At the tip of the Baja Peninsula, the dazzling blue waters of the Sea of Cortez and a dramatic desert landscape are the backdrop for one of Mexico’s most popular resorts. Los Cabos, meaning the “The Capes” in Spanish, is comprised of two different towns – Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Affectionately called “Cabo” by those “in the know,” this seaside retreat is indeed a slice of paradise. Though you may be tempted to while away the hours lounging at your luxury hotel, it will be well worth it to take a day trip or two and explore the other villages and towns of the southern Baja. Stepping outside the resorts will give you a real sense of Mexico, and it will undoubtedly be a rewarding experience. There are several places that are an easy drive for excursions, including Todos Santos, La Paz and the East Cape.
Until recent year, Todos Santos was a well-kept secret. This funky and enchanting town (a one-hour drive north along the Pacific coast from Cabo San Luca) was founded as a mission in 1734 and later became a major sugar cane producer. The town came to life in 1986 when the main highway (Hwy. 19) was completed and actually put it on the map. Today, Todos Santos is a cozy place renowned as an artist’s enclave and hailed for great surfing, intimate galleries, a mission church, boutiques, historic homes and a small but thriving expatriate community. As of late, the remote setting, remarkable peace and the striking natural beauty are attracting a good number of visitors from Los Cabos. The famed Hotel California, rumored to be where The Eagles penned their Hotel California (unproven rumors to date!) has recently reopened and brings renewed interest to this great escape. A wonderful day or even half-day trip from Los Cabos is perfect for those who truly want to slow down the pace and delve into the more soulful side of Mexico. Additionally, there are a variety of secluded beaches, accessible only by dirt roads, where some of the world’s best surfers practice their craft.
La Paz (meaning “peace” in Spanish), on the other hand, is the official capital of Baja California Sur and relatively speaking a big city with a population of just under 400,000. It is the second largest city south of Tijuana on the Baja Peninsula. About a two-hour drive from Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo, La Paz may earn an overnight visit. La Paz has a simple energy and an easy feel. Framed by beautiful beaches, the city itself has a rather provincial atmosphere. Even though La Paz is surrounded by desert, the town itself is set amidst ancient laurel trees and coconut and date palms. It is a cultural center as well with museums, a cathedral, natural wildlife refuges and a lovely seaside “malecon” for strolling at sunset. Referred to as the “Pearl of the World”, by John Steinbeck in his novella, The Pearl, La Paz was once the pearl fishing capital of the world. Today, it is arguably considered the ecotourism capital of North America.
Just outside the city itself are countless deserted beaches, calm bays and ecologically pure offshore islands. For snorkeling enthusiasts, these islands and the coastal waters create a vibrant natural aquarium. The Sea of Cortez is one of the world’s unique ocean environments, considered by some to be the most biologically rich body of water on earth. More than 850 species of marine life make their home in its temperate waters making it a year-round fishing utopia. In fact, this sea is said to be the greatest fish trap in the Western Hemisphere. During the prime fishing season of May through September, almost every boat returns with a bountiful catch of Marlin and Dorado. Colonies of sea lions, pods of Humpback, Blue, Sperm, Fin and seasonal migrating Gray whales are a very common site in around La Paz. And because of its close proximity to Magdalena Bay, the area is a haven for whale watchers during the breeding season of January through April.
The East Cape, while officially a part of the Los Cabos destination, offers such a different experience that it deserves a special visit too. While most of Los Cabos’ hotels and attractions are between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas a 40-minute drive up the eastern edge of the Peninsula to the area called the East Cape, lands one in a fisherman’s paradise and a taste of what Los Cabos was about 20 years ago. The area stretches for about 20 miles from Punta Pescadero south to Punta Colorada along the picturesque Bahia de Palmas. Relatively undeveloped and rustic, the East Cape is populated with fishing lodges, dive shops and camping sites. Los Barriles and Buenavista are the only two villages in the area and have mostly been developed by Americans.
The East Cape is also the premiere spot for serious windsurfers who come to enjoy the natural wind effects that blow across the Sea of Cortez. Winds are at their best from November through April. Scuba divers can hit the Cabo Pulmo reef – an internationally prominent natural reef system. This is the only coral reef in the Sea of Cortez and one of only three coastal reefs in North America. Divers can also enjoy exploring the wreck of El Vencedor, a tuna boat that sank in 1981 and has created its own artificial reef. The visibility is at its best March through October. Kayaking and Jet Skiing provide more sea-faring adventures while Jeep tours through the desert, ATV excursions and more keep land-lubbers happy — if dusty. Fisherman brag about the East Cape having one of the highest catch rates in the world with billfish being caught in big numbers June through December.
So venture out and explore! Look a little deeper into your Mexican experience. Spending a day off the beaten path is sure to enrich any trip to Los Cabos.
1.) Going Off Road Through the Baja Outback!
