With the coronavirus cases on a decline in late summer, it seemed like a good time for a getaway to some place vacation-ny to celebrate Irina's birthday. Cabo San Lucas, a resort city at the southern tip of Baja California, became our destination. While there, we stopped in the other Cabo of Los Cabos - San Jose del Cabo, another picturesque town of Todos Santos, and beaches in between the three.
Gallery of my favorite photos
Los Cabos is about a two and a half hour flight from another San Jose, the one in California. Our Alaska flight was relatively full, considering the coronavirus times, including some characters whose only luggage seemed to be a cooler and a set of fishing rods. Well, what else does one need in Los Cabos? A cooler to keep the beer cold, and a fishing rod to catch some fish and never have to leave the beach.
South of the US border, we flew over Gulf of California (also known and Sea of Cortez), and I watched the Baja to our west. We landed just as the sun was setting behind the peaks of Sierra de La Laguna, a southern Baja mountain range that reaches over 6 thousand feet.
After arrival and filling out covid forms, we proceeded to take a shuttle to a car rental location where the usual scene unfolded - the advertised rates are very low, but customers are offered, and sometimes pressured to get, a comprehensive insurance at a substantial daily cost, that drives up the price to what one would pay in the US or more. I am not a fan of this game but have relented in the past. This time, with few tourists around and considering the size of Los Cabos, I decided to rely on my credit card insurance. That made the rental dirt cheap, but likely did not quite cover the cost of the car for them. This competitve race to the bottom where gimmicks have to be used to make profit really calls for some kind of regulation.
The airport is located near Cabo San Jose and it was less than an hour long drive to Cabo San Lucas and our hotel. Given my Expedia status, we were offered a choice of two special rooms, and I inevitable picked a view over size. It was just in time to catch the last minutes of a rodizio special at one of the resort restaurants. After returning to the room, I sat on the balcony, listened to the waves and watched the moon over the ocean well into the night.
After a late breakfast at a hotel restaurant, we explored our end of Solmar Beach. The beach is almost a mile long and ends with cliffs on both sides. On our side, the clffs separate it from Divorce Beach. Neither of these beaches is swimmable, with dangerous surf and rip currents. This is the very end of Baja California, aptly named Land's End. We had the end of the beach all to ourselves. The sun, the ocean, the sand and the cliffs above.
When it started getting hot on the beach, we sought a cool-down in one of the hotel numerous infinity pools. The pool on our side of the property was designated only for the guests staying there. It overlooked a spa area and the cliffs toward Divorce Beach. It was a great place to chilax and watch boats go by. The sun was still very strong considering it was the end of September. With the temperatures pushing low 90s and the dew points above 80, we finally got out of the heat to make a short trip to a shopping center on the outskirts of Cabo San Lucas.
In the parking lot, we were approached by a person selling hand-made bookmarks and other crafts. He had a family to feed and lost his job in the tourist industry because of covid. I found the story believable and we bought a few. The area depends on tourist dollars. With many resorts shut down completely, and some, like ours, operating at a significantly reduced capacity, these were tought times.
After getting back, a swim up bar took us back to our vacation sur-reality.
After the sun disappeared from the pool, we went back to the beach. It was a busy time for sunset cruises, and we watched quite a variety pass by, from pirate ships to catamarans, and speedboats and sail boats of all sizes. The breeze from the west was bringing a few coastal clouds making the sunset beind the cliffs of El Pedregal that much more colorful.
With the sun gone from the beach, we found a higher perch overlooking it at all. The balcony outside our room had a great view of the beach, the cliffs of Pedregal and the western sky. I could not separate myself from the view until it was almost dark and the lights of the hotel lit up, inviting us to have dinner.
