Until the late 1980s, the only thing that Los Cabos was known for was fishing. The primary source of tourists was people who were coming to Cabo San Lucas in search of Marlin and other sportfish. Rocky Rafkin, a PGA pro, who frequently visited Baja from the mid 70s, said that he was driving along the beach in the mid 80s and saw a few people with shovels working out in the field not far from the beach. He told his friend who was driving the car to stop – that’s a golf course. He walked over to the workers who had shovels, a donkey and a plow and most importantly – no power tools or machines and met another PGA pro who was supervising the workers. This would become the San Jose del Cabo Municipal 9-hole golf course that opened in 1987. It was all built by hand with 32 bunkers and a lake – a 3,153-yard flat course with a par 35. The next step in the history of golf was made when Don Koll, the owner of Palmilla invited Jack Nicklaus to visit. He also invited the then president of Mexico to visit and to meet Nicklaus. The result was a commitment to expand the San Jose del Cabo airport, run better water mains to Cabo San Lucas and the construction of the first Jack Nicklaus course in Los Cabos, which opened in 1990. The Palmilla course is now three 18-hole courses – Mountain (7,036 years, par 72), Ocean (6,771 yards, par 72) and the Arroyo (6,939 yards, par 72). There are now 21 golf courses in Los Cabos and another two planned in the next several years. An amazing number of these courses are listed among the top 100 courses in the world and have been the host to PGA tournaments.
Not all of the golf courses in Los Cabos are open to the public. In fact, ten of the 21 current courses are private and require either being a resident in the community or the guest at a hotel. The newest private course is the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol. This Jack Nicklaus course has just been updated and recently reopened as part of the private Cove Club. It originally opened as a public course and every fairway has views of the Sea of Cortez and there are four holes that follow the beach. One of the newest private courses is the Twin Dolphins Golf Club available to owners and guests of the Montage Hotel and Resorts and the MaraVilla Condominiums. This one of a kind 19-hole course was designed by Fred Couples (his first in Mexico) and winds through the nature of Los Cabos with stunning views of the mountains and the Sea of Cortez. Greg Norman also entered the hospitality business with a golf course and residences in Rancho Los Cabos along the Pacific Ocean between Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos. As either an owner of a residence or a guest at one of the Solmar resorts, you can have access to this 7,210-yard, par 72 course. Tom Fazio designed the Chileno Bay golf course which winds its way through arroyos with magnificent views of the Sea of Cortez and the Los Cabos mountains open recently and is also private for homeowners in Chileno Bay or guests of the Auberge Chileno Resort. The Quivira Golf Course along the Pacific Ocean opened in 2014 and is also private. To play this 7,085-yard, par 72, you need to either be a homeowner or a guest at one of the Pueblo Bonito resort properties in Cabo San Lucas. The green fees range from $233 - $380, depending on the season and time of day. In 2009, several courses opened in the Pacific side community of Diamante, just north of Cabo San Lucas. Davis Love designed the Dunes course (7,160 yards, par 72) with views of the Pacific Ocean and Tiger Woods designed his first course ever at Diamante. The El Cardonal course opened in 2014 and was followed by the Oasis short course (12 holes) in 2016. The Oasis course is a par three that winds around over 400 palm trees. Both of these courses have views of the Pacific Ocean. All three courses require that you are either an owner or a guest in Diamante. Although a few tee times each day are allocated to the Nobu Hotel and the Hard Rock Hotel that are on the beach adjacent Diamante. The first Tom Fazio course in Los Cabos, which opened in 2000 was in Querencia, a private residential community just south of San Jose del Cabo and north of Palmilla along the main highway. This is a par 72 course that also has a driving range.
