Run South of the Border to Cabo

Baja California  |  By David Dickstein
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El Farallon is considered the best restaurant in Cabo San Lucas. Photo by David Dickstein
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Playa Grande Resort has all the makings of a perfect getaway. Photo by David Dickstein

Cancun and Cozumel have a cool factor stronger than the finest blue agave tequila. For us Sacramentans, however, getting to Mexico’s most popular hot spots means a 4,000-mile trek as the crow and a couple of planes fly.

On the other side of the country, south of our California border, is a comparable vacation destination that’s half the distance and number of flights. In fact, Aeromexico, United, Delta and American can get you from here to there in about six hours.

Located on the tip of the 800-mile long Baja California Peninsula, with the Sea of Cortez on one shore and the Pacific Ocean on the other, Cabo and its alluring coast have all the ingredients for a jalapeno-hot holiday in the Mexican Riviera.

Where to Stay

Love the gorgeous Hacienda-style grounds, walkable proximity to the exciting marina district and enticing schedule of family entertainment, imaginative kids club activities and adult-exclusive experiences. But what’s really to adore about the 386-unit Playa Grande Resort is its pristine sandy beach. Not a vendor in sight! Muchas gracias, Mother Nature.

Due to very strong currents, undertow and waves on that side of the Pacific, swimming is prohibitado along Solmar Beach and neighboring Pedregal Beach. True, the absence of annoying hawkers does come at the price of not taking a dip when enjoying the rays. On the flipside, the price of your accommodations desirably comes at a lower price. Oceanview one-bedroom deluxe suites start at under $200 a night, a value stretched by myriad activities throughout Playa Grande’s eight well-manicured acres.

For adults by day there’s aquaerobics, bracelet making, pool or beach volleyball, Zumba and bartending classes, for starters. From the “Things I Couldn’t Do in School Department,” consider taking a Spanish lesson while tossing back a cold Corona with lime at the pool bar. For a nominal fee, the daily children’s program keeps kids 5 through 12 busy with activities that include treasure hunts, face painting, arts and crafts, and pool fun.

If heading downtown for dinner and entertainment doesn’t float your boat one particular night, then saunter toward the shore for “Fiesta Mexicana” on Mondays and a happening beach party on Wednesdays. Both feature an expansive buffet, live entertainment and a fiery grand finale, as in fireworks or a fire-dancing show. Cost is $44 per person or $35 if purchased at least a day in advance. Other nights feature special dinners at the property’s various fine restaurants.

Meal plans starting at under $100 can transform your stay as something closer to all-inclusive, which is the norm at several top Cabo resorts. Being given the option is welcome for guests wanting to spread their wanderlusting wings.

Where to Play

If you desire a swimmable beach and don’t mind shoeing off pests peddling “silver” jewelry, “Cuban” cigars and “handcrafted” Mexican folk art, a short cab ride or long walk away is resort- and cantina-lined Medano Beach. By water taxi is the more secluded Lover’s Beach near the famous stone arch Los Arcos.

Nearly every watersport enjoyed by Cabo visitors begins and ends at Medano. Parasailing, Jet Skiing, snorkeling, whale watching and glass bottom boat tours are as easy to book there as ordering a tequila shot. The overrun of operators is a problem, actually, as the uninformed and gullible can be taken for a ride – and not a happy one.

Helping minimize confusion and the risks of overpaying and, worse, putting yourself in an unsafe situation, is Cabo San Lucas Tours. Partnerships with legitimate, competition-driven operators benefit customers with lower prices, convenience and, when necessary, problem solving. Case in point: Aries Water Sports put us on the wrong water taxi for a Wave Runner experience. Their error cost us an entire afternoon, though an open-water transfer from the wabbly water taxi to the rocking parasailing boat, and then back again 30 seconds after the blunder was discovered, was the stuff of Hollywood stunt men. Still, being subjected to this bonus adventure was unacceptable. Making a long, multilingual story short, Cabo San Lucas Tours handled the issue, refunding our prepaid Wave Runner rentals and booking us for the next day at Aries’ expense.

Cabo San Lucas Tours also got our business for an awesome Migrano Desert and Beach off-road adventure with Amigos Tours. The 1 1/2-hour journey over mountain, desert and beach terrain is a blast and highly recommended thanks to Amigos’ well-maintained Polaris RZR vehicles and cool, yet professional guides.

If you want to be one with the world’s largest fish, Cabo Adventures offers a full-day tour consisting of a 2-hour drive north to the seaside city of La Paz, from which a boat takes thrill-seekers to where whale sharks of roughly 30 feet long feed on massive amounts of plankton and other small organisms, but not humans. Snorkeling inches away from these gentle giants is magical and memorable. Cabo San Lucas Tours made booking this life-changing experience inexpensive and easy, and took care of our shuttle vans to and from the airport and hotel, too.

Where to Eat

El Farallon is Spanish for “the sea cliff,” and while that’s a fine name for the restaurant based on its dramatic coastal setting, also applicable would be “La Perfeccion” because every aspect of this gastronomic gem is perfect. Superbly prepared food and drinks, professional and attentive service, and a location so spectacular it’s on every YouTube video featuring the world’s most scenic restaurants, El Farallon is a standout among hotel restaurants – and what a hotel, the five-star Resort at Pedregal. Ordering is off chalkboard menus in fish market style with what’s been caught by local fisherman displayed on mounds of ice. Parrot fish and totoaba were standouts one evening, as was everything coming out of Executive Chef Gustavo Pinet’s kitchen. Not toasting to the good life with at least one of 15 labels poured at the Champagne Terrace is sacrilegious for those able to imbibe.

Also recommended:

  • Maria Corona – Try the signature mole chicken or the Molcajete Trilogy with flank steak, chicken breast and shrimp sautéed with green, yellow and red bell peppers, cactus leaves, regional cheese and baby onions)
  • La Golondrina – Begin as you must, but end with the bananas flambe and Mexican coffee, both made tableside with pomp and circumstance.
  • Mi Casa – A favorite is the signature El Chile en Nogada, a traditional dish of roasted and peeled chile poblano stuffed with meats, seeds and dried fruits.
  • Gordo Lele – Owner-cook-singer Javier Ramos will fill your stomach, eyes, ears and heart with the cheapest eats and most sincere live entertainment in town. His $1.30 chicken tacos and $2.39 carne asada tortas are only outdone by his stylings of Beatles and Elvis tunes.

If you go:

  • Playa Grande Resort – playagranderesort.com
  • Cabo San Lucas Tours – cabosanlucastours.net
  • El Farallon – theresortatpedregal.com/diningsite/elfarallon
El Farallon is considered the best restaurant in Cabo San Lucas. Photo by David DicksteinPlaya Grande Resort has all the makings of a perfect getaway. Photo by David DicksteinGo wild off-roading on beach, desert and mountain terrain in a Polaris RZR. Photo by David DicksteinSnorkeling beside the world