New Yorker Alex Schechter beats the tourists in nearby resorts by escaping to this corner of Mexico’s coast.
In tiny Puerto Los Cabos, which sits along the Sea of Cortez next to San Jose del Cabo, certain elements of life remain unchanged since the area’s big resort boom in the early 1990s. At 6am each morning, local fisherman set out to retrieve marlin, yellowfin tuna and red snapper. Upon their return, they set up informal fish markets along the dock, where guests from the neighbouring Hotel El Ganzo can stroll over and witness the genesis of their seafood entrée later that night.
It’s a quaint, agrarian touch aimed at the hotel’s mix of creative types and fashionistas. Opened in early 2013, the 70-room boutique property made a splash with its artist-in-residence programme, its graffiti-painted rooms, and A-list fan base (Charlie Sheen and Sean Penn are both repeat guests).
I have arrived for a weekend escape from my home in bustlingl New York, and when I discover my room comes with a private balcony overlooking the ocean (as all the rooms do), I consider the possibility of never leaving – or at least, until winter ends.
After an initial 24-hour settling in period, during which I test out the hotel pool and book a massage at the spa, I decide to venture out. My guide for the day, a local restaurateur named Daniel Talamante, meets me at his family’s restaurant, a rustic, art-filled compound named Villa Valentina. Next door, a newly erected Hyatt hotel symbolises the recent surge of corporate developments encroaching on San Jose del Cabo’s historic centre, but for now, the town remains a quieter alternative to hectic, resort-dense Cabo San Lucas.
Just outside town, we visit the San Jose Del Cabo Mercado Organico, a Saturday morning ritual beloved by locals and visitors alike. Picnicking families, clowns on stilts, and live folk bands give the scene a distinct fairground vibe, but it’s all about the food: everywhere I look, different vendors sell fruits and vegetables, honey, burritos, whole coconuts, homemade salsas, and fresh-baked bread. We could spend the whole day just sampling all the different stalls.
Heeding a local’s advice, I claim a bicycle from the rows lined up outside the hotel, and ride off into the sunset. A wide dirt road rings the marina, and I pass a boatyard and some large warehouses – at this time of day, the light is turning dark golden and guests are busy getting ready for dinner, so I have the entire path to myself. I decelerate to appreciate the neat rows of rocks and pointy cactus lining both sides of the trail; when I speed up again, a sweet smell of desert sage rushes under my nose. Overhead, a hang-glider drifts slowly across the sky.
I eventually reach the hotel’s Beach Club, an unadorned taco bar surrounded by a few tables and chairs facing out to the water. The short, sandy cove extends into two long breakers made of giant boulders (developers re-fashioned the coastline, rock by rock, to create one of the area’s only swimmable beaches). Down by the shore I let the waves wash over my feet. Off in the distance, fathers and their children cast fishing lines into the sea.
By the time I hop back on my bike, night has fallen, and I almost crash several times trying to avoid rocks in the road. When I finally reach the hotel, the porter seems displeased that I am out after dark. ‘Bikes only for daytime,’ he says. ‘At night, very dangerous.’
I mumble that I managed okay, and trudge off to the elevators to shower for dinner.
Need to know
British Airways flies direct to Mexico City from Dhs7,810 return. From Mexico City, Volaris operates direct flights to San Jose Cabo from Dhs949 return.