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About Dawn Pier

In 2002, I packed the remains of a life I no longer wanted into the bed of my silver Nissan pickup and drove west across Canada, South down the Pacific Coast Highway and on into Mexico

Have a Baja Moment! Stay at the East Cape Eco-Hotel Villa del Faro

Walking the grounds of Villa del Faro, the gorgeous East Cape family retreat and boutique hotel, you may be overcome by the surfeit of sensory impressions – original artworks and breathtaking views surround you, luscious floral scents waft in from tropical gardens and the surrounding desert, soft warm breezes off the Sea of Cortez caress the skin, and American-Mexican cuisine entices first the nose and then the palate. While we may be limited in our ability to share with you the olfactory and tactile delights on tap, the following series of photographs will give you a taste of the visual banquet that awaits.

VDF 1

The sign marking the entrance to the hotel is both charming and unassuming; the hotel’s elegant luxury stands in stark contrast to its rugged desert surroundings.

VdF 2

At the top of a Romanesque set of stairs, just inside the magnificent entryway, is one of seven water fountains that ornament the hotel, as well as a stairwell that’s straight out of Casablanca. The stairs’ impressive cast-iron handrail was salvaged by the family during their renovation of one of the Warner Brothers’ estates (the hotel’s owners have operated a construction firm since the mid-70s and, having gained a reputation for fine work, count many of Hollywood’s elite among their clientele). It is rumored that the handrail once adorned stairs upon which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced .

VdF 3a

Original artwork, murals and tasteful decor abound, gracing every room and passageway.

VdF 3

Beyond the main entrance and the salon-style sitting area, your eyes follow a beautiful series of balustrades to another water fountain, surrounded by lush tropical foliage.

VdF 4

 Architectural details suggest grandeur, romance, an age thought long past, and everywhere flowers, palms, lusciousness.

VdF 5

Villa del Faro was lovingly and thoughtfully created by the owners’ family, with no details left unattended.

VdF 6

 Charming trompe l’oeil murals welcomes new arrivals.

VdF 7

Just past the mural, creating a focal point at the top of two sets of stairs, stands an impressive lion-head fountain surrounded by a trailing Copa de Oro (“cup of gold”) and colorful bougainvillea flowers.

VdF 8

There is a certain mystery surrounding this place, as though it exists outside of time, in another world free of the concerns of everyday life. It beckons us to slow down and soak in the seemingly unreal majesty life can possess, even if only for a few glorious days.

VdF 9

The Pool House and pool create a glamorous atmosphere, one that will leave you feeling as though you’re playing a part in your very own Hollywood movie – a romance of course.

VdF 10

Italian architecture throughout the property evokes romance, an inevitable aspect of Villa del Faro’s charm. In the evening, spectacular sunsets turn the sky shades of pink, crimson and lavender. You’ll be mesmerized, whether alone or with that special someone.

VdF 11

Looking for a remarkable way to start your day in paradise? Enjoy your breakfast at the private beach gazebo with its enchanting tile roof and hand-painted stenciling. Except for the unobtrusive attention of your hosts, it will feel like you’re the only people on Earth.

So what are you waiting for? Villa del Faro is the kind of place you get away to in order to awaken that sense of wonder once possessed and perhaps to discover something new about yourselves. Treat yourself to a long weekend or, better yet, a week of divine fine living by the Sea of Cortez.

 

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

 

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East Cape Gem: Jewel of Cabo Pulmo Offers Comfortable Accommodations, Incredible Natural Beauty

East Cape Gem: Jewel of Cabo Pulmo Offers Comfortable Accommodations, Incredible Natural Beauty

Jewel of Cabo Pulmo

The East Cape vacation rental known as the Jewel of Cabo Pulmo truly is a gem – it’s been described by reviewers as charming, romantic, beautiful, unique, cozy, amazing, heavenly, peaceful…the list goes on. This hand-crafted home lies tucked inside a private enclave at the heart of this special little village nestled on the edge of a gorgeous azure-colored bay. The gardens here need to be seen to be believed – native mesquite and palo verde trees provide dappled shade under which an incredible variety of succulents and cacti are arranged in an explosion of color, textures, and, at certain times of year, a floral spectacle. Native birds and butterflies flit in and out, while lizards and iguanas bask on the sunny pathways. Hummingbirds swoop in for another drink at one of the feeders, and the water fountain gurgles soothingly. It’s a sensual feast.

