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San José del Cabo - Off the beaten track


Cabo San Lucas

At the other end of The Corridor, 32km (20mi) west of San José del Cabo, is the commercial mayhem and bar-fuelled hedonism of Los Cabos' primary resort town, Cabo San Lucas. It is the place to go if you've had a gutful of peace and quiet. This one-time Mexican village got its first taste of prominence in the early 17th century, when the Spanish based a presidio (military outpost) here to forcibly dissuade local pirates from scuttling their gold and silver-laden galleons. Four centuries later, it has metamorphosed into a leisure catchment for North American tourists and retirees, and is a favoured port for cruise ships. But despite all the noise emanating from the centre's crowded streets and its too-big hotels and malls, Cabo San Lucas has plenty of quieter bits where Mexican faces predominate and time-share hawkers are an unknown quantity, and the place also offers a raft of enjoyably distracting watersports.

Of the town's three main beaches, Playa Medano (Dune Beach) and Playa del Amor (Lover's Beach) are best-suited to swimming, kayaking and windsurfing - restrict yourself to sunbathing on Playa Solmar as the Pacific regularly throws down dangerous breakers here. Cruises in glass-bottom boats are a popular way of exploring the scenic confines of Bahía de Cabo San Lucas, while the plethora of sportfishing operators gives credence to the town's claim to being one of the world's best game fishing destinations, particularly for marlin. Divers and snorkellers vie for the short boat trips out to the sensational underwater sights at Roca Pelicano (Pelican Rock), the sea lion-infested Land's End, the daunting submarine canyons of Sand Falls and the perhaps metaphoric Neptune's Finger.

Reserva de La Biósfera Sierra de la Laguna

In the cape region's mountainous interior, 15km (9mi) northwest of San José del Cabo as the buzzard flies, are the lush, diverse forests of the 1128-sq-km (434-sq-mi) Sierra de la Laguna. It's one of Baja California's four biosphere reserves, a concept initiated in the 1970s by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) whereby swathes of naturally significant land in developing countries are fully protected within zonas núcleo (core areas) but locals are allowed to work certain surrounding areas using sustainable methods, hence balancing environmental and economic needs.

Sierra de la Laguna is a rugged, high-altitude wilderness of deciduous, coniferous and palm forests, the hills of which are alive with the sounds of experienced hikers and inexperienced foot-sloggers who have wisely signed up with local guides or organised excursions. There are four main (and unmarked) east-west crossings of the biosphere reserve to choose from: the central Cañón San Bernardo, a five-day haul considered the easiest route for walkers; the northern five to six-day Cañón San Dionisio, which guides you through an ecological wonderland of aspens, pines, palms and cacti; the southern Cañón San Pablo, also a five-day trudge; and the Naranjas Road in Sierra de la Laguna's far south, a treacherously narrow, potholed and arabesque dirt cutting that's frequently targeted by sturdy cars (usually 4WDs) and day-tripping mountain bikers. On-foot crossings of the Reserva de La Biósfera Sierra de la Laguna are begun from one of a number of foothill villages, all of which you'll need a car to get to unless you're on a tour.

Todos Santos

Right around on the western coast of the cape, but still only a two-hour bus trip from San José del Cabo, is the crafty town of Todos Santos. This small, charming grid of streets hosted a Jesuit visita (outstation) in the 18th century and later became a prosperous cane-milling centre; the crumbled remains of old trapiches (mills) are today piled up around town. But more recently Todos Santas has been invaded by creative refugees from the smothering entrepreneurial atmospheres of New Mexican arts strongholds like Taos and Santa Fe, and it consequently features numerous high-quality galleries - two streets where such places congregate are Legaspi and Juárez. In late January every year, Todos Santos stages a Festival de Artes, during which local artists open up their studios to the public.



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