Going Wild in Baja

Tour op revelas another side of Cabo

By: Janice Mucalov

Walking along the undulating golden riverbank, strewn with giant boulders and shaded by soaring Mexican palms, it’s hard to believe we’re on holiday in Cabo San Lucas.

“Everyone knows about the ocean here, but few people know about the mountains,” said Casey Catlin, our guide and one of three owners of the eco-adventure company Baja Wild. “And when they see them, they’re blown away.”

He is so right. This hike with Baja Wild in the Sierra de la Laguna range, a two-hour drive north of the Cabo beach resort, is a highlight of our trip and I’m a die-hard, sand-and-surf junkie.

We’re exploring the Canyon of the Fox in the forest mountain range that runs north to south in the Baja Peninsula. Apart from our group, there’s not another soul around. Instead, we see tiny turquoise frogs jumping out from rock pools, white-winged doves in the scraggy pine trees and brilliant Monarch butterflies flitting from bush to bush.

The best part, however, is stripping down to our swimsuits and diving into a refreshingly cold, deep, waterfall-fed pool at the end of our hot hike.

The day-trip starts with pickup from your client’s hotel (sometimes as early as 7 a.m., depending on group size). Participants are limited to eight or so the number that can comfortably fit, along with two guides, into a large air-conditioned mini-van. A stop in San Jose del Cabo for coffee and fresh-baked croissants allows everyone to get acquainted.

The drive to the mountains passes through the small town of Santiago. Built on an oasis in the desert hills, its main boulevard is lined with red hibiscus, and gardens nurture lush mango, orange, banana and palm trees. From Santiago, the road continues as a bumpy strip of sand, which climbs up the remote mountainside through dry scrub to the base of the trail.

Roundtrip, the hike is about five miles. And the pace is leisurely with guides pointing out how increased levels of rainfall in the Sierra de la Laguna mountains, where the highest peaks reach 7,000 feet, have created a unique biosphere that supports pine and oak trees and all manner of wildlife, from hummingbirds and giant golden eagles to piñon mice and lizards. It’s a scramble up a cliff face to get to the waterfall, but the effort is worth it. Adventurous clients can jump 45 feet down into the deep clear water below; others can wade in from lower down.

After splashing about, it’s time to pack up and head for the funky Fandango’s bistro in San Jose del Cabo, where a frosty beer and late Mexican lunch (or early dinner) awaits.

The guided Waterfalls and Canyons trip costs $75 per person, and includes morning coffee and baked goodies, snacks on the hike and lunch. A 10 to 20 percent commission is paid, depending on the number of clients booked. According to Baja Wild, it is the only tour operator in Los Cabos that’s a member of the Mexican Association of Ecotourism.