Jewel of Cabo Pulmo

There are two separate buildings that house two well-appointed kitchens, two full baths and two bedrooms. Additional sleeping arrangements are provided as convertible beds (futons and luxury cots), comfortably sleeping five to seven people. The beds are made up with high quality 100% cotton linens to add to the feel of luxuriousness that the location already exudes. The main house has a welcoming shaded veranda where you can sit and sip tea or margaritas and watch the wildlife come and go. The Garden Casita is just steps away from the main house. There are plenty of outdoor sitting areas – sunny or shaded, take your pick, and a couple of hammocks that are perfect for afternoon dozing.

Jewel of Cabo Pulmo

The home’s design combines bright Mexican tile mosaics and American folk art with the kind of attention to detail that reflects the artistic background of the original owners. Brightly-colored window and door frames are bordered with hand-painted stencils and the walls are hung with fun folk art. The lovely arched windows open wide to let the sweet-scented breezes waft through the house. A creative spiral-shaped outdoor shower is a fun way to rinse off the day’s accumulation of sea and salt and there is something inherently special about showering with stars twinkling overhead. And speaking of stars! The rooftop patio is the perfect place to view millions of stars that appear in a display many city dwellers never see. You can also watch the sun set behind the ochre tinged mountains from here.

Jewel of Cabo Pulmo

The activities you can engage in while staying in Cabo Pulmo are almost too many to name, and I’m bound to miss one. Cabo Pulmo boasts tennis courts, a community swimming pool at the Cabo Pulmo Dive Center, rentals of all sorts, including mountain bikes, kayaks, and snorkeling gear. Several restaurants offer excellent Mexican food – it’s hard to recommend one over the other, so you’ll have to try them all!

The waters here form part of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, the site of the most significant hard coral reef system in the eastern North Pacific. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s most successful marine protected area. There are several businesses in the village operating diving and snorkeling tours so you can see the incredible abundance of marine life for yourself! If breathing under water isn’t your thing, rent a kayak and paddle out to the sea lion colony or just relax on the beautiful beach called Los Arbolitos and catch up on your reading.

Jewel of Cabo Pulmo

I’ll close by letting the owners express what they love about this place in their own words:

“We both love Mexico, especially the Baja, for its wonderful people, warm oceans and beautiful landscapes. When we crest the hill overlooking Cabo Pulmo. we are looking down on our dream home. As we enter the property, we let go of pressures and stress, take a deep breath, and just relax. It is the perfect home: beautiful, but unpretentious, warm, unique, and inviting…We think you’ll find it one of your favorite places on earth, and want to return again and again, just like we do.”

 

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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Have a Baja Moment! East Cape Favorite Boasts a Fresh New Look

Have a Baja Moment! East Cape Favorite Boasts a Fresh New Look

logoCROSSROADSThe Crossroads Country Club has come a long way since its early days as a super rustico palapa with dirt floors and a tiny plywood kitchen resembling a large cardboard box with a window cut in it like a puppeteer’s stage. And while puppets never materialized, what did were the best fish tacos for miles around, comprised of pan fried fish smothered in expertly fried onions, and red and yellow bell peppers on fresh corn tortillas. They are still one of my favorite items on the menu, despite the fact that eleven years later the restaurant now tempts with a variety of dishes, showcasing a delicious fusion of Mexican and Italian cuisine that you won’t find anywhere else.

Over the years the Crossroads has gone through various incarnations and improvements with the kitchen and palapa growing incrementally to accommodate their growing clientele. Today the palapa is no more and the Crossroads is situated within the contemporary concrete structure of the VidaSoul Hotel. Dirt floors along with the need to wash my feet after a night spent grooving to a great band have been replaced by neat and clean polished concrete. The plastic Pacifico-beer furniture with tasteful stainless steel, and the backlit beach bar are available for tequila and Baja fine-wine tastings. The unusual artwork adorning the walls could be called “Mexican Day of the Dead meets LA hip.” There is seating both inside and out to suit your preference.

