Dodging Hurricane Ike, we opted not to go to the Bahamas, and headed for Cabo.
by jmariep on September 14, 2008
We stayed at the Riu Santa Fe from September 8-12, 2008. If someone told me that they were going there, I would be able to honestly tell them that they would have a good time, but I would probably stay at the Riu Palace if were going back to Cabo.The location for me was great, about 2 miles from downtown Cabo, so only a $10-12 cab ride if you needed to, or less than a dollar to take the bus.Check in was fabulous. A nice man brought us a drink as we stood in line. We did not stay in line long, and were given a short introduction to the resort. This included 2 towel cards, (you do not want to lose they -- it's $20 to replace) a map, and our key. The key we received was the old fashion kind, not a key card, and we only received one.Our room was great. The bed was perfect. I slept wonderfully each night. There was a stocked fridge (Coronas, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and bottled water) in the room, a liquor dispenser, and a safe that you program the code to. On the balcony there were 2 chairs and a table. The room was very cold when we checking in, and on the second day I turned the air down, but still found it to be a little chilly. The Riu Santa Fe is huge. There is a main building that is gigantic, with the lobby, the excursion sign-up area, the sports bar, the entertainment area, the disco and three restaurants. On this 'level' there were also 6 3 story buildings which was were the hotel rooms were located. To get the 'lower level' you go between buildings 4 and 5 to go down a walkway that leads to the beach. You walk past building 7, which is as large as the main building that has everything I mentioned above. The upper level has the garden view rooms, and 2 pools. The pool on the upper level was where water activities were held, so it was pretty active. The lower level has the rooms that are ocean view, and the first pool seemed to be a little more inebriated than the upper pool. The other four pools on the lower level seemed very calm and serene, but it may have just been the crowd that was there when we were there. The ramp down to the beach is next to the first pool. There is a sand volleyball court, and lounge chairs set up. It is important to note that while the beach is beautiful here, you can not swim on the beach. We were there during a tropical storm, and saw 8-10 feet waves. Even after the storm passed, the waves were very big. The food at the buffets was good food. It did get a little repetitive, so I would recommend that you pick one meat a day, to prevent feeling bored with the food. The servers working in these areas were fabulous. They were very helpful, and always smiling. We ate lunch at Torote, which was in building 7, which was great. We were able to eat lunch and look over the ocean as we ate. We were able to eat at a specialty restaurant 3 of the 4 nights we stayed there, but spoke with a lot of people who had a lot of trouble getting a reservation. Looking back, they may have been lucky. We most looked forward to the Asian restaurant. We had to wait 2 nights to get a reservation, so were even more excited, anticipating that it would be great. When we arrived for our seat, we were surprised to find that it was maybe one third full (despite it being so hard to get a reservation.) I was even more surprised to find out that it was a buffet. The food was good, but having to make reservations to get into a "specialty" restaurant does not say "buffet" to me. At the Italian restaurant our main course was served to us, but the salad and appetizers were also a buffet. The entertainment was okay. A little hokey, but we enjoyed ourselves. I would HIGHLY recommend that you avoid tequila volleyball at 12:30. Not that it's not fun, but consider yourself warned. There was an incident on Thursday morning in which one of the pool entertainment people started playing with a man's cane that had been sitting by the pool. The older man was clearly bothered by this, but when his wife laughed, thinking it was cute, he seemed to calm down. This staff member and another staff member joked around for a while with each other. I overheard one of them saying something about a bano (bathroom) before jumping into the pool. His friend began throwing his things in the water, and they laughed as he caught them before they got wet. I thought this was funny for a few minutes, but as the child's play continued, it made me wonder if their fun was perhaps not fun you would have with no help, if you know what I mean. While everything else with the entertainment staff was great, that incident left me a little disturbed. I cannot say enough about the maintenance staff. Our room was very clean the entire time. With all of the rain we had, there was a lot of flooding. People were constantly squigeeing water out of the halls were water could get in. There were people pumping water out of the outdoor walking paths throughout most of our stay. When the rain had cleared, those people turned to polishing and shining.I enjoyed the Riu Santa Fe, and would go back if Riu Palace wasn't available. (The Riu Palace is adjacent, and seemed a little nicer.) But I don't think that this resort would be good for everyone. Because of its size, I would not recommend it to people who have any type of mobility issues. I cringed at the thought of having to walk with crutches up and down the hill at least two times a day. I would not recommend this hotel for a girlfriend getaway. The only reason for this is because you only get one key to the room. My husband and I felt awkward if we weren't in the same main area because only the person who has the key can get into the room. I am also a very heavy sleeper, so if I wanted to take a nap, I felt like I needed to drag him up with me.I would not recommend this resort to people who have issues with alcohol. It is an all inclusive resort, and the staff promotes it. I would recommend this resort to couples who are looking to relax, have fun and enjoy the beach.