The mountain above Land's End and Grand Solmar resort is popularly referred to as Mt. Solmar, and locals probably recognize it as Cerro del Vigia. When I researched the trip, and saw some some pictures from the top, I was sold on going up. As I found, a kennel owner by the name Enrique leads guided tours up there in the mornings from his land adjacent to the mountain. He brings along his dogs and a group of tourists who tip him for the service. The whole setup seemed sketchy, with some reporting being harrassed if going alone (wihtout tipping...). I was looking to get up there earlier when the sun was still lower, the temperatures cooler, and did not care for a company of tourists or dogs, looking for a more solitary experience.
To avoid crossing his lot and entering through his gate, there are a number of options, including starting from a little farther north near the Naval Station, or from Divorce Beach on the other side, which would require a dropoff from a boat. Considering where we were staying, I chose to hike up to a ridge leading toward the summit from the hotel property, near its entrance where the slope is a little less steep. It required a bit of bushwhacking on a slippery slope. When I reached the ridge, I got to appreciate how green the landscape was. Hurricane Genevieve dumped over 10 inches of rain on the otherwise arid area on August 20, and the vegetation responded. The views of Solmar Beach and of the other side toward Cabo San Lucas over its bay and marina were spectacular.
I descended a bit from the ridge and followed a path most people take. After a while I decided to head straight up for the summit. I took care to avoid stepping on or brushing by numerous cacti and other prickly succulents along the way. The summit is around 500 ft above the sea level, and it seemed like a hike in the humidity one could slice through. When I reached the summit, I enjoyed a 360 degree view. The sun was up in the sky above the Arch and the cliffs of the Lands's End. Some 500 feet below me I could see the pool we spent time at the day before. There were hundreds of dragonflies flying around. I took a picture of a sign that the area was under "drone surveillence", thinking little of it. As I enjoyed the view, I suddenly heard buzzing that I was sure was not coming from the dragonflies or butterflies that I saw earlier on the way up. It was a drone and I heard a voice telling me I was tresspassing and needed to go down.
I was pretty much done and ready to head down anyway, so after a couple of minutes to take a few more picture, as the drone buzzed and yelled behind me, I obliged. I was somewhat thrown off and did not even take a picture of the drone. As I walked down, I saw a group of hikers and dogs going up. Enrique stepped up, getting right in my face, or rather 8 inches below below given the height difference. He told me I was tresspassing. I told him it was not his property. He threatened to call the police, and I told him to go right ahead but insisted I was leaving the way I came, not through his kennel property. I was not looking for trouble and at this point I was just trying to avoid an altercation. We parted ways but the whole thing left me with a sour taste , spoiling an otherwise great experience. I think the guy has made a cash cow from guiding the tourists, and put up no-trespassing signs on a property that does not belong to him to intimidate anyone from going on their own.
As the beach by our resort was not swimmable, we made a trip to the most popular beach in Cabo San Lucas, Medano Beach. This long stretch of sand and turquise water is sheltered from the Pacific by the Land's End peninsula, making for relatiely calm waters and great swimming. The beach is lined by hotels and restaurants and seems like a place to be if you want to party. That is outside of coronavirus times. It was a much more subdued and quiet atmosphere at this time but the swimming was great. After a lunch, we ended up taking a boat ride by ourselves on a boat that would easily accommodate 10-15 people. We went past El Arco around Land's End all the way to Solmar Beach.
After the boat ride overview of Land's End from the watern we were dropped off at a busy Lover's Beach. From there we walked to Divorce Beach, which like Solmar Beach faces the Pacific and is not swimmable. As I scoped out the other side of cliffs that separated us from Solmar Beach, a guy came out from behind them through the water. This gave me an idea to try it myself in the two remaining days. We returned back to our boat at Lover's Beach, took a refreshing dip in the water, and enjoyed the ride back.
We took a taxi to Tres Sirenas, a seafood restaurant. In a different season, it would have been possible to have a nice walk by the marina on the way there but the heat of late September would have left us drenched in sweat. The restaurant had a lot of reasonably socially-distanced seating, live music and great food. Starting from a taco appetizer and a variety of ceviches, continuing with a huge fried red snapper, and finishing off with a birthday themed fried banana, flamed in front of us, the tasty and colorful fare was all a delight. When the mariachi sang us a happy birthday song, it really felt like a birtday celebration in Mexico.
