The Simple Life: The Attractions of Baja California Sur's Beautiful East Cape

For those that yearn for the simple pleasures of the “Old Baja,” or are seeking an antidote to the touristy hustle of Cabo San Lucas, the East Cape is the answer. Time seemingly stands still on this coastal stretch, which swells like a pregnant belly from the outskirts of San José del Cabo to Los Barriles and the beautiful Bay of Palms.

Fishing has always been the chief attraction for visitors to the region, and the East Cape was the site of some of the peninsula’s early fly-in fishing resorts in the 1950s. The fish rich water of the Sea of Cortés are still a big draw, particularly for annual bill and gamefish tournaments like Bisbee’s East Cape Offshore.

World-class conditions also exist, seasonally at least, for surfing, kiteboarding and windsurfing. Shipwrecks and Nine Palms are popular destinations for summer surfaris from Los Cabos; and when strong winter El Norte winds blow down the coast, places like La Ventana and Los Barriles become heaven on earth for windsports enthusiasts. Lord of the Wind, an annual kiteboarding competition in Los Barriles, will become the North American championship of the sport starting in January 2016.

The snorkeling and diving is also spectacular, particularly at Cabo Pulmo. This national marine sanctuary is home to eight fingers of living coral reef, and because of its protected status, now boasts the highest concentration of marine life in the Sea of Cortés.


Exotikite specializes in kiteboarding apparel, rentals and lessons. Their shop is located in the small East Cape town of Los Barriles, where the Lord of the Wind Showdown is held every January. The Lord of the Wind is one of, if not the, world's premier kiteboarding competition, and Los Barriles is a popular destination for extreme water sports aficionados from November through March, when the strong El Norte winds blow down the Sea of Cort–s. In addition to boards, wetsuits and sunglasses, the shop also offers espresso drinks and free Wi-Fi internet access. It's a block away from the town's two top hotels, Palmas de Cortez and Martin Verdugo's, steps away from the best taquer–a (El Viejo), and a short walk from the beach.

Recommended for East Cape's Best Attractions because: This is the premier kiteboarding equipment and apparel specialist on the East Cape.

Chris's expert tip: Exotikite is located next door to El Viejo, home of the most delicious tacos, spiciest salsas, and coldest beers in Los Barriles.

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Puerto Los Cabos opened in 2007 with an irresistible twist: the world's only composite course from Jack "The Golden Bear" Nicklaus and Greg "The Great White Shark" Norman. Norman designed the nine-hole Mission Course, highlighted by its 213-yard 6th, a par-3 with an elevated tee box that looks down from the equivalent of a 10-story building to a bunker fringed green set against a backdrop of nearly 10 miles of jaw-droppingly beautiful coastline. Nicklaus, meanwhile, designed the challenging nine-hole Ocean Course. The plan had always been for each of these nines to be expanded into its own 18-hole course, a plan which came to partial fruition in 2018 when Nicklaus returned to design his second nine-hole layout. The new addition has been dubbed Nicklaus II, to differentiate it from Nicklaus I, as the original Ocean Course is now known. No dates have been announced as yet for Norman's second nine, so as of this writing Puerto Los Cabos is operating much like Palmilla, in that visiting golfers can mix and match their favorite 18 from the 27 available holes.

Recommended for East Cape's Best Attractions because: This is the best golf course on the East Cape, and is conveniently close to San José del Cabo.

Chris's expert tip: Pull out your camera on the 6th tee. With the elevation of a 10-story building, you'll have views of 10 miles of gorgeous coastline, and of course a green that looks about the size of a postage stamp.

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East Cape community Cabo Pulmo provides easy access to one of the oldest and largest living coral reefs in the Western Hemisphere, in a national marine sanctuary that boasts the highest concentration of marine life in the Sea of Cort–s. This is a must visit destination for dive enthusiasts, and Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort offers all-inclusive packages that include accommodations in a rustic eco-bungalow, plus food and diving. Other package options at the 5-Star PADI Dive Resort include certifications. Classes and snorkel and dive tours are available daily through the onsite dive center. Typical dive depths range from 30 to 70 feet.

