Where is the East Cape located in Baja?
The East Cape is located near the tip of the Baja Peninsula, running along its southeast coast from Los Barriles in the North to Gordo Banks in the South. The inland border of the East Cape is the highest point of the mountain ranges located west of the shoreline.
What’s the best way to get there?
The best way to get to the East Cape is to fly in to the San Jose International Airport (airport code SJD, also known as the Los Cabos International Airport), rent a car and drive South into San Jose, follow the signs to Puerto Los Cabos and follow the signs to the East Cape. This will take you to the southern-most limit of the cape – Gordo Banks and beyond. This is the “best” route because it allows you to start at one end of the East Cape and make your way North along the coast, which has some of the most spectacular scenery on the entire Baja Peninsula. The fastest way to get to the East Cape is to take the Palo Escopeta Road east across the desert. You are midway along the East Cape when you can see the Sea of Cortez. This route ends at the most isolated community in the East Cape, Boca de las Vinoramas. Stop at the Crossroads Country Club for a snack and then decide if you want to go North to Cabo Pulmo, La Ribera and Los Barriles or South to Bahia Terranova, La Fortuna, and Zacatitos. Make sure you fill up your gas tank before leaving San Jose because there are no gas stations along the Coast Road until you get to La Ribera.
What kind of transportation is available?
The best way to get around the East Cape is by pickup truck or SUV. The big rental companies have offices at the San Jose airport. Book in advance for the best deals. It is possible to hire a cab to take you from the airport to your destination on the East Cape, but they aren’t cheap. Expect to pay $100 USD or more depending on where you’re headed. Of course if you have the funds, you could always hire a helicopter or an ultralight to tour the area and get a birds eye view. For the adventurous who aren’t in a hurry there’s always horseback or you could charter a boat.
How expensive is it to travel to the East Cape?
If you’re coming for a day trip, all you need is your rental car and the gas to get you there. If you plan to spend several days in a vacation rental or a hotel in Los Barriles, you’ll need to budget for at least $100 per day for accommodations and on average $50 a day per person for meals if you intend to eat out. More if you’re a foodie and want to try some of the gourmet options (of which there are a select few in the East Cape).
What is the cost of living in the East Cape?
The cost of living in southern Baja is higher than in most regions of Mexico due to the number of ex-pats who live in or visit the area. It is increased further because there are no municipal services serving the majority of the area and homeowners have to purchase solar, wind and/or propane generators to power their homes. The advantage of living off the grid, once you’ve made the investment in a power generating system, is that you don’t get a monthly electrical bill, which are notoriously high in Mexico, particularly during the summer months when everyone wants to run the AC.
Water is trucked to most homes in the East Cape, not including Los Barriles or La Ribera. In Vinorama, we pay 600 pesos for a load that contains anywhere from 2000 to 2500 gallons. Payment is technically for delivery (it’s illegal to sell fresh water in Mexico), so the size of the load is dependent on which truck is operating that day.
What is the weather like in the East Cape?
From the South to the North end of the East Cape the weather can vary considerably, particularly in the summer months. Los Barriles in the North can be 10 or more degrees F hotter than Zacatitos at the Southern limit. The weather at the southern end is moderated, like that of Cabo San Lucas, by the cooler air coming off the Pacific Ocean. As the Sea of Cortez heats up in summer, the air masses around Los Barriles and points further North begin to heat up considerably. By July, daytime highs regularly hit 105 degrees F and can exceed 110, at night it may drop to 90, but temperatures tend to stay elevated throughout the night. From Cabo Pulmo down through Vinorama to Zacatitos temperatures steadily drop due to their increasing proximity to the Pacific Ocean. There are still days when the mercury tops 105, but these are rarer than in the Northern extremes of the region.
In January and February, the coldest months of the year, daytime highs average approximately 75 degrees, with lows typically in the high 50s, cold enough to require donning a jacket, long pants and socks. In February 2010, however, temperatures fell into the low 40s and further inland near San Jose del Cabo, farmers lost tomatoes and other crops to a hard frost.