Crossroads Restaurant Gets a Face Lift

Live entertainment at the Crossroads has come a long way, too. It used to be that a couple of the local ex-pats would get out their guitars and entertain us with original songs, accompanied at times by their dogs. These days music at the Crossroads is anything but amateur, especially with the completion of the amphitheater, a huge series of concrete steps that offer excellent vantages from which to view the entertainment below. And what entertainment it is! David Raitt, Bonnie’s incredibly talented brother, and his musical buddies from the west coast of the peninsula put on a show worthy of a major L.A. venue – but it’s just you and 20 or 30 other people enjoying the band up close and personal. Pura Vida always gets a bunch of people up to dance to their reggae and Latin music covers, while last year’s debut of Extra Large had everyone up and moving to the uptempo beat.

Crossroads Restaurant Gets a Face Lift

Dinner entrees include halibut with capers in white wine sauce (another of my favorites), spicy shrimp pasta, shrimp ajillo, and steak arrachera (marinated flank steak), to mention a few of the many items available on their new menu. Fresh, organic local ingredients are used as much as possible, and the seafood comes straight from the Sea of Cortez! Specials are offered on Saturday nights during high season (November through May), and there’s always homemade ice cream to top off the excellent meal.

Whether you are there for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a few cool ones, the Crossroads is the best food around for miles around. And despite all the improvements, their motto remains “come as you are” because after all this is the East Cape.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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Laid-Back Luxury: Ocean View Vacation Rentals on Baja’s Beautiful East Cape

Laid-Back Luxury: Ocean View Vacation Rentals on Baja’s Beautiful East Cape

At Baja.com we pride ourselves on being the definitive source of information about the Baja Peninsula. That includes where to go, what to do when you get there, and where to stay. Our website provides detailed information on an extensive collection of hotels, bed & breakfasts and vacation rentals covering a broad range of budgets, broken down by region. This blog highlights four Baja.com vacation rentals located in four different East Cape communities, from El Cardonal in the North, to Boca de las Vinoramas in the South. The first three vacation rentals are owned and operated by Wolf Property Management, a property management company with an extensive collection of vacation rentals located in Los Barriles, Rancho Leonero, Buena Vista, Spa Buena Vista, Punta Pescadero, Las Tinas, El Cardonal, and surrounding areas of the East Cape.

East Cape Vacation Rentals

Casa Rossein offers comfort, amenities, and a gorgeous beachfront setting.

Casa Rossein is a comfortable beachfront home located in remote El Cardonal, a quaint and friendly fishing village a half hour drive north of Los Barriles. El Cardonal is a great place to kayak, fish, wind or kitesurf and there is a coral reef nearby where you can snorkel. In the wintertime, this is prime whale watching territory. You can hire Dr. Urmas Kaldveer, a full-time resident and scientist conducting Humpback whale identification research, to take you out with his panguero to look for these beautiful creatures. Casa Rossein, like all the Wolf managed properties, offers all the amenities you will need for your stay in El Cardonal. It has three bedrooms and three baths, sleeping seven people comfortably. The kitchen is well-appointed with all the modern amenities, including microwave and full-sized fridge. Laze in the pool or Jacuzzi day or night, when you’ll see an incredible display of stars overhead. This is a place to get away from it all. There is no phone service, but you can keep in touch with the outside world via wireless internet service.

East Cape Vacation Rentals

Casa Uno is set in the exclusive fishing community of Punta Pescadero.

South of El Cardonal and 15 miles north of Los Barriles, Casa Uno was one of the first homes built in the private and exclusive fishing community of Punta Pescadero. The community’s private airstrip makes it possible to land small aircraft directly at this destination. Casa Uno is a lovely, spacious beachfront home decorated in traditional colorful Mexican style with an abundance of shaded outdoor living areas, including a grand terrace overlooking the very private beach and shaded pool area. With three bedrooms and three baths, Casa Uno comfortably accommodates six people. Fishing is the main activity here, but wind and kitesurfers will find the winter winds perfect for their passion and kayaking and snorkeling are ideal on the calmer days of spring and summer. Whale watching is great here in winter. Nearby Punta Pescadero Hotel has a restaurant that offers great food and a fun bar where you’ll get to interact with local colorful characters. Hemingway would have loved this place!

