Oh, Cabo, from the moment I laid eyes on you in the Ironman pro race schedule, I knew you’d be my favorite race trip of the year and the perfect way to end my season! I’m a girl who LOVES the beach, sunshine, hot weather, swimming in warm water, and eating good food, and Cabo delivered ALL of that and more.
Turns out Cabo won’t be my last race :), but it still made for a great racecation! I want to share my Cabo experience to talk about the race, but also to share how wonderful a trip to Cabo is (because life isn’t all about triathlon and I seriously LOVED Cabo). Talking vacation and the race in one post would make for one really long post (not that I’m a stranger to long posts haha), so I’m going to break it into two.
Let’s talk the vacation aspect first (winter will be here before we know it here in North America, so probably a good time to start dreaming of a warm, sunny vacation).
Cabo San Lucas vs. San Jose del Cabo
Matt and I stayed in San Jose del Cabo, which is about 30 minutes up the highway from Cabo San Lucas. I had never been to either place, but the race headquarters and finish line were in San Jose del Cabo, so that is where I looked for accommodations. Now, after having stayed in San Jose del Cabo and spending a day in Cabo San Lucas, I’m extremely happy with my choice to be in San Jose del Cabo. It had a historical downtown and was much less “touristy” and busy.
San Jose del Cabo had several reasonably priced resorts available (around $100+/night), but I knew I could find the best deal on Airbnb, and that I did! I found a cute little studio condo for about $40/night that was right on the run course and walking distance to the finish (as well as walking distance to restaurants and the beach). There were several full condos that could sleep 4 or more that were available for around $70/night, but the studio had everything we needed for two.
Matt and I flew in on Wednesday afternoon, got our rental car, and headed to our Airbnb. Note on the rental cars: the rental cars are insanely cheap online when you book, some listing as cheap as $1/day. I booked one that was $5/day. I had heard that you had to buy mandatory insurance that covered every last thing, but turns out you can opt out of that. Matt and I like to live on the edge apparently, and opted out of the full coverage. We made it safely through the trip and the rental car cost us about $35 for SIX DAYS.
We enjoyed a lot of wonderful food – all the places we tried are listed below. The food was all very reasonably priced. We could get waters or soda, guacamole to start, and then entrees, and get away for less than $40 in most cases. Breakfast we could get entrees and delicious fruit smoothies and still be under $20.
El Fish & Grill – Mexican, great tacos, fish, salad, super close to where we stayed.
La Lupita Taco & Mezcal – we found this place on Yelp and after eating there, we had more than one person tell us to go try it. We were happy to say we had already tried it and loved it. It was delicious! Amazing tacos with endless variety. The flan and chocolate mousse were also quite delightful.
Las Guacamayas – ever heard of a Stone Bowl? I hadn’t until Matt found this place and we went there for a bigger lunch. So fun to experience and taste the different foods in Mexico. This restaurant wasn’t very busy in the middle of the day, but there was a man who walked in with his daughters and when asked how his day was, he said “Every day is perfect!” He was so right, and “every day is perfect” became a trip phrase (and the title of this post).
Salad! – standard salad joint. Pick your salad size, toppings, meat, etc. Perfect dinner after a heavy lunch!
La Dolce – Italian food in Mexico is also delicious! We went here the night before the race for my standard favorite. Everything was delicious.
Claros Jr. – ON the run course. We walked by after the race and it was packed. When looking for a place to eat after showering, we decided to walk back up to watch the Ironman athletes and eat at Claros Jr. Lots of tacos with a huge toppings bar so you can load up your tacos just how you like them.
Casasola Cafe & Brunch – this was in Cabo San Lucas. Charming little restaurant with an amazing menu. We loved everything we got (and trust me, we got A LOT). My favorite? Toast with bananas and cheese, and the fact that they served sweetened condensed milk as a syrup option for pancakes (just give me a spoon – no pancakes needed!!).
Habaero’s Gastro Grill – varied menu with Mexican and more American style menu. Matt got a chile relleno and said it was the best he’s ever had.
