Baja California Sur • “An Ecotourists Dream Come True”
Mexico’s State of Baja California Sur is a wonderful place to vacation or retire. Living is easy and stress-free. There are numerous small, friendly towns and countless lovely places to visit or live, including the historic “City of Peace”, La Paz. In addition there is the East Cape area; the Paciﬁc Ocean area with the famous town of Todos Santos; and the tourist city of Cabo San Lucas and sister city of San Jose del Cabo.
La Paz is the oldest, and by far the largest city (200,000 population) in Baja Sur. Hernan Cortez discovered the bay, on which this port city now sits, in the year 1535. Since then it has continued to grow into a major modern city that has not forgotten its cultural roots. La Paz is well planned for local enjoyment, but is also conveniently located for international travel or trips to mainland Mexico via sea or air.
With its great climate, fantastic beaches, friendly services, planned infrastructure, practically nonexistent crime rate, zero unemployment and its beautiful surroundings along the Sea of Cortez, La Paz stands out as a unique city. Even so, only recently has La Paz began to be recognized as a worldwide vacation and retirement destination.
La Paz was mentioned in a Money Magazine article in 2003 as “one of the best retirement places in the world.” Today, seldom does a week go by that some writer is “rediscovering” the city and the region AARP, The New York Times, Conde Nast Travel, to mention a few. Typical articles marvel at the friendly, graceful nature of the city, the multitude of recreations available and its people. The numerous beaches, coves, waterways and the variety of water-related activities available are always at the forefront. Consequently, there is increased population growth and an increase in real estate prices that always accompany such growth.
La Paz is a city serving the everyday life of its citizens. As such, it is not a tourist-built municipality; however, there are many interesting and charming things to see and do in La Paz. There is the beautiful Cathedral, the ever-active city park, countless statues commemorating local historic events and the marvels of nature and its role on La Paz; and, the museum of anthropology. Perhaps the most unique attraction is La Paz’s waterfront walkway, the Malecon. The Malecon is truly one of the most beautiful “boardwalks” in all of Mexico and perhaps the world; it is anticipated that by the year 2015, this magic walkway will extend along the bay in excess of 10 miles. The visionary design allows this amenity to easily accommodate families or individuals who love walking, biking, roller-blading, running or just sitting on a bench watching the sunsets.
The Malecon in La Paz has become the heart of the city’s center of activities year around: Awards Day for the Baja 1000 Race; Carnival; Revolution Day Parade; School Parades; Christmas Celebrations; and, weekend “car-cruising” reminiscent of the 1950’s, but in today’s cars it is fast becoming recognized world wide as a must-see, must-experience attraction.
La Paz is wonderful but from time to time one desires to get away for a day or two and explore. You can hop on a plane and go anywhere in the world or you may choose to visit other unique cities and towns in Baja Sur. After all, tourists come from all over the world to enjoy that which is within a short drive from you. If you choose to drive south, the East Cape region is awaiting your discovery.
The East Cape
There is no Spanish name for the East Cape area of Baja Sur that stretches from a short distance east of San Jose del Cabo to the Sea of Cortez towns of Los Barriles and Rancho Buena Vista approximately 60 miles south of La Paz. For as long as one can remember, the area has been popular for ﬁshing enthusiasts however, it has only been within the past few years that others have begun to find the area, simply called the East Cape by these sea lovers. The East Cape is great for that one-, two- or three-day getaway trip!
The East Cape is the home of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, which protects the only living reef in North America what a nature lover’s treat! To get there, you need only a minimum amount of Dundee-Outback in you; but, even so you will have to experience approximately 20 miles of dirt road to reach the Cabo Pulmo community. When you get there, you will find about 100 to 200 permanent residents, depending upon the time of the year. Then, of course, there are the East Cape’s beautiful mountains, with gushing waterfalls and hot springs. During your travels, traces of early settlements and numerous plantations will seemingly appear from nowhere. You may choose to take a step back in time say 15,000 years or more and experience Indian cave paintings or see the prehistoricboulder paintings. When done, traveling a bit further south, there is San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
San Jose del Cabo
San Jose del Cabo (San Jose) is next door to Cabo San Lucas and, like Cabo, was ﬁrst visited by Europeans in 1542. Only home to a few Indians for centuries, San Jose was hardly known to the world until recently. Development has moved east, from Cabo and into San Jose, resulting in a recent and rapid growth in restaurants, typical US-type businesses and destination resort hotels, with accompanying golf courses. With the diversification of lifestyle choices, real estate values have risen accordingly! San Jose is home to the International Airport which serves Cabo as well. Coupled with Cabo’s growth, San Jose has become a major world force in the recreation industry and choice location for high end retirement communities.
When comparing San Jose to Cabo, there is a very noticeable difference in pace; San Jose is far more tranquil than Cabo yet offers all (or more) of what one expects in a seaside, oceanfront resort destination. Authentic in its Mexican atmosphere, San Jose del Cabo has a more modern flavor that may not be considered as traditional as other Baja Sur locations. Driving a few more miles to the west will take you to the southern-most tip of Baja Sur, where you will ﬁnd Cabo, with more great food, more great views and much, much more.
Cabo San Lucas
Although sport ﬁshers came and went, as late as the mid 1970s the population did not exceed 2000; one reason is that there was no paved road access to Cabo in those days. Now, it is the home of the renowned Bisbee Sport Fishing Tournament and sport fishing ranks as one of the major attractions for the city. However, Cabo has also evolved into a golfing mecca and is considered to be the resort capital of the Baja. Complementing world-class independent hotels, restaurants and spas, many of the world-famous hotels are found here, such as the Marriott and Westin Regina. Within the past 30 years, Cabo San Lucas has become a major retirement and tourist destination for people from all over the globe.
Estimated population in 2006 was approximately 60,000; but, Cabo takes on the air of a much larger city, hosting millions of tourists on an annual basis. Cabo has the reputation of being an “Americanized” city where English is almost as commonly spoken as is Spanish. Costco and Home Depot (just to mention two) are here and one would envy their locations overlooking the Paciﬁc Ocean. Although the retail businesses are convenient, people come here to dive in the beautiful deep canyons of the ocean; to enjoy 350 days of sunshine; to ﬁsh (estimated 30,000 to 50,000 bill ﬁsh are hooked up here annually); to golf, to kick back on the beach; or, to PARTY PARTY!! Just in case you have not heard, Cabo is considered to be one of the great party-towns of the world!
How about a change of pace?
Let’s head north ...
Completing the southernmost leg of our adventure, we turn north and return home to La Paz. About halfway between Cabo and La Paz we find the artist community of Todos Santos. Although once populated by ancient inhabitants, the region grew in population because of its abundant fresh water resources. The availability of water gave growth to a thriving sugar cane industry in the 1800s; but, unexplainably, the water table dropped and the sugar industry died. Although the water returned just as unexpectedly as it went away, the sugar industry did not return.
In recent years, the town has become a haven for artists, primarily from the United States; but the numerous events are beginning to attract Mexican and worldwide artists too. The El Calendario de Todos Santo is a magazine/tourist guide publication that provides updates regarding the numerous art shows and festivals that are making Todos Santo famous again. In addition to the historic mission, the best known attraction is the Hotel California. Great food and beautiful ambiance! A place of recent legend!
Maravia Country Club Estates
It is nice to get back to La Paz and home in Maravia Country Club Estates. Now perhaps it is time to download our photos and relive the adventure or call over a few friends to compare experiences. Or, maybe we will just watch the sunset at home a think about sharing photos tomorrow...