Cabo’s Comeback

After a devastating hurricane two years ago, Mexico’s longtime playground is back. And with 13 new hotels, two golf courses, and countless private homes being constructed, it’s set to keep getting bigger and better.

Esperanza an Auberge Resort
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At the southernmost tip of Baja California, not far from Los Cabos International Airport, a well-maintained road is flanked by the Sierra de la Laguna. The mountains are greener than usual because of recent rain, and in their shadow, cardon cacti fill the desert. A cow stands off the road watching cars turn onto Carretera Transpeninsular, the highway that runs the length of Baja California—1,063 miles—from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas. “We have many problems in Mexico but not here,” my driver says as the royal blue Sea of Cortez appears to the south. This contrast, where ocean meets desert, has welcomed travelers for decades.

But soon, the familiar scenery is interrupted. Ten-foot-tall signs advertise empty lots. Suntanned men carry ladders and two-by-fours to half-constructed buildings, one after another, as I enter the Tourist Corridor (yes, unfortunately that’s its official designation), the 20-mile stretch of beaches, resorts, and golf courses that connects Cabo San Lucas to the west and San José del Cabo to the east. Collectively the area is known as Los Cabos, or Cabo for short.

I’ve come here to see the explosion of growth since the area was decimated by the worst hurricane in its history. Around 9:30 p.m. on September 14, 2014, Hurricane Odile made landfall in Cabo San Lucas, bringing winds of 125 miles per hour that flattened homes, blew out windows, and left 239,000 locals—90 percent of the population—without electricity for months. Category 3 Odile killed 11 people, injured 135 others, and caused more than $1 billion in damage.

Yet, in the two years since Odile, the four main luxury hotels have reopened after overhauls. About 20 private jets are parked the morning I arrive at the airport, which closed for two weeks for repairs after the ceiling collapsed in one terminal and the roof was torn off the other. Last year saw a record number of visitors, up 11 percent from 2014, to 1.8 million people. Cabo San Lucas’s marina is booming, with almost all 380 slips full. Luis Palacios, chief commercial officer of the tourism board, estimates that Cabo’s recovery is the fastest ever for a vacation destination. By the end of 2017, 3,000 new rooms will have been built across 13 hotels. “We are the comeback kid,” Palacios says. “The airlines came together with the federal government, the local government, and with the private sector to bring us back to life.”