Recommended for East Cape's Best Attractions because: This is the premier dive shop at the best diving destination in Baja California Sur.

Chris's expert tip: All-inclusive eat, sleep and dive packages are available.

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The ambitious Puerto Los Cabos development outside San Jos– del Cabo is of interest to more than just residents and guests at its onsite luxury hotels. The 2000-acre property also boasts a wealth of interesting attractions: most notably art and golf. In addition to the onsite O Gallery, and a large cross from acclaimed contemporary artist Gabriel Macotela, the grounds also feature 15 bronze sculptures from famed surrealist Leonora Carrington, and work from artists in residence at the boutique Hotel El Ganzo. The 18-hole golf course is the world's only composite design from major champions Jack "The Golden Bear" Nicklaus and Greg "The Great White Shark" Norman. A dolphinarium, Dolphin Discovery, is located at the marina; a botanical garden, Wirikuta, is home to over 1,000,000 desert plants; charter fishing is available; and La Playita offers sunning and safe swimming.

Recommended for East Cape's Best Attractions because: Puerto Los Cabos is a convenient accommodation option for those seeking to explore the East Cape.

Chris's expert tip: Hotels and resorts at the property include El Ganzo, Secrets, JW Marriott, and a soon-to-open Ritz-Carlton Reserve.

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Bisbee's organizes three annual fishing tournaments in Baja California Sur: the East Cape Offshore in July or August, and the Los Cabos Offshore and Black & Blue in October. The latter dates to 1981, and is considered the world's richest fishing tournament (the 2006 payout of $4,165,960 is the largest in sportfishing history). The East Cape event debuted in 2000, and is a more laid-back affair. Teams pay $1,500 for entry - and a good deal more if they want to compete in daily jackpots and challenges – with prizes awarded to those who catch the most billfish (black, blue and striped marlin), tuna and dorado. The event is hosted by the Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort.

Recommended for East Cape's Best Attractions because: The Lord of the Wind and the East Cape Offshore are the two highest profile events held on the East Cape.

Chris's expert tip: Cash prizes go to the top three teams in each category, with 60% to the billfish winners, and 20% each to tuna and dorado champs.

Read more about Bisbee's East Cape Offshore →

Each winter, strong El Norte winds blow down the Sea of Cort–s, creating ideal wind and kite surfing conditions – consistent 15 to 30 mile per hour winds - in some coastal areas of Baja California Sur. The height of the windsports season occurs in January, when the world's best kiteboarders come to the beautiful East Cape town of Los Barriles, which since 2010 has been home to the region's most regal sounding sporting competition: the Lord of the Wind Showdown. Organized by the Rotary Club of Los Barriles, the showdown has grown each year, and now includes parties, concerts and fiestas in Los Barriles, as well as affiliated events in La Ventana, another regional windsports destination. In 2016, the annual competition becomes the North American IKA Kite Foil Championship, crowning a Lord and Lady of the Wind, and awarding over $22,000 in prize money.

Recommended for East Cape's Best Attractions because: Lord of the Wind is one of the most important annual events on the East Cape.

Chris's expert tip: Kiteboarding apparel, rentals and lessons are available at ExotiKite, or through local hotels like Palmas de Cortez.

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Surfing is a year round attraction in Baja California Sur, with summer traditionally the best time for breaks on the Sea of Cort–s side, winter for those on the Pacific Ocean side. Los Cabos has several fine sites – most notably Zippers and Monuments – but for those looking for a bit of an adventure, surfaris are available to more remote East Cape favorites like Shipwrecks and Nine Palms. The two beaches are located on either side of La Fortuna (Shipwrecks to the south, Nine Palms to the north), and both offer rippable point breaks, particularly when seasonal chubascos (tropical storms) generate exceptionally strong southerly swells.

