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About Chris Sands

Chris Sands is the author of Bohemia by the Bay, and writes about wine, golf, and travel for publications such as Baja.com, Los Cabos Guide, Los Cabos Magazine, 10 Best, and USA Today. He is a full-time resident of Cabo San Lucas.

5 Unusual Hotel Features and Amenities in Los Cabos

Few areas in the world boast as many five-star resorts and boutique luxury hotels as Los Cabos, all of them attempting to outduel their competitors with a never-ending array of stylish features and sophisticated amenities.

The coastlines of cape cities Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo are now lined with resorts showcasing celebrity chefs, pampering spas and championship-level golf courses. Those are the conventional lures.

In 2017, however, it takes much more than a spa so sumptuous it would stagger a corrupt Roman emperor or a cliffside masterpiece from a legendary golfer to move the proverbial needle. Local hoteliers must create something newer, fresher and more inspired.

With that in mind, here are five of the coolest features and amenities currently offered by local lodgings.

Underground Recording Studio – Hotel El Ganzo

 

No local hotel has been more committed to the arts than El Ganzo. Even its name – a portmanteau word combining el ganso, the Spanish word for goose, with gonzo, the wide-open journalism style pioneered by the late Hunter S. Thompson – is illustrative of a specific artistic sensibility, a singular aesthetic.  As if to prove this point, the hotel itself is a work in progress, its façade and 70 fashionably appointed rooms and suites perpetually in the midst of a metamorphosis thanks to the work of many talented artists in residence.

The boutique, Puerto Los Cabos based property offers many remarkable features and amenities, from full moon yoga and rooftop concerts to the complimentary use of vintage bicycles. The state-of-the-art underground recording studio, however, is the hotel’s trademark feature, its sui generis resource….even though it isn’t available to guests.

Big-name musicians have counted among the artists in residence, and some have used their time here to memorable advantage. Mexican singer and songwriter Natalia Lafourcade recorded her acclaimed album Hasta la Raíz here, a project that led to a Grammy Award, two Latin Grammys, and a documentary that premiered at the 2016 Los Cabos International Film Festival. Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles and Thievery Corporation are among others to have recorded at the unique facility.

World’s Most Expensive Taco – Grand Velas Los Cabos

5 Unusual Hotel Features and Amenities in Los Cabos

Grand Velas had been open for only a few months when it unveiled what is believed to be the most expensive taco in the history of the world. For a mere $25,000 – U.S. dollars, of course – guests and visitors can experience the ultimate in tortilla-wrapped treats. Caviar, Kobe beef, lobster and black truffle infused brie are among the many fillings, with bits of real gold flake thrown in for color. This monument to conspicuous consumption was created by Juan Licerio Alcala, chef at the resort’s Mexican themed restaurant Frida, and is best paired with a cup of wild civet coffee, or perhaps a shot of rare, ridiculously expensive tequila.

If the taco seems a bit rich for your taste, may we recommend the more modest 17-course pairing menu at Cocina de Autor, the onsite dining establishment helmed by Sidney Schutte. The chef and native Nederlander was awarded two Michelin stars for his work at Librije’s Zusje at the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam before being lured away by the Vela family. The resort’s striking sail-like architectural features, by the way, are a nod to the Vela name, which means both sail and candle in Spanish. The family now operates three Grand Velas properties, with the recently launched Los Cabos luxury all-inclusive joining sister properties on the Maya and Nayarit Rivieras.

SOMMA WineSPA – Grand Fiesta Americana

5 Unusual Hotel Features and Amenities in Los Cabos

Chardonnay is available by the glass at Grand Fiesta Americana, but it and fellow grape varietals like Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon are also integral parts of the wellness treatments at the resort’s unique SOMMA WineSPA. The vinotherapy focused spa is the first of its kind in México, using antioxidant-rich polyphenol extracts from wine grapes as key ingredients in massages, body wraps, scrubs, facials and other bespoke exfoliations.

SOMMA enjoys a spectacular setting, a cool and cavernous space accessible only via an enormous staircase, occupying a privileged position amid the luxurious all-inclusive on the shores of Shipwreck Beach (the beach takes its name from the Inari Maru, a Japanese longline fishing vessel that went aground there in 1965).

The spa also reaps benefits from the explosion of high-quality wines being produced in Valle de Guadalupe, a wine growing valley just outside Ensenada that accounts for a very large percentage of the nation’s table wines. The region’s wine grapes are creatively integrated into a variety of treatments, and also served up in finished form as a relaxing adjunct to the SOMMA experience.

Hook & Cook Special – Pueblo Bonito Pacifica (The Towers at Pacifica)

5 Unusual Hotel Features and Amenities in Los Cabos

Cabo San Lucas as a tourist destination was built on big-game sportfishing. For those with the inclination but not the constitution for rolling waves and heaving decks, Pueblo Bonito’s newly completed The Towers at Pacifica has a solution:  the Hook & Cook Special. Each Wednesday, Chef Octavio Hernández and his team invite a group of up to six guests to cast lines directly from the resort’s pristine beach. Beginners needn’t worry. The chef offers the requisite coaching, and the catch of the day is a foregone conclusion. Once the fish have been reeled in, the chef prepares the freshest ceviche guests have ever tasted, sliced and diced for a beachfront feast served with Dover sole, baby scallops and sea bass, and accompanied by a variety of salsas, infused oils and emulsions.