East Cape Vacation Rental

Casa Buena Vista is the perfect vacation rental for larger groups, and can accommodate up to 14 guests.

Accommodating up to 14 people, Casa Buena Vista is the perfect vacation rental for larger groups. This is a beautiful private complex right on a beautiful sandy beach in Buena Vista, just 15 minutes walk from the heart of Los Barriles. Comprised of a new main house and the original quaint Mexican-style casita, Casa Buena Vista has seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms. If you don’t need all that space, you can rent the number of rooms you need. The new main house is modern with granite countertops and all the amenities. A ping pong table and basketball hoop provide additional fun. Each of the bedrooms has a private entrance and many have spectacular views of the ocean.

East Cape Vacation Rental

The eco-friendly Casa del Amanacer offers ocean views and plenty of laid-back charm.

Further south in Las Vinoramas – just 50 minutes from San Jose International Airport where the Palo Escopeta Road meets the Coast Road – you’ll find the charming and eco-friendly Casa del Amanecer, an ocean view, one bedroom casita within the secure gates of a large beachfront property. One of the best features of this vacation rental is the large, breeze-catching covered patio that overlooks the large property and the Sea of Cortez. It’s the perfect place to laze in the hammock or share the day’s catch with your sweetheart. Described as “romantic” by several reviewers, this is the perfect place to get away from it all. The beaches here are long, sandy and virtually deserted! Nine Palms surf break is just four miles away, so this is the place to stay if you want to hit the morning glass (April through October). During winter months it’s the perfect place to kite or windsurf. By staying in this solar-powered home you’ll lower your carbon footprint, but don’t worry, you’ll still be able to maintain contact with the outside world via wireless internet.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

 

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Have a Baja Moment! Visit the Annual Pitahaya Festival in Miraflores

Have a Baja Moment! Visit the Annual Pitahaya Festival in Miraflores

Mexican towns love their festivals and most towns have an annual celebration centered around a theme based on something the town takes pride in. Here in Southern Baja, Puerto Lopez Mateos honors their diligent conservation of the loggerhead sea turtle, Cabo Pulmo commemorates the founding of their national marine park, and  Miraflores celebrates the pitahaya fruit as an important and ancient part of Mexican gastronomy. Pita-what?

Pitahaya Festival

Miraflores’ annual Pitahaya Festival celebrates the harvesting of delicious cactus fruit.

Pitahaya” is the Spanish term for cactus fruit. Locally, cacti of the genus Stenocereus, Pitaya Dulce (sweet pitaya) and Pitaya Agria (bitter pitaya), are sought for their sweet fruit, but all cacti produce fruit of varying quality. The 17th century mission priest Father Miguel del Barco described the fruit as “excellent…worthy of being on the table of the greatest of kings. Their flesh is juicy, mild, delicate, and very delicious.”

Pitahaya Festival

Not only is pitahaya fruit delicious, it’s packed with antioxidants.

Miraflores’ pitahaya festival was the brainchild of one of the town’s mayors who recognized the economic benefits realized by Cabo San Lucas from their regular fishing competitions. Wanting his community to benefit similarly, he came up with a different kind of competition to draw spectators and their money. Miraflores may not have oceanfront, but it is blessed with vast forests of Pitahaya cactus, as one discovers if they venture out to the desert surrounding the town.

Pitahaya Festival

The lovely pitahaya flower is also edible, and may be used to make tea.

Every July, when the cacti are teeming with ripening fruit, the festival is organized around a pitahaya gathering contest. Participants gather as much fruit as possible and competitions are held for the largest fruit gathered, best presentation of a collection of fruit, greatest variety collected, and, of course, the greatest quantity of fruit gathered by any one competitor.

The festival includes a number of cultural and gastronomical events, including exhibitions of traditional dance, music, and plenty of delectable food, many incorporating the pitahaya fruit among the ingredients. Local artisans and businesses sell their wares from booths erected in the town’s cultural center. The three day event culminates on Sunday with the announcement of winners of the fruit gathering competitions and crowning of the festival queen. A big party commences that evening, with live music and dancing into the wee hours.

