Visiting Cabo San Lucas with Family
Back on the “road” with the entire family—this time it’s a Cabo San Lucas with family kind of trip courtesy of a corporation.
I have a love-hate relationship with business trips. Of course, I am ecstatic to see a part of the world…especially on someone else’s dime. But, the obligatory business events where one is forced to schmooze with people whose interest in you is completely self serving are torturous. And, I know I sound like a total whiner here, but we are “forced” to stay at the chain-iest of hotels that are like chains on my free spirit.
I’m sure we would have had our usual fun and funky travel experiences if I would have been completely in charge of planning. (I envision a small rustic hacienda off the beaten path with a view of the sea and gracious locals enthusiastically sharing their culture with us in wonderful ways.) Alas, I was not in charge, so we got what we got. I write these blogs to record personal memories and help fellow wanderers. I am not a politician, so if you’re looking for politically correct, you won’t find it here. If you’re a fellow free spirit, I’m sure you’ll get it.
DAY 1: Travel Day | Arrival at Riu Palace
I didn’t conduct my usual pre-wander reconnaissance for this journey because I wasn’t in charge…the company was. My quick Google search didn’t turn up much in the way of “undiscovered” or “quiet,” in Cabo…but, there were abundant warnings to steer clear of aggressive timeshare hawkers that attacked the moment you stepped off the plane.
As we were leaving the house to catch our plane, I learned just how much I have enabled my husband over the years. He joined the kids and I at the front door with his suitcase in hand. When I asked him for our hotel info, I was met with a vacant stare. Sigh.
TIP: Don’t rely on your spouse or partner to know what hotel you’re staying at. Have all your travel documents together before you walk out the door.
The flight from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas is a breeze. Less than two hours after take-off, we landed, grabbed our bags, passed through immigration and customs, and ran smack into…who else? The bombarders. Despite being fairly warned, they got us at the moment we showed signs of weakness (in this case, a mere five second hesitation). Dammit! They’re a crafty sort, camouflaging themselves as hotel shuttle operators who have our best interests at heart.
We were offered a free ride to our hotel, which the man insisted was much safer than opting for the “taxi mafia” outside the front door. Having ridden in Tijuana taxis many a time in college, we walked right into the trap. As we walked to the van, our man kept it up, offering free breakfast at Cabo’s newest resort, a free glass bottom boat tour, and a sunset whale watching cruise for all four of us, as well as half off all other activities we booked through him.
TIP: Once you have your bags in hand, proceed directly to the taxi mafia. Do not make eye contact, pause, or – Heaven forbid – stop until you get there.
I knew how to get out of this. “We already own a timeshare with the same company…we definitely dont’ need another one.”
“Perfect!,” the salesman exuberantly proclaimed. “Now you won’t have to sit through the four-hour presentation! You can just show up, eat breakfast, and take a quick tour around the place. You are so very lucky!”
Hmmm, maybe we could exchange into this resort…okay, okay. We can handle the Reader’s Digest version. Our 12 year old son looked at us as if we had lost our minds.
TIP: Don’t believe a single promise that is uttered by a single timeshare salesman, especially the one about the shortened timeshare tour.
Thankfully, en route to the airport, my husband managed to find out that we would be staying at Riu Palace. We were dropped at the entrance by the timeshare shuttle and promptly given instructions on how to sneak out to meet our representative the next morning far outside the hotel gates. This was getting stinkier by the minute. We hopped out of the bus into the eclectic and luxurious lobby of the “palace”…part Egyptian, part plantation, part Mexican, all interesting.
We went in search of lunch while our room was being finished and ended up at a covered patio with the pool on one side, the beach on another, and a ginormous buffet on the other. I saw big prices. Then, my husband uttered some magical words…
“I’m not sure, but I think I heard something about ‘all-inclusive.'”
My head snapped around. Of course, he didn’t know for certain, so I got to work. I returned 10 minutes later with glorious news. Every snack, drink (with and without alcohol), and meal (in every restaurant and through room service) was FREE! This was fabulous news for our bank account…not so much for my waistline.
