Feel like some WARM water?
Cabo is one of the few spots on the planet where you are exposed to two major swell directions within a one hour drive. It’s usually not flat in both windows, north and south.
It’s April 2014 and I am updating A Surfers Guide To Cabo, this living guide for the 5th time after my, yes you guessed it, my # five trip in the last few years.
I have surfed all over the world and ridden some of the best waves on the planet…AND I have to say that getting on a plane and flying for 2 hours from LAX to ‘warm water, two swell windows’ and Mexican cuisine gets more and more attractive each year!
I’ve been traveling to Mexico for a few decades now and every time I go, I am reminded of the jewel just south of the border. I used to travel to mainland Mexico every year and surf the beaches of La Ticla and the surrounding region, but as violence has peculated in those areas I have diverted my surf energies to Baja, mainly the tip.
Book your airline ticket for about $350—you’ll want to fly to San Jose Del Cabo (airport code SJD). I like Alaska Airlines because they treat surfers right at $50 per board bag—no matter what you put in it or how many surfboards you stuff your bag with. The Cabo airport sits about 20 minutes from downtown San Jose and about 30 minutes from San Lucas. If you are into the party thing then you’ll want to head towards San Lucas and hang out with the college trippers, strippers and overweight cruise ship peeps. However, for a more relaxed setting check out San Jose—which is located closer to the Eastern Cape and also has plenty of waves right in town. You can be surfing within 40 minutes of landing.
Going through customs is easy and you don’t need a visa if you are an American citizen, but you will need a valid passport. For information on getting a passport head on down to your local US Postal Office or check out this link.
The three main breaks in town are Old Man’s, Zippers, and The Rock. All of them are within paddling distance of each other and offer a progressively faster wave, check out the names and you’ll know which is which. You can see all breaks from the road (just head towards San Lucas). Below Zippers there is a dirt parking lot below the bridge and for Old Man’s you need to park behind the Cabo Surf Hotel. Word on the street (April 2014) is that they are going to privatize the access to Old Man’s with a new development going in, so that break might become less accessible in the near future.
There is a hotel right in front of Old Man’s and right next to Zippers and The Rock called Cabo Surf Hotel—if you got the cash (like $250+ per night) this is your best location because you are steps from the surf. It’s a really nice hotel with a pool and good food. Watch your bros hit the lip while you stuff your face with excellent Mexican food. Check other hotels here on Trip Advisor. When you land you’ll need to rent a car. If you can afford it (you can) get something more 4x4ish than not. I’ve gotten stuck and had to be pulled out on 2 of the last 5 trips, not bad odds for Baja.
The road out to the Eastern Cape is dirt and can be full of potholes. Get the insurance—if you don’t, the roads will rip apart your wallet and you’ll be faced with an unexpected (‘mordidas’) fees at the end of your trip. The drive out to the Eastern Cape is about one hour depending on where you go, it’s not a bad drive at all. You might want to consider camping out on the beach a night or two if the swell is pumping. Camping is free in most places and totally safe, but you’ll need to take some shade with you to protect yourself from the relentless heat during the day. Trees? Nada.
The winds tend to come up around 9 and mess with the lineup, so you’ll want to get on it early. The good news is that they also tend to back off around 4pm, allowing you a few hours to get in a good evening session. Here is a great resource for the wind on the eastern cape, I used it my last trip and planned several good sessions based on the data, it is very accurate: Eastern Cape wind conditions. Anything under 5 knots is acceptable and watch out for those nasty easterly gusts.
The Surf Cabo San Jose & Eastern Cape
Depending on where you surf you can find all types of waves in Cabo, from beach-break on the Pacific side to endless points breaks on the Eastern Cape. As I mentioned before, within one hour driving you have two coasts (and swell directions) to choose from. The Pacific side is exposed to north swell and will pick up most wind swell or ground swell from the north. San Jose and the Eastern Cape pick up anything with a south in it—any kind of south.
I shouldn’t have to remind you, but please be respectful to the locals. Every surfer that visits Cabo is an ambassador and you need to remember that we are visitors in their home. Most locals are really cool and they will go out of their way to help you—if you get snaked in the water it will usually be by another gringo.
If you need a guide or some help finding your way you can check out SurfingCabo.com and ask them to take you around. I met the owner and he was a nice guy that rips a SUP. They got boards for rent and will take you out to the waves along with a few friends, if you desire. Right in town (San Jose) hit up Old Man’s for a meow session or paddle down to The Rock or Zippers for more challenging waves. To the east and at the end of hotel row are some waves at The Estuary. This was actually the first wave I surfed in Cabo and it can get really fun. I did learn later that it is one of the most polluted breaks.
I had an epic session at The Rock, one of the best I have had in a while. Super fun! You can paddle to The Rock from Old Man’s or check it from the cliff. For best positioning, sit just behind the big rock and pick off the sets—watch the locals, they’ll show you how it’s done.
Once you are ready to experience the Eastern Cape, head east towards downtown and cross the large concrete bridge towards La Playa. You’ll make a few twists and turns along the way but just keep following the signs for Eastern Cape.
The road turns into dirt about ten minutes in and you’ll start to see the swells slamming into the coast. The first fun wave you’ll come across is called Shipwrecks, about 40 minutes out of town to the East. Shipwrecks is a nice right-hander off a beautiful point. There is a left in the middle of the beach too. When you see the Virgin Mary library you know you have found it. Really, I am serious. Oh, and the ship is gone, so don’t look for that.
Nine Palms is another break another 15 minutes down the road. It is a super fun point-break with some long rights an the occasional left.