Back at the hotel, they had live music too but the atmosphere at the upscale resort was much more subdued and the music matched. I was in the mood for "yo no soy marinero, soy capitan" and we did not hang around for long.
After running the length of the beach shortly after the sunrise, Irina and I walked it later in the morning. There are a number of other resorts along the beach but they all appeared empty and closed. The coronavirus took its toll. It was getting really hot already and we cooled down in an infinity pool at the other end of our resort.
Todos Santos is a small colorful town one hour north of Cabo San Lucas. It is an easy drive, most of it on a four lane road. A lot of giant cardon cacti can be seen growing everywhere in the surrounding landscape, some defintely more than 40 feet tall. Unlike saguaro cacti in Arizona, cardons branch out a lot more. They are an impressive sight. We made a short stop at Playa Los Cerritos (Cerritos Beach) and arrived in Todos Santos in the early afternoon. It was oppressively hot, so we took shelter inside a restaurant. After the break, we walked again by Hotel California, a namesake of the famous Eagles song, to Todos Santos Mission and its Church, a part of which dates back to 1747, a few years after the mission was founded. The tourist industry is clearly growing rapidly in the town and there are a lot of galleries, souvenir and art stores to choose from. A fertile valley next to the town is fed by water from the tall peaks of Sierra de La Laguna to the east, and its lush greenery contrasted with my preconception of Baja California being a desert.
Just west of town of Todos Santos is Playa Todos Santos. On the way there, we wanted to stop first at a hilltop restaurant overlooking the Pacific but the restaurant and the road to it were closed because of the coronavirus. Google's directions to the beach left a lot to be desired leading us first to a private road and a small hotel at the end of it. Eventually, we found an alternative. The approach required a bit of walking on a narrow trail by a lagoon but the sunset on the beach was worth it. The sand stretched south all the way to Punta Lobos, and north to what seemed like infinity, maybe California. Little crabs were running around on the beach. We watched the waves as the sun dropped into the Pacific.
It was our last day. I came out for a sunrise to take a few shots on the beach. After a breakfast, Irina and I completed the tour of the hotel's pools and took a dip in the infinity pool right below our balcony. Having cooled down a bit, I made an attempt at a crossing to Divorce Beach. Starting at the end of Solmar Beach, I climbed up big boulders to a little saddle from which I descended down to the other side. There was one more line of cliffs and rocks between me and Divorce Beach. At low tide and low surf, one could just walk around them. Unfortunately, there was no way to do it that day. The waves were really high, crashing against the rocks with an enormous force. I tried to make my way forward by climbing up on the rocks but the waves splashed up high and I eventually gave up considering the slippery footing. As I was getting ready to go back, a group of older gentlemen came down. They had made the crossing in the past but, when they saw the waves pounding the shores, they turned around as I did.
The Los Cabos airport is close to San Jose del Cabo, so after checking out from the hotel, we drove toward the other Cabo, stopping along the way first at the marina in Cabo San Lucas and then at Playa Chileno Cabos, one of the countless beaches between Cabo San Lucas and Cabo San Jose.
San Jose historic downtown area features a missionary church, a nice square which like the surrounding streets is lined by restaurants, art, jewelry, and general tourist stores. There are also numerous stores selling medications which would be by prescription only elsewhere. They advertise pills to get smart ("intelligent pill"), pills to get hard, antibiotics, pain pills, sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, the whole gamut one should not need on a vacation.
It was a short drive to the airport. As I enjoyed my last tacos in Mexico inside the terminal, I watched the sun set behind the peaks of Sierra de la Laguna, virtually the same sight I watched from the plane on arrival. It was a symbolic ending to a great trip.