The Towers at Pacifica is the latest triumph for Pueblo Bonito, which operates four first-class properties in Cabo San Lucas:  Blanco, Rosé, Sunset Beach and Pacifica. The latter two enjoy gorgeous settings overlooking the Pacific Ocean, as well as convenient access to the spectacular Jack Nicklaus designed Quivira Golf Club, voted best new international course in 2015 by GOLF Magazine. Those enamored with Chef Hernández’s fare can also experience his culinary mastery at the Towers’ new flagship restaurant, Península.

Wedding Chapel – One&Only Palmilla

5 Unusual Hotel Features and Amenities in Los Cabos

In 1958, the son of a former Mexican president named Abelardo “Rod” Rodríguez Montijo opened the first modern resort in Los Cabos:  the 15-room Hotel Las Cruces Palmilla; whose middle names referenced an earlier resort he had built southeast of La Paz. That fly-in resort, Rancho Las Cruces, helped to jump-start the tourist age in Baja California Sur, drawing celebrities like John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Desi Arnaz and U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who famously liked to work the barbecue grill.

Rodríguez’s first Los Cabos property was soon known simply as Hotel Palmilla, and after a massive renovation and rebranding, reemerged as One&Only Palmilla in 2004. It has been ranked as the finest resort in México nearly every year since. Private butlers may be Palmilla’s most famous amenity, but there are other ultra-luxury resorts in the area that offer similar service. No one, however, can match the sanctity and majesty of the resort’s historic chapel, which dates back over 50 years to property’s founding. The chapel is an eagerly sought commodity by the many couples who flock to Los Cabos for destination weddings, with added touches that include a horse drawn carriage for the bride, manned of course by a traditionally clad coachman and footman.

 

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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NOTHING BUT BLUE SKY

Activities Company Breathes New Life Into the Classic Cabo Experience

Fishing has always been king in Cabo San Lucas. Thousands of years before the first tourists began to arrive on the southernmost shores of the Baja California peninsula, the original inhabitants, the Pericú, were diving from bark logs to spear fish in the offshore waters. During the first half of the 20th century, decades before the first tourists began to appear, the local cannery was the most productive in all of Latin America.

The enduring snapshot image for modern travelers, however, is of a sun bronzed angler muscling in an enormous billfish from the fighting chair of an old-school charter boat. This was the image–a leaping marlin or sailfish trying to throw the hook–that not only launched tourism in Los Cabos, but birthed one of the world’s great contemporary sportfishing cultures.  

Blue Sky Cabo

Cabo San Lucas as a travel destination was built on big-game sportfishing. Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Cabo.

Tournaments like Bisbee’s Black & Blue, with its multimillion dollar payouts, were born from this image…which was, in fact, a very tangible reality. Thanks to its unique setting at the confluence of two major bodies of water, the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, Cabo San Lucas had been blessed with an almost overwhelming abundance, not only of black, blue and striped marlin, but tuna and sailfish, wahoo and dorado, and a host of other sought-after pelagic species.

There was just one problem with the entire tourism infrastructure that developed around this amazing, sometimes once-in-a-lifetime experience:  What about the ones who didn’t fish? What about the women and extended family of the big-game billfish stalkers?

The local shift towards luxury accommodations and amenities that began in the 1990s was, at the most fundamental level, a response to this need. Spas were added at the big beachfront resorts so that women too could have a world-class destination experience. Restaurants pioneered barefoot fine dining with romantic, seaside tables in the sand, where diners were serenaded by crashing waves. An entire industry was formed around destination weddings, honeymoons and renewal of vows ceremonies. Smart, far-sighted boat owners also adjusted their priorities, complementing their fishing-intensive charters with couples friendly sunset cruises, and family and friends oriented snorkel outings.

No local company has embraced and exemplified this practical and philosophical shift as well as Blue Sky Cabo, whose owner Jim Korchinski, has reimagined the traditional Cabo fishing trip as a complete lifestyle experience.

Imagine being met at the airport, before being whisked away in a limousine or other suitably luxurious transport to your own home away from home…with all the modern conveniences…in a gated community with spectacular views of the half-mile Land’s End headland and the glittering blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. Sound good so far? Now mix a few unforgettable “only in Cabo” style adventures between cocktail sessions around the pool:  say swimming with manta rays, sharks or sea lions; watching 40 ton humpback whales breach spectacularly; or reeling in a blue marlin the size of a Volkswagen.

No worries at the airport. No issues with taxi drivers or hotel staff. No pressure or stress at any point, including from Blue Sky Cabo. Transportation and accommodation are all optional amenities, as are the tours themselves. Everything is custom tailored, specifically geared to the clients’ desires.

This ability to anticipate, in a comprehensive fashion, the needs and wishes of their clients–without ever trying to sell them on anything–is a big reason Blue Sky has enjoyed such remarkable success. The company quickly ascended to the very top of the TripAdvisor activities rankings for Los Cabos, and has remained a fixture there ever since (to read guest feedback, click here).

Fishing, of course, remains the centerpiece activity. Blue Sky Cabo’s experienced captains and crew maintain a superb fleet of similarly named fishing vessels:  including Blue Marlin (a cat quick 31’ Intrepid Express), Blue Star  (a handsome 32’ Luhrs), Blue Sky (a gorgeously fitted out 43’ Riviera), Blue Sea (an exquisitely appointed 60’ Bertram), and Blue Secrecy (a 125’ state-of-the-art Westport luxury yacht that also fishes). The boats are not only graduated in size and price, of course, but also in cabin and creature comforts. The Westport, for example, comes complete with wave runners, in case guests want to get an up-close look at an 84 million year old naturally occurring granite arch, or jet off for a romantic interlude on nearby Lover’s Beach.

