Text and photos by Irene Butler
The sapphire Sea of Cortez lapped the shore; cacti and desert shrub nodded lethargically under a halogen sun – and between, along the white-sand beach, my gallant steed Bambino followed six other horses with riders. Intermittently her leisurely pace morphed into an exhilarating gallop, making me feel like a true vaquera. On this same stretch, pirates once came ashore for respite and to replenish their freshwater supply. Many local business owners and fishermen are descendants of the buccaneers who stayed behind. In addition to horseback riding, Baja’s Activities rents ATVs for those craving an even faster pace.
It is my second day in Los Cabos, the big shot of Baja California, and I already feel its three personalities rolled into one. San Jose del Cabo is a traditional Mexican town with a central plaza, adobe structures, and municipal market. Cabo San Lucas is more bent on partying and fashionable good looks. Linking the two towns is the Los Cabos Corridor, a 29-kilometre stretch of beaches, golf courses, and luxury resorts. The 200,000 citizens of the combined three sectors bask in 330 days of sunshine annually, adding to the magnetism of this prized vacation spot.
Each morning after a fortifying breakfast at the Hotel Meliá Real, I was off for a day of adventure. I dared to sign up for the Canopy Costa Azul Xtreme Tour. Yes…ziplines. After harnessing up and an instruction session by Pedro, I zipped along the different sections strung across the river canyon, the most hair-raising being the 450-metre-long, 100-metre-high line. By the time I flew along almost five kilometres of lines, and rappelled down the 55-metre free fall, I was more than ready for the tequila sampling at the end of the tour.
Swimming with the dolphins was delightful, especially watching wide-eyed children rubbing the velvety softness of their bellies and being bestowed with a dolphin kiss. The same company, Cabo Adventures, also offers a 4x4 desert safari. Seated in an open-air vehicle with seven other gringos and our eco-friendly guide Leopolo, we bounced upward over dirt roads through the mystical tropical desert to a small hacienda in the hills. On a nature walk we learned about the healing powers of plants and about the fauna in this habitat. Then came the treat of Doña Ramona and Don Chicho’s home-cooked Mexican fare; followed by the hardship of yet another tequila drinking session, this time we gleaned the use of breathing techniques, so the burn of the fiery liquid bypasses the throat, and only heats the stomach.
A tour of the old city of San Jose takes one back in time to the early 1700s when the Jesuit missionaries disrupted the Pericú Indians way of life by prohibiting the polygamous practices honed during the tribe’s previous 550 years in the area. The original mission was destroyed and the priest tortured and killed in an uprising; the mission church that stands back of the city hall today was constructed in 1880. Art galleries with the work of local artists, craft shops and eateries line the narrow streets. Further out is a lively market where locals go about their daily business.
My booking for Ocean Riders glass bottom boat and snorkelling excursion to glimpse the black coral reefs, rays, turtles, and colourful fish did not pan out due to choppy water. Instead, I joined fellow enthusiasts in a motorboat to cruise along the spectacular coastline. We careened past the multi-million dollar homes of movie stars high up on a hill, past “lover’s beach” and the looming natural granite archway, “El Arco”. Sea lions basked on rocky ledges, birds soared above the craggy peaks. The roiling waves sent up massive sprays as they smashed against the rocks.
Other briny sports include diving, surfing, and kayaking. During the peak of the grey whale migration, January to March, whale watching cruises run. Anglers consider Los Cabos the Marlin Capital of the World; other sport fishing trophies are swordfish, tuna and rooster fish.
All the above activities can be booked on-line, by phone, or from resort activity desks through Transcabo Tours www.transcabotours.com, +52 (624) 146-0188.
Los Cabos has become one of the world’s top golf destinations, with six of its eight courses, designed by such notables as Robert Trent Jones II, Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Tom Weiskopf, enjoying international acclaim. www.golfvisitloscabos.org.
When hunger erupts there is no shortage of excellent restaurants and cafes to alleviate the pangs. My favourite lunch was the chilli infused cuisine at Jazmin’s Mexican Restaurant where I indulged in their specialty – chicken breast filled with fresh seafood covered in chipotle sauce and fried banana.
For a relaxing evening Casianos is a must. Their “no menu…no rules” concept is a unique culinary experience, where patrons choose their favourite meats, seafood, and vegetables and the chefs concoct their selections into personalized delights – or as I did, let the chefs have free rein in a five-course food tasting and wine paring extravaganza.
A vibrant culture, natural wonders, activities for all tastes, and pampering resorts make Los Cabos the grandest of playgrounds…and did I mention the 330 days of glorious sunshine? I bid farewell to this slice of the good life with a sunset cruise around the tip of the peninsula, mesmerized by a blazing sky as old sol melted into the sea.
More Los Cabos
For more information on Los Cabos contact the Mexico Tourist Board www.visitmexico.com.