El Pancake House – standard breakfast joint and delicious.
Groceries: Walmart and La Comer. The first night I thought going to Walmart would be most familiar/like home. I was wrong. Walmart was quite different compared to Walmart in the U.S., but we got what we needed for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and Walmart’s bakery was probably my favorite! La Comer looked a little nicer and more specialized in JUST groceries, so we stopped there when we needed a few things and I would probably make that my initial grocery stop next time.
Beaches, more beaches, and other things to do.
Pre race day, our trip was filled with trips to Palmilla Beach (probably my favorite beach) for me to practice my swim in the open water race course, me doing my workouts, eating delicious food, and relaxing, staying cool, and watching movies in our condo.
The day after the race we spent the day going to beaches and being tourists. First stop was Playa Chileno – a nice, swimmable beach that had some fun snorkeling. We swam and laid out for an hour or so before heading to Cabo San Lucas for brunch. After brunch, we knew we wanted to get to Lover’s/Divorce beach (one side is Lover’s, one side is Divorce). Apparently you can hike over some rocks and walk your way to the beach, but that sounded tiring and hot the day after a race, so we opted for a boat tour of the famous arch and other sites, and then getting dropped off at the beach for a couple of hours. Round trip for the tour and beach drop-off/pick-up service was $35 total.
If I wore “real clothes” more often or if I needed more leisure swim suits, shopping at the big mall (Puerto Paraiso Mall) located on the harbor in Cabo San Lucas would have been fun. We walked through it and the shops looked great. Plus the mall had two Haagen Daz locations – I made sure to visit at least one of them and found that they had flavors I had never seen/tasted in the U.S. before. Amazing.
The day we were leaving Cabo, we took a trip to the beach in the morning, packed up, and then tried another brunch spot before heading out of town. There were things like horseback riding, swimming with dolphins, parasailing, and more as options to do while in Cabo, but we we were after more relaxing, inexpensive ventures and loved beaching and eating.
-I wish I could speak Spanish. While we were able to get by, and there were a lot of people who knew Spanish and some English (and a lot of the food menus were in both Spanish and English), it would have been really nice in some situations to know Spanish. Needless to say, I started learning some words and phrases on the trip through a wonderful app called Duolingo, but don’t quiz me yet :).
-You will buy every drop of water you drink. Water isn’t expensive in Mexico, but just be prepared to buy a lot of water either in jugs or water bottles in order to stay hydrated. At restaurants you can’t just ask for water and get a free, bottomless cup of chilled water. You will get one chilled water bottle at a time. I bought A LOT of water!!!
-”No bad days” is a common brand/theme in Mexico. From window decals, to bumper stickers, to restaurant uniforms – I saw the phrase “No bad days” and loved it! Fit well with the “everyday is perfect” response from the man at the restaurant. It’s easy for there to be no bad days in paradise, but it’s something I want to stick with me in life in general. No bad days. There’s always something good about a day.
-We were in Mexico for Halloween, and therefore the Day of the Dead. You can tell that this is a holiday celebrated in full force. Restaurants were decorated, stores were filled with Day of the Dead bread (YUM – you know I carb loaded on that!), and there was extra Day of the Dead stuff for sale at all the shops.
-Mexican grocery stores have huge bakery sections. You take a tray and pile it with all the baked goods you want (pastries I’ve never heard of, donuts, bread, scones, empanadas, etc), and then you take the tray to a worker and they weigh it, package it, and stick a price on it. Let’s just say I learned you can get a lot for just a few dollars :).
-Not every beach is great for swimming. The beach by our condo had resorts lined on it and a great beach to lay out and put your feet in the water, but the waves definitely crashed hard. If you’re not experienced in ocean waves, it would be pretty intimidating / dangerous. Drive down the highway a few kilometers and you will find a beautiful, much calmer beach for swimming. Pick your beaches wisely! We enjoyed both types of beaches.
Check back in a couple of days for my post about race prep and the actual race – I’ll give the full story on how I lost a very important piece to my bike during travel!