Every day, Mexico battles it's reputation as a country too dangerous for Americans to visit. In many spots around the country, that rep is well deserved. But of course, there are still enclaves where a robust tourist life still flourishes.
Riviera Maya, south of Cancun, is the quiet, family oriented choice for eco-tourism and white beach rebooting.
Tijuana is a brightly colored circus town, populated with Luchadors and pasty, bewildered fanny-packers looking for cheap tequila and generic-ish viagra to smuggle back home.
Ensenada is where you go, ironically, to write the Great American Novel, while gorging on inexpensive but delicious lobster and crisp cerveza.
But if you're looking for Spring Break with a side of Sriracha, there's only one place to visit: Cabo San Lucas. An affordable, tequila-soaked rave-y respite from the real world, only a few hours away from frigid cities all over North America.
Cabo sits at the tip - the very, very tip - of Baja California, which strangely enough, is still called Mexico. You know the iconic El Arco - and Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo tequila club and restaurant - but what you may not know, is that it's home to some of the best seafood and ocean fun in all of Mexico.
To celebrate the 'discovery' of the New World, we spent Columbus Day in Cabo, kicking off the fourth season of our comedic travel podcast, A Fork on the Road Show, with a live Periscope broadcast of our show poolside at the majestic Grand Solmar Resort, a newly built luxury resort literally carved out of the sheer rock cliffs along the pounding Pacific beach. Listen to the show and enter to win a VIP TRIP to our next live broadcast from the Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland, OH November 13-15, 2015.
Resorts in Mexico come in two flavors, All Inclusive and yeccch. With the US Dollar stronger than its been in years, now is a great time to visit select areas Mexico and indulge in a five star vacation on a two start budget. And when you do, here are the Top Five ways to turn your stay into la major fiesta del ãno.
1) PUT AWAY YOUR WALLET. Any resort worthy of your patronage will either be a full all-inclusive, or like the Solmar, offer an All-Inclusive option. For $50-$100/day you get everything you'd ever want to eat and drink while relaxing in a safe, lush paradise. This means no tipping, no currency conversion charges on your Visa, no stressing over bar tabs. Everything from expansive breakfast buffets - complete with a ridiculous medley of fresh fruit, meats, cheeses and egg dishes, to late night tequila jags in swim up pools, in included. Which makes it much easier for you to send a drink to the hottie in the hot tub, though sadly less impressive. Top shelf food and drink for a fraction of the price of eating at a traditional resort is great for your budget, but it also seeps into your consciousness, spawning a truly indulgent approach to your vacation. Which is a good thing, especially in a town known for its tequila varieties.
2) TALK THE TALK. Part of prying yourself off your couch and away from your screens is experiencing a totally foreign culture. And you can't truly immerse yourself if you can't - at the very least - kinda understand what the people around you are laughing at. Download a language App a month or so before you travel and play with it in the car and during boring office meetings. Then, by the time you arrive in paradise, you'll at least be able to kinda chat up the sexy locals. What good is Tinder if all you can do is stare and giggle? A few weeks of practice can yield yummy benefits. Or, just do what I did, marry someone who speaks three languages. During our live podcast, the Tri-Lingual Traveling Diva pulled people out of the pool and onstage to try their Gringo pronunciations on some Spanish phrases we feel are essential for a quality Resort Experience.
Video of a bikini-clad Arizona State coed, hilariously mumbling her way through the Spanish version of the phrase "Excuse me Cabana Boy, please ask the fat man in the hot tub to stop making all the Jacuzzi bubbles himself," is almost as funny as the housewife from Kansas City slurring her way to the Grand Prize with her emphatic reading of a common waiter complaint. Gotta see the contest for yourself.
3) EAT LOBSTER. AND MAHI MAHI. AND SASHIMI. AND GUAC. Because of it's ideal location at the very tip of the continent, where the waters of the mighty Pacific smash into the relatively docile currents of the Sea of Cortez, Cabo is home to some of the best Sport Fishing and fresh seafood in North America. Do not leave until you've tried several local Guacamole and Dorado (Mahi Mahi) and Lobster (Langosta) recipes. The best authentic local joint we found was Mariscos Las Tres Isla. Their Mahi Mahi had just been caught that morning, and tasted like it. On our show, Executive Chef Hector Lucas shared his award winning ceviche recipe, and grilled up a lobster over mesquite wood that had rough and tumble North Slope Alaskan Oil Workers begging for seconds - which of course they got...(see #1 above)
4) GET OFF! The best resorts in Cabo are clustered on the beaches surrounding the lively, central bar/restaurant/t-shirt district. Make time to walk into town to buy some handcrafted clothes, hats and T-shirts you can't find anywhere else... except every US beach I've ever been on. Use your nose to find the best local mami y papi restaurants, and always sample the chef's ceviche, it's how the chefs establish their local pecking order. Like New Orleans gumbo, the spicy and extremely fresh seafood salsa-ish concoctions are different at each restaurant, and often are family recipes handed down for generations. Our favorite was Hacienda Cochina y Cantina, right on the beach. The balance between the citrus, seafood and cerveza was the only thing that mattered... all day long. No wonder it's ranked as one of Cabo's Top Three independent restaurants.
Excursion companies like G-Force Adventures run affordably excellent ATV, Deep Sea Fishing and Watercraft tours. To make a good deal even better, use code GET DEAL to get a 15% discount at sign up. Book a day - or three - of sport fishing in the Marina in the center of town at one of the brightly decorated plywood kiosks run by local fishermen. For the best deals, go with a group and haggle for the best price. For a nominal fee, most captains can also turn your catch into sublimely scrumptious sashimi for your dinner.
For land lovers like me, a wild 2-hour ATV tour through a private, ocean front/jungle reserve is a great way to explore what Mexico has looked like for thousands of years. With curb service to/from your resort, they're a great group hangover cure, and spark plenty of arguing over who won your marathon ATV race through the wild. In our case, my wife says she won, I say she cheated. Watch the video and you be the judge.
5) THE PACIFIC. Because of the relentless, massive waves on the Pacific Coast, and the powerful undertow due to the massive drop-off mere yards out from the sand, swimming is not allowed... unless you sign a waiver of responsibility with the resort. So, technically, swimming IS allowed, but in a country with no tort or liability laws, it's the resort's way of making it easy to send your body home, postage due. To survive, either stay in a resort on the Sea of Cortez side, or take the idyllic 10-minute walk from the Pacific side to Medano Beach and swim your ass off. Finally, don't leave Cabo without taking a sunset glass bottomed boat tour around El Arco, the iconic rock formation at the peninsula's far southern tip known as Land's End. It's the best $10 USD you'll spend on the whole trip.
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