Recommended for East Cape's Best Attractions because: Shipwrecks and Nine Palms are the two best surf sites on the East Cape.

Chris's expert tip: There are no rental shops, so you'll need to bring your own board and supplies. If you're renting a car, make sure it has 4-wheel drive.

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Located just south of Los Barriles, Buenavista gets its name from its lovely vantages of Bahia Las Palmas, the Bay of Palms. Herb Tansey helped put Buenavista on the map when he opened Rancho Buena Vista - one of the region's first fly-in fishing resorts - in 1952. Since then, the town has attracted a steady stream of visitors, thanks to its picturesque surroundings, superb fishing and kayaking, and convenient access to premier surf and dive sites along the East Cape. It's also not far from hiking and camping in the Sierra de la Laguna, the mountain range that forms the spine of Baja California Sur. Bisbee's, famous for its Black and Blue marlin fishing tournament 65 miles to the south in Cabo San Lucas, has been hosting a similar event - called the East Cape Offshore - at Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort since 2000.

Recommended for East Cape's Best Attractions because: Buenavista is one of the most picturesque communities on the East Cape.

Chris's expert tip: Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort is the town's premier accommodation option, as well as the de facto activities center.

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Cabo Pulmo is the heart and soul of the East Cape, accessible via a graded dirt road that connects coastal communities – from eco-bungalows and remote campsites to off-the-grid villages – between La Ribera and Zacatitos. The Cabo Pulmo National Park and its marine sanctuary is the area's biggest draw, an undersea fantasia of living coral reef with a remarkable concentration of marine life that includes sharks, dolphins, sea lions, eels, leaping mobula rays and endangered sea turtles. For visitors who don't have time for a East Cape weekend getaway, but don't want to miss Cabo Pulmo, jeep tours may be arranged through Los Cabos based company High Tide, and day trip diving adventures through Adventures in Baja, Cabo Adventures, and other area dive shops. The park has been protected since 1995, and includes over 27 square miles spanning land and sea. The beach is gorgeous here as well, with beachfront hangouts like Tacos & Beer offering chill vibes and and even chiller refreshments.

Recommended for East Cape's Best Attractions because: Cabo Pulmo is the heart of the East Cape, and offers easy access to the national marine sanctuary and its living coral reef.

Chris's expert tip: 4-wheel drive is recommended for rental car journeys to Cabo Pulmo.

Read more about Cabo Pulmo National Park →

Sometimes called "the jewel of the East Cape," Los Barriles also acts as the coastal region's de facto capital. It has the best restaurants, the best shopping, and the best hotels of any coastal community between San Jos– del Cabo and La Paz. That said, it's a small town, with two main streets, and little nightlife. Popular with expatriates and retirees, Los Barriles is notable for the high percentage of people who ride around on mini ATVs, and also for its world-class conditions for fishing and windsports. Palmas de Cortez , the signature property of the small hotel group founded by East Cape pioneer Bobby Van Wormer, maintains its own fishing fleet, and offers accommodations packages that include discounted opportunities to fish for dorado, tuna, wahoo and roosterfish, as well as marlin and sailfish. And Lord of the Wind, the annual kiteboarding competition that will soon serve as the North American championship of the sport, is the highlight of a windsports season that stretches from mid-November to mid-March.

Recommended for East Cape's Best Attractions because: Los Barriles is the de facto capital of the East Cape, and a must visit for anyone interested in the area.

Chris's expert tip: Charlie's Chocolates is an excellent stop for souvenir candies, and the town best tacos can be found at El Viejo.

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Meet Chris Sands

Chris Sands is the Cabo San Lucas local expert for the USA Today travel website 10 Best, writer of Fodor's Los Cabos travel guidebook, and a contributor to numerous websites and publications,...  More About Chris