There’s Cabo San Lucas. Then there’s East Cape. Both easily accessible from Los Cabos International Airport, each offers a shot at heart-pounding fishing action in the waters surrounding the tip of Mexico’s fabled Baja California peninsula.
Yet, those are about the only similarities between the two Cabos. They are separated by roughly 100 miles of desert coastline, rugged headlands and sweeping white-sand beaches, as well as a profound difference in tourism philosophies. One focuses on heavy commercialization, while the other holds back on rampant growth with an eye toward preserving the unique experience of fishing in Old Mexico.
There are indeed sport-fishing-oriented resorts between the two Cabos — including the Marina Puerto los Cabo near San Jose del Cabo and the fledgling Costa Palmas Marina near the town of La Ribera — but the great majority of visiting anglers choose to stay at either Cabo San Lucas or East Cape.
As a first-time visitor, how do you decide which destination is right for you?
The most important question to ask yourself is, “What kind of experience am I looking for: great fishing spiced by the nightlife of a party town, or great fishing blended with tranquil evenings overlooking the Sea of Cortez?”
Answer this question, then decide to venture southward from the airport to the bustling tourist town of Cabo San Lucas, or trek northward to the remote resorts of East Cape. Here’s what you will find at each.
Cabo San Lucas
On a recent sojourn to Cabo San Lucas, I awoke early each morning and took a stroll in the pre-dawn darkness. From the heights of Paseo de la Marina, I could gaze inland across a vast expanse of city lights and felt a sense of amazement, tempered by nostalgia.
The once-sleepy fishing town has passed into angling history, having morphed into a sprawling metropolis with a population conservatively estimated at nearly 92,000 and growing.
My destination during the morning walks was the centerpiece of this town, Marina Cabo San Lucas. With 380 slips, 24-hour security, a launch ramp, fuel docks, ships store, shore power and its own desalination plant, this marina is state of the art. Managed by Island Global Yachting, it is one of the largest marinas in Baja and rivals any recreational port in the United States.
For anglers, mornings start early. It was still dark by the time I arrived, but the docks brimmed with activity as crew members loaded charter boats with fishing gear, ice and provisions. Food carts along the malecon (the esplanade surrounding the marina) prepared and sold hot breakfast burritos and lunches for departing anglers and crew members.
Yet the docks empty quickly around dawn as the fleet pulls out and funnels through the main channel. Many boats stop just outside the harbor to purchase live bait. A number of local bait fishermen in their pangas are usually standing by, having fished all night to load their wells with Pacific mackerel and caballitos (bigeye scad).
In recent years, a large bait boat, Francesca, operated by Jorge Tellez, owner of the Gaviotas and Solmar charter-boat fleets, has also been stationed outside the harbor to supply live bait.
Once baited up, the boats cruise past the famous rock formations at Finnisterra (Land’s End), including El Arco, the massive stone arch that ranks as the most identifiable landmark of Cabo San Lucas, in pursuit of glory fish, including three species of marlin — black, blue and striped — as well as dorado, wahoo, tuna, sailfish and even swordfish.
When you’re tired of bluewater fishing, target cabrilla (leopard grouper), sierra mackerel (similar to Spanish mackerel, but larger), pargo (species of snapper) and one of the most prized of all inshore species, roosterfish.
About 45 miles northward from the airport, along Baja’s main transportation artery — Mexico 1 — through the cactus-studded Sonoran desert, are the resorts of East Cape, including Buena Vista Beach Resort, Hotel Palmas de Cortez, Hotel Playa del Sol, Rancho Leonero and others.
Shadowed by the craggy, towering peaks of the Sierra la Trinidad mountain range to the west, each resort is perched on a beach with a view of the Sea of Cortez
Virtually all of the East Cape resorts offer packages with accommodations, meals and fishing. Though there are opportunities to dine in the nearby town of Los Barriles, visiting anglers choose to spend most of their time at the resorts when they’re not fishing.
“East Cape is far more remote and quiet than Cabo San Lucas, and if you’re looking for nightclubs, you won’t find them here,” says Gary Graham, who has been driving down to Baja destinations from the United States since 1973 and pens the Baja Beat column for Western Outdoor News.
Graham is also a representative-at-large for the International Game Fish Association. “I’ve spent more time in East Cape than anywhere else,” he reveals.
East Cape resorts differ in style and amenities, says Graham. “Rancho Leonero, for example, offers more of a fish-camp experience, has great access to the beach, and has assembled one of the biggest panga fleets in the area,” Graham reports.
On the other hand, Hotel Palmas de Cortez — part of the Van Wormer Resorts — is more sophisticated, Graham reports. “Hotel Playa del Sol, also a Van Wormer property, is next door and more like a motel design and less expensive than Palmas,” he says. As an alternative, Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort offers “a more Mediterranean experience,” Graham adds.
To learn more about East Cape resorts, packages and rates, visit eastcaperesorts.com.
Getting to Cabo
Los Cabos International Airport is served by a host of air carriers, including American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest and United, with service from major U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Houston, New York JFK, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington D.C. Check with your travel agent, travel website or airline website to find the best fares, dates and times.
When you book your accommodations, ask about transfers from the airport to the hotel. Some hotels and resorts bundle the shuttle service to and from the airport into your booking package. From the airport to Cabo San Lucas is about 40 minutes. It takes about an hour to reach East Cape resorts from the airport.
Back in the day, the quality and selection of tackle provided by sport-fishing charter boats was — in a word — inconsistent. That forced many visiting anglers into the hassle of taking a selection of their own tackle as luggage.
That’s no longer the case, at least in Cabo San Lucas and East Cape. Charter operators at those hot spots provide top-notch rods and reels spooled with fresh line. And they provide the lures, leader line and terminal tackle for any opportunity that might arise.
If you really want to bring an outfit or two, for marlin trolling, think about Shimano Tiagra 30W trolling reels spooled with 50-pound-test monofilament and matched to custom 6-foot trolling rods equipped with AFTCO roller guides.
For casting live baits to marlin, a Shimano Torium 30 spooled with 40-pound monofilament with a wind-on 80-pound-test leader and a 7-foot medium-heavy action rod with conventional ring guides would be a good choice. You can also use this for dorado or roosterfish.
By: Sporfishing Mag