One of the many highlights of taking a cruise vacation is the opportunity to visit new places like the Cabo San Lucas cruise port. The general phrase for these locations is a “port of call,” which are places along a route where ships make scheduled stops during the voyage.
While some folks like to simply come aboard and go wherever the ship sails, others enjoy a bit of info gathering prior to cruising.
As one of the latter travel nerds, I’d like to share with you the following tips and information about the Cabo San Lucas cruise port on the Mexican Riviera.
Where is Cabo San Lucas?
Where is (in the parlance of locals and frequent visitors) Cabo? To position yourself on the globe, first imagine the farthest southwestern point in the U.S. and look south. Here lies a peninsula, called Baja California, a state in Mexico comprised of five regions.
It is 775 miles long with widths ranging from 25 miles to 199 miles. To the east of the peninsula is the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) and to the west lies the Pacific Ocean.
There are over 2,000 miles of coastline around the edges of this landmass with some 65 islands dotting the edges. The southernmost half is called Baja California Sur (Spanish for “south). Our Cabo San Lucas cruise port lies at the very tip end in the Los Cabos region.
(Cabo San Lucas translates to “St. Luke Cape” and Los Cabos translates to “the capes.”) Interesting tidbit: The archeological record indicates continuous human habitation on this peninsula for the last 10,000 years – at least!
This port of call is consistently rated in the top five tourist destinations in all of Mexico. At this location, passengers disembark and explore the town and culture; taste new foods; listen to local performance artists; learn about history; see new wildlife; and, pick up souvenirs.
Now let’s travel from the cruise ship to the shore.
When your cruise ship arrives at a port of call, you will disembark the vessel in one of two ways. The first will be to walk via ramp or gangplank directly from the ship, which will be docked at the pier, onto the shore.
The second is via a smaller transport vessel called a “tender boat.” This method of transportation may occur when the port facilities are too small for the ship to dock at the shore or piers are not available.
At the Cabo San Lucas cruise port, the second method is how you will reach the land. There is no dedicated cruise terminal, so your ship will be anchored offshore in deeper water.
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A ferry-type vessel will tender you to the inner harbor. This smaller boat will be enclosed or open depending on your cruise line and is designed for safe passage.
The transport will take only 10 to 15 minutes. However, you might have to wait in line for much longer on the ship. Our tip: Arrive early to join the queue. Or, in the alternative, wait until after lunchtime to tender ashore since lines are typically shorter then.
You will ride through the Bahía de Cabo San Lucas – watch for marine life on the way. The tender dock for cruise ships is located just inside the marina.
Money While in Port
Whenever you go ashore during a cruise, have a bit of cash with you. Paying with cards or digitally will not always be available, particularly in smaller establishments. There may also be a surcharge added by the merchant to the final cost for accepting these methods of payment.
Pesos are the preferred and appreciated legal tender with the local merchants. However, at this destination, U.S. dollars are accepted.
Prices on merchandise will be marked with US$ or simply the (double stroke) dollar sign if the cost is meant to be read in U.S. currency. Otherwise, the number you see on price tags will be the price in pesos. Bring smaller denomination U.S. currency to ease the process of making change.
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If you are exchanging currency from dollars to pesos and back again, banks have the best rates. While ATM machines and booths on the street are open longer hours, they can exact a hefty fee for the convenience. And, since rates fluctuate daily, it is recommended that you only exchange what you might need. Also, it is much harder to change pesos back to U.S. dollars.
Once you arrive at the marina’s tender pier, you’ll see that it is different from other larger ports of call. There are only basic amenities here: a few vendors with souvenirs, snacks, drinks and so forth, an ATM and an information booth. Stop at the last one for a free map – a huge help in navigating Cabo.
While at this location, take a moment to look around at the yachts moored here. This is a popular destination for those who like to sail and travel on their private vessels. So, the array of ship styles and levels of luxury visible from the piers are impressive.
If you’d like to visit one of the famous beaches (and you definitely should!), there are several water taxis available for a budget-friendly ticket price at the dock. Also, if you’ve booked a shore excursion with the cruise line, you will likely be departing from this location.
You’ll have several options for getting around onshore. The first is simply to walk. Surrounding or in close proximity to the harbor are multiple shops, restaurants, bars, sightseeing spots and the huge Puerto Paraiso Shopping Mall.
