The 20-mile sweep of craggy coastline and solitary beaches that constitutes the southern tip of Baja California has come to be called the Gold Coast. A tropical climate, an abundance of fresh water from the springs behind San José del Cabo and the rates at some of the resorts springing up on the cape justify the label. The region is most easily reached by Aeromexico from Los Angeles or Houston or by Hughes Airwest from Phoenix. Each flight is met at La Paz by an air taxi that serves the cape ($17 one way). Herewith a rundown of the facilities at land's end:
Hotel Cabo San Lucas, built 20 years ago, still offers the widest range of activities and accommodations. Its 70 rooms vary in price from $30 to $51.20 for a single, American plan, to $55 to $110 for a double with a bathtub you could play water polo in. Hotelier W. Matt (Bud) Parr, himself a fine wing shot and light-tackle angler (he holds the IGFA record for striped marlin in the men's six-pound class with a 205-pound fish), rides herd on as fine a fleet of sport-fishing boats as the cape affords, and knows the most productive white-wing dove water holes. Snorkeling is excellent on the reef near the boat landing. The terrace bar, magnificently situated for a view of sunsets and surf, can be a bit noisy, what with the nightly mariachis, but the dining room, with its high ceiling and open-air veranda, is well run by Ma√Ætre d' José Rivera, whose wing shooting is just as good as his English. In back of the hotel is a 3,600-foot, humpbacked, dirt airstrip that is popular with light-plane vacationers. A well-stocked boutique offers high fashions and 10-million-year-old shark teeth. Tennis courts, horses and scuba gear are available, but the main attractions remain the splendid location on the edge of Chileno Bay, where pirates once lurked in anticipation of Spanish plate fleets, and Bud Parr's firm-handed management, which insists on excellence in everything from kitchen cleanliness to the handling of giant bill-fish. For reservations, write P.O. Box 48747, Briggs Station, Los Angeles, Calif. 90048 or call (213) 655-4760.
Hotel Palmilla, in operation since 1951, is the cape's oldest resort. Located just below the pleasant town of San José del Cabo, where an international jet airport is due to open this year, Palmilla offers 45 rooms at prices ranging from $38 to $42 single, American plan, to $68 to $76 for a double. For those who prefer still water to surf (which can be treacherous anywhere along the cape), the Palmilla has a swimming pool. A good fishing fleet, tennis courts and horseback riding round out the recreational possibilities. Palmilla's main attraction is its atmosphere: a heavy, yet airy, old-style Spanish architecture, cool tiles and stucco, surrounded by an abundance of flowering trees and shrubs fully matured because of the resort's edge in age over its competitors. For reservations, write P.O. Box 1775, La Jolla, Calif. 92038 or phone (714) 454-0600.
Hotel Solmar, tidy and new, is situated right under the frowning rock visage of the cape itself. Perhaps one should say visages: the 500-foot cliff called La Vigia that serves as Solmar's backdrop is a cave-pocked, sandstone monument of natural sculptures. Sitting at the thatch-roofed poolside bar, one can search for faces in the rocks, including that of Richard Nixon just above the wing of rooms to the left, facing the cliff. Frigate birds, caracaras, vultures, hawks and eagles swing on the updrafts over the cliff, and the surf on the beach just beyond the bar is explosive. Solmar has four plans, including $35 for a single and $56 for a double, American, and $21 and $28, European. The resort has 41 rooms, all air-conditioned, and offers fishing, scuba diving, dove shooting and water skiing. For reservations, write P.O. Box 383, Pacific Palisades, Calif. 90272 or phone (213) 459-3336.
Hotel Finisterra, perched high on the cliffs just north of San Lucas, is the most spectacular of the cape resorts. Stark Mexican-modern architecture blends perfectly with the sheer walls and crags that surround it. All 58 rooms are suites with sitting rooms and range from $38 to $42 for a single and from $64 to $72 for a double, American plan only. What Finisterra gains in appearance by its elevation it loses through discomfort. To get to the beach below—or, more pertinent, to return to the hotel—one must negotiate 250 rather steep steps, and though the beach is wide and clean, the surf is a web of fierce currents. Moreover, motorists will find that the cliffside site has little parking space, and what exists is largely vertical. The staff, at least during one recent visit, was unpleasant and condescending, the drinks weak and the food nearly tasteless, though expensive. For reservations, write 3662 Katella, Suite 107, Los Alamitos, Calif. 90720 or phone (213) 775-6058.
Hacienda is run by the same people who own Palmilla, and this newer resort shares the intimacy and grace of its cousin farther north. Its 65 rooms range in price from $38 to $42 single to $68 to $76 double, American plan. Located on the bay of San Lucas, with excellent skin diving just off the beach, it has two swimming pools, a glass-bottom boat for fish watchers and a good tennis layout. Mainly, it is low key and friendly. For reservations, write P.O. Box 813, La Jolla, Calif. 92038 or phone (714) 454-1303.
A potpourri of Gold Coast hotels: pools and beach at Hotel Cabo San Lucas; alfresco bar at Palmilla; bas-relief bar stools at Cabo; and Solmar's choo-choo train wing.