Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve hopped on a plane and left the country. It was for me. I hadn’t boarded anything larger than my own vehicle since the ol’ pre-pandemic days. So when I received an opportunity to fly down to Cabo and stay for a few days at one of the finer resorts in all of Baja, I figured it was high time to get back into the swing of things.
But I must confess, my travel skills had been malnourished after so many months of hunkering down in one place. So, this column is a message to the sofa-bound wanderer ready to shake off the rust and get back out into the world. What follows are some key instructions to ensure your journey is smooth sailing.
The flight to Cabo is just two hours long and will run you about 400 USD round-trip (and on a reputable airline). It’s still important to be aware of the safety standards that remain in place. For example, as of this writing, masks are still required at airports in L.A. County and many, if not most, indoor locations in Mexico. Want to get back into the States? You’ll need a negative Covid test, so don’t abandon your common sense while you’re soaking up the tequila at Cabo Wabo.
Summers get hot, even if you’re staying right on the water. At Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf and Spa Resort, an adults-only property where I was blissfully accommodated, the mid-80-degree temperatures of May were deceptive due to some unseasonable winds, which cooled things off considerably in the evenings. But if you’ve spent any amount of time in Southern California, you know to dress in layers. My sweater went on and off while sailing and my mostly linen wardrobe was augmented by an item or two of fleece.
Establish a Base
It’s important when in a foreign country, I find, to have a comfortable, all-inclusive place to call home, if only temporarily. You don’t want to have to head to town every time you get hungry or want to socialize over a drink. This can be a particular inconvenience in a place like Cabo, where you’re negotiating with cab drivers, being assailed by restaurant “hosts,” or struggling to remember the Spanish word for fresh oysters.
I was fortunate in that not only did my resort have several restaurants on site, but also provided me with a butler to show me around town and guard against being price-gouged by an unscrupulous vendor or Mariachi band charging by the song (I happened to run a $120 tab during a lunch – just in song requests! But my trusty resort-provided companion intervened to keep me from being gouged.)
Drink up the Region
Whatever your poison, I would encourage you to partake in the local drink of choice. If you’re in Russia (and I hope you’re not), enjoy a bottle of vodka; in Edinburgh, a glass of Scotch, when in Rome… you get the idea. In Mexico, that spirit is mezcal, or if it’s produced in the state of Jalisco, tequila. If you’re only familiar with usual suspects at your local Ralphs, let me recommend a few favorites.
El Tequileño is the work of third-generation master distiller Jorge Antonio Salles. With an herbaceous bouquet of agave and spice with a touch of anise, the Blanco, which has spent two weeks in American oak, also lends itself quite well to the art of mixology.
Imbibing of the Adictivo reposado is like drinking liquid gold. Reposados (the word means (“rested,” as in it rested – as opposed to aged – in oak for a number of months) are the most popular tequilas south of the border. Adictivo’s complex profile offers reminiscences of the kitchen of your childhood, with an aroma of fall flavors.
For a slow-sipping evening, swirl around the silky-smooth, amber-colored Tierra Sagrada Anejo, aged two years in American oak. It will fill your senses with oaky notes of caramel and a sweet but subtle taste of agave.
During your extended time as a homebody, you’ve developed a groove (and probably in the couch). You’re going to be tempted to spend your entire week (or however many nights your busy schedule allows) sipping rum cocktails by the pool. I know it sounds tempting, but there’s so many memories to collect while you’re down here that you don’t want to regret missing out. In that spirit, allow me to share some of the best that Cabo has to offer.
Located on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. Unlike the choppy Pacific, the sea is a delightfully calm body of water and is ideal for a variety of leisurely pursuits including fishing, diving, or just setting sail and enjoying an ice-cold mimosa. Cabo Adventures offers a relaxing way to experience the waters. Arch Rock is not only a magnificent geological structure, it also provides an iconic backdrop for your selfies. You’re also bound to spot luxury mega-yachts, the kind with their own helicopter in back, anchored just offshore.
At the far end of the marina, Plaza Puerto Paraiso offers a reminder of home to Americans abroad. It’s a mall. There’s an array of international luxury brands all in one air-conditioned place, where you can outfit yourself for your entire stay.
Located just behind the marina area downtown, Boulevard Lázaro Cárdenas, is essentially the main drag and is lined with shops. If you’re really feeling adventurous, catch a cab to The Glass Factory. It’s in a sketchy part of town where you wouldn’t want to be caught after dark, but it offers a glimpse into real life. Here, you can watch demonstrations as glassblowers create works of art right out of the oven. And everything is made from recycled glass.
Quivira Golf Club’s Jack Nicklaus-designed course is the convergence of mountain, desert and ocean ecosystems, built into the hillside overlooking the crystal-blue waters on every hole. The 18 holes, spread out over 7,000 feet in length and dropping from 380 feet at its apex down to the beach on the 18th green, will test every club in your bag and challenge your ability to balance risk with reward. Strategy is nearly as crucial as ball striking in attacking the scenic, bunker-studded course.
The marina is ringed with ocean-view restaurants. Many restaurants will even cook up the fish you just caught right there on the spot. I grabbed a table at Alexander’s and enjoyed some fresh oysters and ceviche and a cold beer as I read the latest installment of the Gringo Gazette.
For finer dining, check out the restaurants at Pueblo Bonita Sunset Beach. Its signature restaurant, LaFrida, is the sort of joint you would expect to find among the poshest along Melrose. Even as a native Californian, I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the local vegetables. The candlelit space is romantic and the menu is a gastronomic tour of Mexico.
Meanwhile, in the Whale Watching VIP Lounge, you can enjoy breathtaking ocean views from the patio or the glass-encased dining room while dining on the “zarandeado” catch of the day. Zarandeado is a 500-year-old local charcoal-grilling technique that lends a smoky, woodsy flavor to the fish. It’s a core component of Baja’s rod-to-fork tradition.
So, if you fly anything less than Business Class on your excursion, you’re going to need a massage (and maybe a chiropractor). Not only will you feel like your body will feel like you’ve been locked in the back of a hatchback for a two-hour drive, but your soul is exhausted from the herding experience of the airport. After being treated like a preschooler from the time you take off your belt and shoes at security until the time you muscle your way in to reach the conveyor belt to collect your bags, you are no doubt ready for some solitude and serenity at Armonia Spa.
There are myriad other activities to indulge in – swimming with dolphins, snorkeling and diving, horseback riding and ATVs, to name a few – but be sure not to overestimate your appetite for Instagram-worthy adventure, you’re going to want some down time working on a Paloma or three at a swim-up bar.
Salud, mi amigos!
Get Back into the Swing of Things in Cabo
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