For those less interested in fishing than in general water based fun under the Baja sun, Blue Sky Cabo offers plenty of other options aboard the same beautifully cared for boats. Spring Breakers and the young at heart can party like rock stars during afternoon booze cruises, checking out the action on nearby Médano Beach; snorkel jaunts showcase surreal underwater environments along the southern coastline, from reefs and shipwrecks to the teeming abundance of local marine life; sunset tours provide romantic “Champagne” moments amid magnificent natural backdrops (think “huge fiery red ball exploding in a kaleidoscopic burst of tropical colors beyond Land’s End”); floating, fun-filled bachelor and bachelorette cruises are a specialty too, thanks to the multi-talented crew.

These are the stars of the show, by the way. The captains grew up fishing these waters, and know the local conditions–from optimal fishing spots to seasonal species and their bait preferences–as well as the back of their well-calloused hands. Crew excel at just about everything, from fishing and dock hand duties to mixology and “margarita science.” There’s even a musician on hand for many tours, ready to belt out popular songs, croon romantic ballads, or sing dirty sea shanties. Like everything else aboard the Blue Sky Cabo fleet, it all comes down to client choice.

To find out more about fishing packages and other offerings from Blue Sky Cabo, visit www.blueskycabo.com, or call 624-177-7754 (1-866-261-3872 in the U.S.; 780-918-3344 in Canada). Discounts are available with the promo code CABOVIVO, but vary according to tour.

 

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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Pueblo Bonito Offers Turtle Protection and Release Program

Hundreds of endangered sea turtle hatchlings are set free on Cabo’s beaches

It’s that time of year! Summer marks the start of the nesting season for the sea turtles that call Los Cabos home. Through mid-December, hundreds of turtle hatchlings will make their way from the beaches of Cabo San Lucas to the sea. Because the hatchlings are easy prey for natural predators and humans, these gentle reptiles need all the assistance they can get in order to reach maturity and increase their numbers.

Since 2003, Pueblo Bonito Golf & Spa Resorts has made it an important part of the company’s mission to take part in ecological conservation efforts, notably Cabo’s world-renowned Turtle Protection and Release program. Pueblo Bonito believes in educating visitors and residents alike about the importance of active conservation. The annual Turtle Release program provides a fun and fascinating way to assist Mother Nature.

Pueblo Bonito offers turtle protection and release program

Each year, the resort’s team of naturalists observes adult female turtles during their annual summer return to Los Cabos. The beaches in Cabo are important nesting grounds for five species of sea turtles, three of which nest: Pacific Ridley, Leatherback and Galapagos Green Turtle.  Once the location of the nests is recorded, they are marked and protected after the female turtles return to sea. Fences and structures are erected to safeguard the nests from birds, animals and humans until the turtles hatch, usually from late September through mid-December.

For guests and owners visiting Los Cabos during the fall season, Pueblo Bonito offers the opportunity to assist conservation team members as they release the hatchlings from the protected nests. Guests and owners enjoy hands-on participation during a truly rewarding experience, one that creates wonderful memories as well as photo opportunities.

Because there is no way to know exactly when the turtles will hatch, there is no predetermined schedule for the releases. When the eggs in a nest begin to hatch, the director of the ecological program notifies the resort. The event is then organized to allow interested parties to participate. The release is scheduled for just before sunset on that same day. The newly hatched turtles are set free on the beach in front of Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Resort & Spa. In 2015, more than 420 hotel guests from Sunset Beach, Pacifica and Montecristo participated in 33 sea turtle liberations.

Owners visiting their homes in Quivira Los Cabos are invited to take part along with guests at the Pueblo Bonito resorts. Those visiting Los Cabos during the turtle release season can check with the concierge desk at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Golf & Spa Resort for details:conciergesunset@pueblobonito.com.mx. The satisfaction of aiding an endangered species is an unforgettable experience!

Pueblo Bonito offers turtle protection and release program

Guests can check the resort’s Facebook page for updates and interesting information.

About Quivira Los Cabos

Quivira (pronounced key-vee-ra), Mexico’s premier luxury residential resort community, is situated at Land’s End on the Baja Peninsula, with more than three miles of pristine golden beaches, picturesque desert cliffs and panoramic ocean views. This exclusive 1,850-acre master-planned community, founded by renowned resort developer Ernesto Coppel, is a paradise of elegance, serenity and service. Occupying a spectacular natural landscape, Quivira Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, is complemented by an exclusive oceanfront clubhouse. Quivira Los Cabos is the ultimate destination for residents and guests to live, love and celebrate life.

About Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts and Spas

Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts and Spas has eight award-winning resorts in two destinations, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlán, all offering luxury all-inclusive options. Each of the properties has its own personality, design and ambiance, yet all share the same high level of impeccable quality and distinguished atmosphere. In Cabo San Lucas, the adults-only Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf & Spa Resort  is the ideal setting for a romantic getaway, while Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Golf & Spa Resort, with its large, all ocean-view suites, is perfect for families. Montecristo Estates Luxury Villas, an exclusive gated community, features private two- or three-bedroom villas spaced along a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Pueblo Bonito Rosé Resort & Spa and Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos, both located on El Médano beach, have the best to offer vacationers looking to be right in the middle of all the Cabo action. In Mazatlán, the elegant jewel Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort & Spa overlooks the Pacific Ocean and a private beach, while the charming Pueblo Bonito Mazatlán, is located in the famous Golden Zone. Both resorts are great for family vacations and romantic getaways.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For  more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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Cage Fighting Comes to Cabo

The first ever MMA (mixed martial arts) event in Los Cabos, WTC III, was held July 2nd at the spectacularly situated outdoor theater of the Pabellón Cultural de la República, which looks out across the Cabo San Lucas Marina towards Land’s End.

