San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
When someone mentions (or yells) the surname of the Mexican locale of Cabo, it conjures images of sunburnt, drunk tourists behaving in any number of embarrassing ways and is enough to make any well seasoned traveler shudder. The following is an account of a different Cabo, San Jose del Cabo: the artsy, design obsessed kid sister to the spring break headquarters of Cabo San Lucas, 60 miles to the east, guarding the entrance to the Sea of Cortez.
Skip the trashy all inclusive resorts and stay right by the town square at the Tropicana Inn that radiates Mexican colonial style architecture with palm trees towering above the courtyard. Little songbirds flutter in the trees and they have a fucking parrot, it's hard to get more tropical villa than that.
This list is hand-picked and curated from a combination of top ten lists and recommendations from the locals. All experienced first hand, so if it's a pricey spot it's worth the pesos and if it's not, it's worth the walk. But always remember, "good food and good eating are about risk" - A. Bourdain.
The natural beauty of this place is extraordinary and the possibilities seem endless. Choose your own adventure but leave things better than you found them.
The Estuary and surrounding beach: Grab your beach stuff and head south on Calle Boulevard Antonio Majires. On foot, pass by the hotel cluster-fuck via a palm grove to the east. The freshwater estuary has 350+ species of wildlife (yes you should bring binoculars fool), the lush vegetation is fed by underground aquifers, and the lagoon is one of the few oases in the nearly desolate lower Baja peninsula. Do not swim in the ocean here, the current from the Sea of Cortez will suck you out and feed you to its creatures. If the water level is high rent a kayak and pick up trash in the estuary.
The Canyon of the Fox (Cañón de la Zorra) + Cascada Sol de Mayo: None of us deserve to know about this place but here we go anyway. Take highway 1 North turn off towards Santiago. It is a small town about 45 minutes past the airport and there is a sign posted on the road. In Santiago, follow the signs for Sol de Mayo, you will end up following a long sandy road for 10 minutes heading away from the water, you are looking for the Rancho Ecologico. The oasis is on private land + it is part of a protected zone which is immaculately maintained by a kind old man and his cat (and maybe others but that's not important.) The public can access it for $75 Pesos ($5US) per person. To avoid other people aim to arrive after lunch. Follow the naturally formed steps down to the river bed, swim in the warm pools or lay like lizards on the hot rocks. Pack everything out, if you see trash pick it up and take it with you, don't be an asshole.
Don't get in over your head: there are more than a dozen galleries to explore and architectural masterpieces doubling as hotels scattered along the coastline, here are the standouts.