Vanlife diaries #43: East Cape, San José del Cabo & Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur Mexico￼
Enjoying our time in Cabo Pulmo National Park so much last week (and missing it the moment we drove away), we ended up driving right back up to Baja’s East Cape at the start of this week and sacrificing time in the busy resort centres of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. It was the best decision we could have made and a great farewell to the Sea of Cortez, which has been our playground for the last month.
What we’ve been up to this week
Setting off from Cabo Pulmo National Park, our original plan was to drive a short distance inland to Santiago, drawn by the promise of hot springs and waterfalls.
We crossed the Tropic of Cancer around midday and gorged ourselves on ice cream, delighted to be off on another adventure, but as we continued our drive, it became increasingly clear that we’d neglected proper research—the camping options near the hot springs actually seemed pretty grim (expensive and with a creepy male owner who lurked around watching females change? No gracias).
With growing apprehension, we blazed ahead anyway, but within a few minutes of turning onto the narrow sandy access road, we’d already had to reverse twice for oncoming traffic and nearly gotten ourselves stuck in loose sand along the perimeter.
We’d just THAT morning aired our tires back up from our last sandy drive in the National Park, an ordeal that took over an hour with our compact air compressor, and neither of us was keen to deflate all over again just for a 10min drive. So that was that—Santiago was relegated to our growing list of “places for next time” and we were back to the drawing board!
La Fortuna & The East Cape, Baja California Sur
Thankfully, some friends we’d met in Cabo Pulmo had texted me coordinates of their next camping spot on the East Cape, and the promise of a beautiful sandy beach and free camping was all we needed to turn this show around and head back to the coast.
Had we made these plans earlier, we would have only needed to drive a rough, washboard dirt road (still manageable for most any vehicle) south out of Cabo Pulmo for about 1hr directly down the East Cape to reach any of the beautiful beaches around La Fortuna.
Unfortunately for us, we’d already come far enough from the park that our best option was continuing south through San José del Cabo (where we’d be able to conduct a much-needed restock of food supplies, anyway) before returning north along the coastline. It was a very roundabout route to reach a spot geographically very close to where we’d just been, but as soon as we arrived to La Fortuna, none of that really seemed to matter.
Encompassing the coastline from Los Barriles to San José del Cabo, Baja’s East Cape is a wild & unspoilt paradise of sandy beaches and calm waters, something we’d certainly discovered from our time in Cabo Pulmo National Park.
This southern stretch of the cape was, in terms of beaches, even more impressive and blissfully off the beaten path. Although a number of expensive-looking homes were under construction as we drove along Cabo Camino Este, the whole area still felt relatively undiscovered, only a few surfers and construction crews ambling about while we scoped out a sandy beachfront camping spot.
We had the feeling that, within a few years, the East Cape might look very different, but for now, we watched a herd of cows playing in the low waves right on the beach and spent the night entirely alone under the stars.
San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur
The days passed easily in La Fortuna, swimming right out front of the van and laying in the sand with a great group of new friends, so it was with reluctance that we finally got back on the road and headed back to San José del Cabo. But this too brought plenty of excitement!
We’d arrived into town on a Thursday, just in time for the weekly “Art Walk”, and the entire town was abuzz as food vendors, art galleries, and local artisans set up outdoor displays. Expecting crowds of drunk tourists in neon shirts, we were delighted to instead find (perhaps still crowds of tourists, but at least) a classier sort with little of the stereotypical “party Cabo” atmosphere.
The cobbled streets and colourful flags were incredibly charming and we spent the entire day wandering around just soaking in the excitement before managing to score very challenging reservations to La Lupita, a taco spot that another pair of travellers had recommended to us as “the best tacos in the world”.
Although the prices were much higher than we were used to, the duck mole and braised scallop tacos were indeed among the best I’ve ever eaten. Upscale tacos at their very finest, and for 7 tacos and 2 margaritas, we weren’t even appalled by the $40USD bill.
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur
For the weekend (and New Year’s Eve), we journey farther down the cape to Cabo San Lucas, where (to our great disappointment) all of the Bachelor Party and sterotypical-neon-Cabo shenanigans were in full swing.
This is an absolutely gorgeous area, with amazing rock arches towering over the ocean and dozens of beautiful beaches, but the atmosphere and crowds of drunken tourists greatly detract from what would otherwise be another highly recommended spot in Baja.
Thankfully, we managed to find some free beachfront camping (even in Cabo, there’s no shortage!) and were able to ring in the New Year exactly how we wanted to—watching massive fireworks explode along the beach in every direction, right in front of our van.
Where we stayed this week
This week proved to be another fantastic assortment of free camping, mostly on public beaches but also on the occasional cobbled laneway.
- Boondocking on Playa La Fortuna on the East Cape, BCS (free; 28-29 Dec)
- Street parking in the Art District of San Jose del Cabo, BCS (free; 30 Dec)
- Boondocking on Playa San Carlos outside of San Jose del Cabo, BCS (free; 31 Dec – 1 Jan)
- Boondocking at La Pastora in Todos Santos, BCS (free; 2-6 Jan)