SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 17, October 2016 - Page 68

I visited Cabo in San Lucas this September- part of the greater Los Cabos area in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. This place left such a lasting impression on me that I’m wondering how soon I can go back.

Just like birds and whales spend their time in the Bay of California in the winter, people also migrate south during the colder months. For this reason, peak season in Los Cabos is from mid-December to mid-April. Being there during a slower period was a fantastic way to familiarize myself with the city and make a list of “must-dos” for my next visit.

The economy of the Los Cabos area is primarily driven by tourism, making the location popular and somewhat expensive--but it is definitely worth the expense. With scenic views in every direction, the city is a beautifully unique mixture of desert, mountains, and pristine beaches. The area is a mix of old and new with influences from traditional Mexican culture and modern American culture. Its moneymakers, however, are its stunning natural resources that are generally respected by locals and tourists alike.

The Los Cabos area is divided into several distinct areas. The first is Cabo Pulmo, a national marine park on the eastern part of the peninsula. It contains the Gulf of California’s only hard coral reef—day trips to Cabo Pulmo are highly recommended for divers. The next is San José del Cabo, an area known for sandy beaches, colonial architecture, and mega-resorts. San José del Cabo has a popular estuary and bird sanctuary where migratory birds stop to rest on their way to South America. Then there is La Paz, an island about three hours north. Here, you can swim with whale sharks from October to March. Lastly, there is Cabo San Lucas. Located about 700 miles south of the California border at the southernmost tip of the Baja peninsula, it is

known for nightlife, timeshares, and marlin tournaments. My trip in September was based in

Cabo San Lucas where I stayed for five days at an amazing resort by Thompson Hotels called The Cape.

In Cabo San Lucas you can spend your days by the pool at a nice resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of California, or you can participate in the numerous outdoors activities the area has to offer. The beaches are great, but it can be dangerous to swim in the ocean in many areas due to intense rip currents. Surfing is also quite popular in Los Cabos. Other outdoor activities include zip lining, bird watching, ATV excursions, horseback riding at sunset, and fishing. The highlight of the area, though, is the Arch of Cabo San Lucas (El Arco de Cabo San Lucas for our Spanish speaking friends), an awe-inspiring rock formation made of sandstone and granite in the Gulf of California that was carved out by thousands of years of ocean waves and wind.

Ways to see the Arch include kayaking excursions, glass bottom boats, charter boats, snorkeling, and diving, all of which give you the opportunity to see the amazing underwater sandfalls (imagine an underwater waterfall, but more solid). Jacques Cousteau described this sea as one of the richest seas in the world. My favorite part of the area, though, was seeing a sea lion colony resting on the shaded rocks of the Arch. Having worked with sea lions before, I was not intimidated by the large males fearlessly approaching our boat on the way to and from the Arch, though I can see why such a thing could be startling for those who find large marine carnivores intimidating.

Speaking of large marine carnivores, whale watching is hugely popular in Cabo San Lucas. Baja California Sur is a location migratory whales and dolphins have used for centuries as their winter calving and breeding grounds; in the summer most of those species travel north to feed. September is not quite the peak season to participate in whale watching, but I do hope to go

back to see it sometime between mid-December and mid-April when viewing opportunities are almost guaranteed. Some of the species found in the area include blue whales, fin whales, sperm whales, humpback whales, and gray whales, the latter of which undergo the longest migration of any mammal on earth. Common dolphin species can found in the area include bottlenose dolphins, rough toothed dolphins, and even orcas. Whale watching is a huge source of income for the people of Cabo San Lucas, but be cautious of any tour that guarantees you will be able to touch, feed, or swim with those animals in the wild. Marine mammals can quickly become accustomed to human presence and stop looking for food on their own if it is provided for them; this teaches bad habits to newborn calves in the area. Besides, it just isn’t safe or wise to try your luck with some of the biggest animals to have ever lived. Choose a tour where you can responsibly view the animals from a short distance or choose a hotel such as The Cape that offers whale watching binoculars as an amenity for the rooms.

Animals and rock formations are not the only highlight of Cabo San Lucas and Baja California Sur. The people are friendly and the culture of Los Cabos is vibrant and rich with interesting history. There’s a little something for everyone here, especially since Los Cabos are known for being very safe for tourists to visit. My trip was spent with quite a bit of rest and relaxation by the pool and on the beach, that is, prior to Hurricane Newton, a Category 1 storm that directly hit the area. The Cape hotel staff did a great job communicating before, during, and after the storm, and made sure the experience at the hotel was as uninterrupted as possible while ensuring everyone’s safety. Getting a little stir crazy after the storm passed, yet not having too much time left in the area, I decided on a combination sightseeing tour with a company called Land’s End. This tour was perfect for familiarizing myself with the area and we got to see The Arch, the bird estuary, a glass blowing factory, do a tequila tasting, tour a historic church, learn

about the history of Los Cabos and Mexico, and take some great photos of the area. The tour usually offers lunch and an hour for shopping, but since there were only two of us on the tour, we decided to skip the shopping. Our tour guide, Zacarias (Zach for short), was incredibly knowledgeable and as friendly as friendly gets. The Land’s End combined city tour is perfect if you want to spend a short day experiencing the area with air conditioned pick-up and drop-off at your hotel.

As a person who likes to eat constantly, I like to have options that range from the familiar to unique local foods to try. With casual dining options, popular tourist spots, and fine dining, there’s no reason you should ever feel hungry in Cabo San Lucas. Besides the several pounds of chips and guacamole I ate, there was always something new to try. From cactus salad to tacos and tamales, traditional Mexican food is at every corner for those interested in trying authentic Mexican food that doesn’t come from a drive-thru or with an upcharge for guac. My favorite restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, by far, was Sunset Da Mona Lisa, an Italian restaurant featuring seafood located just up the hill from The Cape. The restaurant has an awe-inspiring view of the Gulf of California, The Arch, and the sunset. It is one of the most sought after restaurants in Los Cabos and is rated #1 on TripAdvisor. After taking part in a chef’s tasting menu, I totally understand why. The menu is finer dining with the fine dining price tag, but the unobstructed view of the sunset that is perfect for Instagram and a sunset ritual put on by the staff, it is well worth the expense and the time to put on fancy clothes. If fine dining isn’t your thing but the view is, Sunset Point, a more casual version of Sunset Da Mona Lisa is conveniently located upstairs with an equally as impressive view but a less startling price tag. When headed to Cabo, I recommend checking out some of TripAdvisor’s top ranked restaurants and exploring the city to find some authentic, local restaurants to round out the experience. It doesn’t hurt that the

exchange rate in Mexico generally gives tourists more spending power.

While there may be quite a bit of interesting rhetoric coming from the U.S. about Mexico,

it’s actually one of the coolest countries I’ve been to so far. Give it a chance and see for yourself what amazing places Mexico and Baja California Sur are. Who knows, you might like it.

Cactus and Corals in

By Marcus Reamer

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico