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Cabo is calling, and it’s all grown up

I am shipwrecked.

Well, to be fair, there is no ship. There’s not even a boat or a small dingy. It’s just me, my guide and a cracked paddleboard that’s leaking in water.

Moments before, I was attempting to wade into Playa del Amor (Lovers Beach), a majestically iconic beach at the tip of the Baja Peninsula in Cabo San Lucas. This particular beach on what is called Land’s End, itself known for its limestone rock formations and romantic isolation, is only accessible by water or a rigorous hike. In my case, I have chosen to paddleboard in to the beach just before dawn, doing my best to take in the gorgeous sunrise as I balance on the board.

“There’s beauty everywhere here,” says my guide at one point as we were paddling near the marina, doing our best to steer clear of the seemingly endless amounts of fishing boats on their way out. “You just need to know where to look.”

The infinity rooftop pool and lounge area at Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa.

The infinity rooftop pool and lounge area at Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa is abuzz during the day. At night, Rooftop 360, the highest rooftop bar in Cabo, touts craft cocktails, skyline views and live DJs.

(Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa)

The rooftop infinity pool at Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa.

The rooftop infinity pool at Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa.

(Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa)

Once I’ve collected myself on the shores of Lovers Beach, I find that one of the more amazing distinctions about this particular playa, in addition to its sheer beauty, is the fact that travelers can casually walk from one beach, located on the Sea of Cortez side, to another beach on the Pacific Ocean side. One is calm and tranquil (the Cortez side) while the other has behemoth waves (Pacific) that, for this novice paddleboarder, were simply too difficult to navigate. This result was that a wave crashed down on me, the undertow pulling me and the board down. I’m shaken but unharmed, but the board is now unusable.

Fresh, caught-daily seafood is prepared to request at Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa's waterfront restaurant, Aleta.

Fresh, caught-daily seafood is prepared to request at Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa’s waterfront restaurant, Aleta.

(Fresh, caught-daily seafood served.)

Still, I am lost in the moment. I have the beach all to myself, as it is too early in the day for anyone else to be here. As I aimlessly wander between the two shores, listening to the nearby barking of sea lions, it occurs to me that this beach is something of a perfect metaphor for the Los Cabos region of Baja California Sur. Rather, that this is a region with two distinct vibes, one that is tranquil and untapped (San José del Cabo) and one that is more rollicking and festive (Cabo San Lucas). That whatever San Diego travelers might be seeking, a relaxing sojourn or an active adventure, they can find it here.

In this moment, however, I must somehow find my way back.

A more mature party

Mention Cabo to most U.S. travelers and they’ll likely envision a bustling party town with day-drinking tourists and nighttime revelry. It’s a reputation that isn’t wholly undeserved, but it’s one that’s becoming increasingly outdated.

Over the past few decades, the Cabo region of Mexico has attempted to cater to a more mature clientele. It makes sense: The 20-somethings who once partied there during spring break are now grown up, and the tourism industry in Cabo is doing its best to lure them back with more mature enticements. Think rooftop wine tastings, family-friendly activities and outdoor adventures for the active set.

A luxury suite at the newly built Corazón tower has floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors that open to reveal stunning views.

A luxury suite at the newly built Corazón tower has floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors that open to reveal stunning views.

(Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa)

What’s more, getting to Los Cabos has never been easier. Multiple airlines fly direct out of San Diego International Airport for as low as $300 round-trip, but for budget travelers, or those, like me, just looking for a quick getaway, I’d highly recommend flying out of the Tijuana International Airport. I have used the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) land bridge, which connects Otay Mesa directly to the Tijuana airport, several times over the years and have found it to be a convenient and even enjoyable experience at $32 (round trip).

The flight from Tijuana to the Los Cabos International Airport takes a little over two hours. The round-trip price can be as low as $100 if booked well in advance, and it’s still quite affordable at about $200 if travelers are simply looking to get away for the weekend. Of course, prices would increase depending on the month, such as during whale-watching season in November and December.

Consuelo Cervantes Viveros is the on-site sommelier at Museo del Tequila.

Consuelo Cervantes Viveros is the on-site sommelier at Museo del Tequila.

(Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences)

Once there, it’s about a 30-minute drive from the airport to Cabo San Lucas. Just as it is the case with traveling in other parts of Baja, getting a taxi or an Uber from the airport can be an ambiguous undertaking. Most hotels and resorts in Cabo offer shuttle or even individual pickup options from the airport that range from $35 to $50 for one way to $75 to $100 round trip, so travelers should check online for this option.

Once in Cabo San Lucas, there are a plethora of new-ish or recently renovated hotels and resorts to choose from, with a new resort seeming to pop up every month or so. This is great for prices (especially in the late summer/early fall off-season months), and many of these newer resorts are doing their best to separate themselves by offering all-inclusive packages for multi-night stays. Places such as Nobu Hotel, the Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas and the Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos opened during or just before the COVID-19 pandemic, so it makes sense that many of these resorts would be offering various all-inclusive amenities and last-minute deals.

I chose to stay at the Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa, which, in my estimation, offers the most amenities for the cost. This includes arguably the best views of any property in the area, multiple infinity pools (complete with swim-up bars) and a private beach lounge on the shores of Medano Beach, Cabo’s only swimmable beach. On the ninth floor is Rooftop360, a bustling open-air bar and lounge that has — as if the name didn’t give it away — a glorious view of the entire region.

Mestizo Del Mar, the signature restaurant at Vista Encantada.

Mestizo Del Mar, the signature restaurant at Vista Encantada, provides dazzling views of the Sea of Cortez alongside its menu of prime seafood specialties.

(Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences)

Up the road, a world apart

While I chose to stay in the city, visitors to the Cabo region who want something a little quieter and more secluded might want to look at options in the burgeoning San José del Cabo region. While only a few miles north of the city, San José may well be its own planet, with its private beaches and scenic cliffs. It’s quickly becoming developed, however, with sprawling resorts popping up and with names like Marquis Los Cabos, Le Blanc Spa Resort and Royal Solaris. But what they all have in common is the idea of seclusion, where guests need not leave the property to find whatever they’re looking for.

A small chapel on the grounds of Vista Encantada.

A small chapel on the grounds of Vista Encantada.

(Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences)

Such was the case with Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences, a seemingly endless property that opened in 2019 and offers unique amenities in addition to its serene views of the coast. Yes, there’s the pleasant but posh suites, complete with charming artwork on the walls, and a spa that is as multifaceted as it is fancy. But, for me, it was the little things: the quaint little lighthouse on the hill (yes, it’s a functioning lighthouse), the charming chapel on the cliff and the property’s Museo del Tequila, complete with an on-site sommelier. That somm, Consuelo Cervantes Viveros, was highly knowledgeable of not only the liquor, but of food and fruit pairings for each bottle. She even offered visitors some sal de gusano (a dried and ground mix of salt, chiles and ground agave worms). It was these types of interactions that I found to be a charming, more intimate alternative to the bustle of Cabo San Lucas.

Milagro Wellness Spa at Vista Encantada features a dramatic barrel ceiling and large pool.

Milagro Wellness Spa at Vista Encantada features a dramatic barrel ceiling and large pool. The spa offers massages, body wraps, facials, manicures and more.

(Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences)

Adventure right around the corner

With its many scenic beaches, vistas and rock formations, not to mention the many culinary and nightlife offerings, it’s easy to forget that most of the Los Cabos region is mostly made up of nature preserves and national parks. Both the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range and Cabo Pulmo National Park are protected natural areas with a few hiking trails. The latter is a sprawling, gorgeous marine reserve (I’d recommend going after January for whale watching) while the latter is an arid, but richly biodiverse park that, however rugged, is great for rare bird-watching.

Both parks are easy to access via the bus, but I would recommend hiring one of the many guides that are easily found on a walk around the aforementioned marina. In addition to the restaurants and shopping, the marina is loaded with kiosks offering day-trip-style adventures; from parasailing and fishing tours to scuba diving and ATV rides, it can all be found within a stretch that’s less than a mile.

I have to dutifully explain to the many vendors that I want to try something bold, something new and something age-appropriate for my 40-something knees. My concierge at Corazón recommends a local company called Cabolectric for something called an eFoil board experience, the only company in Cabo to offer it. EFoil boards are essentially an electric surfboard that has a remote-controlled propeller in the back. For those who, like myself, failed to ever find their surfing legs, I cannot recommend the Cabolectric eFoil experience enough. Once I got the hang of it, I was zipping around the ocean with abandon, leaning from side-to-side to steer while doing my best to not lose my balance (the handheld remote cuts the engine off as soon as the rider hits the water).

I had so much fun, I booked the same company for what would become my doomed paddleboard experience.

The Caboelectric eFoil board experience includes a guide to train the user and doesn't require expert surfing skills.

The Caboelectric eFoil board experience includes a guide to train the user and doesn’t require expert surfing skills.

(Caboelectric)

Beauty everywhere

Back on Lovers Beach, I’m already not loving the idea of having to paddle back with two people on one board with another board jury-rigged between us and still leaking water. I apologize profusely to my guide who, in turn, is apologizing to me, the both of us wanting to take the blame for the wipeout that has put us in this predicament.

It’s important to point out at this point that the wipeout is, in fact, my fault — the rare case of something bad happening while on one of these outdoor excursions. The beach I’m standing on, the iconic arch (about which experts are now saying that its days are numbered after a recent earthquake) and the sunrise in the distance more than make up for any mishaps.

About a quarter of the way back, with my arms feeling as strained as a lump of spaghetti, a fisherman takes pity on us and lets us jump onto his boat along with the boards and we head back to the comforts of the Cabo San Lucas shores. My guide apologizes again.

“Are you kidding?” I ask. “That was awesome. Plus, it was a real adventure. We pulled together and figured it out. So really, thank you.”

He smiles and agrees, but I can tell he still feels bad.

“What did you tell me earlier?” I ask. “That there’s beauty everywhere if you know where to look? That’s what this is.”

He agrees as the boat pulls in and we begin to wade to shore.

A rooftop pool at Vista Encantada.

A rooftop pool at Vista Encantada.

(Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences)

If you go

WHERE TO STAY (all-inclusive)

Corazón Cabo Resort & Spa: Pelicanos 225, El Medano Ejidal, 23453; (800) 753-5069; corazoncabo.com

Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences: Carretera Transpeninsular Km 7.3 A-4, Cabo San Lucas 23410; (844) 298-6474; vistaencantadaresort.com

OTHER THINGS TO DO

Cabolectric: Av. del Pescador 1, El Medano Ejidal, 23479; [email protected]; 52-624-235-1811; https://cabolectric.com/

Experiences include eFoil electric surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, flyboarding, snorkeling, crystal kayaking, glass-bottomed boating, HydroFoil Manta5 eBikes, Cycleboards, Seabobs, OneWheels, luxury yacht and sailboat, aqualighted yoga

TOURISM INFORMATION

visitmexico.com/en/baja-california-sur/cabo-san-lucas

visitloscabos.travel

Combs is a freelance writer.

Despite a waterlogged paddleboard, a morning outing offers stellar views of the sunrise and the iconic arch.

Despite a waterlogged paddleboard, a morning outing offers stellar views of the sunrise and the iconic arch.

(Seth Combs)