In May 2016, after the San Diego celebration of daughter Katy's marriage to Ali, Jane and I headed south. We flew Alaska Air from San Diego to Los Cabos at the southern tip of the Baja Califonia peninsula. May is not quite the high season in Baja California Sur. While Cabo San Lucas seemed about as crowded as it could be and San Jose del Cabo was also pretty busy, we got discounted hotel rates in Todos Santos and La Paz. Their high season is months earlier, when whales are giving birth in the warm waters.
La Paz is not nearly as big a tourist destination as Cabo San Lucas or even San Jose del Cabo. At restaurants in the city, many or most of the other guests are likely to be Mexican, and you'll see few gringos at the beaches north of town. Souvenir shops are few and far between, even along the waterfront. For some people, La Paz may offer what seems like a more "authentic" Mexican experience, while Los Cabos has an international ambiance. There is no subtlety in Cabo San Lucas: the focus is on booze, sun and separating visitors from their money. Parts of Cabo San Lucas, with its Luxury Avenue mall and stores like Cartier, could be mistaken for Miami. San Jose del Cabo is more charming, but almost all the people shopping, eating and drinking are from El Norte.
|The rooftop pool and bar area at Hotel Guaycura in Todos|
Santos. The house margarita (a classic lime margarita)
can be recommended.
|Early morning on a Monday found the streets of|
Todos Santos very quiet.
We stayed farther north on the Pichilingue peninsula at a sprawling resort called CostaBaja (click HERE). It's a golf, sailing and fishing destination (we do none of those), but it's also an excellent base for exploring the beaches even farther north as well as going back south into the city. We stayed there three nights, had two dinners in La Paz, and spent two days visiting the beaches at Balandra and Tecolote, the latter of which has a great view of Isla Espiritu Santo, a desert island known for its sea lions, other wildlife and many bays. Boat excursions to Espiritu Santo are popular, but we settled for a distant view. In La Paz, we had one dinner at a lively tourist place on the waterfront called Tailhunter (click HERE), where anglers are invited to bring their catch in to be turned into dinner. The second-floor balcony has a great view of strollers on the Malecon (seaside promenade) and sunset views of La Paz Bay. A second dinner was a few blocks from the waterfront at Las Tres Virgenes (The Three Virgins; click HERE), a fine-dining establishment that serves probably the best food in town and offers a lot of Mexican wines, many from the celebrated Guadalupe Valley. Our third and last La Paz dinner was at a sushi restaurant at CostaBaja.
|The Mexican flag flies over the main square in San Jose del Cabo.|
On Thursday evenings the square hosts a large art market and
the many galleries in town stay open late.
HERE), a charming inn on the town square. The location could hardly be better, though it required finding street parking for our rental car. On our one full day in Los Cabos, we drove over to Cabo San Lucas (via the "corridor" of resorts that connect the two towns) hoping to rent kayaks to paddle out to The Arch, a rock formation at Land's End, but the kayak rental person said the harbormaster wasn't letting kayaks go there because of high winds. If you want to browse souvenir shops for items you might also find at Pier One or Amazon, or if you want to drink yourself into an early-afternoon stupor, San Lucas is the place for you. We headed back to quieter San Jose.
Both of our two dinners in San Jose are worth mentioning. One was at La Pesca (click HERE for TripAdvisor listing), a fish restaurant a short walk south of the square on Boulevard Antonio Mijares, the same street as our hotel. We shared a tuna tartar appetizer (sauced tuna chunks and pineapple; absolutely excellent) and a red snapper that was roasted in savory sauces. Again, wonderful. Our other dinner in San Jose was at La Lupita Taco and Mezcal (click HERE), where a long list of interesting tacos are offered individually. Not surprisingly, there's also a good list of mezcal-based cocktails along with a longer list of mezcal brands. The evening we were there, a band was setting up in the open-air garden, though when we left around 9 the live music still hadn't started. Still, a lively and pleasant place and, as at La Pesca, very good food.
There's more to Baja Sur than the ostentation and alcohol of Cabo San Lucas, the cafe life in San Jose del Cabo, the charming streets of Todos Santos and the beaches around La Paz. It's the climate. It was hot and dry while we were there, and it was cold and rainy at our home in Maryland. For my money, that's the best reason to visit.