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By Irene Butler

Flanked by the sapphire Sea of Cortez on one side and desert shrub nodding under a halogen sun on the other, my gallant steed Bambino followed six other riders along a white sand beach. Her leisurely pace occasionally morphed into an exhilarating gallop, making me feel like a true vaquera (cowgirl).

This stretch of sheltered coast on Mexico's Baja California peninsula was once a hideaway for pirates bent on raiding Spanish galleons and some of today's business owners and fishermen are their descendants of those buccaneers who stayed on in this slice of paradise.

Los Cabos is at the tip of the Peninsula and tour guides can't wait to tell us ordinary folk about the rich and famous personalities who come to play and live here in their mansions on the crest of hill.

Los Cabos is actually three personalities rolled into one. San Jose del Cabo is a traditional Mexican town with a central plaza, adobe structures, and municipal market. Cabo San Lucas is focused on partying and fashionable good looks. Linking the two towns is the Los Cabos Corridor, a 29 km stretch of beaches, golf courses, and luxury resorts. The 200,000 citizens of the combined three sectors bask in 330 days of sunshine annually.

Not having succumbed to stiffness from Bambino's feisty ways, I was off to the zip lines the following morning. After a session with instructor Pedro, and wearing a helmet and harness, I was attached with a trolley mechanism to the cable-and gravity took care of the rest. I flew along a total of 5 km of lines strung across a river canyon including an exhilarating whip along a 457m long and 91m high line and thrilled to the grand finale-rappelling down a lengthy fall to ground level. At the end of this adventure, I was more than ready for the tequila sampling which concluded the tour.

A desert safari poster enticed me onto an open-air 4x4 vehicle with seven other gringos and our eco-friendly guide Leopolo. Bouncing over dirt roads through tropical desert terrain, we arrived at Dona Ramona and Don Chico's small hacienda. After freshening up, we followed Leopolo on a nature walk where he pointed out the healing powers of plants and chatted about the animals who lived in this area. Then came the treat of our host's home-cooked Mexican fare; followed by (sigh) the hardship of yet another tequila tasting session.

No visit to the area is complete without exploring the old city of San Jose. It took very little imagination to visualize the state of affairs in the early 1700's, when the Jesuits' disrupted the Pericú Indian's way of life by prohibiting polygamy, a tradition practiced for 550 years by the local tribe. The resultant uprising led to the murder of the priest and the destruction of the original mission complex; the mission church that stands behind city hall today dates from 1880.

Spreading out from a large central square art galleries with the work of local artists and craft shops are mixed with lively markets where locals go about their daily business.

A Zodiac boat cruise along the spectacular coastline was next on the agenda. The roiling waves smashed against the rocks, sending up massive sprays and adding to the thrill of the ride. Sea lions basked on rocky ledges and albatross soared above the craggy peaks. A sizeable natural granite window called "The Arch", allowed us a view of the Pacific Ocean from where we were on the Sea of Cortez. Our guide Mario also pointed out "lover's beach", and then, alas, not much further, also "divorce beach".

There are so many water-based activities here, including whale watching cruises during the grey whale migration from January to March. Sports fishermen also rave about trophy catches of marlin, swordfish and tuna, to name a few - most of them being released to fight another day.

My sunny days in Los Cabos passed all too quickly. Despite an early flight home the following morning, nothing could deter me from a final treat: a sunset cruise set against a blazing sky as old Sol melted into the sea.


For More information:

"New" - Air Canada Vacations now has Non-Stop Flights to Los Cabos fromVancouver and Toronto with connect flights from 65 major Canadian cities. Pkgs include airfare & all-inclusive accommodation. Tours can also be booked thru Air Canada Reps.

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PHOTOS: by Irene Butler

1. Horseback ride
2. Zip Line
3. Vehicle Safari
4. Mission Church
5. Arch Divide


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