At the end of September 2018 I was given a last minute opportunity (2 days before the flight) to travel to San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Located near the tip of the Baja Peninsula, on the Sea of Cortez, 17 miles east of the famous Cabo San Lucas. I traveled with some longtime friends from my childhood beach, Ocean City, Maryland, to document a surf trip during the Hurricane Rosa swell. With little time to plan, I packed light with some bathing suits, clothing items and camera equipment.
September 28, 2018 first thing in the morning we drove to Baltimore Washington Airport (BWI) to start our journey to Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) via South West Airlines. SJD is served by major airlines like American, Delta, South West and United, with connections to major cities. After a layover in Houston, Texas we were on our way to San Jose Del Cabo arriving at 12:20pm.
In San Jose new hotels have recently opened, bringing options for travelers who prefer the quieter side of Los Cabos. If you are planning to explore Baja, I recommend renting a car. All the major rental agencies have offices at the airport. We were given a great deal with Hertz Rentacar. A Hertz employee took us in a comfortable air conditioned bus to the rental car place right from the airport. Within 20 minutes of going through customs we were in the rental car and off to start our journey.
We were all tired and hungry after the flights, after receiving the rental car of course we had to find some authentic Mexican tacos. We went to a local restaurant close to the airport called La Palapa. With its easy access from the car rental agencies and cold Mexican beer and fresh food, I highly recommend it!
We were all interested in what the swell looked like so we stopped at the closest break off the plane, Zippers. Not crowded and pumping we had to jump in for an early evening session. A fresh local coconut truck sat near Zippers, making it easy to jump out of the water after a surf session and grab some fresh coconut juice and cold coconut treats.
We took haven at the Holiday Inn Resort Los Cabos, an all inclusive family resort just a few miles from the airport in the newer part of San Jose, overlooking the ocean. The pristine rooms with a view to die for and incredible service made our trip a special one. Employees of the resort were bilingual making communication easy. Sunrise and sunset from the resort were magical. Any time of day there were buffet’s of food for breakfast lunch and dinner with all types of fresh food and desserts. All you can drink bars throughout the resort; in the pools, by the ocean and near the dining areas. Nightly live performances for family entertainment and much more.
Over the past few years San Jose has become a retreat for the worldly travelers, artists and foodies looking for an authentic Mexican experience. The main stretch is cluttered with resorts and restaurants and tourist attractions. A very short drive to authentic downtown takes you to the center square where shops, art galleries, and restaurants are plentiful. Local street art flooded the downtown walls and buildings.
The beaches in San Jose are uncrowded. Every morning we headed north to East Cape to Shipwrecks Beach, to surf the infamous uncrowded right point break. The road we traveled was recently paved from it’s original dirt mountain road leading to the desert mountain surf breaks. The paved road made for a shorter and smoother journey to Shipwrecks. The road leads to some of the most incredible beaches in southern Baja. With countless fishing, surfing and camping possibilities.
On our way to the East Cape we stopped at the edge of town at Jugos Y Licuados Mazatlan, a smoothie and juice bar. An incredibly fresh and delicious way to stay hydrated and energized during a surf session in the hot Mexican sun. They also serve delicious homemade Mexican breakfast burritos.
If you plan to spend the day in the desert mountains at Shipwrecks there are a few must have items. An umbrella small enough to fit in your board bag to escape the intense heat, sunscreen (lots of it), snacks, water, ice and a cooler. My friend Mike Haun brought one piece of luggage on the trip, a Yeti backpack cooler. The best item any of us brought. Once you arrive and unload your luggage you have a backpack cooler to use as you chase the swell.
There are no gas stations or small convenience stores in the mountains just some farm animals roaming and rattlesnakes and coyotes. Water is brought by tanker truckloads to the homes located along the mountain. There is a small local shack/store, Tienda Abierta, to buy Mexican beer and snacks. You can walk up the hill just above Shipwrecks and purchase a few items if it is open.
My first time swimming in The Sea of Cortez (The Gulf of California) with my AquaTech water housing. The desert cliffs, rocky shoreline and intense current were a little nerve-racking at first. Everyday the waves gradually increased in size with Hurricane Rosa offshore pushing in swell. Once I became comfortable with my surroundings I could take in the view from the water. The desert mountain terrain with roaming cows and tiki houses on the mountain cliffs and random bits of color from the cactus flowers that bloomed this year. The mountains were abnormally green due to all the rain Cabo received this year. I was told that normally it is more dry desert looking then green. The Gulf seemed saltier then The Atlantic Ocean I am used to. The water was so clear you could see the rocky reef on the bottom. At time it looked as though flakes of gold from the rocks sparkled in the water.
On the way to and from Shipwrecks we would pass Puerto Los Cabos, a new world class marina that is located just to the east of the city center with local fishing charters. Puerto Los Cabos is still being developed and will include over four hundred slips in the marina and two eighteen hole golf courses laid out on over two thousand acres. The development includes private homes, condominiums, a private beach club and a boat yard. There will be commercial centers, boutique hotels and full service, resort style, hotels built around the marina in the near future.
We stopped by the marina on the way back from a long day in the ocean with hopes to see the daily catch cleaned at the marina. We had just missed the boats coming in by a few hours. However we came across one of several Sea Shepard ships docked at the marina. You may recognize the ship from the Animal Planet television show, Whale Wars. The show documents Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) during a campaign to find and stop Japanese ships that hunt whales in the name of research, attempting to stop them by any non-violent means necessary.
The SSCS is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Created in 1977, their mission is “to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. Using innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations.”
Aboard the Sea Shepard, one of the stars of Whale Wars and SSCS researcher. She was kind enough to take a few photos and to let us on board to tell us about their latest mission of dolphin and shark research off the coast of Baja. Quite an experience. Check out their site for more information on how you can help SSCS in their research.
Each day we left Shipwrecks before dark and headed back to town for some of the freshest food I have ever tasted. Taqueria El Fogon was one of the best Taco/Quesadilla restaurants I have ever been to. Located in downtown San Jose, known for their Pastor style tacos with 100% natural spices and vegetables. The Pastor meat is first quality pork with the original Mexican style recipe, cooked over a flame exclusively at The Fogon. I am not one to eat pork but I must say it was absolutely delicious. Serenaded with live music by a local band during our meal.
Restaurant Mariscos CostAzul Bar and Grill known for their fresh seafood. The best place to hang out with the locals and enjoy fresh seafood with the catch of the day and a cold Mexican beer, while watching surf videos on the outside deck. The fresh ceviche made its mark on my pallet and has me wanting to return sooner then later.
If you are looking for the best fish, scallop and shrimp tacos and fresh guacamole in Cabo, Taqueria Rossy is the place to try! A full salsa bar in the middle of the restaurant to load up your tacos with fresh vegetables and salsas. Well priced and amazing service, my friends have made an annual stop during previous trips to San Jose.
We were lucky enough to have a local friend/tour guide, Julio Lorenzo a pro Mexican surfer in his younger years. Julio is a standout surfer at the local breaks in Cabo. He spent most days traveling around Baja and surfing with us. Fluent in English and Spanish he would help translate at times and gave us local input and history making our trip that much easier and enjoyable.
Throughout our trip we met the friendliest people from all over the world that were like minded travelers. Some in vans traveling the west coast and other’s who had flown there for a quick surf trip with friends. Everyone was kind and helpful with big smiles on their faces. If you are looking for a delightful travel experience visit San José del Cabo, I hope to return for an annual trip. Although I spent less than a week enjoying the Mexican culture, it forever has a piece of my heart. Scroll down for a few frames in Baja, Mexico.