Not currently private, the Jack Nicklaus course in Puerto Los Cabos will become private when the second nine holes of the adjacent Greg Norman course is completed. But don’t worry, if you want world class golf, you don’t need to own in Los Cabos or stay in a luxury hotel. There are lots of additional hotels. As indicated, both courses (27 holes) of golf in Puerto Los Cabos are now public. Currently, the 18-hole Nicklaus course has 7.191 yards, par 72 and the Greg Norman course with 9 holes completed is 3,590 yards with a par 36. Both of these courses feature a palapa rest stop that is included in the green fees, where golfers can enjoy beverages and taco of their own choosing. The first 18 holes of these courses opened in 2008 with the second Nicklaus 9 opening in 2019. The oldest public course in Los Cabos was opened as the San Jose del Cabo Municipal Course in 1987 and was sold to Vidanta in 2012. The second oldest course is Palmilla with 27 holes that opened in 1990 (described in the introduction above). One of the early courses to open in Los Cabos is the Robert Trent Jones II course at Cabo Real. This is a 6,848-yard course with a par 71 that depending on the season and time of day has green fees that range from $140 - $240. The Cabo San Lucas Country Club, just outside of Cabo San Lucas was opened in 1994 following Tropical Storm Lydia has seven brand new holes and offers a 7,220-yard, par 72 course that was designed by Roy Dye. It is also the only club in Los Cabos to have a lighted driving range, allowing players to practice at night. In 2007, Club Campestre was opened in a community just on the western edge of San Jose del Cabo. This Jack Nicklaus course has 6,966 holes and a par 71 with views of the Sea of Cortez and the Los Cabos mountains. Other than the Vidanta 9-hole course, this is one of the least expensive in Los Cabos with green fees ranging from $99 to $195, depending on the season and time of day. It is one of four courses owned by Questro Golf – Cabo Real, Club Campestre and the two courses in Puerto Los Cabos. The most recent opening Los Cabos was the Robert Trent Jones II designed course at Costa Palmas (7,000 yards, par 72), up the East Cape. This is part of the overall Four Seasons Resort development that includes a hotel, residences and a yacht harbor.
Two new resorts planned on the East Cape – the Vidanta Mayan Palace just north of Zacatitos and Punta Playa just south of Zacatitos – plan 18-hole golf courses. The Vidanta property is currently under construction with a 2021 or 2022 opening. The Punta Playa property has not yet been started.
While fishing is still the most popular draw for tourists to Los Cabos, the world-class golf and even more world-class views from these courses has truly made the area a year round destination for tourists.
Swimming with Whale Sharks. Most people think of whale watching as being on a boat or on the shore and watching the whales flip their tails of breach along the coast of Los Cabos. While not a whale, there is another experience that is incredible in the region. A short drive to La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur will take you to the Bay of La Paz. Between October and May, a short boat trip into the Bay will give you the opportunity to swim with whale sharks. Large and whale like, these beautiful creatures are are not actually sharks either. They are the largest fish in the world often growing up to 40 feet long and 47,000 pounds and they are endangered. They filter plankton out of the water as their source of nutrition and are often close to the surface. This gives you the opportunity to slip into the water and snorkel beside them for an up-close experience.
We decided to try the experience offered by Baja Whale Sharks in La Paz. This morning Chris and Tracy were picked up at La Comer in San Jose del Cabo by a special van for the trip to La Paz. After picking up other snorkelers in Cabo San Lucas, the van with 16 passengers headed to La Paz. The Catamaran leaves from La Baz Bay for a four and half to five hour cruise with all equipment supplied and catering on board. Waiting on the Catamaran was a light breakfast. After going to the edge of the bay, the snorkelers were loaded onto to two smaller boats to seek out the whale sharks. However, as the number of boats and people are carefully controlled, the boat first had to stop for a port check. All the passengers were given wrist bands and vests to indicate that they were allowed to swim with the whale sharks. When the boat gets close to the spotted fish, four of the eight enter the water and swim near the whale sharks. As it was a little choppy, it takes some strength to get near them and they can move very fast. After about twenty minutes, they re-entered the boat and the next four got into the water. Each group had the opportunity for a second trip to view these amazing fish. The whale sharks were younger as they were only about 20 feet long. The visibility isn't the best as the whale sharks feed on plankton and this can cloud the water a little. However, for Tracey, who had been waiting 18 years to have this experience, she climbed into the boat with tears in her eyes.
