Although Los Cabos is home to luxurious resorts, pampering spas, world-class sportfishing, championship level golf courses, and a rowdy uninhibited nightlife scene, the city lacks authenticity and a bit of bucolic Mexican charm. This is one of the reasons day trips are such a popular pastime for visitors. Todos Santos, an artists' colony and home of the Hotel California, is a popular destination, as are the hot springs of Miraflores, and the traditional village of Candelaria, which still exists without benefit of electricity. But for sheer beauty, one of the most rewarding day trip destinations is a lovely little town on the East Cape called Los Barriles. It's a one hour drive north of San Jose del Cabo, and 90 minutes from Cabo San Lucas.
Los Barriles combines small-town charm with spectacular Sea of Cortez views and some great big-game fishing in Bahia Las Palmas, the Bay of Palms. A popular retirement area for American expatriates, Los Barriles is probably most famous for its annual Lord of the Wind competition, which draws some of the world's best kiteboarders and windsurfers. The town is Baja's kiteboarding mecca, particularly popular during the winter months, when the strong El Norte winds come whipping down the coast.
Los Barriles is a kiteboarders paradise. — Photo courtesy of Exotikite
Exotikite is the best place in town to arrange kiteboarding apparel, rentals and lessons, and the shop, situated just a block from the beach, also offers stand up paddle surfboards, kayaks, and other water sports rentals. The beach itself merits at least a brief mention, as it features beautiful white sands and shaded grill stations, and is virtually deserted during the off-season summer months. El Viejo is next door to ExotiKite, and is the most likely place to find locals during the lunch hour, when they congregate for tacos and ice-cold Pacificos under the restaurant's enormous palapa roof. The palapa provides a great deal of shade, and gives diners a welcome respite from the noonday sun.
If El Viejo is a fashionable stop during the middle of the day, Road Runner Cafe is popular all day. This cool little 1950s style diner provides the best omelets and burritos in town, and is also a mandatory stop for lovers of American-style burgers and old-fashioned milkshakes. Visitors will also want to stop by Charlie's Chocolates. Expatriate Charlie Hampton runs a delightful little shop that produces the most delicious confections to be found anywhere on the East Cape, and he is generous with his free samples. Hampton also offers excellent ice tea and ice cream, both great ways to beat the Los Barriles heat.
Dining at Palmas de Cortez. — Photo courtesy of Van Wormer Resorts
ExotiKite is the king of kiteboarding in Los Barriles, but the most varied activities menu is featured by the town's best resort. Palmas de Cortez, a Van Wormer property, boasts a gorgeous beachfront property and offers packages that include a combination of accommodation and charter fishing trips. The resort also has a nine-hole golf course, an excellent day spa, and of course kiteboarding and windsurfing rentals and lessons. For those who wish to extend the day trip and stay overnight, Palmas de Cortez is unquestionably the best resort choice, although Martin Verdugo's is another good option, and is probably the top stop for budget-minded travelers. Verdugo's has air-conditioned rooms, a great location near the beach, and an onsite RV park, all at extremely affordable rates.
Los Barriles' premier resort, the lovely Palmas de Cortez. — Photo courtesy of Van Wormer Resorts
And if you do stay overnight, be sure and return to Los Cabos via Cabo Pulmo, an even smaller town than Los Barriles, but situated near a marine sanctuary that is home to the oldest and largest living coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, and some of the world's best scuba diving.