Kiteboarding and Windsurfing
The powerful side shore winds at Los Barriles are best attempted by intermediate and advanced kiteboarders and windsurfers.
In the peak season, November–April, wind speeds frequently exceed 20 knots and rarely drop below 18 knots. Beginners can usually get in the water during calmer early morning conditions.
Instructors say windsurfers should know how to water-start or plan to take a lesson to learn how when they arrive. By 11 A.M. most days, the winds kick up a rolling swell (no breaking waves) that is fun for jumping.
Frequent “downwinders” to Buena Vista are a particularly fun way to enjoy the breeze. The trip begins at North Beach in Los Barriles and ends two hours later in Buena Vista, with a shuttle ride back to Los Barriles. Water temperatures average about 22–24°C in winter, with air temperatures around 26–27°C.
The Vela Windsurf Resort (U.S./Canada tel. 541/387-0431 or 800/223-5443, Los Barriles, www.velawindsurf.com, Nov.–Mar.) provides windsurfing instruction, rental gear, and accommodations packages. At last check, it had more than 80 Starboard- and JP Australia-brand boards and more than 100 Neil Pryde sails—the largest stock of equipment anywhere in Baja.
Vela also has a kiteboarding program through a partnership with ExotiKite (US$75 per hour).
Both Vela schools are based at the Hotel Playa del Sol (tel. 624/141-0050, toll-free U.S. tel. 877/777-8862, www.vanwormerresorts.com, closed Sept.). Seven-night packages start at US$1,000–1,300 and include all gear, instruction (except for novice windsurfers), accommodations, meals, tax, and service. No-meal options were a new addition in 2010.
Guests may borrow kayaks and mountain bikes anytime during their stay for no charge. Other activities free of charge include snorkeling, tennis, and volleyball. Scuba diving, kiteboarding lessons, and horseback riding cost extra.
Bahía de las Palmas is an exciting place to fish because the sea floor drops to great depths not far from the shoreline. The reef extending out from Punta Pescadero is great for triggerfish, barred pargo, and cabrilla. Less than a mile from land, you can find depths that exceed 100 fathoms.
The popular Tuna Canyon, 6.5 kilometers south of Punta Pescadero, is the place to catch yellowfin tuna. Several charter services based along the bay offer trips on pangas (US$200–260/day) and cruisers (US$200–325/day). Bait costs around US$20–25 per day. A popular day trip when the conditions aren’t too windy is to travel north by boat to Bahía de los Muertos, fish on the way, and stop for lunch at Restaurant 1535.
In Los Barriles, Martin Verdugo’s Beach Resort (tel. 624/141-0054, www.verdugosbeachresort.com) and the Hotel Palmas de Cortez (tel. 624/141-0050, toll-free U.S. tel. 877/777-8862, www.vanwormerresorts.com) offer fishing packages; the concierge at the Hotel Palmas de Cortez (tel. 624/141-0050, toll-free U.S. tel. 877/777-8862, www.vanwormerresorts.com) can arrange fishing trips for guests and nonguests.
In addition, Baja’s Awesome Sportfishing (tel. 624/141-0231, U.S. tel. 208/726-1955, www.eastcaperv.com/awesome_sportfishing.html), headquartered at the East Cape RV Resort, operates two cruisers, a 30-foot island hopper, and a 32-foot Blackfin sportfisher. The most popular captains in Los Barriles and Buena Vista, including Julio Cota and Chuy Cota, book a year in advance for weekend visits, so plan your trip early.
Juan Carlos of La Capilla Sportfishing and Eco Tours (tel. 624/141-0611) runs charters on a diesel-powered panga.
Fish with Me (toll-free U.S. tel. 800/347-4963, www.fishwithme.com) owner Jerry Hall has been fishing the East Cape since 1973 and organizes group trips several times a year.
Since the sea floor plunges to great depths so close to shore, it’s possible to catch unusually large fish simply by casting into the surf from the shoreline. Punta Pescadero, Punta Colorada, and Punta Arenas are three of the best places to try; roosterfish and jack crevalle are common catches.