After the swim, the small boats returned to the catamaran where a great lunch was served with guacamole and chips, tacos arrachera and a creamy chicken soup. And of course, the required margaritas. On the return trip, the van stops at Hotel California for a brief chance for beverages and shopping at this iconic hotel. For more information on Baja whale shark tours visit https://bajawhaleshark.com/
If you are up for a little bit of an adventure, a day trip exploring the East Cape will provide you with some incredible views and experiences. You will start your trip from Puerto Los Cabos. The fourth roundabout gives you the choice to go right to the marina and Puerto Los Cabos or left to the start of the East Cape road. You will see signs for Punta Gorda and Cabo del Este at this point. About 5 km along the paved road is the first roundabout. Going a right towards the beach will take you to La Laguna, a community with Laguna Hills and El Encanto developments. It is also the home to Buzzards Bar and Grill. If you leave early in the morning, this is a great place to stop for breakfast. It has one of the best in the Los Cabos area. Back out to the East Cape road and the next community that you will reach is Zacatitos – about 6 more KMs. Watch for cows along the way. Turning right down on to the dirt road to the beach will take you to an off-the-grid community with Zac’s Bar and Grill, an organic market on Wednesday mornings and off-the-wall cinema on Wednesday evenings and the real residents of Zacatitos – a lot of burros that are like pets. Back on the paved East Cape, the next development under construction is Vidanta’s Mayan Palace. This resort will have a main hotel, condominium villas, a golf course and a permanent Cirque de Soliel installation. Expected to open in 2021, it is under construction. A little while later, the paved road ends and you start the trek on the true East Cape road – a dirt track that goes from Playa Tortuga to La Ribera, a trip of over 60 KM.
On the dirt road, you will start to see the off-the-grid communities along the way. There are a wide variety of homes both on ocean front and back in the desert. Following Playa Tortuga, the first well-known beach that you will encounter is Shipwrecks (although you will see the surfboard sign for a small convenience store (tienda) before it). Shipwrecks is a famous surf break, where surfers still arrive to camp in the arroyo for the summer to take advantage of the waves. The next big surf break is at La Fortuna. This is also the home of Zai Sushi Surf Bar, open from Tuesday to Sunday. Jason Manning, a trained sushi chef serves up fresh seafood and great cocktails with great views of the beach. Continuing to see homes and small developments along the way, you will arrive at another section of paved road briefly in 9 Palms. These are great beaches and views and the future home of a boutique hotel reported being built by James Perse (Los Angeles clothing and furniture designer) and partners. Nest major beach along the road is Boca de Vinoramas, the home of Vida Soul, a boutique hotel on the beach built in Italian style. This will be a great place to take a break, have a beer and maybe a snack in the restaurant and stroll the beach. Vida Soul also rents all kinds of water toys – paddle boards, surf boards, snorkeling gear – if you want to take a quick break in the ocean. Continuing along the East Cape road, views of the Sea of Cortez abound along the twists and turns of the narrow dirt road.
One of the next communities is Los Frailes. Here you start the Cabo Pulmo National Park. There is a small convenience store and the long beach is a great place to stop, swim and snorkel. Going to the far north end of the beach near the cliffs, you will find a large selection of marine life. Only a few more kilometers down the road is Cabo Pulmo. This is the famous national marine park that is home to the only living reef on the west side of North America. The protection of the reef has resulted in the re-population of several marine species and the fishing ban has let them grow and ultimately migrate beyond the area. Cabo Pulmo has a nice small village with an information center, several dive shops, a few restaurants and a community with homes to rent as well as a small inn. This area is really worth exploring and if you have more than a day is worth staying overnight and taking a boat trip out to the reef to snorkel or scuba dive. The dirt road continues but finally turns once again into a paved road with communities like El Rincon and Playa Colorada before reaching the first major town – La Ribera. Just north of La Ribera along the beach is the new Four Seasons Resort at Costa Palmas. With a full marina being built, a golf course that has just opened and the Four Seasons hotel and residences, this is luxury along the East Cape.
This is point at which you take the paved road back out to the main transpeninsular highway (Route 1). Going a few miles north will take you to Los Barriles, the home of fishing and kite surfing and going south will take you back to San Jose del Cabo with a stop at the Tropic of Cancer welcome center.
This will be a very full day and you deserve a great meal at one of the many restaurants in San Jose del Cabo. Enjoy!
The art season has once again started in San Jose del Cabo. Every Thursday local artists and galleries welcome residents and visitors to celebrate art and artists. Plaza Mijares (the central square between the City Hall and the Mission) is the art garden. From about 4:00 pm every Thursday, artists display their original work - paintings, lithographs, photographs and even some jewelry. The plaza is often completely filled with a wide range of artwork. The Gallery District in San Jose del Cabo is centered on the street (Calle Alvaro Obregon) the runs along the back edge of the plaza from just alongside Casa Natalia for several blocks. There are also galleries that are on some of the side streets radiating from this main street. Gallery owners welcome in visitors and often offer wine or other items as well as giving people the opportunity to meet the artists. There was a formal ribbon cutting ceremony on November 14th at 6:00 to open the season for 2019 and 2020. Outside of the galleries, artists also display their works on the streets and in some of the plazas. There will often be music and other entertainment on the streets as well (e.g. mimes). Any visitor to San Jose del Cabo should plan to take in this weekly Thursday event. For more information on the Gallery District visit https://www.facebook.com/GalleryDistrictSJC/
About a decade ago, the sleepy fishing village of La Playita on the coast of the Sea of Cortez just outside of San Jose del Cabo was transformed into Puerto Los Cabos by developer Eduardo Sanchez Navarro. What Puerto Los Cabos became and its master plan still to be finished is a self-contained community that offers all of the best of Los Cabos.