If you have a passion for the outdoors and want to see the southern Baja from the back roads, then don’t miss a trip with Baja Outback. A new fleet of H2 Hummers takes guests on a high-style thrilling exploration of this rugged land. Crisscrossing through pristine desert and along beachfront terrain, guided caravans take groups up to 45 people on specialized off road tours to some of the Baja’s most alluring towns, villages and private ranches. Guests in Los Cabos can choose from one of four local tours ranging in duration from 4-7 hours. Destinations include a back door drive into charming Todos Santos for a shopping and gallery tour, a hiking expedition to see the waterfalls and natural springs of Canyon de la Zorro and Santiago, a journey to the East Cape via fossil-lined canyons, and a private tour of Rancho La Verdad. Multi-day trips are also available. (www.bajaoutback.com)
2.) Witness the Miracle of Nature…
Los Cabos is the ultimate location on the Baja Peninsula for whale watching. Each year an estimated 11,000 of the world’s 21,000 gray whales make a 6,000-mile journey to bear their calves in the warm waters of the Pacific lagoons to the north of Los Cabos. From there, many continue south, veering around the tip of the Baja into the crystal waters of the Sea of Cortez. Here they find peace and freedom and provide whale-watchers with incredible thrills. In Cabo, at the height of the migration, these amazing creatures are so close they can easily be seen from shore. They are playful to watch as they spout, leap (called breaching), splash water with their tales (called lobbing), and occasionally poke their heads and one eye above the surface and appear to survey the surroundings (called spy hopping). During whale season (December through March) these sightings are almost constant along the inside shores of the Baja and whale watching tours abound.
3. Taking a swing….
Golf Magazine says that Mexico has become the second most popular destination for U.S. golfers. At the top of Mexico’s list of golf destinations you’ll find Los Cabos. The most prestigious of Mexico’s golf destinations, Los Cabos has been called the “golf capital of Latin America.” It boasts some of the best ocean side courses in the world highlighted by vast panoramas flanked by natural desert terrain and crashing surf. Deep arroyos cut through the lush fairways to create breathtaking and challenging courses. Some of the most recognized names in golf design, including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Robert Trent Jones and Tom Weiskopf have chosen to build their courses along this memorable stretch of coastline.
*New on the golf front are the two courses planned for the Puerto Los Cabos development in San Jose. They plan to start the first 18-hole course with 9 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus and another 9 by Greg Norman. The course should be open for play in the first half of 2006. Also new for duffers is the course at the Mayan Palace. Previously owned and operated by the Mexican Government’s FONATUR, this 9-hole is designed for beginning and intermediate golfers and maintains competitive golf at affordable prices. New pair of courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf are scheduled for development towards the East Cape.
4. Cast a line….
You won’t have to wait too long to catch the “big one” here…You’re in Los Cabos, the “Marlin Capital of the World.” More than ten million years ago an earthquake deep beneath the surface split the far west coast of Mexico, separating the 1,000-mile-long Baja California peninsula from the mainland. The Pacific Ocean rushed into the gap, creating the Sea of Cortez. In turn, this created an environment so rich in nutrients that today more than 800 marine species flourish. In addition to the huge numbers of billfish, there is an abundance of Tuna, Wahoo, Grouper, Dorado, Snapper, Roosterfish and more. Most hotels and restaurants in the area are ready to fillet and cook the catch, or freeze it for the trip back home.
5. Meet and Greet for all the Elite…..
Los Cabos is one of Mexico’s most rapidly growing markets for upscale group and incentive travel. Whether intimate executive meetings or grand corporate conferences, Los Cabos can fit the bill. Destination-wide, Los Cabos hotels feature attributes such as wireless Internet connectivity, convention facilities, separate group check-in areas, sophisticated business centers, elaborate meeting configurations and creative sales professionals on staff. Doing business in Los Cabos is a breeze.
6.) On the Horizon….
One of Los Cabos’ biggest undertakings is the new Puerto Los Cabos project in San José del Cabo. The development includes a state-of-the art marina that will provide slips for 535 boats ranging in size from 30 feet up to 240-foot mega yachts, a dockside marketplace, fine restaurants and shops, the sport fishing fleet of La Playita and complete yacht services. In addition to the marina complex, Puerto Los Cabos will offer two 18-hole Championship golf courses, with the first course designed by Greg Norman, an eco-cultural park, a museum and a mission, several beach resort hotels and a residence club with exceptional amenities.
7.) Pamper Yourself….Ahhhhh Spa…
Los Cabos has always been known for luxury, but now they are adding the spa experience to their repertoire of excellence. Pampering in Mexico has a long history. Even before Hernan Cortés discovered Mexico, the indigenous cultures throughout the country embraced their natural resources to discover methods of healing and relaxation. Mexico’s abundance of unusual native plants, mineral-rich volcanic mud (known as Fango), and soothing natural hot springs have been a source of health and well being for centuries. Both the Maya and Aztec civilizations enjoyed the sensual experience of relaxing in nature. Today, the lavish spas of Cabo personify this restful ritual.