Our room was very nice, although the sleeping arrangements were going to be interesting. Two double beds pushed together and a tiny couch that didn’t fold out. My 10 and 13 year olds immediately started competing for the couch…until they spied two minuscule bugs crawling on the floor. Suddenly, the couch was no longer the preferred option and the two of them embarked on a joint campaign to convince me that it would be extremely cozy for all four of us to snuggle in the double-double bed. All of this was going on while my husband was in the bathroom.
The pool and ocean were prettier than our room, so we headed out to explore them. Unfortunately, as soon as we hit the sand in front of the resort, we ran smack into a red flag. Our ocean was closed. No kidding. We quickly saw why…the waves were huge and slamming the shore at full force. The kids amused themselves by running from the waves, digging in the sand, and searching for shells. As my husband and I enjoyed watching them cavort around the beach like the littler kids they used to be, we looked up and saw…WHALES! About 30 feet offshore, swimming in the swells of the newly forming waves, were a pod of them. The perfect consolation prize.
TIP: The good news about the southern portion of the beach? It’s exponentially quieter and far less crowded. The bad news? The beach is often closed until further notice and you are far from the heart of Cabo.
After a brief obligatory corporate schmooze at the beachfront bar, we grabbed the kids and headed to dinner. It was sheer gluttony. There was enough food to feed a small nation. Back in the room, the kids and I watched their father in his best comedic performance yet:
“I Was Robbed!” (Loudly Subtitled: “Don’t Doubt Me!”).
After I calmed him down, I attempted logic…if he was truly robbed, why would our passports, cell phones, laptops, all my money, and $33 of his money still be here? (I shot down his theory that the thief left them as decoys to distract us from the big heist.) And, didn’t you pay a wad at the airport for the timeshare deposit? He pondered, looked sheepish, and apologized to us and the front desk clerk he berated and we resumed our vacation.
The kids won. All four us were crammed into the two double beds, we parents tormented by animated dream talking and spasmodic elbows and knees. But, I have to admit…it was kind of fun.
DAY 2: The Timeshare From Hell | Lounging at Riu
We surreptitiously snuck out of the Riu to meet our getaway van that would take us to Casa Dorada, Cabo’s newest timeshare project near the center of the cove. It was much more sophisticated than I, but had an unobstructed view of the guardian rocks. I was mildly concerned when the girl who checked us in didn’t mention that we were here for the Reader’s Digest version that we were assured was an option.
Enter über suave salesman who swept us down to the beach and I knew we were screwed. My son danced around us whispering “Suckers!” and “I TOLD you so!.” My husband spent the next quarter of an hour fighting to get our transportation deposit returned. An hour later, we were back at Riu Palace eating an incredible breakfast and stewing over our lesson learned.
The kids and I headed for the pool and the husband joined some co-workers for scuba instruction in preparation for our upcoming wander to Belize. We were like pinballs, bounced from the beach to the pool to the dining area to our room to the 24-hour ice cream machine at the slightest whim. The highlights of my boy’s day were dodging more massive waves, burying himself in the sand, and playing beach volleyball with some college kids. My girl happily suffered through some temporary pain in the interest of beautiful corn rows, shrieking at the waves, hunting for seashells, and throwing sand on her buried brother. I was thrilled to read with only an occasional interruption, most from peddlers that knew a sucker when they saw one.
After a very average dinner, served painstakingly slow, at one of the hotel restaurants, my husband and I made a pact that we would remain buffet gluttons for all future dinners.
DAY 3: Dance Lessons & Beer Contests by the Pool
The boys almost made it to their ATV excursion. After a bumpy hour-long bus ride, the boy was sick and they didn’t bother disembarking before it left for a bumpy hour-long ride back to the hotel. His dad suspected some rare Mexican virus…I suspected an overload of junk food and a genetic predisposition to vomiting in bumpy moving vehicles.
While the boys were gone, we girls wandered up the beach. The landscape didn’t change much…it was a long line of jam-packed resorts, varying colors of sunbathers, too many peddlers, and an occasional horse.