One of the big challenges for Puerto Los Cabos was the marina. La Playita had been one of the main jumping off points for fishermen travelling to Gordo Banks, the main fishing area to the north east about five miles. The construction required the dredging of a harbor entrance and marina, while at the same time protecting the fresh water estuary that was adjacent. Currently, the marina has slips for about 250 yachts and room to expand to another 200 slips. There is a full marine service and storage facility for people to have their boats repaired or stored. The marina has a malecon that allows visitors to walk around the harbor and a store to get supplies if you are staying onboard or going out to fish, scuba dive or just tour the area. Plans exist to build a live work area with shops and condominiums on San Jose del Cabo side of the Marina.
Prior to the development of Puerto Los Cabos, about the only place to stay (other than in San Jose del Cabo was The Marina Inn, across the street from the beach where the pangas left for their daily fishing expeditions. Today, there are four hotels, ranging from the boutique art and music property, El Ganzo on the marina to Secrets, J.W. Marriott and the recently opened Zadun, Ritz-Carlton Reserve. The El Ganzo is known for its artist decorated rooms. Painters, musicians, fabric artists, electronic artists who have stayed in the hotel’s suites leave a unique work of theirs behind (on the wall, in an iPad) and the room is named after them. The hotel has a stage on the roof for concerts and a full recording studio in the basement. Secrets is an adult only hotel on the beach adjacent to the J.W. Marriott. Both hotels have direct beach access and all of the amenities that you would expect – fine dining, swimming pools, spas and fitness centers. At the end of October, the much awaited Zadun opened following the early launch of the West Enclave residences and condominiums, which have the advantage of access to the full services of the resort.
While fishing was the main attraction of Los Cabos in the past, world-class golf has become one of the main reasons that people now visit the area and Puerto Los Cabos is no exception. With two 18-hole courses planned (27 holes completed so far) designed by Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, visitors can have a great experience. There is a stunning clubhouse, driving range and putting green and the palapa rest stations on the course provide food and beverages to the golfers, who are experiencing incredible views of the Sea of Cortez and the mountains. Ultimately, the Jack Nicklaus course (now completed) near the water will become a private course available only to residents or guests in Puerto Los Cabos and the Norman course will remain open to the public. Jon Turk is the pro for Puerto Los Cabos golf and wants every player to have an incredible golf and hospitality experience on their round.
From a few local taquerias and seafood palapas, Puerto Los Cabos now boasts some of the best restaurants in Los Cabos. In nearby Las Animas (less than two miles from the marina) are three of the best and highest rated farm-to-table restaurants in Los Cabos – Flora Farms, Acre and Los Tamarindos. The hotels offer a range of dining options as well from the New York-based Café des Artistes and the Nak Grill and Bar at the J.W. Marriott to the El Ganzo Restaurant and Sushi Bar on its roof, there are lots to places and types of food from which to choose. You also don’t want to miss George’s Restaurant at the Marina Hotel, T’s Bar and Grill on the beach, La Ostra Seafood restaurant just to the right of the first roundabout as you enter the back of the marina and Buzzards Bar and Grill in La Laguna, just 5 km down the East Cape road.
Golf is not the only activity available in Puerto Los Cabos. The El Ganzo has a beach club on the other side of the marina. You can enjoy some of the best fishing in the world for tuna, red snapper, wahoo and mahi mahi from the marina. Gordo Banks fishing and a few other charter services are happy to arrange for a boat of almost any size to search for your favorite type of fishing challenge. And of course, snorkeling and scuba diving can also be arranged in Puerto Los Cabos. Wirikuta, a cactus and sculpture garden also offer an authentic Mayan experience with a dinner and show at the roundabout just as you enter Puerto Los Cabos. Hiking, bicycling and walking to explore the area, the beaches and the estuary are all close at hand. Thursday evening offers the Art Garden and Art Walk in San Jose del Cabo and the organic market is open each Saturday morning with produce and arts and crafts.