It was a bit of a departure for the cultural center, which since its inception in 2011 has largely hosted dance recitals, book fairs and film screenings. On Saturday, however, an octagonal cage stood center stage, flanked by an announcer, scantily clad ring girls, and a brace of on-call EMTs. Beer vendors roamed the steeply graded stands selling cold cans of Tecate.

Cage Fighting Comes to Cabo

Photo courtesy of Mauricio Rodriguez.

Cabo combat sports aficionados were treated to 10 bouts across weight classes ranging from 121 to 185 pounds. Although half the combatants hailed from La Paz, other Baja locales were well represented – including Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, Ciudad Insurgentes, Loreto, San Felipe and Ensenada – as were mainland states Sinaloa and Queretaro.

The officially sanctioned melee was organized by Mario Martínez, president of WTC (Welcome to the Cage) and owner of Malosos MMA Club in La Paz, and followed on the heels of two previously successful events in Baja California Sur’s capital city.

Unfortunately, local toughs Daniel Garcia (San Lucas) and Jose “El Primo” Castillo (San Jose) both went down in defeat. But the raucous crowd and high-level of sponsorship bodes well for future events, and Martinez has eyed Saturday, Dec. 3 as a target date for the next WTC event in Los Cabos.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For  more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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Solmar Group’s Rancho San Lucas DevelopmentTaking Shape in Los Cabos

Exclusive coastal resort will feature a Greg Norman-designed golf course

Rancho San Lucas, an 834-acre master-planned resort community taking shape on a dramatic site along the Pacific Ocean 20 minutes from downtown Cabo San Lucas, will debut phase one of the development in winter 2017.

Greg Norman, whose design firm celebrated the opening of its 100th course in Australia earlier this year, has created a preliminary routing for Rancho San Lucas that features seven holes set in rolling dunes near the sea, ocean views from 17 holes and an island-style green.

Rancho San Lucas

Artist rendering of Solmar’s Rancho San Lucas development, set on the Pacific Coast north of Cabo San Lucas.

“Known for employing a ‘least-disturbance’ approach with his projects, a Greg Norman-designed course was a natural fit for Rancho San Lucas, a development devoted to conserving the true nature of its environment,” said Claudia Velo, Director of Marketing for Rancho San Lucas. “This partnership with Greg Norman solidifies Rancho San Lucas’ commitment to create a unique, quality product deeply rooted in the love for the land,” she added.

According to Brad Wheatley, Director of Golf Operations, the 7,263-yard, par-72 course will be carved into gently sloping terrain creased by deep arroyos and canyons. “It’s a gorgeous piece of property with beautiful cardon cactus and palo blanco trees,” Wheatley said.

During a recent design visit, Norman discussed numerous course improvements, including re-vegetation plans to conserve endemic flora and fauna and enhance the landscape’s natural features. “What a magnificent piece of Mother Nature I have to work with,” Norman said after his site tour. It (Rancho San Lucas) will be one incredible golf course within a truly unique development.” The course is expected to open by late 2017.

Rancho San Lucas

Situated along a 1.2-mile stretch of white sand beachfront backed by a thick desert forest, the community will be home to the destination’s second Grand Solmar property. Occupying a rustic, rural setting, Grand Solmar Rancho San Lucas Hotel & Resort, featuring a Mexican-Spanish architectural style, will offer a harmonious balance of modern luxury, natural beauty and environmental sensitivity.  A winter 2017 opening is planned for the 600-room hotel.

The residential offer at Rancho San Lucas includes two different real estate opportunities: The Estates and The Villas. The Estates, the community’s most exclusive address, has 32 single-level estate homes and 36 luxury condos. The Villas, located on the development’s highest vantage point, features 134 homes and spectacular views.

The resort community at Rancho San Lucas will include a Mexican-style shopping village with dining and entertainment options; a community park with a lake and amphitheater; a tennis center; and hiking and biking trails, among other amenities.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For  more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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Boom Times in Los Cabos

Construction projects are booming throughout Los Cabos, from the Pacific Coast north of Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Los Cabos, the luxury development located just outside San Jose del Cabo. Even the East Cape – a 70 mile stretch of coastline known for its pristine beaches and off-the-grid communities – is not immune, with at least two new high-profile projects in the offing.

One need only drive the 20-mile tourist corridor which connects cape cities San Lucas and San Jose to see the incredible changes that are underway. Enormous building sites teeming with workers rise up every few miles, while the intervening highway lanes are littered with orange cones – for rerouting, and also for the additional entrances and exits needed to accommodate the ambitious new resorts that are transforming the coastline.

Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Nobu, Hard Rock, VieVage, Montage, Solaz and Le Blanc are among the many brands moving into Los Cabos, pushing maximum hotel capacity from 14,000 to 18,000 rooms in the space of a few short years (2015 – 2018). That’s an increase of about 22%; a massive leap. And of course resorts in Los Cabos promise an impressive array of amenities, which means more new golf courses. Already home to 14 impressive courses, including three of the world’s 100 best loops (per Golf Digest), new Los Cabos layouts are on the way from major champions Fred Couples and Greg Norman, among others.

Boom times in Los Cabos

Construction continues at VieVage Los Cabos, a new resort and residential development at Chileno Bay.

Whether this meteoric growth is sustainable or not is a very good question. There are many reasons to believe it is:  steadily rising tourism rates in Mexico, increased numbers of flights and tourists to Los Cabos, and beefed up infrastructure most prominent among them.