The wind is always a factor important to consider when traveling to Baja. Beginning in November and extending through April, the East Cape region from Cabo Pulmo to Los Barriles becomes a Mecca for wind sport enthusiasts. The North wind is strong and steady for much of the winter giving windsurfers and kiteboarders the conditions they seek. The further south you travel along the Cape, the wind’s effects are moderated by the gradual change from eastern to southeastern exposure of the coast, making Zacatitos the least windy area in the region.
Where’s the best place to stay in my price range?
It is possible to do the East Cape on a budget. Though rare there are some affordable accommodations available and there is always the option of camping, which is still permitted on the beaches of Baja. Purchase basic food stuffs at the grocery stores the locals use (Soriana, Tiendas Populares for example) and keep it simple. If you do camp on our beaches, please haul out what you bring in and practice No Trace camping techniques particularly as regards human waste.
Budget: Camping and RV boon docking are good options on the East Cape. For those looking for more amenities there are RV parks in Los Barriles and La Ribera.
Medium: There is a vast choice of vacation rentals throughout the region and affordable hotels located in Los Barriles.
High: Villa del Faro is perhaps one of the most beautiful hideaways on the East Cape of Baja Sur, created as a labor of love by a group of American artisans and architects. Operated by the original family members who participated in every step of its construction, it has opened its doors to a select few, offering exquisite accommodations and delicious organic cuisine. If you prefer paved roads, telephones, and a selection of restaurants, the Hotel Las Palmas de Cortez in Los Barriles may be what you are looking for.
What local foods should I try in the East Cape?
The fresh fish caught off the shores of the East Cape cannot be beat. Buy it from local fishermen in Los Barriles, La Ribera, Cabo Pulmo, or Los Frailes. Or better yet, hire a guide and catch your own! Depending on the season, you are in for a treat of dorado, tuna, sierra, red snapper, sea bass, or, if you are really lucky, you just might land a Wahoo or Snook.
Will my cell phone work in the East Cape?
Cell phone coverage in the East Cape is sketchy at best. At the southern extreme, Gordo Banks blocks the tower signals from reaching Zacatitos and then traveling north along the Coast Road you won’t get a signal again until you reach the pavement north of Cabo Pulmo. There are plans to install a new cell tower on the mountain behind Cabo Pulmo, but until they do you’ll only get reliable service in the more “civilized” areas around La Ribera and Los Barriles.
How do I make a local phone call? International?
About.com Mexico describes how to make phone calls to and from within Mexico.
What are the emergency numbers that I might need?
Hopefully you won’t need them, but here are the emergency phone numbers to use while in the country:
- Emergency 066
- Red Cross 065
- Police 060
- Directory assistance 040
- Tourist protection and information 01 800 903 9200 or 01 800 987 8224, from the U.S. and Canada 1 800 482 9232 or 1 800 401 3880
What do I do if I need medical care?
Depending on where you are in the East Cape, the closest doctor will be located in either San Jose del Cabo or La Ribera. There is a reputable Amerimed hospital in Los Barriles.
Will my ATM card work at banks in the East Cape?
There are ATMs in Los Barriles, but nowhere else in the East Cape. Make sure you bring cash with you if you venture off into the more isolated regions. Both USD and MXN currencies are accepted everywhere.
Will businesses accept my credit card in the East Cape?
You can use credit cards in more and more places in the East Cape, however as a phone is needed to confirm a charge, don’t count on using them in areas south of La Ribera.
Is there internet access in the East Cape?
Internet access is now a standard service throughout the region, even in those areas where there are no phone lines because satellite internet is available to residential users. If internet access if important to you, it’s still wise to enquire if it’s available in your chosen accommodations.
Do I need to pack anything specific for a trip to the East Cape?
If you think you’ll need it, pack it because stores are few and far between, selection and supply limited. Good quality sunscreen and a hat are always a must, but particularly in summertime. Bring an extra pair of sunglasses in case of breakage or loss. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes. Benadryl for allergic reactions to bee or jelly fish stings is always a good idea, and if you anticipate doing any hiking in the summer or early fall, it might be wise to obtain an anti-venom kit (remember that in the desert, you only put your feet and hands where you can see).