One of my favorite Baja stories concerns pitahaya and the peninsula’s now extinct native Pericu Indians’ passion for it. Every year when the fruit ripened, the Pericues would leave their posts at the missions where they labored to gorge themselves. The result was an orgy of eating, singing, dancing, and other carnal activities. One of the mission priests, Father Piccolo, regularly complained in his journal writings that the Pericues were lazy and the peninsula harsh and inhospitable, with little to recommend it. Pitahaya season only confirmed his opinion of the natives’ slovenly ways. Until one day, he discovered something positive about the Pericues when they treated him to a special feast that included a delicious bread. However, when a visiting priest described to him the origins of the bread’s flour, he blanched and his negative opinion of the peninsula and its inhabitants was forever entrenched. The bread, it turned out, was made from the seeds of the pitahaya gathered in a “second harvest.” While gorging themselves on the fruit, the Pericues in one area would all defecate on the same large rock. Once dried, the feces were collected, ground up, and the seeds winnowed out, toasted, and ground into flour. I don’t know if they’ll be selling bread at the festival, but you might want to be sure of the origins of the flour if they do!

An 18th century drawing of two Pericu women by George Shelvocke, an English privateer.

An 18th century drawing of two Pericu women by George Shelvocke, an English privateer.

This is certainly one of the most flavorful and unique festivals in the East Cape firmly rooted in the ancient history of the land. So don’t miss it! Festival dates are dependent on the ripeness of the fruit, but the 2013 festival is currently slated for the second weekend of July, with the queen to be crowned on Sunday, July 14th.

Traveling to the East Cape? Talk to a travel agent at Baja.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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Have A Baja Moment! East Cape Sees Signs of Summer

Have A Baja Moment! East Cape Sees Signs of Summer

Seasonal changes in the tropical desert may not be as overt as those in more temperate regions, but to the observant they give measure to the passage of time. Recently, on the drive to town along the bumpy Palo Escopeta Road, I noticed subtle changes to the scenery. Trees had dropped the leaves they’d grown thanks to last years’ rain, coloring the landscape grey where before it was verdant. In contrast, the branches of the tree known locally as Palo Escopeta held out thick bunches of tiny greenish white flowers, backed by new bright green leaves. I noticed the air coming through the window was warmer and the sun striking my arm was strong.

A sure sign that spring is in the air! Mating Coachwhip snakes. Image: Tom Sterne

Spring came to the East Cape late this year, the weather remaining unseasonably cool throughout April. Now that it’s May, daily highs have shot up and the sea has begun to warm. Two weeks ago water temperatures were cold enough that I still needed to wear a full wetsuit. Now I’m over-warm in my “shorty” suit by mid-morning. But water temps sometimes plummet in July, making wetsuit choice a poor indicator of the arrival of warm weather in Baja. One of the best, however, is the reappearance of our cold-blooded cousins, the reptiles. After hibernating underground over winter, the S-shaped trails of snakes winding their way across the road have become an increasingly common sight, and sometimes their creator is there to be seen as well, basking in the sun or moving at a speed dependent on ambient temperatures and species preference. Several rattlesnakes, Coachwhip snakes and a brilliant green snake I have yet to identify crossed my path in the last week alone.

Around these parts, however, the most obvious harbinger of warmer weather has to be the appearance of a multitude of Western Side-Blotched Lizards (Uta stansburiana elegans). The most common lizard in Baja California Sur, they like nothing more than to hang out on the dirt roads challenging one another in a fit of territorial push ups and neck expanding displays. Their small size means they warm up faster than other reptiles, making them the first to appear each morning. They run back and forth across the road, pausing to challenge one another, and as I journey to town or the beach, it’s no small task to avoid running over the odd one that zigs instead of zags as I pass by.