Los Cabos saw a 14.7% rise in tourism in 2015, and Mexico as a whole has seen a similar jump in 2016. Flights to Los Cabos were up significantly in 2015, and more gains are expected as carriers take advantage of new liberalized aviation agreements between the U.S. and Mexico. Southwest Airlines, in particular, has ramped up flights to Los Cabos from destinations around the U.S., and is currently seeking permission to expand its Mexican service from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). A new toll road from the Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) to Cabo San Lucas has helped alleviate some of the traffic congestion in an area that is now home to almost 300,000 people.

But it is debatable how much these new developments help local merchants, who have suffered in the wake of the new trend towards all-inclusive resorts. One good storm or incidence of cartel related violence could set the area back substantially, and it still remains to see how a desert area with a limited water supply is going to cope with rapidly rising demands. Yes, desalinization is a requirement for new properties, but desalinization brings its own problems, including harmful impacts on local fish populations. You know, the reason tourists came here in the first place.

What’s not debatable is the remarkable comeback from the situation some 18 months ago, when the vast majority of hotels were still struggling to recover from Hurricane Odile, the category 4 storm that devastated the area during the evening and early morning hours of September 14 – 15, 2014. The storm, with sustained winds of up to 165 miles an hour, knocked out running water, not to mention phone and internet service, pretty much everywhere south of La Paz (530 transmission towers, 1350 transformers, and nearly 8000 telephone poles were put out of commission).

Boom times in Los Cabos

Billionaire Dennis Washington’s $150 million dollar yacht Attessa IV is often docked in Cabo San Lucas, and has become something of a symbol for the growth of the Land’s End city. Photo courtesy of Michael Kull.

Every place is engaged in a constant state of flux. The granite monuments at Land’s End may have been holding steady for 30 million years, but everything else in Cabo San Lucas seems to have been shifting and changing at a rapid rate, especially during the last 50 years.

In 1960 the community consisted of about 300 people,  and the center of commerce was a tuna cannery.  By 1970 several landmark hotels had been built, from tourist corridor based properties like Hotel Las Cruces Palmilla and Hotel Cabo San Lucas to the Hotel Hacienda on Medano Beach. The Transpeninsular Highway opened in 1973, the year dredging began on the Cabo San Lucas Marina. Baja California Sur became the 31st and final state of Mexico in 1974, and Don Luis Bulnes opened Hotel Solmar a few hundred yards from the cannery he had once managed. By 1990, the population of Cabo San Lucas numbered 16,059. Twenty years later it had grown to 68,464.

Hurricanes and other disasters arrived at intervals, as if to illustrate the inherent unpredictability of historical processes. There was even a tornado in the early 1970s, the first and hopefully the last.

CSL Plaza 1947

Construction booms are nothing new in Cabo San Lucas: this picture shows the building of the town square in 1947. Photo courtesy of Museo de Historia Natural de Cabo San Lucas.

I thought about change often after Hurricane Odile, when many of my favorite neighborhood hangouts in Cabo San Lucas were closing. Live in a place long enough and there is a history associated with every person and place you know. Walk by a certain storefront and the last three or six or nine businesses to inhabit the space spring immediately to mind, as well as the ways in which your life was different when each one was open. The change is constant and unstoppable. New businesses open. New people arrive. Old bars and restaurants fade away. Old friends die.

The influx of new hotels and resorts is just the latest manifestation of an age old cycle, one that has been going on since the first inhabitants, the Pericues, arrived on rafts from Melanesia some 10,000 years ago.  The whole place started going downhill, as far as the Pericues were concerned, when Hernan Cortes showed up in La Paz in 1535 seeking pearls and precious treasure; and escalated around 200 years later, when Jesuit missionaries began urging the men to foreswear their polygamous lifestyle. They beheaded Nicolas Tamaral, founder of the mission in San Jose, for that reason in 1734. But their rebellion didn’t staunch the onrush of change. The Pericues were culturally extinct a little over 30 years later.

And so it goes…into the present time, as people bemoan the developments encroaching upon Playas Chileno and Santa Maria, and the new luxury properties popping up like pimples on the East Cape, fouling its immaculate complexion.

Boom times in Los Cabos.

Beachgoers confront the new Montage Los Cabos development at Santa Maria Beach.

That the current massive growth spurt is causing consternation to many residents and long-time visitors is thus entirely predictable. Almost everyone who falls in love with a place wants it to stay just the way it is; if it were in their power, they would ban all progress from that point forward.

Who knows that during the first half of the 19th century Cipriano Ceseña, reportedly the first person to build a permanent dwelling in Cabo San Lucas proper, didn’t wince when he saw others moving in and think “there goes the neighborhood. “

Seen from that perspective, the Land’s End community has only been going steadily to hell for about 185 years.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For  more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

 

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Pan-Pacific Mix – Fusion Cuisines Enliven Los Cabos Dining Scene

The most important peninsular culinary movement of the past few decades is Baja Med, a fusion of fresh local organic ingredients and Mediterranean accents that has since achieved a measure of international acclaim, and is currently being celebrated in the Roberto Najera directed documentary Baja Taste.

fusion cuisine Los Cabos

Nick-San was the first restaurant in Los Cabos to fuse Japanese cuisine with Mexican ingredients and accents.

El Taller in Tijuana is considered ground zero for the this fusion – the restaurant’s chef, Miguel Angel Guerrero, has since trademarked the name – but in its broad strokes the Baja Med movement was an outgrowth of many talented chefs creating a recognizable regional cuisine at restaurants in Tijuana, Ensenada, Rosarito and the Valle de Guadalupe.

The principles of Baja Med also proved influential in Baja California Sur, specifically in Los Cabos, which enjoys many of the same natural advantages: notably, high-quality seafood and organic produce that can be sourced from within a few miles of their ultimate destination.

