Another hotel option is Posada la Poza (52-612/145-0400; www.lapoza.com; doubles from $125, dinner for two $50), located just outside town. Those who brave the rutted dirt track are rewarded with a surprising, high-concept oasis next to a palm grove. Former banker Juerg Wiesendanger and his artist wife, Libusche, bring Swiss precision to their orange inn, which faces a dazzling freshwater lagoon and bird sanctuary; all seven suites are within earshot of the massive surf that hammers Playa Punta Lobos.
At the hotel's restaurant, El Gusto!, the host may be Swiss, but the ladies in the kitchen are local. This low-key spot serves terrific cheese-stuffed fried jalapeños, coffee-infused pork loin, and tuna adobo in chipotle cream sauce. Baja Norte's nascent vineyard region dominates the wine list. The fiery tortilla soup is the best on the peninsula. The unheated saltwater swimming pool is bone-chilling, but the rooftop-terrace bar provides a warm roost for watching outrageous Pacific sunsets.
World-class stores are not Los Cabos' strong point. Shops selling finely crafted Mexican silver are the exception—but skip the plated trinkets hawked by street vendors. Sculptor Sergio Bustamente (27B Blvd. Marina, Plaza Bonita, Cabo San Lucas; 52-624/143-2708) creates wacky armadillo pins and zodiac charms. Mexico City's Tane has an outpost at Las Ventanas (Km 19.5 Carretera Transpeninsular; 52-624/144-0300); the sterling cutlery is used in the hotel's La Cava wine cellar. Joyería Brilanti (8 Calle Centenario, Todos Santos; 52-612/145-0726) is owned by José Brilanti, whose mother, Ana, created a fan-shaped necklace for Eleanor Roosevelt. His hand-wrought necklaces and bracelets are based on her designs. Grandsons José and Rafael create their own Aztec-influenced bangles in a satellite shop across the street (Calle Centenario, Todos Santos; 52-612/145-0799). Another of the clan's enterprises is found on a San José side street: Ofelia's Fine Silver (8 Calle Hidalgo; 52-624/142-4717), which carries turquoise-studded pitchers and intricately tooled jewelry by major metalsmiths.
According to legend, the margarita was invented in Tijuana, but Los Cabos has its own potent version. According to David Halliburton Jr., owner of the Hotel Twin Dolphin, the key ingredient is Damiana, a liqueur made from a Sonoran Desert herb that is an aphrodisiac (the distinctive Venus-shaped Damiana bottle adorns many a Cabo cantina). Dolphin bartenders Roberto and Chino rim their margaritas with finely ground sea salt. Hand over your car keys to the front desk—you won't be driving after drinking these Jacuzzi-sized beverages. Find a more classic version of the Los Cabos margarita at the Todos Santos Inn's La Copa Wine Bar (33 Calle Legaspi, Todos Santos; 52-612/145-0040) and at the inventive San José restaurant El Chilar (1400 Calle Benito Juarez; 52-624/142-2544).
SECRET ADDRESS FOR GOLFERS
Los Cabos has eight courses. The best is the private, Tom Fazio-designed Querencia; guests at Las Ventanas have exclusive rights to play there.
SECRET ADDRESS FOR NATURALISTS
In San José, the cactus museum Cacti Mundo (3 Blvd. Antonio Mijares; 52-624/146-9191) brings the desert a little closer. This botanical garden is filled with rare succulents. Just don't hug the prickly Queen of the Night.