Cabo has long been considered one of the most beautiful places on Earth. (Thinkstock)
Los Cabos is an idyllic beach destination at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, perfect for families, a favorite with honeymooners and, thanks to its short two-hour flight from Los Angeles, packed with the Hollywood elite (Jennifer Aniston is a regular, and Cindy Crawford owns a home there).
But in September, Hurricane Odile wreaked havoc on Cabo, the first major natural disaster there in 50 years. Wind speeds clocked in at 186 mph during the category 5 storm (the highest), causing $500 million in damages and five deaths in a span of two days. Los Cabos International Airport was hit hard, five-star resorts were damaged, and one of the destination’s newest properties, El Ganzo, was basically swept away in the storm.
Despite the tragic losses, Los Cabos has bounced back faster than anyone imagined, launching the campaign #Unstoppable to prove the popular ocean-side getaway is just as tenacious as it is (still) glam. The beaches are miraculously as sublime as ever, and a handful of resorts are back in full swing. Most restaurants have reopened, and the airport is completely operational. The weather is back to its normal 88 degrees and sunny. Aside from a handful of sites under construction, you never would believe a hurricane had blown through here.
And here’s the most amazing thing: There’s no better time to visit Los Cabos than now, not only to support the destination (tourism is down 70 percent because few travelers realize the place is back on its feet) but also to reap the benefits. In fact, when I went from Oct. 26 to Nov. 1, I ended up saving more than $3,000, which I plan on using for another vacation there. Here’s how I did it:
Saved: $250 on a roundtrip flight
Jet off to a gorgeous beach! (Thinkstock)
My flight from Los Angeles, which would normally run about $500 in November for high season, was only $250 on United’s website. I saved half the fare. Because basically no one is flying to Los Cabos now, I was upgraded immediately, and there were only 31 passengers (I counted) on my 169-passenger flight, giving everyone ample room to stretch out. I haven’t seen this since 2008 before airlines began to cut back routes and sardine passengers onto their planes. (Bonus: the 737-900 aircraft was completely new.)
Saved: at least an hour of waiting and immeasurable aggravation at customs
There were no grumpy faces like these at the airport in Cabo. (Thinkstock)
My flight landed at Terminal 2, which is essentially brand-new (it had to be rebuilt since it lost half its roof in the storm), and customs was a breeze. That normal, agonizing wait in line took two minutes tops. Officials were (gasp!) friendly as they see your arrival as support. Considering the major lack of tourists arriving, there wasn’t a horde of taxi drivers and tour operators hawking at you after customs. I met my driver peacefully.
Saved: $2,251 on accommodations
Welcome to my condo. (HomeAway)
Only 20 percent of Cabo resorts are open, while the rest are slated to reopen in the first quarter of 2015. When I vacation in Cabo, I generally choose a five-star resort like Las Ventanas or One&Only Palmilla. Since they were closed, I opted for a vacation rental to get similar privacy and services. (Even if you wouldn’t normally stay in a swanky resort, vacation rentals are still a great deal — many right on or near the beach have slashed prices, which is even more of a bargain considering rentals are often cheaper than hotels to begin with.) Through HomeAway, I was able to rent a gorgeous, two-bedroom penthouse condo just a five-minute walk to El Medano Beach (which has always been one of Cabo’s few swimmable beaches). I had a massive, two-tier patio with oceanfront views, an outdoor jacuzzi, a full-service kitchen and, best of all, a personal concierge, Hugo, who checked me in, organized a sunset massage on the patio, and he even took me to a nearby store so I could stock up on groceries for the week. Not only was Hugo part of the rental, the condo also came equipped with security, a private pool, and tons of charm. Normally rates here are $250 a night but, due to the lack of vacationers booking, I snagged a rate of $199 a night for six nights (total: $1,349 with cleaning fee and traveler’s protection). The likes of Las Ventanas and One&Only start around $600 per night ($3,600 for my stay). Needless to say, I had plenty of pesos to play with. If you prefer to stay at a resort for the full experience, Casa Dorada is one of the few currently open and has rates as low as $250 per night (normally $450).
Saved: approximately $400 on meals
A delicious meal from Cabo Bakery (Cabo Bakery/Facebook)
Had I stayed at a luxury resort, I would have eaten there, too. Considering resorts are not all-inclusive, you can expect five-star prices. Staying at a vacation rental gave me the opportunity to explore charming, local haunts like the Cabo Bakery and Gardenias. In fact, four delicious tacos at Gardenias (a favorite, secret spot for ex-pats) ran me 110 peso ($8).
Saved: at least $150 on watersports
At places like One&Only Palmilla in Cabo, watersports can be way more expensive. (One&Only Palmilla/Facebook)
Water excursions are ridiculously underpriced right now, because there are few travelers to book them, despite the ocean being as calm and gorgeous as ever. Hawkers on the beach will basically negotiate prices with you if you’re looking to rent a personal watercraft or kayak or take a glass-bottom boat ride (one was offered to me for $10). Chances are the rates will rise back to normal during the holidays.
Saved: $360 on massages
There’s nothing like an ocean-side massage. (Thinkstock)
Most spas that were destroyed now have satellite locations on the beach, where you can snag a full-body, one-hour massage for $30, as opposed to $150 inside a resort spa. I got three during my visit.
Saved: my sanity
Empty beaches are the best beaches. (One&Only Palmilla Resort/Facebook)
As you can imagine, the sprawling beach generally swarms with visitors this time of year. I practically had the entire beach all to myself. Priceless.
Video: See What Happened When the Hurricane Hit Cabo