In recent years, however, some of the best restaurants in cape cities Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo have been increasingly moving away from Baja Med fusions to a more pan-Pacific approach, incorporating flavors, ingredients and cooking techniques from countries as diverse as Japan, Peru and Mexico.

The philosophy behind this sort of fusion is rather simple, at least according to Enrique Olvera, whose restaurant Manta recently opened at The Cape – A Thompson Hotel: “We’re playing around with Peruvian and Japanese flavors because a sashimi, a tiradito and a Mexican ceviche all share a common language.”

fusion cuisine Los Cabos

Chefs Mariano Takinami of Templo (left) and Enrique Olvera of Manta (right) have helped to popularize Pacific Rim fusions in Los Cabos. Photo courtesy of Templo.

Here’s a look at a few of the most important local practitioners and places to sample this evolving approach to Pacific Rim fusion cuisine.

Angel Carbajal and Masayuki Niikura, Nick-San

Chefs Carbajal and Niikura pioneered fusion cuisine in Los Cabos when they opened Nick-San in 1994. The original concept of Japanese cuisine with Mexican ingredients has evolved over the years to a more integrated fusion, evident in signature dishes like the sashimi serranito with 4 oz. of fresh catch of the day in a serrano chile sauce topped with thin slices of pepper, and the lobster curry in sesame sauce with shiitake mushrooms, chives and habanero chile pepper. This fusion has proven so popular over the years that there are now six Nick-San’s across Mexico, with a clothing line generating additional revenue. There are two locations in Los Cabos: the original at Plaza de la Danza in downtown Cabo San Lucas, and another at the upscale Shoppes at Palmilla near San Jose del Cabo.

Enrique Olvera, Manta

Olvera made his name at Pujol, a Mexico City based restaurant that’s annually ranked as one of the best in the world, but the chef has also been in news recently with the opening of Manta, a restaurant in the Los Cabos tourist corridor that boasts spectacular views of Land’s End. Manta, which premiered in June 2015, specializes in Pacific Rim fusion cuisine, with Japanese and Peruvian accents added to regionally sourced seafood and traditional Mexican ingredients. Olvera’s fascination with Mexican street food – “I love the precision of fine dining, and I love the power of street food. The flavor of it. The soul of it.” – so evident at Pujol, is likewise represented in Manta’s rotating menu concept, in which 15 to 18 of the restaurant’s 30 dishes are available on a nightly basis. So too is the chef’s humor, attention to detail, and ability to generate surprising flavor combinations.

fusion cuisine Los Cabos

Nobu Matsuhisa pioneered Japanese – Peruvian cuisine in the 1970s.

Mariano Takinami, Templo

That Templo, which opened in 2014, has one of the most innovative fusion concepts in Los Cabos is almost completely attributable to the heritage and well-traveled career of co-owner and executive chef Mariano Takinami. Born to a Japanese father and Argentine mother, and married to a Brazilian, Takinami has taken his family influences and forged them with work experiences in Peru and Mexico (like Olvera, Takinami loves Mexican street food) to create a diverse and consistently satisfying dining experience. Menu options range from Peruvian style quinoa risotto featuring octopus, sausage and piquillo pepper emulsion to a wok seared flank steak á la Szechuan with carrot, celery and bean paste. The chef likes referring to his restaurant as a “grill, wok and bar,” with the latter serving up signature cocktails and a wide array of wine pairing options.

Nobu Matsuhisa, Nobu Los Cabos

The local fusion scene will get a bit more interesting in 2017 with the arrival of Nobu Los Cabos, a 200-room beachfront resort and restaurant from the hospitality company owned by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, actor Robert De Niro, and film producer Meir Teper. Matsuhisa is of course the progenitor of Japanese – Peruvian fusion cuisine, which he developed out of necessity while working in his Lima restaurant Matsuei in the early 1970s. Nobu Los Cabos will be the first hotel of its kind in Mexico, although a Nobu restaurant opened in Mexico City in 2009, and has already added a bit of national spice to the brand’s fusion recipe in offerings like yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño. Whether the Los Cabos based Nobu pioneers additional fusions utilizing Japanese, Mexican and Peruvian cuisines remains to be seen, but the restaurant should be a popular addition to a dining scene focused on taking Pacific Rim fusion cuisine to new and interesting places.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) -855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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The Art of Taste – Palate Pleasers Galore on Display at The Resort at Pedregal Food and Wine Festival

Benchmark Cabo San Lucas Property Hosts 4th Annua Food and Wine Showcase

July proved to be a banner month for food and wine lovers in Los Cabos.

After a memorable starter from Enrique Olvera – the acclaimed chef of Pujol in Mexico City, currently ranked as the 20th best restaurant in the world, opened his first Los Cabos restaurant, Manta at The Cape Hotel, on the first day of the month – The Resort at Pedregal provided the main course, offering fine food, wine and spirits from an array of internationally acclaimed chefs and beverage experts at its annual summer culinary fête.

Resort at Pedregal Food and Wine Festival

This year, for the first time, The Resort at Pedregal made tickets available to the general public for its celebrated summer food and wine festival.

Resort at Pedregal Food and Wine Festival

Delicious hors d’oeuvres were one of many highlights at the opening Art of Pairing reception, hosted against a backdrop of crashing Pacific Ocean waves.

The 4th iteration of the The Art of Taste Food and Wine Festival took place July 15 – 19, 2015, at various venues around The Resort at Pedregal, an 84-room boutique luxury property situated in the exclusive hillside neighborhood of Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas.