Between 9 Palms and Shipwrecks is another fun waves called La Fortuna which offers a few options in the bay and also a right that breaks fast off an inside rock.
There is a good restaurant at La Fortuna and has better camping than the other locations. If the swell is huge (or if there is a hurricane) you can continue on past 9 Palms and you’ll find a few more waves. The further along the cape you go the smaller the surf will get.
Cabo San Jose Surf Shop & Food
Did you forget wax or sun block?
The best surf shop in town is Costa Azul Surfshop. I bought a rash vest that I used every day while there and a pair of booties that I never put on (I’ll save them for Bali). There is another shop in town next to the Kiss Brew and Rock bar on the main drag. There are also a few shops popping up near Zippers, so if you snap your board and need one you’ll be able to pick one up.
Shooters downtown has a really good vege burger and cold Coronas for 10 pesos. The best place to eat in town is the Guacamaya. This is of my all-time favorite Mexican eateries EVER.
You’ll love it!
People tend to like The Drunken Sailor in La Playa area (across the bridge) for good seafood and some nice chill atmosphere. I thought their Margaritas were tops. This entire area is growing and has a nice feel to it, they just put in a beautiful hotel called El Ganzo right on the marina, might be worth taking your lady there for a drink or a night away from downtown.
If you are chilling with your woman or want to go out and have an excellent organic meal, then head for Huerta Los Tamarindos out in the fields towards the Eastern Cape. Finding the place is not easy and I am not going to even attempt to explain it, but it’s worth taking the effort to visit. They have a great wine list and some of the best views possible, and this is by far my favorite place to eat in Baja. Mexico isn’t known for its wine, but there are some nice reds coming out of Northern Baja; and though I have found it hit-and-miss (mainly miss), I do like the reds being produced by La Cetto and I have been pleasantly surprised by their quality. Los Tamarindos has it on their menu and it’s worth getting.
For some good Italian food cooked to your liking check out Rustico and say ‘Hola’ to Perla and Javier, the owners. Sit at the bar, you’ll enjoy talking with the owners and sharing their passion for food.
For the best coffee and Italian ice cream in town, check out the The Dolce Villa, they got organic beans from Oaxaca and a real Italian coffee machine.
If you are looking for a surf instructor while in Cabo ask for Victor at La Dolce Villa and he’ll find you one.
Surf: The Pacific
I know you came for warm water and point breaks, but sometimes you just got to go where the surf is and that might very well lead you to the Pacific side of Cabo. I had done several trips to southern Baja before I ventured onto the Pacific side and I have to report that I really enjoy both the atmosphere and surf in this region.
You’ll have to trade your long points for beach break and cobble stone reefs, but when you pull up to A-frame peaks or barreling green mountains, you’ll be stoked that you ventured over to the Pacific. From San Jose head toward San Lucas and just before you drop down towards the spring-break marauding streets of San Lucas, you turn right towards La Paz and Todos Santos.
About 30 minutes later, thanks to the newly paved four-lane highway, you’ll find yourself at Cerritos. Cerritos is located off to the left of the highway and it is the first major establishment (if you can call it that) since leaving the suburbs of San Lucas. You’ll see several hotels out on the beach and you need to head north toward the right that you’ll see breaking off the point. This is a fast wave and can be very ledgy at any tide and I find that it tends to get better at low tide with more markable sections. You can park at the restaurant on the beach as long as you buy a cold beer after you surf—worth the peace of mind you’ll have knowing all is good with your vehicle—also worth the cold beer and delicious guacamole they start serving at 11:30am.
Just before Cerritos there is a break called the curve. I have never surfed it, but I could see from the road that it had a good set-up. Past Cerritos is Pescadero, here you will find a great right point-break called San Pedrito which is a rippable wave and can hold some big swell that swings off the point.
Todos Santos is my new favorite town in Cabo. It’s a bit artsy and rustic with just the right amount of hippy. Todos Santos reminds me of what northern Baja used to be like when I was growing up, before the narco problems invaded the Tijuana surroundings. There is a feeling of things being a bit wild-west like, yet with enough comforts of home that you don’t feel totally disconnected (though you can unplug easily if desired). In town you can find some great food, a good cup of coffee (Baja Beans) or an internet connection to check the swell.
Two places with great grub and an awesome atmosphere in Todos Santos are Café Santa Fe and La Esquina. La Esquina is a more casual hang-out and conveniently located near the beaches to the north of Todos Santos. Café Santa Fe is where you go to take your gal or to have an excellent meal after a long surf. It is a little pricy but WAY worth every peso. Hotel California is also worth a visit with some excellent local dishes and live music most days during the high season.
There is surf to the south and north of Todos Santos and likely tons of waves I don’t even know about, it’s the end of the road but in many ways feels like the beginning.
I think that’s it for this trip, I’ll be heading back down in a few months and stay tuned for more updates and lots more stoke.
Derek, Updates From Cabo April 5, 2014
Spas and Massages
There is nothing like a good deep massage after several days of surfing. Every time I return to Cabo, I see more and more spas springing up. The one I have been going to for years is next to the Pescadero mall (where Rock & Brew is located). The spa is called Moonlight and they offer one hour massages for $40. I highly recommend this place—no happy endings here, I am sure you can find those types of ‘treatments’ elsewhere in Cabo.
Tel. +52 123 51 40
Did you love Cabo so much that you’d like to move there or maybe build a surf shack to escape the winters?
Check out these site for real estate investment opportunities:
1) For properties all over Mexico: Investment Properties Mexico
2) For properties in Cabo and surrounding areas: Baja Smart
3) For properties around Todos Santos and the surrounding towns: Ricardo Amigo
9 Palms Video