Cabo was not at all what I expected. Resting at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, the sparkling resort towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, known as “the capes,” or Los Cabos in Spanish, differ in many respects from their “Mexican Riviera” counterparts.
Having been to Mexico a couple of times (Cancun and Puerto Vallarta), my first big surprise in Cabo when I stepped off the plane from Bora Bora was the weather. Compared to the heat and humidity of other parts of Mexico, the dry, desert landscape of the Baja Peninsula was a nice change of pace. This time of year, Cabo boasts average highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the high 50’s. The bright, sunny, breezy days reminded me more of Vegas or Phoenix in the spring than Mexico.
Occupying the stretch of land where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are connected by an 18-mile long Tourist Corridor lined with gleaming resorts. Cabo San Lucas is the more famous of the two towns with more beaches, resorts and a much-heralded reputation with spring-breakers world-wide. San Jose del Cabo is the smaller, sleepier town with shop-lined streets and a charming town square.
For my final stop in Cabo, I chose a hotel that I’d always wanted to try out – the Westin Los Cabos. The Westin’s dramatic architecture was designed with a nod toward Cabo’s most famous attraction, the Arch. The colorful lobby and beautiful beach on the Sea of Cortez are a photographer’s dream.
My Cabo plan was simply to enjoy a few days of sunshine-filled R&R after a full month of globe-trotting and time-zone-hopping. Sometimes, a girl just needs some quality time in a beachfront lounge chair with a good book and a margarita. Cabo seemed just the spot for that.
I did, however, have one activity in particular on the agenda…whale-watching. In my quick research on the area, I discovered that January – March is whale season along the Baja Peninsula. Having been whale-watching once a few years ago in Maui, I knew I would welcome any opportunity to re-visit this incredible experience.
Whale watching is one of the world’s great travel excursions. Every fall the grey whales make their migration to the Sea of Cortez from the northern Bering waters. They birth their young and spend the winter months in the warm waters near the equator. These grey whales make the longest migration of any mammal, traveling 6,000 miles. Although grey whales were also once plentiful off the shores of Europe, today they can only be found making a Pacific migration.
After checking in, I booked a 2-hour whale-watching trip through the Westin’s concierge for the next day and headed out to the beach to enjoy what remained of the day. I should also mention that my room at the Westin was incredible and even featured a jacuzzi on the balcony.
When I arrived at the marina in Cabo San Lucas the next morning, I expected there to be at least a dozen other people in the boat with me. As it turned out, the time that I picked to go (10:00am) wasn’t as popular as the afternoon trips…I had the entire boat to myself! Now, since one of the challenges of whale-watching trips is the jockeying for camera position that ensues at each whale sighting, this was a pleasant surprise.
The next challenge is, of course, finding whales. In Maui, this wasn’t a problem at all and Cabo would also not disappoint. After a quick round of introductions, our little glass-bottom boat – skippered by the ever-personable Julio and “professional whale-spotter” a.k.a. 1st mate, Chris – headed out into open waters in search of whales. The water was very rough today and our small wooden boat bounced along the waves toward our first stop. Just off Cabo’s shore is “El Arco” (the Arch) – the area’s signature landmark, and one of the world’s most awesome natural wonders.
There were a number of other boats, large and small, filled with whale-seekers and it wasn’t long before we all zeroed in on a group of whales spouting dead ahead. The process goes something like this: 1) a whale is spotted 2) all boats head immediately in that direction and encircle the approximate spot 3) wait for them to surface and snap photos frantically 4) repeat. Each group of whales will put on a show for a while before diving below the surface long enough to cause you to seek out another group. It’s all good fun.
After spotting at least half a dozen whales, cruising back by the Arch and a nearby sea lion colony, we headed back to the marina. I thanked Chris and Julio for a great morning and headed back to the hotel where I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at the beach.
The next day I took the hotel’s shuttle into San Jose del Cabo for lunch and a little shopping. San Jose is definitely the quieter and ritzier cousin of Cabo San Lucas and it was a nice morning spent visiting the shops and the town square. That afternoon I watched some of the Super Bowl (sans commercials on the satellite feed, unfortunately) at the poolside bar.
After 3 sublimely relaxing days in sunny Los Cabos, it was finally time to head back home. After more than a month away it is always strange to return home. It’s funny how quickly I get accustomed to life on the road but I was definitely looking forward to seeing my friends and family and sleeping in my own bed for a while.
At the end of these trips people always ask me what my favorite place was and my least favorite. This year I’d have to say it might be a tie between New Caledonia and Seychelles. Petra is also a strong contender and I think it’s one of those places in the world everyone should see in their lifetime. Absolutely amazing.
But for the purposes of pure relaxation and natural beauty, it’s hard to beat either Seychelles or New Caledonia. I would love to go back to New Caledonia to visit the Loyalty Islands someday.
As for my least favorite? Well, if I were to weigh “amount of fun had” versus “price paid”, Bora Bora definitely comes out the loser (I don’t think that will come as a shock to anyone!). Though I’d still go back to Tahiti someday, especially Moorea.
It’s been another amazing circumnavigation of the globe and I know it won’t be my last. After 5 years, it’s just become a part of my life. And yes, there are still more parts of the world I’d like to see!
Thanks to all who have followed along with me again this year. I hope you grew to like the new website format as I hope to stick with it for the foreseeable future (with a few upgrades, of course).
And just when you thought I was headed home to rejoin the world of the working…in another week I’ll be venturing south to San Juan, PR and my FIRST Caribbean cruise in 20 years. It’s a week-long adventure with the girls for my friend Dena’s birthday. This will be an entirely new travel experience for me (I’m sure cruising has changed a bit since I was in high school) and I’m sure I will learn a few things!
So long for now…and fear not, I’m already thinking of amazing ideas for Round the World #6 next year!