This restaurant was included with our tour with Rancho Tours. We were given the options of: Chicken: quesadilla or fajitaBeef: fajitaFish: grilled with garlic, breaded, or fajitas My husband and I both opted for chicken fajitas, feeling that was a safe bet. The fajitas came with corn tortillas, after the servers anounced that you couldn't have a Mexican meal without a tortilla. Flour tortillas were not an option. Our meals came with a drink, so I ordered a margarita. It was the strongest margarita I have ever had in my life. Too strong for me I took my first drink, and apparently made quite the face, because the woman across from me laughed, and asked "oh is it strong to you?" She drank her entire margarita with no problem. This was one of the few places I encountered in Mexico that was non smoking. The restrooms were not nice by American standards, but were clean and awesome compared to my other Mexico bathroom experiences. Someone did give us a coupon before we left for a free margarita per person if you came back. I thought that it was a nice gesture. If you are a person who enjoys Mexican food, and are in the San Jose del Cabo area, I would recommend this restaurant. I probably would recommend this, however, if it was very far out of your way.
We booked our Rancho Tour through our Epic representative at our resort. The process was very simple, which was a relief.There are seven tours available, ranging from $25- 79.The best thing about Epic tours was that a driver picked us up at the resort entrance, and dropped us of at the end of the day. Not having to worry about a bus or taxi was a bonus to us. We did the Explore Los Cabos tour, which I liked a lot, but try to watch weather when booking your tour. The marina was closed the day we went, so it did not include the glass bottom boat portion of the tour. Below are the tours and prices as of September 2008:"Explore Los Cabos" $59 per person -- 6 hrs. In Cabo San Lucas includes glass blowing factory, glass bottom boat, driving through downtown, and shopping time. In the Corridor includes a Sea of Cortez view, golf course locations. In San Jose del Cabo includes the Mission, the Spanish Haciendas and shopping time."Cabo San Lucas City Tour" $35 per person -- 3 hrs. Glass bottom boat tour, glass blowing factory, downtown on Blvd. Marina, Old Tuna Cannery and shopping time."San Jose del Cabo Tour Galleries" $39 per person -- 3 hrs. The Mission, galleries and shopping time."Todos Santos" $55 per person -- 6 hrsPacific Ocean View, Hotel Todos Santos Inn, Hotel California, Casa de la Cultura, galleries, Regional Candy Stores, shopping time, lunch time (lunch not included in price)"La Paz" $79 per person -- 10 hrsBuena Vista and Los Barriles view, San Batolo, San Antonio, El Triunfo, La Paz, blanket weaving factory, the Mission, anthropology museum, shopping timeSnorkeling -- $49 per person, 3 hrs. Glass Bottom Boat -- $25 per person for Land's Inn Tour with transportation, $12 per person if at the Marina.Our Explore Los Cabos tour was fun, with Juan "Johnny Boy" leading the way. With the weather issues, Juan had to fill in at least of hour of tour time, which I'm pretty sure was our tour of the ghetto of Cabo. Juan said he thought he'd show us how most natives live, which was sad. Very old homes that were very worn down. The shopping area in Cabo was not great. I'm not much of a jewelry person, and the part of the street he dropped us off at was 6 jewelry stores, and one store with the typical beach vacation buys. The stores that we stopped at gave my husband and I a distinct feeling that Johnny Boy got a commision based on what we bought, but I could be wrong.We did stop at a hill and take pictures of Cabo, which was neat because you don't realize how huge Cabo is.We like San Jose del Cabo much better. It is an older town, and the Plaza has an awesome peaceful and authentic feel. There were some little stores, but it was peaceful to go in and out of them. There wasn't anyone harassing us, trying to lure us in to buy stuff. I'd highly recommend to everyone to take a tour with Rancho Tours. We had a great time, and the prices are reasonable for the Cabo area.
