For decades, the sun and sea, seclusion and
siestas, and the simplicity of visiting a foreign
country so close by, have lured American tourists
to Mexico. Destinations like Puerto Vallarta,
Mazatlan, and Manzanillo built their fame with
celebrity gossip. Taylor and Burton made Puerto
Vallarta romantic. Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura
battled an alien "Predator" in Mazatlan's
nearby jungle. An erotic Bo Derek and her braided
corn rows in "10" were framed on the
beaches of Manzanillo. But celebrity wasn't the
lure for Americans to Los Cabos. It was the great
fish and the fact that it was but a two-hour flight
from Los Angeles.
Los Cabos sits at the tip of the Mexican state
of Baja California. It's a 20-mile long strip
of desert and beach anchored by two small towns
- Cabo San Lucas and the sleepier Mexican village,
San Jose del Cabo. There are seven golf courses
and more on the way. There are sprawling luxury
resorts, condos, and time shares and more sprouting
amidst palms and cactus every day.
Cabo San Lucas, sits at the point of Baja California,
with the Sea of Cortez on one side, the Pacific
on the other. The weather is certainly better
there than in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, or Cancun.
It's less humid and it's not in the hurricane
belt. And so Cabo can consider itself an almost
year round resort with perhaps only three or four
weeks of poor weather - the wet and hot last weeks
of August and early September.
I am not a fisherman. But Cabo is famous as a
sports fishing mecca. "Highest catch rate
zone for Pacific Striped Marlin," one sporting
magazine raved. "For variety, action, and
big time fishing, it just doesn't get better,"
another said. So, I took the bait, hired a 31-foot
charter boat, and set out to try my hand at the
sport. But like a loser in Vegas, I was left poorer
and somewhat disenchanted. A full day's charter
for 5 people cost about $600. I had placed my
faith in a local captain and crew to show off
Cabo's famous seas supposedly alive with marlin,
swordfish, and tuna. We caught sight of a single
great fish that ignominiously passed us by. The
most exciting thing about the trip was catching
sight of the ancient city of Troy, built on the
outskirts of Cabo as a set for the latest Brad
Pitt potboiler. I can well understand why there
are fishermen's tales. I can't brag about eight
nauseous hours at sea. So, I'll have to work on
my tale about "the one that got away."
If you're a fishing aficionado, I'm sure you can
balance my tale of woe with a great fish story.
But I won't go to Cabo again for the fishing.
I will go though for the welcoming Mexican ambiance,
the clubs and restaurants, the weather, and a
glorious meeting of sand and sea.
Cabo has some wonderful resorts. Los Ventanas
and Twin Dolphins have been renowned in years
past. But Cabo's newest resort, the Esperanza
(866-311-2226), which opened in February 2002,
is incomparable. Travel and Leisure magazine recently
ranked Los Ventanas as one of the top 100 hotels
worldwide. They must not have had the opportunity
yet to visit the new Esperanza. There you'll find
beachfront opulence with every amenity imaginable
and unsurpassable luxury, service, and location.
Winters in Baja are refreshingly warm, ideal for
those anxious to get away from colder climes.
But while you would expect the tip of Baja to
be unbearably hot during the summer months, during
the week I spent there at the end of July and
beginning of August, I found the weather wonderful,
with warm, dry air bathed with cool ocean breezes.
And I discovered that in Cabo, while you can't
buy a great fish, you can buy paradise. And the
Esperanza was indeed paradise.
The resort is about 45 minutes from Cabo's airport
and just about 6 kilometers from the town of Cabo
San Lucas. You enter through a grand arched gateway,
past a dramatic fountain with bronze whale flukes
erupting from the water. Esperanza, with its exclusive
private beaches and stunning desert surroundings,
sits as the centerpiece of Punta Ballena, meaning
Whale's Point, one of Cabo's premier seaside residential
communities with private homes that run from $1.6
million to $12 million and more - most second
homes for wealthy Americans.
There are 50 casitas in eight 3 and 4-story buildings
set on a gentle bluff that slopes down to two
private sandy coves. The 17-acre property is laced
with palm trees and bougainvillea. Winding stone
paths lead you to the terra-cotta colored casitas
or villas, each topped with a tropical palapa
roof, made of intertwined palm leaves, with patios
and entries supported by unique polished wooden
beams wrapped with broad vines. Each casita has
views of the ocean and one of the resort's two
infinity edge pools. From one pool you can see
Cabo's famous Land's End Arch at the tip of the
peninsula. The Mexican style rooms are spacious
with original artwork, wonderfully comfortable
king size beds, stereo, DVD, and CD players, and
outdoor patios or terraces. Rates run from $350
- $1025 depending on season and level. Those on
the top level have outdoor private jacuzzi's.