Within walking distance, you can also find an arts and crafts market and the amazing experience of swimming with dolphins (only a five-minute walk away).
After you’ve studied the map, you may want to hire an eco-friendly bicycle taxi to carry you to attractions around the town. (Negotiate the price up front.) Or, for some exercise, there are bike rentals (both pedal and electric) located around the area.
There are also car rental businesses close by, if you’d like to drive about on your own. (A US driver’s license is valid – however, your insurance is not.) Additionally, there are now ride share options (like Uber and others) around the port.
You may also hop on a public bus and ride for a few pesos. Or, simply hail a taxi cab for a comfortable ride to your next stop in town.
Additionally, you can easily locate a tour operator for specialized or long-distance exploration. This will often mean traveling in air-conditioned vans or shuttles to and from sights.
And, if you have booked a big game fishing charter – and why wouldn’t you? This is the “Marlin Capital of the World”! – then you will board your tour vessel at this harbor, as well.
Basic Services and Info
Check ahead of time with your cellular service to see if roaming is available here. While there will almost certainly be additional fees, it is likely to be much cheaper than using your phone on the cruise ship.
(You can also charge your phone onshore since Baja electricity is compatible with U.S. standards of 110 volts.) There are also pay phones if needed. These usually take prepaid cards which can be purchased at many local shops and all money-exchange booths. The emergency number in Cabo is 911.
If you have the need for medical care, Cabo San Lucas now has an AmeriMed (American-style) hospital. The staff and doctors speak English. However, you will want to check with your health insurance company prior to leaving on your cruise to see if you have coverage. And, consider purchasing an additional health policy for your travels.
Should you want to pick up a few groceries while on land, there are multiple small stores along with several large supermarkets in town.
The average temperature here is a comfortable 78°F and rises into the low 90s during summer months. There is very little rainfall year-round. For summer cruises, expect some hot and humid days. Although, with the right breezes from the surrounding waters, the climate can be more pleasant. In the winter, you will have mild and sunny days with cool nights.
This area is on Mountain Time Zone – two hours behind the Eastern Standard Time zone. Daylight savings time is observed between the first week of April through the last week of October. This will be important since you need to know what time the final tender leaves to take you back to the ship.
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Also, keep in mind that there may be a “ship time” and a “local time” during your stops at ports of call. It is likely that your voyage will pass through different time zones.
The question you should ask the concierge is whether your specific vessel will keep their clocks synchronized to the time at your departure port. Or, will they change the clocks based on the time zone of the current location. The ship will leave on schedule – and you want to be on it!
Throughout the Cabo San Lucas cruise port are several places where you can access the Internet. Cafes, in particular, usually offer WiFi for their customers; and there are some WiFi hotspots located about.
Notes on Water
For folks visiting the Cabo San Lucas cruise port, it is advised that you not drink any unfiltered or tap water. Also, avoid ice cubes. Instead, fill you water bottle prior to leaving the ship. Or, purchase only bottled water and drinks during your visit on shore.
What cruise lines call on Cabo San Lucas
When thinking about taking a cruise in the future, there are several aspects to consider (other than the price!). What amenities are you looking for on a specific cruise ship? Where would you like your ship to depart from?
What ports of call destinations are on your ship’s route? For the latter, if you would like to spend a day or so in Cabo San Lucas – good news! There are multiple cruise lines with one or more ships that regularly anchor at this exciting spot.
To make the most of your vacation, take a few minutes to plan. The list below is a starting point to help narrow your search criteria. Pick your favorite cruise line, use the filter on their websites to find specific information on ships, ports and dates for sailing. All of these cruise lines are pre-scheduled for arrival (as of publication) at Cabo San Lucas cruise port.
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Celebrity Cruises
- Disney Cruise Line
- Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
- Holland America
- MSC Cruises
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Oceania Cruises
- Phoenix Reisen
- Princess Cruises
- Regent Seven Seas
- Royal Caribbean
- Seabourn Cruise Line
- Viking Ocean
Beyond Cabo San Lucas Cruise Port
This harbor marina is the perfect launching point for a number of destinations across a wide variety of interests: wildlife watching, scuba and snorkeling, off-road and zip line adventures and even a “safari.” Read about them in our article – Things to Do in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico During a Cruise.