Accessible only through the longest privately owned tunnel in Mexico, the intimate, scenically set 24-acre resort has been considered one of the world’s best since it opened in 2009. But this year’s festival was a particularly notable one, since it was the first major event held at the property since it reopened following renovations post Hurricane Odile, and the first since it changed its name and declared independence from the Capella brand.

Resort at Pedregal Food and Wine Festival

To paraphrase Brillat-Savarin: An event without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.

Resort at Pedregal Food and Wine Festival

Highlights from El Mercado (The Market) included mariachis, margaritas, traditional Mexican food and wine, and custom rolled cigars from The Castle in Veracruz.

Also for the first time this year, event tickets were available to the general public as well as to guests at the resort, with the latter paying upwards of $1,290 U.S. per night for accommodations and complete access to food and wine related festivities. And the 2015 festival had a more international feel than in previous years, as European winemakers and mixologists showcased their skills alongside similarly esteemed brethren from Mexico and the U.S.

Master mixologist Ulysses Vidal of Employees Only in New York City, and tiki cocktail expert Danielle Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge in Bologna, Italy proved a popular bar pairing at nightly events like the opening Art of Pairing reception – where elegant and colorfully clad guests chatted amiably over cocktails as massive Pacific Ocean waves generated by an offshore storm exploded dramatically over the rocks below – and El Mercado, an upscale version of a traditional Mexican market, complete with food, wine, candy and cigar stalls, and music from wandering mariachis.

Resort at Pedregal Food and Wine Festival

Yvan Mucharraz, Executive Chef at The Resort at Pedregal, shows off his carving skills at El Mercado.

The lushly bearded Dalla Pola was an irrepressible force – from his 360 degree cocktail shaking spin moves to potent tropical quaffs served in hollowed out pineapples – while Vidal brought a cosmopolitan flair, and an encyclopedic knowledge of spirits, which he exhibited during a Saturday afternoon seminar on the history of American whiskey. Samples were provided, of course, both at the whiskey tasting, and at a tequila tasting featuring noted small batch distiller Casa Dragones, and attended by the country’s first female master tequilier, Bertha Gonzalez.

Fermented grape gurus from Champagne house Ruinart, and French wineries Chateau La Tour L’Eveque and Chateau Climens were on hand for the first time, pouring alongside North American colleagues. Jay Schuppert and Pete Pryzbylinski of Cuvaison and Duckhorn, respectively, shared regional knowledge and wine flights during their well-attended New Movements in Napa Valley tasting, as well as at nightly events. And Adobe Guadalupe, Hacienda La Lomita and Roganto were among several Mexican producers representing Baja’s wine country, Valle de Guadalupe near Ensenada.

Resort at Pedregal Food and Wine Festival

Flights of fine wines from Duckhorn and Cuvaison at The New Movement in Napa Valley tasting.

The French Laundry was also well represented, if not directly. Tim Hollingsworth of Barrel and Ashes, was formerly Chef de Cuisine at The French Laundry. And Devin McDavid, the newly appointed Executive Pastry Chef at Resort at Pedregal, also burnished his resume at the landmark Napa restaurant. Rory Herrman, of Barrel and Ashes and Sprout LA, and Brian Malarkey, of Searsucker and Herringbone, also joined Resort at Pedregal Executive Chef Yvan Mucharraz for four days of dinners, tastings, receptions and cooking seminars.

The festival highlight, as usual, was the concluding dinner, in which each of the five courses was prepared by a different chef, and custom pairing options were chosen by the all-star cast of visiting winemakers.

Resort at Pedregal Food and Wine Festival

Master mixologist Ulysses Vidal of Employees Only in New York leads an interactive tour of American whiskeys.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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Sweet Spot! Nicklaus’ Quivira Golf Club Headlines the Amenities at the Copala Luxury Development in Cabo San Lucas

Sweet Spot! Nicklaus’ Quivira Golf Club Headlines the Amenities at the Copala Luxury Development in Cabo San Lucas

Since its opening last December, the Jack Nicklaus designed Quivira Golf Club has been showered with awards and acclaim.

GOLF Magazine called the stunning 7,139 yard layout – set on the Pacific Coast of Cabo San Lucas – the “Best New International Course” in its January 2015 issue, and hailed Nicklaus as “Architect of the Year.” The luxury Quivira community, meanwhile – residents of which, along with those of neighboring luxury developments Copala, Novaispania and Montecristo Estates, as well as guests at Pueblo Bonito’s Blanco, Pacifica, Rosé and Sunset Beach Resorts, have exclusive access to the course – was named “Development of the Year” by Golf Inc., and the “Best for Living Abroad” by LINKS Magazine.

Quivira Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas

The cliffside 6th is one of the signatures holes at the newly opened Quivira Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas. Photo: Nicklaus Design

These early accolades hint at the excitement that surrounds the opening of Nicklaus’ latest offering – his sixth design effort in the Los Cabos area – and suggest the world-class challenges in store for those lucky enough to tee it up at Quivira. But no amount of awards or encomiums can adequately prepare one for the majesty of the course itself, and the breathtaking beauty of some of its signature holes.

The par-four 5th, for example, features a tee box that seems carved out of sheer cliff above the crashing waves of the Pacific – and can only be reached after a long switch-back drive up a mountainside. The 7th is framed by El Faro Viejo, a 19th century lighthouse that also happens to be the oldest structure in Cabo San Lucas, and the seasonal sight of breaching whales.

Quivira Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas

Scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and El Faro Viejo (The Old Lighthouse) greet golfers at the 7th hole tee box. Photo: Quivira Golf Club

Named for one of the lost cities of gold sought by 16th century explorer Francisco Vazquez, Quivira is a memorable mix of windswept dunes, rolling foothills, and gorgeous views – it has more oceanfront holes than any course in Los Cabos – and certainly a match for Davis Love III’s magnificent Dunes Course at Diamante, which is currently ranked 52nd best in the world.

