Cabo San Lucas, once a sleepy fishing village at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, is a booming resort town known for its all-inclusive accommodations, its raging parties and its stunning natural beauty. It is a place that attracts both luxury vacationers and rowdy spring breakers. And, as a result, it is exactly the type of place that Dan and I generally try to avoid when planning our travels.
But, when Dan’s family sprung the idea of a long weekend in Cabo this past January, we didn’t have to think twice before RSVPing with an emphatic “yes.” Our short weekend getaway gave us the perfect amount of time to recharge, while ensuring that Dan didn’t have to use any of his highly coveted vacation days.
During our three days in Cabo, Dan and I stayed at the Estancia Real Los Cabos. The accommodation was a step down from the luxurious resorts that the rest of our group had chosen, but it had everything we needed–a central location, air conditioning and an unbeatable price.
On our first full day in Cabo San Lucas, Dan and I met with his family and spent much of the morning enjoying the long strip of sand at Playa Medano. Filled with sunbathing tourists, eyesore hotels and vendors selling tacky souvenirs, Playa Medano is a prototypical resort beach.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed cooling off in the water and soaking up a bit of Vitamin D.
In the afternoon, Dan and I hired a water taxi to take us around the jaw-dropping rock formations at Land’s End. Land’s End is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. The scenery there is dramatic, wild and in sharp contrast to the meticulously manicured waterfront at Medano Beach.
Our forty-five minute boat trip cost $8 per person and brought us past sunbathing seals, towering rock spires and Cabo’s famous natural sea arch. Boat trips around the area generally include a stop at Lovers Beach but, due to rough waves, the popular strip of beach was closed when we visited. Instead, our guide took us out in search of whales. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any.
Following our afternoon excursion, Dan and I headed back to Playa Medano. There, we joined his cousin and lounged on the beach until dinnertime, margaritas in hand.
On our second day in Cabo San Lucas, Dan’s family and I piled into a rental car and drove to the colonial town of Todos Santos. The drive gave us the opportunity to see Baja’s sun-kissed mountains and admire the surrounding landscape’s tapestry of earthy colors. Everywhere we looked, saguaro cactuses sprouted out of the ground, speckling the mountainsides.
Todos Santos is a a small community that houses a mix of fishermen, surfers and expat hippies. The dusty streets of its little downtown boast a clutch of sophisticated galleries, colonial buildings and upscale boutiques.
In this picturesque and artsy community, it is easy to forget that Cabo San Lucas–with its cruise ships and partying tourists–sits only 50 kilometers to the south. For Todos Santos has resisted the cookie-cutter developments that plague the landscapes nearby.
I don’t expect Todos Santos to escape the wave of development indefinitely, however. Resorts and condos are already springing up in the area, and encroaching on the miles and miles of windswept Pacific coastline.
Just a short drive up the Transpeninsular Highway from Todos Santos, sits Playa Cerritos. According to Dan’s cousin who lived in Baja a few years back, this beach was once a remote outpost, accessible only by a potholed, dusty road. Today, while the beach still offers a long and uninterrupted stretch of sand, developments have mushroomed up along its northern end.
We spent the afternoon walking along the shores of Playa Cerritos and marveling at its untouched golden shores. I tried to imprint the image in my memory, knowing that if I were to return, the place would likely be unrecognizable.
Dan and I had no intention of leaving Cabo without seeing the beaches that we were unable to visit during the first day of trip. So at 8AM on the day of our departure, we woke up early, headed toward the docks and found a fisherman that was willing to take us to Lover’s Beach (and the adjacent Divorce Beach).
In the early mornings, the town of Cabo San Lucas is remarkably quiet–a sharp contrast from the raucous atmosphere that descends on the resorts during the evening hours. The water is still, the beaches are empty and most tourists are still lying in bed and nursing their hangovers.
Save for two other people and a flock of seagulls, Lover’s Beach was completely desolate when we visited. It was magical. For forty minutes, we admired the towering rock sculptures, the azure ocean and the group of whales spouting water in the distance.
Most people come to Cabo San Lucas for the parties, but Dan and I were happy to find solitude at the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula. Our morning outing to Lover’s Beach was proof that, despite Cabo’s association with oversized resorts and tourists throwing back tequila shots, one doesn’t have to travel far to come face to face with pristine, untouched nature.
To reach the airport from town, we opted to take the $5 Ruta del Desierto Bus that runs between Cabo and the airport’s Terminal 2. The bus is a great alternative for travelers who want to avoid paying $17 per person for a shuttle or $80 for a taxi.