East Cape Kayak Fishing (U.S. tel. 619/461-7172, www.eastcapekayakfishing.com) offers several guided trips a year out of the Hotel Punta Colorada and Rancho Leonero, with an emphasis on paddling and angling instruction. Owner Jim Sammons is famous for having landed a marlin from a kayak, the only person to date to have done so. An all-inclusive package that includes five nights and four days of fishing starts at US$1,032 per person, all-inclusive (double occupancy). In addition to scheduled small-group trips, the staff offers private trips.
East Cape Tackle (Plaza del Pueblo, Los Barriles, no tel., eastcapetackle [at] gmail [dot] com, 9 A.M.–5 P.M. Mon.–Fri., 9 A.M.–2 P.M. Sat.) sells bait and tackle and also rents surf rods, pole spears, and snorkeling gear; plus, you can pay with plastic.
Todo de Pesca (20 de Noviembre, Los Barriles, tel. 624/124-8061, 9 A.M.–2 P.M. and 4–6 P.M. Mon.–Sat.), run by Ricardo Reyes, is a new fishing store well stocked with all the basics, plus some spearfishing gear.
Baja Papa’s East Cape Smokehouse (20 de Noviembre at Calle Don Pepe, tel. 624/141-0294, www.bajapapas.com, 9 A.M.–6 P.M. daily) offers processing services for your catch. Allow 48 hours turnaround time to have them smoke (US$3.50 per pound of fillet) or freeze (US$1.25 per pound to flash freeze fillets) and package it for your trip home. The smoking process uses natural smoke from imported sugar maple and hickory woods, local fresh fish, sea salt, brown sugar, and organic honey. The store has started a travel club that extends discounts on auto insurance and other services to its members.
Buena Vista has a reputable dive center located on the beach, next to the Vista del Mar trailer park. Vista Sea Sport (tel. 624/141-0031, Buena Vista, www.vistaseasport.com) is run by two PADI-certified dive instructors from Southern California who own three super-pangas and one cruiser.
However, boat rides to the major sites—Cabo Pulmo, Los Frailes, Punta Pescadero, and Isla Cerralvo—are long and rates are higher (US$125–140 for a two-tank dive) than at shops based in La Paz or Cabo Pulmo. Scuba gear rental is US$30 with a tour. Airfills cost US$10; snorkeling gear US$10.
Look for a giant earthmover that serves as the boat launch. To find the shop from Mexico 1, take the turn across from the Calafia Hotel and then turn left at the T in the dirt road and follow the signs.
ATVs are a popular mode of transportation in Los Barriles. Inquire about rentals and tours at Amigos ATV Tours (Calle Los Barriles near Plaza del Pueblo, Los Barriles, tel. 624/141-0430, www.amigosactivities.com) on the main access road. Tours cost US$60–70 for a single rider and US$75–90 for a double. Rental rates are US$20 per hour or $100 per day. Amigos also rents WaveRunners and leads horseback rides and snorkeling tours. Other possibilities include hikes, bird-watching, mountain biking, and snorkeling. You can book any of these activities through the concierge at the Hotel Palmas de Cortez, whether or not you are staying at the resort.
Quadman (tel. 624/168-6087, cell tel. 624/168-6087, www.quadman.net), across from the Amerimed clinic on the north side of Calle Los Barriles near the T intersection at 20 de Noviembre, also rents ATVs (US$85/day) and Rhinos (US$135/day). Rhinos seat four people, and you must be 35 or older to drive. ATVs have racks for fishing poles, though riders must stay at least 20 meters from the high-tide line to protect turtle nests.
Vela Windsurf Resort (Los Barriles, U.S./Canada tel. 541/387-0431 or 800/223-5443, www.velawindsurf.com) at the Hotel Playa del Sol rents Specialized mountain bikes for coastal and desert rides. Clip-less pedals are an option, so bring your shoes. They also have children’s bikes, a trail-a-bike, and a kid’s trailer.
Above the gym in the Hotel Palmas de Cortez, at the end of Calle Los Barriles, Spa de Cortez (tel. 624/141-0050, ext. 616, spadecortez [at] yahoo [dot] com) offers Swedish, therapeutic, and sports massage, plus aromatherapy, body scrubs, facials, and waxing services. A one-hour massage is US$80 and a 90-minute treatment is US$115.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition