May 2007, 2008
To be honest, I am not a wealth of information on the great city of La Paz. My only experience with the Baja Sur capital is that of a horrendous bout of late night food poisoning outside of a shady motel on the outskirts of town. A sprawling metropolis that reaches far out into the hot desert sand, I have never had the opportunity to explore the historic La Paz waterfront or the resort districts around the fabled beaches near Playa Tecolote, but I plan on one of my annual Baja excurisons to take a second crack at this Baja jewel on the coast.
Once outside of La Paz and heading south there really is nothing other than blowing sand and constant road construction until the prominent fork in the road. While both roads technically lead down to Los Cabos, depending upon your activities and itinerary it makes a vast difference which road you choose to take.
Personally once the road forks I like to head right at the fork down the Pacific Coast, as it is a much more adventurous route and is the shortest distance to Cabo San Lucas. Anyone who takes a left at the fork in the road will come upon the expat haven of Los Barilles, a mini gringo outpost town with long sandy beaches and waterfront condos, and eventually drop down into San Jose del Cabo and the international airport. While I have made excursions on both routes, the Pacific coast highway gets my vote.
Heading this way will bring you to the artsy outpost town, turned trendy Baja hotspot of Todos Santos. While a destination unto itself, Todos Santos is one of those places where I would love to simply post up at a corner cafe with a midday cup of coffee, not a care in the world, and just simply watch the world move by. With a downtown area that is little more than a few blocks wide, it’s easy to blow right through Todos Santos en route to the more trendy destinations down south, though to do so would be to sacrifice experiencing this magnificently simple, serene, and sophisticated region of the peninsula.
For those who flanked towards the Pacific and have headed south past Todos Santos,–and for those possessing a strong enough vehicle to do it–check out the coastal area surrounding Rancho El Migrino, which is the Vagabond’s personal top pick for Cabo daytrip getaways. Aside from the isolated tourists from nearby Los Cabos who zip around the beaches and sand dunes on ATV safaris, the beach and coastline outside El Migrino is completely desolate and is a literal fresh of breath air before descending into the resort madness that it found down at the tip. Suggestion: Try jumping off of the sand dunes at El Migrino and sprinting naked into the ocean–it will remind you that you are alive.
Finally, after an 1100 mile drive across barren desert terrain, past deserted bays, oases, and more taquerias than you can count, the pavement eventually runs into the azure blue sea and you have reached Cabo San Lucas. Seemingly Baja’s answer to Las Vegas, there is no denying the carefree party atmosphere of this resort destination at the end of the road. Incredibly built up and exceptionally touristy, consider yourself lucky if you have made it to Cabo by car; most visitors simply fly to Los Cabos and will never experience all the gems of Baja that make up what many will argue comprises the “real Mexico”.
Regardless of the cultural authenticity of a Cabo San Lucas experience, there is no denying the fact that this place is catered toward hedonism and recreational pleasure. Plenty of people the world over are enamored with Cabo, and for good reason. The sportfishing and scuba diving is some of the best in the world, you can surf at some of the best waves in all of Baja, including spots such as Zippers and Monuments, or you can simply lounge on the beach or poolside and watch the world slowly fade away from beneath your bottomless margarita glass.
Most of my time in Cabo San Lucas has been spent staying at the beachfront Villa del Palmar hotel, with far too many afternoons wasted away at the bottom of a margarita from The Office beachfront bar. For those looking to get rowdy in the daylight hours, there is no better (worse?) place to find yourself than the stretch of beach from the Melia pool to the beach in front of The Office.
If you’re really trying to kill yourself while town or simply go all out, follow the Vagabond’s easy 5 step guide to instant Cabo debauchery:
1. Tecate’s on the beach with an inflatable raft
2. Rounds of margaritas from The Office
3. Buzz by the El Arco on the Cabo Booze Cruise
While there is admittedly much, much more to Cabo San Lucas than the all-day party scene, after 1100 miles of dudes in the desert, for some reason this always tends to be my Cabo reality. Now drink up.