followed by dinner and presents. Christmas Day is quite low-key and leisurely, with most feasting on the leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. For visitors, most local resorts offer special Christmas dinners, as do some area restaurants.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Las Posadas are the heart of the Christmas season in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Don Sánchez Restaurante in San José del Cabo is one of the best Christmas dinner options.
México has its fair share of traditional spirits, from tequila and mezcal to popular cervezas like Corona and Pacífico. Not surprisingly, the country also boasts a number of excellent seasonal sippers. Ponche Navideño (literally, Christmas punch) is perhaps the best known, and is distinguished from typical alcohol-laced fruit punches by the presence of tejocotes, an indigenous fruit that comes from the hawthorn tree. Noche Buena, a dark, spicy bock style lager from Cervecería Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma in Monterrey, is the most popular seasonal beer. It’s available each year from October through December, and is immediately identifiable by the red and green poinsettia flowers on its label (Both poinsettias and Christmas Eve are called Nochebuena in Spanish). Rompope is yet another Christmas time favorite. First made in México by nuns at Puebla’s Convento de Santa Clara in the 17th century, this eggnog style drink is perfect for holiday parties and events. For a special treat, chill it and float a little Kahlua on top.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Few things get one into the Christmas spirit better than seasonal drinks like Ponche Navideño, Noche Buena and Rompope.
Chris’s expert tip: Fenway Bar makes the best Monjitas (Little Nuns), a local cocktail featuring rompope and Kahlua.
The relationship of New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day is somewhat like that of Christmas Eve to Christmas, meaning the first day is given over to family dinners and celebrations, while the second day is for rest, relaxation and the enjoyment of leftovers. After the dinner on New Year’s Eve, many people go out to enjoy the local parties and theme nights, which run the gamut from barefoot beachfront formals to masked carnivals. Fireworks are a staple of virtually every Mexican celebration, but the New Year in Cabo San Lucas is always greeted with a particularly dazzling display over Médano Beach. Once the clock strikes midnight, it is also traditional to eat twelve grapes, with the grapes representing good fortune for each of the next twelve months.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: New Year’s Eve is the premier party night of the holiday season in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Casa Dorada Resort & Spa on Médano Beach is hosts one of the area’s best New Year’s Eve parties.
The Thursday evening art walk is one of highlights of any visit to San José del Cabo, and runs from 5-9 p.m. during high tourist season (November through June). The participating galleries are all clustered together in the city’s historic Distrito del Arte (Art District), which is one of the reasons you should forget the guided tours and enjoy this weekly event at your own pace. Sip wine, sample cheese, wander the area’s beautiful cobblestone streets, and interact with some of the top artists and gallery owners in Baja California Sur. Afterwards, explore the art district’s many fine bars and restaurants, which include neighbors Baja Brewing Company and La Lupita Taco & Mezcal.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is the best seasonal cultural event in Los Cabos and a must-see for December visitors.
Chris’s expert tip: Several excellent bars and restaurants are located in the Art District, including the original location of Baja Brewing Company.
Whale Watching season in Los Cabos traditionally stretches from mid-December through mid-March, and sees an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 whales migrate south to breeding grounds at Magdalena Bay and in the Sea of Cortés. Grays and humpbacks are the most commonly sighted, but lucky visitors can occasionally see blue, sperm, fin and pilot whales, as well as the occasional orca. The annual migration is big business locally, and virtually every local tour boat offers seasonal whale watching excursions. High-speed inflatables provide the best chance for up-close-and-personal looks at these leviathans, but you don’t necessarily have to sign up for a tour to enjoy sightings. Whales are often spied from area beaches, as well as coastal hotels, restaurants and golf courses.
Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Whale watching is the number one attraction during the holiday season in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Humpbacks often breach spectacularly, and typically provide the best photo opportunities