Meet one of the East Cape’s most popular reptiles. Image: Davefoc

When they detect a threat (for example, the roar of my car’s engine and the rubber of my tires bearing down on them), these lizards take off at impressive speed, lifting the front of their bodies off the ground so that they run on their back legs only, giving them a comical, humanoid appearance. Despite the awkward windmill-style in which their hind legs rotate, they manage to gain sufficient speed running up the embankment on the opposite side of the road that they often catapult themselves head-over-tail in an impressive acrobatic display. The landings are not always smooth, but the technique is effective in keeping them from becoming road kill.

Reptiles, water temperatures, and sun intensity all point to Summer being around the corner, but I know summer is really on its way when I get my first tropical storm report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Hurricane season officially begins May 15th.

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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Mobula Rays and Humpback Whales: East Cape and the Cycle of Life

Mobula Rays and Humpback Whales:  East Cape and the Cycle of Life

by Dawn Pier

Earlier this month, as I snuggled into bed one night and stillness settled over me, a series of rhythmic sounds came sharp and distinct out of the darkness. It sounded like a horse trotting down the stone pathway that runs next to the house, to the beach. I pictured him then: brown coat shining under the light of the waxing moon, searching for a way out of the fenced property, ears twitching this way and that at the noise of dogs stirring. The clop-clop-clop stopped then, briefly. When it started again, the percussive sounds came quickly, too quickly to be a horse. No, it was more like popcorn popping.  I smiled at the sound as I realized what it was. The mobula rays (Rhinoptera sp.) had returned to the Sea of Cortez and their flat bodies were smacking the water’s surface as they leaped several feet every meter or so of their journey north.

The magical East Cape and its mobula rays. Photo by Dr. Urmas Kaldveer

The rays we see jumping in the Sea of Cortez are likely four different species belonging to the Sting Ray Family Rhinopteridae, just like the massive Pacific Eagle ray. Unlike the solitary eagle ray, they arrive every winter in schools so massive that they block out the sun as they pass over the surface and through the upper 100 meters of the water column.

Mobula (or Manta) rays are part of the East Cape cycle of life.

Like their cousins, they are diamond-shaped, but only grow to about three feet wide and weighing between 20 and 30 pounds at maturity. They arrive around the same time as the Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) begin to appear en mass, and we are treated to displays of the comparatively small rays jumping alongside these massive sea mammals flinging their hulk skyward. As is the case with the rays, I often hear the thud of the Humpback’s 30-ton belly flop before I see it.

Due to distance and the slow rate at which sound travels it takes several seconds for the sound of hundreds of gallons of water being displaced to reach my ears and by the time I look up, all I see is last of the white foam subsiding. Fortunately, the breach is usually the first of many. If I keep a look out, I am treated to subsequent displays or to that of a second whale joining in as he tries to outdo his or her companion.

Photo by Dr. Urmas Kaldveer

In late March, I’ll be heading north to El Cardonal to document Dr. Urmas Kaldveer’s whale identification research. Together, we’ll travel by kayak into the Whale Zone and hopefully get photographs of the tail flukes of a whale to add to his collection. And maybe, if the stars are aligned and the whale spirits in agreement, we might just get to have a close up whale encounter. Stay tuned for my report.

How about you? What unusual displays have you been treated to while visiting or living in Baja? We’d love to hear your experiences and hope you’ll share them here! And if you do, why not think about an East Cape Vacation Rental

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, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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After the Rain: East Cape Transformed

East Cape Transformed Thanks to the Rain

By Dawn Pier

After the rain, East Cape transformed from brown and beige to lush and verdant.

The East Cape desert has been transformed. We’ve finally received much-needed rain following a four-year drought; what was once a mixture of grey, brown and beige, has exploded into a verdant landscape unrecognizable as its former self – our Baja desert runneth over with the green of trees, grasses, vines and flowering plants. Add to that a smorgasbord of buzzing insects, singing birds and fat, content livestock. But I shall let the photos speak for themselves.

The East Cape caught the storm's wrath

 

We had three separate rain events this summer and total rainfall amounted to approximately 23 inches so far (we could still get more!) with variations slightly above and below that throughout the East Cape. The only downside of all this rain is that the roads, the Palo Escopeta and the Coast Road were destroyed by run off crossing and eroding them to the point where they were impassable for many days immediately after the rain. Now they are open, but travel times have increased significantly. I have never seen the roads as bad as they are now. Not even in 2006 after Hurricane John dumped 18 inches of rain on us in 36 hours.

