Nearly two million visitors and growing are lured to Los Cabos (the Capes), the twin towns at the peninsula's southernmost tip, each year. Cabo San Lucas holds court on the Western cape and San José del Cabo rounds out the Eastern cape. Connected only by the Tourist Corridor, 33km (21 miles) of coastline studded with golf courses, luxury resorts, dramatic beaches, and master-planned communities, the two capes could not be more different.
Cabo San Lucas, also known as Land's End, is the rowdy younger sister who shoots cheap tequila while dancing on the table chanting, "what happens in Cabo stays in Cabo." The other side of San Lucas is a bling-flashing second cousin who frequents swanky clubs, ends the night in his oceanfront Jacuzzi, and cruises the coast in his luxury yacht. Somewhere in between are the fun-loving aunts and uncles who've come to fish for marlin and/or for a peep at Sammy Hagar.
On the other hand, San José del Cabo, on the eastern side of Baja's tip, is a decidedly more "Mexican" experience. Colorful 18th-century homes-turned-artisan shops, vibrant flowering trees, world-class waves, and exquisite restaurants draw well-tanned surf gypsies, jolly snowbirds in search of sun and margaritas, celebrities and executives looking for respite from the rat race, and couples and families who wake up early to enjoy a full day of outdoor fun. The tree-lined streets of the downtown area are particularly enchanting, and the melodies of ranchera or banda music float from century-old homes still inhabited after generations.
The golden days of Los Cabos began when silver-screen greats such as Bing Crosby, John Wayne, and Ava Gardner ventured south in the 1950s. Sportfishing was the first draw, but the transfixing landscape, rich waters, and nearly flawless climate quickly gained the favor of other explorers. The only way to get to the soon-to-be "marlin capital of the world" was by boat or private airplane. As such, Los Cabos was born of exclusivity and extravagance. Fishing remains a lure today, although surfing, hiking, diving, whale-watching, sea kayaking, and even spagoing are right up there. To be sure, golf may have overtaken it as the principal attraction. By the early 1980s, the Mexican government realized the growth potential of Los Cabos and invested in new highways, airport facilities, golf courses, and modern marine facilities. The increase in air access and the opening of Transpeninsular Hwy. 1 (in 1973) paved the way for spectacular growth.
The Los Cabos area is more expensive than other Mexican resorts because luxury is the norm among local hotels, and real-estate prices make the San Diego market seem tame. However, a new boom in all-inclusive resorts and off-season travel deals is making Los Cabos vacations more affordable.
You should consider renting a car, even if only for a day or two, because there's too much to see to spend an hour waiting at the bus stop or hundreds of dollars on expensive taxis. And to best understand Los Cabos, both capes need your attention.
Because of the distinctive character and attractions of each of the Cabos, they are treated separately here. It is common to stay in one -- or in the Corridor between -- and make day trips to the other.
Los Cabos: Your Home Away from Home?
If you spend any time eavesdropping at local coffee shops and gringo bars, you'll find the Baja peninsula is full of Americans, Canadians, and Europeans who came for a visit and never left. Owning property in Mexico is no longer as simple as plunking an RV on the beach, a la 30 years ago, but if you fall in love with Los Cabos -- or Baja in general -- you never have to leave, either.
Mexico has made it easy for foreigners to own their dream home on its shores. Through a fideicomiso, which is essentially a renewable trust, your home, condo, fractional ownership, or land by the sea is within reach. If you want to learn more about what's available in Los Cabos, check out the Baja Real Estate Guide (www.bajarealestateguide.com), a Los Cabos listings magazine that's not sponsored by any one particular real estate company and therefore showcases an unbiased range of options. Second, choose a reputable real-estate brokerage, such as Snell Real Estate (tel. 866/650-5845 in the U.S., or 624/105-8100; www.snellrealestate.com). A good agent will walk you through the process and help you find the ownership option that's right for you.
Another great resource for investors thinking about buying in Mexico is Mitch Creekmore and Tom Kelly's book, Cashing in on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent, and Profit from Real Estate South of the Border (Partners Pub Group Inc., 2005).