Cabo San Lucas Video Source: CaboViVO
During the early 1990s there was a concerted effort by local developers and government tourism agencies to transform Los Cabos from what had since the late 1950s been a relatively isolated getaway for campers, fishermen and hunters (white-winged dove hunting, now illegal, was one of the activities that originally drew Hollywood types like John Wayne and Bing Crosby to the area) into the cosmopolitan resort destination which now greets visitors to cape cities Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo.
Top Golf Courses in the World
The two major activities meant to represent this shift of focus were golfing and day spa visits. Although the 9-hole Punta Sur municipal course had opened in San José del Cabo in 1987, it wasn’t until a few years later that world-class courses began to herald a new age in Cabo; when visionary developers like Donald Koll, Ed Reisdorf and Eduardo Sánchez-Navarro brought in big-name designers such as 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus to sculpt huge swaths of coastal and desert landscape.
Today, a stunning 20% of Los Cabos’ 15 operating courses are ranked among the 100 best in the world; and more are on the way…with champions/course architects like Fred Couples adding their names to a glittering roster that already includes Jack Nicklaus (six local layouts),Tiger Woods (two courses finished, with more in the pipeline), Greg Norman (9 holes and 9 more scheduled at Puerto Los Cabos, and 18 more in progress at the eagerly anticipated Rancho San Lucas development), Tom Weiskopf (the Desert complement to Nicklaus’ groundbreaking Cabo del Sol Ocean Course) and Davis Love III (whose Dunes Course at Diamante is now ranked 38th in the world by GOLF Magazine).
Expansive Spa Facilities
Spas have been another success story. Los Cabos now dominates annual rankings of the best spas in Latin America, accounting for nearly half the entries on a year to year basis. Every major resort that has opened in the last 25 years has included expansive spa facilities, and the extant properties wasted little time in building their own monuments to pampering indulgence. So crucial are these relaxation centers to resort marketing that a sort of “arms race” has ensued, with each new resort seeking to outdo its competitors in soothing treatments and therapies. The newly opened Grand Velas Los Cabos, for example, boasts a jaw-dropping 35,000 square feet of dedicated spa space, including a bath area so vast and luxurious as to embarrass a decadent Roman emperor.
Other Cabo San Lucas Activities
These luxury activity options have certainly opened up the area to new markets and demographics, but have done nothing to dissuade interest in the natural charms that brought so many tourists to Los Cabos in the first place: the gorgeous beaches, laid-back attitude and abundant big-game sportfishing. Fishing continues to be the number one local activity, with fleets of boats filled with expectant anglers leaving daily from marinas at Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Los Cabos in search of marlin, tuna, wahoo, dorado and many more denizens of the deep. Bisbee’s Black & Blue marlin fishing tournament is still the signature regional event, making millionaires out of fishermen each and every year.
What has changed, however, is the appreciation for Los Cabos’ many other world-class water-based activities. The municipality can justly claim to have some of the most spectacular surfing, diving and windsports conditions on the planet. Surfers flock to the area on a year-round basis, buoyed by the fact that the Sea of Cortés and Pacific Ocean beaches see a shifting seasonal variety of rideable waves. Summer is typically peak season on Sea of Cortes breaks, as evidenced by the WSL (World Surf League) decision to sponsor the Los Cabos Open of Surf each June at Zippers surf break in San José del Cabo. Winter wave aficionados, meanwhile, are more inclined to visit consistently superb Pacific Coast sites like Los Cerritos, San Pedrito and La Pastora.
Cabo Pulmo on the municipality’s stunningly beautiful East Cape boasts an offshore marine sanctuary highlighted by one of the hemisphere’s oldest and largest living coral reefs. The sanctuary also claims the highest concentration of marine life in the Sea of Cortés, making it a mecca for destination snorkelers and divers. East Cape communities like Los Barriles, by contrast, are known for their incredible seasonal windsports conditions. Each winter El Norte winds blow down the Sea of Cortés, creating ideal windsurfing and kiteboarding opportunities.
And those are only a few of the water sports choices. Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has exploded in popularity over the last few years, particularly near Cabo San Lucas, where paddlers can mix healthy heart activity with scenic views via trips out to El Arco and the other 30-million-year-old granite monuments that mark Land’s End at the terminus of the nearly 800-mile long Baja California peninsula. Cabo San Lucas’ Médano Beach is also ground zero for those interested in parasailing hundreds of feet over Cabo San Lucas Bay, or for flyboarding aficionados who want to show off their flips and spins for the appreciative bikini and board shorts clad revelers at beachfront bars like Mango Deck and The Office.
Sailing is also popular, of course, and is particularly exhilarating in the brisk winds outside the protected bay. But the biggest water sport of them all, seasonally and excepting fishing, is whale watching. Nearly every local boat tour operator offers whale watching excursions from mid-December to mid-March, when thousands of enormous cetaceans head to shallow water breeding grounds around Baja California Sur. Humpbacks, the species most scene off The Capes Region, are the most spectacular of them all, lifting their gargantuan bodies nearly completely out of the ocean in splash-down breaching behaviors.
Did we mention there are also desert and mountain terrains? Off-road ATV racing is perennially popular thanks to the famous Baja 1000, and the mountainous Sierra de la Laguna range that forms the spine of Baja California Sur between Los Cabos and La Paz offers abundant camping and hiking options. For those seeking a bucket list type challenge, the highest peak, Picacho de la Laguna, is in the vicinity of 7,000 feet. More eagerly sought after are the low-lying foothills used by local adventure companies for their adrenaline-racing zipline courses.
Want to keep the adrenaline racing to a minimum? Golf and spas remain the top choices for relaxing activities, but city and shopping tours are also recommended, as they provide excellent introductions to the area and its many other attractions.