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Thursday, July 24, 2014

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Mexico’s safe hideaway haven

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Poolside at the Hilton Los Cabos resort.

So where in Mexico can you eat veggies and fruit,  drink tap water, forget the Imodium, yet feel really safe?

Cabo, that’s where. And, that’s why celebs like the late Frank Sinatra, George Clooney and others have sought refuge in this sun- drenched Mexican hideaway.

 Leaving a Toronto blizzard last February, my wife Rhoda and I took a non-stop 5 hrs. 40 min. Air Canada flight landing at San Jose del Cabos International Airport.

But I was confused.  San Jose del Cabo?  Los Cabos?  Cabo San Lucas?  Baja California? What happened to Cabo and why the different names?

Located in Baja California Sur about 1,600 kilometres from the US-Mexican border, Los Cabos boasts three distinct areas; Cabo San Lucas (west) where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific, the Corridor, and to the east San Jose Del Cabo. 

The Corridor is a new highway about 30 kilometres between the two.  A more traditional town, San Jose del Cabo was founded by the Jesuits in the 1700s.  Cabo San Lucas was a small fishing village. The original inhabitants were neither Aztec nor Mayan, but Pericu Indians, known as the Cora or Edues.

Initially a collection of fishing villages and a few resorts, the area burgeons with palatial homes dotting the shores with picturesque taquerias and local families pulling in the daily catch. Tranquil town squares with historic architecture share space with designer nightclubs.  Celebrity sightings happen.

Lazing by one of the three Hilton Los Cabos pools,  we walked the beach in 30 C sunshine, spying the stone arch at Land’s End in the shimmering blue-green Sea of Cortez. This is paradise.

A one-hour drive to Todos Santos, is a treat for the eyes, where we found a thriving community of artists, surfers and North American expats. Galleries, cafes and the Hotel California make for time well-spent.

There are championship (read difficult) golf courses with ever-present sand traps and some water holes.  My golf partner Marvin Geist showed me how to play Puerto Los Cabos, with its front nine designed by Greg Norman and back nine by Jack Nicklaus.  Eventually this will become a 36-hole complex.  

The Robert Trent Jones II-designed Cabo Real plays through mountains with spectacular views. The front nine is unforgiving, but a must play. Club Campestre is another Nicklaus-designed challenge with hundreds of traps and diabolic greens.  One par 5, the 625-yarder has 23 traps and after looking back from the green, they disappeared.

We also fished the Sea of Cortez in a 22-ft. boat and  caught tuna and mahi-mahi which they call dorado. We didn’t catch marlin for which the area is famous, but over four hours we witnessed migrating grey and humpback whales swimming the Baja waters to birth their young.  Our filleted dorado became a wonderful four course lunch, back at the hotel.  It  gave “fresh fish” a new definition.

A quick snapshot of eating out found us at Mi Casa in Los Cabos, a truly Mexican experience with terrific food and definitely not a tourist trap; H, a real find, owned by a former Mexican national polo and hockey player who mounted his ice skates on the bar, served the best flounder and pizza. The Office on Medano Beach is where we actually ate dinner.  Their tequila sommelier, a 25-year persona, is a 300 lb. John Belushi look-alike.  Salvatores is an Italian oasis serving gigantic portions of the lasagna and tiramisu. To survive the experience, it helps to share.

We’d return in a heartbeat!

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