As you approach the stained glass factory, you may wonder what part of Cabo you have ended up in. Don't worry -- it's a great place.Behind the factory is where glass is brought to be recycled. It is then melted into tiny beads that look like little plastic droplets. The factory itself is a brick building with beautiful stained glass windows. When you enter the building, you can walk through the store area towards the back, where there are artists blowing glass pieces. When we went we got to see a man make a turtle. He blew the main body blown, then dipped it into beads of colored glass. Other body parts were added, and we watched in fascination as a turtle emerged from blobs of glass. After the artist finished, people could try to blow glass. A few people in our group tried, and did better than I could, I'm sure. After we got to see the artist make the turtle we browsed the store. There was a variety of pieces available, from glassed to ornimental things. We thought about getting a turtle -- not that we needed one, or have a location in our house it -- but they were $35. I didn't really see the point in paying that much for something I didn't need just because I saw someone make it. Prices varied from $5- $50. There was a person in our group who had been to the factory around 5 years ago, and said that he got his mother a set of 4 glasses for around $10. He was startled by the price increases this time around. I would say that glasses were affordable, around $10-20 for a very nice wine glass, but it wasn't what I would consider a great deal. I would highly recommend going to the factory to anyone who has time to go. I would caution parents, however, that I would think that bringing a child in may be a little stressful. I, at 29, felt like a bull in a China shop standing next to rows of beautiful glassware. Seeing people blow glass, and having the opportunity to try it yourself is a neat unique experience.
by jmariep on September 15, 2008
After lunch, this was our first stop in San Jose del Cabo. The church was built in honor of Father Nicolas Tamaral, who was beheaded 1734 after preaching against poligimists. Our tour guide, Johnny Boy, explained to us that poligism was practiced due to the large number of women compared to men. In front of the church is a sign that tells the history of the mission. Above the entrance is a beautiful, but sad, mural depictign Father Nicolas Tamaral before his death. Don't worry, it does not show the beheading -- it shows the priest getting dragged by three men. The inside of the church was not overly ornate, but very beautiful. I felt very much at peace looking inside the altar area. There is a donation box in the church that we donated one dollar to, which obviously is up to you, but we felt like it was giving a littel money to a good cause. I'd recommend stopping by this church to anyone who was in the area, however, it may be difficult to anyone with mobility challenges. It's nice to have a moment on vacation where you stop and think.
by jmariep on September 21, 2008
When we first got to the plaza, my husband and I both smiled. It has the feel of old time Mexican charm. There is a beautiful gazebo with benches on it. There is an outdoor stage near the gazebo. There was a center area that had busts of famous people in Mexico's history. The clock tower seemed visible from everywhere in the plaza. There were several places to sit and enjoy the day throughout the plaza.We were lucky enough that the stage, gazebo, and busts were all decorated for the upcoming Independence day. (Middle of September) December - March there are festivals held most Saturday evenings, during Cabo's high season. What I liked about the plaza was that you could casually walk around the plaza and take pictures, or you could shop in one of the many stores that are adjacent to the plaza. The owners of these stores were very kind, and casual. When we entered, they would greet us, make small talk, and gave us space to look at things. It wasd a welcome relief to being accosted (okay, so that is a slight exageration.) on the street in Cabo San Lucas. If you do take the time to go to the plaza, be ready to take several pictures. The photo ops are fabulous!
We stopped here with a tour group, so we were lucky to have a man tell us about how opals are formed, and how they find the fire opals. There were several different colorations and sizes of stones that had not been set which was neat to see. Another interesting thing that we learned is that all opal jewelry should be soaked in water overnight about once a month to protect the stone. This store (and seemingly every other jewelry shop in the area say that they can set anything in 24 hours. So if you find a stone you fall in love with, you can return the next day to pick it up. (I think 24 hours is pushing it, though, so don't depend on this turn around time, if counting to get something up quickly before you get to the airport.)There store is pretty large and has three - four rooms that each feature different gem sets. The staff is very friendly, and a little aggressive in nicely gettign you to try jewelry on. I predicted that this route would lead to a "oh, look at your wife, she needs this" so I did not try on. The problem with this store is that there were no prices on anything. I know that many people go to Mexico to haggle, but I am not one of those people. Also, if there was a starting price listed, I would have something to haggle down from. So we looked at the jewelry and headed back out. This store is okay. If you like jewelry, I'd highly recommend it. If you're not into jewelry, but like looking around, I'd say it's worth dropping by. If you don't like jewelry, and aren't in a laid back mood, I'd say you'll probably just want to skip this place.
