The hippest city on the Baja California Peninsula shakes things up with a late-night scene that serves crafts cocktails, mezcal, tequila and, of course, margaritas.
As the artsiest and most distinctly Mexican of the purpose-built tourist cities that fringe Baja California’s southern cape, San José del Cabo feels like a city people live in – rather than visit on their annual vacation. It has the best local shopping, restaurants and by far the greatest variety of bars. There are oceanside perches slinging mezcal-based cocktails with a sunset view, low-lit urban designer speakeasies and breezy, rural ranch-house bars where you can imagine Hemingway sipping a mojito or sampling a craft tequila.
A slice of Santa Monica in San José, SHOREbar replicates the formula beloved of Angelenos: a smart marble-topped long bar and an elegant and comfortable lounge area scattered with sofas sit under a wavy, wattle-roofed pavilion hung with lambent lights. All of this sits perched over a luxurious pool within champagne-cork-popping distance of the ocean. A vintage VW camper van (painted in beach stripes) sells classy snack food, and there’s a menu of long and short cocktails, which includes house margaritas and mojitos.
Founded in 2007 by a coterie of friends from Colorado, this is Baja’s longest-established microbrewery, producing lagers, blonde ales, IPAs and stouts for export and a slew of beers only available locally, including a Raspberry Ale, seasonal stouts and fruit beers, barley wines and meads. All are served at the brewery’s pub, together with generous burgers, tacos and other bar snacks.
With plastic chairs and tables sat under an awning, a no-frills burger and quesadilla bar menu and backpacker prices, Zipper’s is about as low budget as beachside San José gets. But it’s in a plum location – a hop, skip and a jump away from the surf on Playa las Palmas, home to some of the swishest big-name resorts in the area – and the bar serves pretty decent Mezcal cocktails and margaritas.
Lilac walls daubed with Day of the Dead skulls, globe lights hanging from the pallet-wood ceiling, live bands playing on the mezzanine and a young, alternative crowd: La Lupita is always lively, any night of the week. What’s more, it serves some of the best tacos in town – best washed down with craft beers, mezcals or tequilas from an impressive drinks list. Pourings come in traditional jicaras – hollowed-out gourds that hold plenty more than your average shot glass. Prepare to get merry.
If you want drinks and dancing, this open-air club in downtown San José is the local hot spot. It doesn’t get going until late, when DJs pump up the techno, but there are plenty of potent signature cocktails to get you fuelled up: the Rojo comes with Altos tequila, orange juice, lemon, cassis, morita chili and Angostura bitters; the Adrenalina is made with Havana 7 rum, coffee, pineapple juice, lime, bitters and elderberry syrup.
Drinks with a view? Come to the Rooftop at the Cape Thompson Hotel, where sunsets melt into the cobalt Pacific, and the bar has the only 360-degree view on the Baja California Peninsula. The tapas and cocktails are as good as it gets (order the signature Cape with basil and mint-infused mezcal, pineapple, grapefruit juice and Angostura bitters), and, on weekend nights, there’s live music and DJs.
A designer farm-bar? It exists – at this sleek, modernist retreat in the hills behind San José. It’s worth visiting for the architecture – such as the wattle-walled tree houses perched in the palms and the neo-Frank Lloyd Wright concrete villas that merge into the landscape – alone. The cocktail bar-restaurant sits under the stars, with booths and astonishing house cocktails such as the signature Acre – made with the farm’s own mezcal and fragrant with Aperol, Cynar, jasmine and chocolate bitters.
Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels in San José del Cabo, or opt for a stay at a top resort instead. Inspire your itinerary with the top things to see and do in the city. You’ll be 30 minutes from Cabo San Lucas, so don’t miss the best beaches and the best restaurants in this region.
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