The others have hammocks on outdoor terraces.
In each room, you'll find complimentary fruit,
binoculars for whale watching, stone-clad spa
tubs, and showers with dual shower heads and casement
windows that overlook the sea. They're ideal settings
for a romantic couple or a peaceful interlude.
The best deal however are the resort's 36 residential
villas - 2400-3100 square foot, fully equipped,
and luxuriously furnished 2 and 3-bedroom villas
that are being marketed as "fractional ownership"
properties but are usually available for resort
guests. The villa rates, depending on season,
run from $750 to $1425/night. If you have a family
or a group of friends that wants to vacation together
in wonderful comfort and in an exquisitely beautiful
setting, an Esperanza villa is an unparalleled
experience. Each residence displays handcrafted
furnishings, gourmet kitchens, and lavish baths
in every room. All have expansive outdoor patios
with pocket doors that open the entire living
area to the outside tropical air. And some have
private patio pools surrounded by red, pink, and
And service at the Esperanza is extraordinary.
There are nearly 4 service staff per guest. There's
24-hour concierge service, in-residence dining
and room service, a swim-up bar and poolside service,
and, if you're planning to stay in one of the
residences, you can even request the resort to
do pre-arrival shopping to stock your refrigerator
and bar with your favorite items.
The Esperanza's restaurant overlooks the Sea of
Cortez and serves California-Mediterranean cuisine
with a taste of Mexico. You can dine inside with
ocean views or alfresco on a large terrace that
juts out over the sea with white surf breaking
The resort has a fitness facility and a full service
spa with signature therapeutic massages and revitalizing
treatments. These purification rituals use a lot
of fresh fruits like avocado, papaya, and mango
for facials and body wraps. You can even renew
yourself with a Corona beer facial. Lime included,
You can also indulge in free yoga lessons or salsa
classes, hike nearby desert trails, try kayaking
in the hotel's private cove or seek out other
Cabo adventures - surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving,
paragliding, deep sea fishing, or that dry land
sport, golfing. And of course there's sightseeing,
shopping, and dining in local towns that can be
arranged by the concierge.
There are several good restaurants in Cabo San
Lucas. We enjoyed Edith's, one with a view of
the marina and city lights that serves great steaks
and seafood in a charming Mexican outdoor ambiance
with the requisite strings of overhead lights
and meandering mariachis. I remain befuddled however
by the fact that despite all the tourist money
that must fill the coffers of Mexican tourist
towns, like Cabo, their infrastructure remains
on the "manana" schedule of completion.
Edith's, as well as many first class clubs and
restaurants, are found down unpaved, dirt roads,
or along broken sidewalks that would make a convention
of ambulance chasing American lawyers salivate.
Downtown Cabo is still a mecca for spring break
hellions and youthful lovers frequenting raucous
bars that range from New York classy to Mexican
seedy. There's El Squid Row, that lights up the
center of town, Cabo Wabo, Van Halen-owned, and
the Giggling Marlin. And along the marina, starting
with Margaritaville, there's a collection of bars
and restaurants that draw both tired old fisherman
and libido driven young. There are also farmacias
on every corner selling America's latest prescription
candy over the counter, from Viagra to Prozac.
While there are miles of gorgeous and near-isolated
white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters in
Cabo, and great spots for surfing or snorkeling,
there are no hotels or resorts that have truly
swimmable beaches. Cabo's waters drop precipitously
deep just a few meters from shore. This terrain
makes for gorgeous breaking waves and great surfing
but somewhat more dangerous waters with fierce
undertows for more sedate beachside swimmers.
I found my Cabo nirvana floating in the Esperanza's
infinity edge pool in soothingly cool, beautiful,
wet limbo between sea and sky hearing nothing
but the soothing sound of waves. After awhile,
I paddled up to the bar for fresh seafood salsa,
chips, and a margarita. I could have been anywhere,
Tahiti, the Caribbean. All that was missing in
this Mexican paradise was Mexico. And suddenly,
that was there too. On Thursdays, the Esperanza
presents its Mexicanismo night with lanterns illuminating
a poolside dining area, a buffet displaying dishes
from every region of Mexico, mariachis entertaining
with brass and guitars. They even bring in street
vendors to display their local wares to you poolside.
And the evening culminates with a grand display
of fireworks that paint a star drenched night
sky and re-paint the sea below.
The Esperanza resort has dreams for sale. If you
plan to visit Cabo - don't let this great catch
pass you by.