 

The storm destroyed roads in the East Cape area.

Here’s just one example of what results due to all this rain: The other day, as I drove my ATV south along the Coast Road, a couple in a rented jeep flagged me down. I stopped and they inquired, “Are we almost at Cabo Pulmo?” I couldn’t help but chuckle and informed them that there was a good 30 kilometers of bad road still to go. The husband looked crushed, the wife somewhat incredulous. “Do you think I’ll make my 10 o’clock SCUBA diving reservation?” asked the husband from behind his pained expression. I looked at my watch it was 9AM. Under normal circumstances he would be there just in time, but with the roads they way they are, they probably still had another two hours of bone-jarring, agonizingly slow travel before reaching their destination. I told them not to worry because the good people at the Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort would be sure to take care of them and if he didn’t make the morning dive, they’d surely be happy to take him out that afternoon. They thanked me and continued on their bumpy way.

If you’ll recall from a previous post of mine here on Baja.com, there’s no telling when the municipality will get out here with the graders and backhoes. Nevertheless, slowly but surely, private citizens are getting out and fixing the worst spots so that trucks with good clearance can get through, but if you’re in a hurry or need to meet someone at an appointed time, until further notice I recommend that you don’t take the Coast Road. And before you go, be sure to brush up on how to survive a drive on the East Cape.

East Cape is one of Baja’s most idyllic natural areas.  Find out more about visiting and staying in the East Cape!

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.

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Villa del Faro: An Eco-Friendly Boutique East Cape Hotel Oasis

By Dawn Pier

Villa del Faro Eco-Hotel in the East Cape is a surprise in so many ways – a lovingly handcrafted private estate turned boutique hotel, hidden on the side of a hill overlooking the Sea of Cortez smack dab in the middle of nowhere. It is truly a tropical hideaway. One is even more surprised to learn that the vast and comfortable compound is powered by solar energy (augmented by quiet generators only when necessary). There are no power or phone lines to connect to, but thanks to satellites, it isn’t difficult to connect to the outside world through the internet and television.

Villa del Faro: An Eco-Friendly Boutique East Cape Hotel Oasis

The hotel resides on 12 conscientiously tended acres of beachfront property just one mile north of the area known as Boca de las Vinoramas and 21 miles east of the Los Cabos International Airport (best access is via the bumpy Palo Escopeta Road). It is open October 15 through July 31st (closed for peak hurricane season).

There are six unique one-bedroom spaces available for rent. Two of the units are adjoined by a shared living space, making them perfect for two couples traveling together or two singles who want separate sleeping quarters. All of the units have fireplaces and are beautifully finished with Mexican-style tile, carved furniture and textiles.

Villa del Faro's rustic beachhouse

For the young-at-heart and economically minded there is the quaint and rustic stone beach cottage that literally sits on the beach. It consists of one room plus outhouse-style baño and use of a nearby gazebo for meals and relaxation. The gazebo’s tiled roof is a work of art (US$140 per night plus 14% tax).

There is a lavish and plush “Casa Alberca” or Pool House that comprises a large bedroom, full bath, kitchen, fireplace and balcony overlooking the sea all under a large palapa (palm-thatched roof). The Casa Alberca sits adjacent to the 55-foot pool and patio surrounded by tropical landscaping, fountains and has an incredible view out to the Sea of Cortez (US$425 per night plus tax). There are paths to the beach from all the casitas. Breakfasts are included and dinners are available upon request and at additional cost. The food is sumptuous with produce obtained directly from local organic farms.

One gets the feeling of staying in a lavish private home more than a hotel, and that is how the owners want it. It wasn’t always a hotel, but had its beginnings as a get-away for a large family of friends who are artists, writers, architects and musicians. It is clear as one wanders the vast grounds that its creation was a labor of love. No detail has gone unattended – the architecture is Spanish colonial with meticulous talavera tile work throughout, hand-molded balusters and cornices, grand columns with bas relief detailing. Exquisite original artwork graces the colorful walls of all the buildings, and a spectacular marble sculpture resides at one end of the large, elegant pool area. It is a feast for both the eyes and ears – water cascading from beautiful fountains combines with the sound of waves crashing in the distance, white winged doves coo and geckos chirp.

