Los Cabos offers blend of colonial and modern

Assistant editor Tara Rosa explored Los Cabos on a recent visit. Her report follows:

LOS CABOS, Mexico -- What was once a sleepy fishing village known primarily to the rich and famous as a secluded hideaway is fast becoming one of Mexico's hot spots for tourists.

Valued for its seclusion and geography, Los Cabos, which means "the capes," offers seemingly endless cactus deserts, colossal mountains, miles of sandy beaches and crystal-clear blue water.

Resting at the tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, Los Cabos is surrounded by the Sea of Cortes on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

About 25 years ago, Los Cabos largely consisted of dirt roads with little or no tourism. Although there is only one major highway, the area has benefited from improved local roads, air access and a small boom in resort development.

San Jose del Cabo's Mission Church dates from 1730; it was rebuilt in 1827 after a hurricane.
This 170-square-mile area has two towns, San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, with the Corridor, a 20-mile stretch of beach, running between them.

This one destination contains two worlds, with considerable differences between the two towns.

San Jose del Cabo still looks like the 18th century mission town it once was.

The authentic Mexican colonial village has kept its original charm with its courtyard restaurants, small shops, boutiques and small hotels.

It served as a mission center for centuries. Today, it is a town of 30,000 people and the seat of the municipal government.

San Jose del Cabo is home to the Estero San Jose, a tropical 125-acre estuary that houses more than 150 species of birds. This bird-watchers' paradise is unique on the Baja Peninsula.

Cabo San Lucas, on the other hand, is a bustling town with restaurants, shops and nightlife.

Although it still reflects many aspects of its Mexican heritage, it is somewhat Americanized. There are a Hard Rock Cafe and fast-food outlets such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald's.

Cabo San Lucas is famous for its night life. Many say that one should not leave Los Cabos without experiencing Squid Roe.

That is the street that is home to popular bars, such as the Giggling Marlin, Cabo Wabo and the three-level El Squid Roe.

The Corridor, the stretch of beach between the two towns, has much of the area's new resort development and most of its golf courses. Most of the properties located here offer a more exclusive feeling, secluded from the two towns at either end.

Cabo San Lucas is filled with shops selling traditionla Mexican crafts and silver jewelry.
Los Cabos offers a wide range of activities for visitors, including golfing, hiking, horseback riding, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and all-terrain-vehicle tours of the sand dunes.

Activities and attractions are easily accessible to visitors either through local operators or on their own.

Los Cabos is home to five golf courses. Greens fees range from $175 to $210, and courses are located either on or near resort properties.

Hiking the area's desert landscape is a popular activity. In addition to rock formations, hikers can see lizards, jackrabbits and rattlesnakes. Boots are a must.

The dramatic terrain also is ideal for adventurous mountain biking. Several bicycle clubs and many hotels here rent bikes by the day or by the hour.

Horseback riders can explore secluded beaches at sunset or trot through the desert at their own pace.

Water sports are popular here. Locals say the best snorkeling and scuba diving are found off the protected beaches of Chileno and Santa Maria.

Los Cabos also is known as a prime sport-fishing destination. Fishing enthusiasts come here for the annual Bisbee's Black & Blue tournament in October and the Billfish tournament, scheduled for Nov. 29 through Dec. 2.

The Billfish offers some $350,000 in cash and prizes. The waters of Los Cabos are abundant with marlin, tuna, Pacific sailfish, wahoo and dorado.

Tourists who book rooms in Cabo San Lucas will find that most things to see and do are within walking distance.

But the village also has taxis, vans, buses and rental cars.

Many hotels have a shuttle bus or van service for guests.

The U.S. dollar is widely accepted in Los Cabos. Banks traditionally will provide the best exchange to tourists who want to buy pesos.

Most staff people in hotels, restaurants and shops speak English.

Los Cabos is accessible by air from most major cities in the U.S. Major airlines that serve Los Cabos Airport are Aeromexico, Aero California, Alaska Airlines, America West, Continental, Delta, Mexicana and United.

Delta recently introduced nonstop service from Atlanta, and Continental will launch nonstop service between Newark and Los Cabos on Dec. 16.

The destination has an average temperature of about 70 degrees in the winter and high 80s in the summer.

For more information on Los Cabos, call (800) VISITCABO or check the Web site at www.visitcabo.com.

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