DESPITE ITS LONGTIME reputation as a quick Mexican beach getaway for residents of the U.S. West Coast, today’s Los Cabos has matured into an enticing destination offering more than just cheap margaritas and sling chairs in the sand. Today’s visitors indulge in state-ofthe-art spa treatments and a range of other upscale amenities. Named for the slender cape extending eastward from Baja California’s southernmost tip, the town of Cabo San Lucas boasts the only marine preserve in Mexico that falls within city limits. Created in 1973, the 14-square-mile patch of protected sea and shore designates special boat lanes, boating speed limits, and restricted fishing and recreation-craft areas, all under the watchful eye of Grupo Ecológico de Cabo San Lucas. Nowhere else among Mexico’s top-drawing seaside resorts will you find such pristine beaches within so short a distance (five to 10 minutes by boat taxi) of the town center.
Author Joe Cummings Photography Dave Lauridsen
DAY TWO / Today will be a long outing, so wake early and breakfast at Las Ventanas again—room service on your sea-view veranda makes the perfect eye-opener.
Often referred to as “Marlin Alley,” the waters off Cabo San Lucas boast the best marlin fishing in North America, and sportfishing remains Cabo’s No. 1 outdoor activity. The biggest trophy of all, the marlín azul, can reach 16 feet in length and weigh close to a ton. The non-pros will also find plenty of hard-fighting wahoo and dorado (dolphinfish, no relation to dolphins). To arrange a morning expedition, contact Minerva’s Sportfishing Charters, which, like most local outfitters, practices a strict tag-and-release policy for sailfish. Alternatively, Minerva can steer the boat toward such edible catches as black sea bass, cabrilla, sierra, and grouper, which Mexican law permits anglers to keep (within limits).
There’s more to the Cape Region than its tourist capital, so rent a car for the remainder of the day and point the hood ornament toward La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. The two-hour drive traverses every imaginable Cape Region terrain, from the sandy plains north of San José del Cabo to the forested hills of El Triunfo, before ending in La Paz, a bayside city of 200,000. By this time it’s the Mexican lunch hour, so head for La Terraza, a venerable open-air café on the ground floor of the 60-year-old Hotel Perla, and dig into a hearty Mexican meal while watching paceños (La Paz natives) stroll the palm-lined waterfront. If you’re feeling festive, slip the roving trovadores (Mexican troubadours) $5 to perform a corrido (narrative ballad) at your table.
A few blocks away you’ll find Plaza Constitución, where the Museo de Antropología e Historia de Baja California Sur holds an informative collection of exhibits on Baja history, from prehistoric cave art through the Spanish colonial era. On the opposite side of the plaza looms the towered Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Paz. In 1860, the brick edifice replaced La Paz’s smaller, original 1720 mission church and today is the most venerated place of Catholic worship in Baja California Sur. Inside, a historic statue of Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar), the patron saint of Todos Santos, and a collection of Spanish theological texts dating from the earlier mission are kept on display.
Drive back through the hills and across the plains to the Nautical Corridor, a stretch of Mexico 1 between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. This area boasts the distinction of having more world-class luxury spas than any other part of Mexico, and Esperanza is arguably the best of the best. Designed by Auberge de Soleil of Napa Valley fame, Esperanza offers signature treatments that use local herbs and minerals from the sea and the desert. Try the unique Pasaje de Agua (water passage), which moves you from a warm-spring soaking pool to a steam cave and finally a cool waterfall rinse.
After pampering your body, it’s time to indulge your palate with a taste of Mexico’s finest boutique tequilas at El Agave. If you’re so inclined, light up a Partagas or other habano from El Agave’s Cuban cigar humidor.
You should be famished after a day of sea fishing, driving, walking, and tequila tasting. If you were lucky on the morning’s fishing expedition, Mariscos Mocambo is the perfect place to have your dorado or cabrilla scaled, cooked, and served with a platter of Mexican side dishes. And if you’ve come back empty-handed, Mocambo’s huge seafood menu covers the waterfront quite admirably. Top off the night practicing your salsa steps at Cabo’s headquarters for música tropical ? MamboCafé, a nightlife must for anyone inspired by Latin American dance music.