Of course, Puerto Los Cabos is not just for visitors to the area. There are a number of opportunities for home ownership. Flora Farms offers Culinary Cottages and Hillside Hayloft, all built environmentally. Homes and condominiums are available in two gated communities in the area that not only have access to golf and other amenities but also to a private beach club. The residences at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve West Enclave range from single family homes to large condominiums. All of these areas require entrance through a main gate and then through gates to each of the communities within Puerto Los Cabos. Close by, is the beachfront community of El Encanto (it is adjacent Puerto Los Cabos on the north/east side) as is Laguna Hills.
So if you are visiting Los Cabos, take some time and explore Puerto Los Cabos and the start of the East Cape. It is truly worth it.
The sign at the entrance to Wirkuta says "Take a Mystical Journey". This is because the location combines three unique experiences. As you enter the grounds, you have the opportunity to see hundreds of different types of cacti that are found in the deserts of Mexico. Undercover and with information about each type displayed. School groups often find this to be a very interesting tour. But beyond the cactus garden is a large sculpture garden that combines both traditional stone sculpture with modern metal sculpture spread widely across the field. Three natural stone pyramids make up a part of the journey, depicting the history of the Mayan culture. This is a central part of the only night time show of its kind offered in Los Cabos. The show combines a Mexican meal with the costumes and dancers depicting history of the culture as well as some modern interpretations. For more information about Wirikuta and the night time experience visit http://thewirikuta.com/index.html
One of the favorite things for which people shop in Los Cabos is handmade Mexican products. From both a quality and a price point of view, there are some exceptional deals. When we built our home on the East Cape, we wanted the style to be Modern Mexican. To us, this meant modern lines but Mexican accents throughout. All of the bathrooms were designed with hand-painted ceramic sinks, toilet paper holders, inset soap holders, towel and toothbrush holders and towel hooks. These brightly painted ceramics give the house its style along with the saltillo tile floors. Add painted clay sconces for iighting, equipale (simple crossed wood and leather) furniture and some carpets and the colors and quality of Mexico come through. The main source at that time (and until today) for the design items was Artesanos on the main highway just outside of Cabo San Lucas. This is also one of the first stops for our guests when they are interested in glasses, plates, coffee mugs, pewter, silver or ceramic serving pieces. Whether furniture, fixtures, ceramics, glassware or artwork, this is great stop for any visitor or resident in Los Cabos to find unique items. In San Jose del Cabo, the Plaza Artesanos on Blvd Mijares is another great source. This is a whole square block of small shops that offers everything from apparel to rugs to ceramic fixtures, all kinds of glassware and artwork from which to choose. Unfortunately, neither of these locations appear to have websites or Facebook pages but there are lots of reviews on Trip Advisor.
Each Wednesday morning for most of the year, an organic market is held at Bajhaus in Zacatitos. Providing a gathering place for the community and beyond, Bajhaus not only is the location for the organic market but also on Wednesday evening, it hosts Off-the-Wall Cinemas nights with recent movies and the $50 peso admission goes to East Cape Critters to care for the animals in the neighbor hood. The organic market offers much more than fresh produce. You can enjoy freshly made empanadas, buy your fresh seafood for the evening meal, select from a wide range of hand-crafted jewelry, artwork and apparel and even make appointments for massages, yoga classes or a cranial massage. There are also organic soaps and fruit drinks made by people from the local community. With the slogan, "Don't Panic, It's Organic," this is a fun meeting place on Wednesdays from 9:00 to 11:00 am. A similar event is held at Vida Soul in Boca de Vinorama on Friday mornings. Come by and meet the vendors and residents in Zacatitos.
The Turtle Sanctuary on La Laguna Beach. On Saturday evening at about 7 pm, Paul Meredith was walking his dog along the beach when he saw a mama turtle leave the water and make her way up the beach to lay her eggs. As he was walking home, the man in charge of monitoring sea turtles just happened to be patrolling the beach and help her lay her eggs. There were a total of 83. It was amazing to watch. Thank you Paul for the story and the photos.
Mary McGrath Keenan also added - Lovely way to end the day. Mama turtle laid 83 eggs! Thanks to Paul Meredith of Buzzards, a local turtle rescue guy stopped by to help protect the eggs from future ATVs and predators. Amazing!
For more information about protecting the turtles in Los Cabos visit http://www.todostortugueros.org