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Have a Baja Moment! Rancho Leonero and Beachfront Casa Verde

Have a Baja Moment! Rancho Leonero and Beachfront Casa Verde

by Tom Gatch

“Alright,” our kayak guide barked with a grin.  “Get those legs over the side …I want to see you all sitting sideways on your yaks!!  Get used to fishing that way.  It’s VERY stable!”

Kayaking at Rancho Leonero. Photo by Lynn Gatch.

Kayaking at Rancho Leonero. Photo by Lynn Gatch.

He was right, of course; it was our first day of East Cape kayak fishing and we needed to get outside of my comfort zone.  We were paddling along in 120 feet of deep blue water on a beautiful morning in the Sea of Cortez, and it was totally up to me to make the most of the experience.  I began to twist my torso slowly as I swung my legs over the starboard rail of my Ocean Kayak Prowler and then maneuvered my lower half so that I was facing perpendicular to the bow.  It was at this very moment, with my feet dangling in the crystal clear 80-degree water and the hot tropical sun beating down on my shoulders, that I came to the fullest realization that we had indeed arrived in paradise.

Rancho Leonero on the Sea of Cortez.

Rancho Leonero on the Sea of Cortez.

Almost an hour of our previous afternoon had been spent riding nearly 50 miles up the narrow highway leading north from the San Jose del Cabo airport.  After crossing the boundary of the Tropic of Cancer, we wound our way over many dusty arroyos before coming to a graded road that was marked by a simple sign depicting an African lion with the moniker ‘Rancho Leonero’ painted beneath it.  My wife, Lynn, and I were delighted by this low profile introduction since it was our first indication that we would truly achieve our goal of getting away from the hustle and bustle of urban existence for a few days.

Instead of proceeding directly through an ornately landscaped entrance of an upscale resort complex, we continued driving slowly along the sandy gulch for several miles, passing occasional groups of Brahma cattle and clumps of cactus that were interspersed by the timeless, drought resistant flora and fauna of the region.  It was hot, dry and very sunny.  Eventually, we came upon a group of small structures surrounded by a host of coconut palms, and pulled to a stop in front of the rustic entrance to Rancho Leonero.

Casa Verde, a 3,200 square foot beachfront vacation rental.

Mexican sophistication at Casa Verde, a 3,200 square foot beachfront vacation rental.

While being escorted to our quarters, we were immediately overtaken by a feeling of tranquility that is rather hard to describe.  Palm-roofed bungalows dotted the picturesque grounds, which were festooned with brightly colored bougainvillea and coconut bearing palm trees.  There are also spectacular vacation rentals at Rancho Leonero — beachfront villas like the beautiful Casa Verde, a 3200 square-foot house built in the Mexican hacienda style with large porches overlooking the sparkling Sea of Cortez, the desert and the Sierra Laguna Mountains.  With the extra large rooms and a Great Room with high palapa ceilings, Casa Verde is a magnificent place to experience Baja magic, too.  There are choices…but this time, we stayed at the Rancho.

Either way, the real star of the show here is the sea itself.  The hypnotically turquoise waters of the inshore abruptly turn to an electric cobalt blue as the shelf drops off into deep water.

The ranch is located on a small point, which allows visitors to experience prevailing coastal breezes.  Directly in front of the hotel, a double reef of boulders provides habitat for a wide variety of fishes that will delight both the snorkeler and the inshore angler.  Without a doubt, if there is such a thing as a spiritual vortex on our planet, this is one of them.

After quickly freshening up in our comfortable, air-conditioned room, we headed off to the bar for the customary “welcome margarita.”  Before we knew it, the staff had already begun seating guests out on the patio for a wonderful dinner of mesquite-grilled rib eye steak with all the trimmings.

Rancho Leonero.  Photo by Lynn Gatch.

Rancho Leonero. Photo by Lynn Gatch.

Lodging at Rancho Leonero is provided on the ‘American Plan’, which means that all of your meals are included in the price of your stay.  And fine meals they are!  Owner, John Ireland, makes sure that dining at the ranch is a consistently pleasurable experience. But despite its bucolic atmosphere, Rancho Leonero is still able to be run like a well-maintained Rolex thanks to the efforts of Operations Manager, Gary Barnes Webb.  This transplanted South African possesses a broad spectrum of talents that has allowed him to efficiently address a bevy of ongoing infrastructure and staff related issues, while deftly coordinating the ranch’s sportfishing fleet of pangas and cruisers.

Although the nearby sandy beaches, inviting hammocks, pool and onsite massages may encourage guests to relax, it is hard to deny that one of the primary activities at Rancho Leonero is fishing.  There is something here for every type of angler.  Fly fishing expert, Jeff de Brown, offers his clients at the ranch one of the only Orvis certified guide services on the Baja Peninsula, and sees to it that they are able to take full advantage of this world famous venue for angling with the fly.

The kayak fishing in this region is exceptional.  And, there is even something here for shore based anglers …particularly during the dark of night!  Those who are willing to toss out a well-rigged mullet or ladyfish near the dock during an evening high tide are sometimes rewarded with large pargo and snapper capable of breaking their rod or burning out their reel’s drag washers.

Of course, those electing to stay in the Rancho’s stunning rentals, like Casa Verde, also have the opportunity to experience the natural bounties of Rancho Leonero — in fact, the owners provide two kayaks, so perhaps you want to take advantage of the great fishing right at your doorstep.  But no matter which choice — vacation rental or resort — is made, one thing is a certainty; travelers with a love for hot, rod-bending action on the water will have to go a long way to find a more appropriate or affordable destination than the East Cape of Baja Sur.

Hooked on Baja’ author & columnist Tom Gatch is one of Baja’s foremost writers with a focus upon outdoor and recreational topics in Baja and southern California.

Want to find out other places to Have a Baja Moment! in Baja Sur? 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 

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About Tom Gatch

For over a decade, Hooked on Baja author, Tom Gatch, has built a solid reputation as one of the foremost writers and columnists focusing on travel and recreational activities in Baja and southern California. His company, El Puerto Creative Consultants provides professional copy writing services and creative support for business entities on both sides of the border.


  1. robert brown says:

    Great stuff I am Feeling so Good about your Work!
    Its LIke a Little Steinbeck /Melville ( ish) Great Stuff
    ( Look the Whale Beckons)

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