Honeymooning Before the Fact in Baja Sur
by Ann Hazard
Ann Hazard is the author of Cooking with Baja Magic, Cartwheels in the Sand, and the recently released Agave Sunsets. She has also written over 100 articles on Baja, Mexico, and Mexican cuisine. Visit her at www.bajamagic.com
Sometimes the honeymoon has to precede the wedding; that was Terry’s and my conclusion. We got married on November 30th in Buena Vista, 45 minutes north of Los Cabos in Baja California Sur. We chose the date because my family was scheduled to spend Thanksgiving at the Buena Vista Beach Resort, my dad’s favorite place on this planet. We figured that it would be a small, intimate wedding. Wrong! By the time we left for Baja Sur, 28 friends had made airplane and hotel reservations. There promised to be great revelry, but romance and privacy? Hardly!
So – we decided to do our honeymooning in advance. We spent a few days in Buena Vista, a night in Cabo and headed north an hour up the Pacific coast to the artist colony of Todos Santos. We’d heard about an amazing new resort there and wanted to check it out.
There’s a saying in Baja that the worst roads always lead to the best places. There’s always a deserted beach involved. Privacy, beauty and ample wildlife are essential. Camping is the order of the day, because rarely is there a world-class, boutique hotel at the end of one of these awful roads. There are a few scattered up and down the peninsula, but not many. The road leading from Todos Sanots to Posada La Poza proved to be a very bad road. It was less than two kilometers long ¼ but we got lost twice before finding the sign. Once we did, it took about 20 minutes to navigate it. Even then, we weren’t sure it was the “right road.” It was gnarly. We bumped and twisted, dodging rocks and mud puddles in our low-slung Neon, praying all the while that we wouldn’t get a flat tire.
Finally, we passed through a dense palm grove, and brilliant gold, ochre and orange buildings sprang up in front of us. We parked and walked through the gate. Lush cacti and flower-filled gardens embraced us. There was a saltwater pool next to a lagoon that fronted a magnificently deserted stretch of beach. The owner, retired Swiss banker Juerg Wiesendanger and his Czech artist wife, Libusche, welcomed us personally and gave us a tour of the grounds.
With only seven rooms, this place was all about privacy and romance. For the three days we were there, we were the sole occupants of two chaise lounges under a palapa, nestled between the pool and lagoon. Our major activity was bird watching. Pelicans soared by, riding the warm air currents. Occasionally they dive bombed, scooping fish out of the water. Frigate birds glided along the surface, touching down like prehistoric seaplanes, snatching up shrimp, fish or crabs and sailing off. Lease terns, cranes and ducks shared the waters with them. The cries of the birds blended with the pounding of the surf, the steady splash of the pool’s waterfall and the hum of dragonfly wings. Terry told Juerg he’d never seen me so relaxed.
Whenever we were hungry or thirsty, the bar and restaurant were only steps away, and Juerg was always willing to make us whatever we wanted. Having trained under a famous Swiss chef, Juerg didn’t just cook. He prepared gourmet cuisine. When we got tired of bird watching, eating and drinking, we walked in the gardens trying to identify the different flowers, trees and cacti. We hiked through the jungle to the beach and interrupted a beachside pelican convention. We could’ve borrowed mountain bikes and explored nearby beaches, but we were too lazy. We did spend an afternoon wandering through town, exploring the numerous galleries and checking out the restaurants. At sunset, we made the mandatory to climb up to hotel’s Whale Deck and counted whale spouts as the sun sank – pink-orange, red and purple – into the Pacific.
We didn’t want to leave. We could’ve stayed a week or more and both felt like we’d known Juerg and Liebusche forever. But we vowed to return next year for our anniversary. We drove north toward La Paz and then headed east to Buena Vista – almost directly across from Todos Santos on the Sea of Cortez. My dad and our amiga, Suzanna were there to greet us. My kids, sister and brother-in-law flew in a couple hours later. We snapped immediately into fiesta mode.
My family has been coming to the Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort since it opened 26 years ago. Owned by our friends the Valdez family, it reminds me of Mexico a few decades back (except that it has CNN and the Internet). This is a resort that greets everyone with wide-open arms, even wider smiles and treats you like one of the family. People don’t just come here once. They return again and again, year after year. The swim-up bar is the site of many a reunion, as people run into friends from years before.
Walking down the path toward the beach, I felt the air, soft and warm against my bare arms. Light rippled and danced across the Sea of Cortez. Orange lichen crept across the rooftops of the bungalows terraced down the hillside. Fountains tinkled. Lush gardens overflowed with coconut palms and tangles of magenta bougainvillea and yellow hibiscus. I inhaled the delicate aroma of plumeria blossoms and let out a giant hoot. I was home.
Most people think of this as a fishing resort, and it is one of the world’s premier sport fishing destinations. But I’ll be straight with you – I don’t fish. My dad over-fished me before I was eleven. I’m never bored here, though. Non-fisherpeople find plenty to keep us busy. Hanging out at the swim-up bar, drinking piña coladas, eating nachos, or playing water volleyball works anytime. So does grabbing our snorkeling gear and heading off down the beach. Swimming out over the rocks and coral offshore, within minutes we always spot eels, parrotfish, needlefish, pompano, triggerfish and the occasional sea turtle. My kids, Terry, and I love renting the jetskis and ATVs and exploring the coastline. Venturing inland on lower mountain slopes, we’ve found oases with waterfalls and swimming holes. In the winter, we watch the windsurfers doing their acrobatics offshore.
Terry and I got married barefoot on the beach at sunset after passing under a canopy of decorated fishing poles. (My dad’s comment: “I didn’t have to pay for those, did I?”) The weather was perfect. Mariachis played the wedding march. We drank champagne. We toasted. We ate, oceanfront on the terrace, under a waning moon and danced to songs like “Cuando Calienta el Sol,” “El Niño Perdido” and “La Bamba.”
It was a week of nonstop revelry. When we headed to the airport three days after the wedding, my voice was gone and my dad had lost his hearing aid battery. He never did get it that I couldn’t talk. He kept asking me questions and going, “What? Speak up!” when I’d croak out my response.
Oh yeah – the Valdez family took a vote after we left and decided it was the most fun they’ve had at the hotel in years. Works for me!
This winter, Buena Vista Beach Resort is offering five day/four night packages starting at $263 per person double occupancy. Eight day/seven night packages begin at $403. All packages include round-trip transportation to and from the airport, three meals a day, taxes, tips and a welcome Margarita. Aeromexico and Alaska offer daily flights from San Diego to Los Cabos. For more information, visit www.hotelbuenavista.com or call 800-752-3555.
At Posada La Poza, this time of year standard rooms are $150 per night. Junior suites are $225 and the honeymoon suite is $480. Rates are lower in the summer months. Posada La Posa is located one hour south of the La Paz Airport and an hour and a half from the Los Cabos Airport. For more information, visit www.lapoza.com or call 001-52-612-145-0400.