After lunch, my husband and I plopped down poolside, gleeful about some well deserved quiet time while the kids were battened down in the room. Cappuccinos, our books…ahhhhh. The Riu Palace entertainment staff, clearly trained on a cruise ship, had other plans. Very bad plans. Over the next hour, we were incessantly beckoned to do the Macarena, which blared over the poor quality pool speaker. Next was an actual beer drinking contest complete with American men with protruding bellies. The grand finale was poolside dance lessons (“Meringue, samba, maam???”). There was no glee for me here.
Tonight was a motivational speaker courtesy of the corporation. I begrudgingly pasted on my corporate smile as I put the finishing touches on my makeup.
DAY 4: The Marina | A Glass Bottomed Boat
So this morning at breakfast, the same young lady who offered my 13 year old a cerveza batted her eyes at him and uttered two unbelievable words: “Muy guapo.” While I, too, believe my boy to be quite dashing, she was many, many years his senior. Time for a little talk with Mr. Guapo.
TIP: Watch your teenagers…closely. Alcohol flows freely…literally…and very few are aware there is a drinking age.
Today we ventured outside our resort walls and hailed a water taxi down to Cabo’s marina for a glass bottom boat ride. While running from one side of the marina to the other in search of the company who would honor our tickets, no less than five individuals said they were our guy. We were exhausted by the time we climbed on a tiny boat.
The whole “glass bottom” thing is a giant stretch. There were two tiny glass rectangles on the floor of the boat and the only thing you could see was water. I would say it’s more of a tour than a marine life experience. Fortunately, the views were stunning—pelicans, Lover’s Beach, fragrant seals, Divorce Beach, and the rock formations at the southernmost tip of Baja California. I probably understood about 20% of what our guide had to say; the kids and husband far less. But, his good cheer was infectious.
As we rounded the tip of the furthest rock, I found a place I will return to…possibly for my first solo trip. Pedregal is a colorful secluded colony on the Pacific Ocean side of the point. Now that is my style.
TIP: Know where you’re going before the water or land taxi drops you off at the very large marina…and don’t believe anything anybody on the marina tells you.
After the boat ride, we gorged ourselves at Los Deseos…a refreshing mojito for me, a blended margarita for the husband, fruity virgin drinks for the offspring, melted Mexican cheeses mixed with tequila and fire served up in a volcanic rock bowl with fresh corn tortillas, grilled butterfly shrimp, molé chicken, and chicken fajitas. On the sandy road “home,” we had the best dessert of the trip…fresh mangoes on sticks doused with lime juice and sprinkled with Tajin…and decided that tomorrow the kids would fly.
DAY 5: Parasailing
The original plan was for my husband and daughter to ride tandem and the boy to brave it by himself. Apparently, our miniature kids threw a glitch in this plan. You know you’re in the land of few attorneys when the boat driver suggests your two underage children tandem together. Four pairs of eyes looked to me…I was not feeling like a naysayer today, so my thumb went up. I did, however, second- and third-check those safety straps. Within minutes, my babies were two small dots in the sky. Of course, my boy knows he is far out of my reach and proceeds to hang backwards and swinging both of them back and forth. The operator laughed.
“If that boy survives, I’m going to kill him,” I hissed at my husband.
The boat driver brought them close to the shore, slowing down letting their feet skim over the water, then sped up sending them flying back into the sky. Not that was cool and I didn’t have to see their smiles to know how jubilant they were. As soon as their feet hit the boat, the “Agains!” started. So, they flew again…
TIP: Take your kids parasailing, let go, and watch them fly.
For the rest of our time in Cabo, we read, swam, and ate…and were home before we knew it. A definite perk of Baja when you live just over the border in San Diego!
The consensus of all four of us was “like” not “love” for this touristy trip to Cabo San Lucas with family. We’ve been too spoiled by Belize’s lush landscape, warm calm water, thinner crowds, laid back lifestyle, and quieter locals. But, hey…whose complaining? After all, we were just mooching in Cabo.
I hope to return for a more free-spirited and authentic experience here some day—maybe in Pedregal, maybe somewhere even more remote.