Nicklaus himself may have said it best: “Our team worked with the canvas Mother Nature provided to create one of the most spectacular courses in the world.”

Quivira Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas

The 12th and 13th holes at Quivira Golf Club are spectacular, seen from air, land or sea. Photo: Nicklaus Design

As one might imagine, access to Quivira is a main selling points for Copala, the gated home and condo community from Pueblo Bonito founder Ernesto Coppel Kelly that’s slated to be ready for occupancy by June of this year.

Following a robust pre-sale period, the project is more than 60% sold out. “Copala has sold three times faster than we imagined,” said Maria Norton, the development’s Chief Marketing Officer.

At full completion, Copala will comprise a total of seven six-floor towers containing 36 condominium units per building. Attractively priced at roughly $230 per square foot, Copala’s condos range in price from $280,000 to $600,000. First-floor units feature a garden in front of a terrace; penthouse condos offer a rooftop terrace with a splash pool, fire pit, outdoor grill and other amenity upgrades.

The custom homes at Copala, ranging in size from 1,800 to 2,400 square feet, are available in multiple layouts and six different floor plans to suit individual lifestyle preferences. Each residence boasts Spanish Colonial, hacienda-style charm that honors the region’s Mexican heritage. Copala’s homes are priced from $480,000 to $1 million. A total of 86 houses will be built on a lovely ocean-view site terraced below the condos.

Quivira Golf Club

The gated and scenically situated Copala community will be ready for occupancy in June 2015.

In addition, a 60,000-square-foot clubhouse is under construction to serve the needs of Copala residents. The handsome hangout will offer two infinity-edge pools, a spa, business center, children’s playroom, restaurants and banquet space. Natural conservation areas, walking and hiking trails, and gardens will be situated nearby. Another feature of Copala ownership is beach club membership, with a soon-to-be-built beach clubhouse in the works.

“We’re not only selling homes and condos, we’re providing access to a full range of amenities within the entire development,” Norton stated. “It’s rare to have a project of this magnitude that’s situated only 10 minutes from the marina in downtown Cabo San Lucas.“ Moreover, the completion later this year of a new interior highway linking San Jose del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas will reduce the drive time from the airport to the property to 35 minutes. The new highway will also shorten the driving time to Todos Santos, the thriving arts colony that’s approximately a one hour drive from downtown Cabo San Lucas..

Copala’s target market is primarily families ages 35 to 60. Nearly 80% of the buyers hail from the U.S., with the balance drawn from Mexico (10%), Canada (5%) and from international locales ranging from Australia to Singapore.

Norton noted that Copala is offering direct financing unaffiliated with a banking institution. Five-, 10- and 15-year programs are available at fixed interest rates ranging from 6.0% to 6.5%, a very competitive rate in Mexico.

For reservations or further information, visit Quivira Los Cabos and Quivira Golf Club, call (619) 677-5750, or email dortega@quiviraloscabos.com.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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Southern Rock Stars to Headline Beachfront Music Festival in Cabo

Southern Rock Stars to Headline Beachfront Music Festival in Cabo

Fans of classic Southern rock n’ roll are in for a treat, with veterans of legendary outfits like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet and the Marshall Tucker Band slated to headline a beachfront music festival on Saturday, April 4, in Cabo San Lucas.

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Southern Rock Stars to Headline Beachfront Music Festival in Cabo

The festival proper kicks off at noon, with vendors selling beer and cocktails; comfort food favorites like hot dogs, burgers, and cotton candy; and face painting and other activities for kids. But the music itself does not begin until 4 p.m., with a few local performers – what better place to be a would-be Southern rocker than the southernmost point of the Baja California peninsula? – followed by Miguel Hill & the Cabo Cowboys, Strogeno (a long-time local draw as house band at the Jungle Bar), Jay Johnson, Mike Estes, and the Brian Flynn Band and Friends.

Flynn, of course, is a long-time fixture on the local music scene, but cut his teeth playing with bands like Molly Hatchet and The Marshall Tucker Band. Mike Estes and Jay Johnson currently front modern Southern rock standard bearer Skinny Molly, but Estes also performed with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot, while Johnson had stints as vocalist for Blackfoot and member of the Southern Rock Allstars.

 

The festival is sponsored by local restaurant La Palapa – home to the best chili and chicken fried bacon in Los Cabos, as well as other Texas style favorites – and will take place on a gorgeous 300 acre property with a private beach and spectacular views of Land’s End. The property – dubbed La Palapa Beach for the duration of the event – is located behind Office Max in the tourist corridor (Km. 4.5). Free parking is available for the first 100 cars, with overflow slotted to a nearby lot.

For those interested in a sneak peek, La Palapa is hosting a meet and greet at 7 p.m. on Friday night with Johnson, Estes, and Flynn; and the headliners are expected to perform a few songs together. Flynn is a seasonal mainstay at La Palapa (located on Calle Ninos Heroes, behind El Squid Roe), and typically performs at the restaurant Thu. – Sat. nights.

Tickets for the festival are $20 in advance – call La Palapa at (624) 141-9569 – or $25 day of show, with a percentage of each ticket sale going to support medical costs for local bar owner Juan Tatemura Quesada, who is currently fighting cancer (The night following the festival – Sunday, April 5 – Cabo San Lucas bar Baja Maria will also host a fundraiser for the popular proprietor of Cabo Lounge. Call 624-105-0477 for details).

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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