Our first experience landing in Cabo was arriving to the airport.Our travel documentation that we received prior to departure read the following: "Please be aware that upon your arrival at Los Cabos Airport you will be approached by individuals selling timeshares. The presence of these individuals will begin as soon as you collect your luggage. After you have collected your luggage, you should bypass all individuals and locate (our company) HOST STAFF. Yadda Yadda Yadda, they will be wearing khakis and burgundy shirts. Equipped with my edocs, I collected my luggage, told my husband not to talk to anybody, and just look our boys in burgundy. We followed the arrows out of the airport that said "groups" and entered a room that had tons of official looking people in yellow shirts behind counters. I was thrown off for a moment, because there were no burgundy shirts. Next thing I know I have a man telling me where my resort was, and not to swim there, and that Hector would take care of me. I smiled, and asked him where Hector was. I thought I had escaped. I hadn't. Another man accosted me, led me to a counter. The man behind the counter circled my resort, told me I'd be fine to swim there, and began discussing free tours or cash. Somehow I escaped and finally found my Host Staff outside. If you are interested in playing the "free stuff for going to timeshare presentations" feel free to speak with these people. Be ready to be stuck somewhere for AT LEAST 3 hours, however, if you go. If you are not interested in this, get out of these 2 rooms as quickly as you can. Outside you will find the people you need. My experience arriving at the airport was a horrible introduction to Los Cabos. Horrible. It began my vacation on the defense, and discouraged my husband and me from leaving our resort on our own. Hopefully the officials in Cabo will begin to realize this, because several people I spoke with felt the same way.Trying to get home from the Cabo Airport made our entrance look like a walk in the park.We had originally planned to go to the Bahamas September 8-12, 2008. As Ike raged through the Caribbean, we opted to switch our vacation the week before to go to Cabo. (Thank God for vacation insurance.) However, as our week in Cabo flew by, Ike also flew through the Caribbean, and ultimately towards the Texas coastline. Unknown to us, Houston airport was closed on the Friday we were to return home. We received no email notification, no warning, nothing. We learned that Houston was closed as I went to talk with our transportation representative at the hotel. When I got to the Continental desk, the Continental employee smiled at me, and told me all Continental flights leaving Cabo were cancelled. As our conversation progressed, he smirked and told me that they may resume flights on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 -- 5 days later. He also told me that because it was weather related "Continental doesn't have to do anything. They have told us you'll get some money back." I had to almost throw a fit to get an iota of what that amount would be. There was absolutely no sympathy, no apathy, and really, no politeness offered at all by any of the 4 Continental employees. We then were sent into the storm, so to speak, to find new airfare. We weren't given any advice as to how one buys airfare at the airport, but figured it out pretty quickly. Upon meeting and speaking with fellow stranded passengers who had to cough up around $1500 we compared notes. They had been told that the reason Continental couldn't change flights was that there was a Mexican law about the time needed to approve a change in flights. The only reason I mention this is because if this is true, Mexican officials need to realize that this is a problem. Tourism is essential to many Mexican cities. And experiences like this make me think one of 2 things: 1) Caribbean Islands, or 2) USA. And with option 2 I can also be happy that my money is staying in America. After getting through security, there are several restaurants, and some shops in the airport. My favorite shop was the Cabo Wabo store, but after spending all that had just spent, I was not in the mood to bring home any more t shirts. It is also VERY warm in the waiting area. Make sure you're not wearing long sleeves. This, of course, could change, so probably bring a light sweater just in case. There is however, one thing that saves this airport from being Dante's five level of hell. There is a bar that has a SMOKING section :-) (I know that I'm a dying breed, but airports are stressful.)To get to the smoking section, you have to walk through a sliding door that has a very strong blower to protect the non smokers from secondhand smoke. This room also has a strong constant breeze, making it much more comfortable.I would not recommend this airport to anyone, but let's face it, it doesn't matter. If you're going to Cabo, this is pretty much the only way to get there. I just hope that my advice helps prepare you when you touch down.Good luck.
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