Baja Bound, page 3:

Magic of the Moon is the place to find a Baja-made, ruffled "Cha-Cha" blouse to wear to Christmas dinner or to a New Year's fiesta at one of the big resort hotels. The hotels have some of the loveliest seaside, open-air restaurants, and live music at their fiesta parties, with special entertainment and holiday menus at Christmastime. Between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, more than a dozen upscale resorts and hotels are strategically located on the curvaceous coastline of the Cape. Sprawled above a jetty-protected cove and Playa Bedito, within the new Cabo Real development, the Melia Cabo Real Beach and Golf Resort is an organized jumble of terra-cotta-colored cubes, with a unique glass and onyx pyramid dome, familiar to TV viewers who watch the series, "Land's End."

The hotel recently underwent a million dollar expansion, making it the largest hotel in the state of Baja. The hotel grounds are an oasis of cacti, palms and blooming tropical flowers and trees cooled by fountains and waterfalls, ponds and swimming pools, leading the eye ultimately to the main attractions: a perfectly white beach and the dazzling, cerulean waters of Mar de Cortez. You can walk on the sand for miles in either direction. A rocky, small cove just north of Cabo Real, Playa La Concha has tide pools and a beach club with a swimming pool.

It is not unusual to see leaping dolphins, and whales spouting along this stretch of the coastline. Batallions of gray whales are winter tourists every year, swimming south from the icy Bering Sea in Alaska to the warm, protected bays of Baja California Sur, arriving in late December.

Snuggled around the immense Melia hotel complex, the Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed Cabo Real Golf Course is a 7,000-yard-long series of green islands in a fearsome desert landscape of huge cardon cacti and ball-snatching arroyos, with views of the sea from every one of the 18 greens. This is golf central in Baja, with the Jack Nicklaus Palmilla course and Nicklaus' Cabo del Sol course each just a few minutes drive away, and Roy Dye's new Cabo San Lucas Country Club course overlooking Land's End.

Discretely hidden between the Cabo Real golf course and the sea, the Casa del Mar hotel has twenty-five luxurious, antique-filled rooms, and is popular with celebritites and golfers who prefer a quieter Baja experience. The new 243-room Westin Regina Resort, on the other hand, makes a bold statement in red sandstone with blazing hot pink, yellow and green accents, while managing, somehow, to blend into a dramatic mountain backdrop. The Westin's several swimming pools snake dizzily along the edge of a rocky beach.

For over four decades, the Hotel Palmilla has remained unsurpassed for classic Mexican architecture, an old-world atmosphere and a spectacular 900-acre site above one of the loveliest bays in Baja. Snorkeling and diving is excellent here; you can rent equipment at the hotel's dive shop, and learn to dive, too. Palmilla has one of the longest established and largest fishing fleets. A recent $12 million renovation added oceanfront suites, and a new beachfront swimming pool and health club, all lushly landscaped and gracefully integrated into the original propety. With hand-crafted Mexican furnishings, a valuable collection of art and tiles, and several open-air restaurants and bars, the hotel is a tourist attraction in itself.

Palmilla's Friday fiesta buffets are legendary, with mariachi bands playing and every kind of fresh fish imaginable: seviche, Ahi sashimi and tartare, fish tacos, and your own freshly-caught Dorado or tuna, which the hotel chefs will prepare to your order. Families and groups at Christmas dinner may carve their own roasted turkey. This year, Palmilla will celebrate their grand reopening with a New Year's dinner around the new pool overlooking the sea, with live music and dancing under the stars, and fireworks at midnight!

I spent part of my Christmas Eve at midnight mass at the Parroquia de San Lucas: the parish church of Cabo San Lucas, a block or so away from the hub-bub of Boulevard Marina. I stood in the stone archway, beneath the huge bronze bell sent here by the Spaniards in 1750, surrounded by a flock of little girls in their ruffled best dresses, darting excitedly up and down the stairs like twittering birds. Families crowded the wooden benches inside, their soft murmurings and the sweet scent of beeswax candles drifting out into the warm night.

©Karen Misuraca; all rights reserved.