Ready to relax? Reserve the Casa Alberca.

The owners are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about local activities and the environment. Activities include fishing, bird watching, hiking, whale watching, snorkeling and diving (Cabo Pulmo National Park is only a half hour drive away) and horseback riding can all be arranged. A protected bay below the grounds is one of only a few places along this rugged stretch of coastline where swimming is safe.

There are no shopping malls nearby, no golf courses or discos. This is the kind of place you go to get away from all that, perhaps to rediscover yourself or rekindle the romance with that special someone in your life. Things move a little slower here, even more so than in other parts of Mexico. Villa del Faro is an incredible place to escape to.

Have you been a guest at Villa del Faro or another unique place on the East Cape? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments here or write a review on their Baja.com advert.

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.

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Mexican President Calderon Sides with Cabo Pulmo

By Dawn Pier

I must preface this blog entry with the caveat that I am not unbiased in reporting the recent cancellation of the Cabo Cortez Project. In 2003, I was one of several people who founded the organization Amigos para la Conservacion de Cabo Pulmo, A.C. (ACCP), the mandate of which includes the conservation of the coral reef ecosystem in Cabo Pulmo National Park. I was executive director of the organization until 2005. In 2009, spurred by the threat represented by Cabo Cortez, I rejoined the current membership as a volunteer.

On June 15th, at the height of the G-20 conference in Los Cabos, Felipe Calderon, the President of Mexico, announced the cancellation of all permits for the mega-development Cabo Cortez. This was a massive project, on a scale the likes of Cancun which was planned to begin construction next to the northern boundary of Cabo Pulmo National Park. I got goose bumps when I received an instant message telling me that it was cancelled. This is a huge success in the history of conservation in Mexico. The forces promoting this development are big fish, sharks one might say, in the international world of development. They had the backing of many Mexican government officials, not the least of which were the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, responsible for issuing the permits that originally gave the project the go-ahead. Earlier this year, in an historically unprecedented move, the Mexican Senate called Elvira Quesada to answer to charges that he issued the permits fraudulently. That is when many of us involved in the movement to save Cabo Pulmo from this threat, began to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Although many local conservation organizations fought to get the project cancelled, it is without a doubt the tireless and diligent efforts of Greenpeace Mexico and WildCoast that brought the message of “Cabo Pulmo Vivo” and “No a Cabo Cortes!” to the hordes in Mexico City and beyond, resulting in the collection of 220,000 signatures in support of the cause. The tiny community organization of ACCP also deserves a great deal of credit for working so hard from their isolated location in a teensy off-the-grid desert village to protect a World Heritage Site for the rest of us.

The Cabo Pulmo community wrote an open statement of thanks to all who contributed to this effort, saying:

The community of Cabo Pulmo, visitors and friends wish to thank the more than 220,000 people who support conservation of the Cabo Pulmo reef because thanks to you the cancellation of the Cabo Cortes project was achieved.

Special thanks to the children, teachers, scientists, journalists, government officials, civic organizations and citizens who support conservation of the Cabo Pulmo reef.

Now we face the great challenge of creating economic alternatives without compromising the welfare of local communities and conservation of our natural heritage, so we still need your support.

From Cabo Pulmo we are making progress toward the creation of a vision of development that benefits all the communities around us. We want a Sanctuary for the Sea, Land and People, a truly ecological tourist destination, rustic and authentic. We believe that development need not be at odds with conservation, but we need to find a balance. One can make an honest living from natural resources without damaging them, which ensures that future generations will enjoy and benefit from them too.

Without your help this would not have been possible, so with all our heart …

THANK YOU!

While celebration is in order for this historically unprecedented move by the Mexican government to protect its natural heritage, we must remain vigilant. Among conservationists discussion now focuses on the steps that must be taken to protect Cabo Pulmo from unsustainable development over the long term to avoid, each time a new threat appears, the costly necessity of engaging in another fight like the one fought against Cabo Cortez.

President Calderon’s announcement to the Press (Spanish language only) regarding Cabo Pulmo is below:

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.

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