Up from Cabo San Lucas, almost 50 newly paved miles Essay

Road runners pedal furiously across your asphalt path; vultures and
hawks perch on roadside cactus. Along the western horizon, are after
sweeping arc of solitary beach is punctuated by rocky outcrops that drop
steeply into the surf.



This is the scene along much of Baja California Sur’s newest
paved road. Except for five short detours where road and bridge
construction continues at arroyo crossings, Sunset reporters found the
48 miles clear sailing in late December. Underway for many years, the
paving opens up the route along the Pacific from Cabo San Lucas to Todos
Santos, where a dirt road through town connects with the paved highway
to La Paz. It’s a more Level, less winding alternative to Mexico
1, with an average speed of 40 mph. The greatest benefit is access to
beaches that truly fulfill the claims of Baja tourism ads: they stretch
for miles and are virtually unpeopled (we met one surfer and a handful
of local fishermen). Avid anglers can cast for croakers, corbina,
sierra, and other surf fish. Todos Santos is a small farming town with
the dusty pastel quaintness that movie-set designers strive to
re-create.



The beaches are idyllic locales for self-contained campers. Other
visitors might consider a day trip by rental car from Cabo San Lucas
resorts (most hotels will pack you a picnic lunch). A Volkswagen
“bug” rents for $16 per day plus 11 cents a kilometer, a
midsize car for $38 a day plus 18 cents a kilometer; add $4 a day for
automatic transmission, $8.50 for full insurance coverage. Fill up with
gasoline in Cabo (or La Paz). You’ll find no resorts and only
modest provisions at tiny grocery stores in Todos Santos.


Here’s a guide, from south to north, to help you recognize
which nameless dirt roads lead to the best beaches and overlooks. We
list distances first in kilometers (miles in parentheses). Watch out
for cattle; don’t drive after dark and remember that late-summer
and fall storms can alter road conditions. Because odometer readings
can vary from car to car, you may need to adjust our mileage readouts
slightly as you drive.



0 km (0 miles). From Mexico 1, just east of the Cabo San Lucas
marina, turn northward at a major intersection near a bright yellow auto
supply store and a thatch-roofed restaurant called El Caracol. Bear left
past military barracks. The road rises as you head inland, with the
newest pavement flowing ahead, a crisp black ribbon fringed with ragged
mounds of red earth. Cardon dominate the landscape, along with other
cactus and elephant trees; the sawtoothed Sierra de la Laguna rise
purple-gray on the right.



After a stretch of particularly dense cardon, you’ll encounter
within the next 18 kilometers four detours (look for signs marked
Desviacion). From rises, you can see panoramic views of the Pacific.



32.4 km (20). A wide and level graded road cuts off to the west,
leading in .6 km (.4 mile) to parking spots sheltered by dunes; scramble
between or over them for views up and down the coast and to reach a
beach with rocks at the south end, where anglers might cast a line.
You’re likely to see bonyrumped range cattle browsing the dunes.



41 km (25,4). Look for a little sign on the side of the road
saying Rancho El Cajoncito; turn west down a dirt road. At .9 km (.5
mile) you are at a fork. The left fork leads shortly to the beach just
south of the point pictured at the top of page 68 (park at roadside
where it gets rutty). From here you can walk well over a mile
southward, exploring two coves with some rock-scrambling required
between them. The right fork leads uphill (a bit rocky) to the
point’s lookout for long views to the south as well as north to
Punta Gasparino,



45.7 km (28.3). A short unpaved spur west leads to a miles-long
beach that ends to the north in the rocky jumble of Punta La Tinaja.
This is a particularly wide beach. Just north on the highway, another
cutoff leads to level parking that’s closer to the rocky point;
walk over dune hillocks to reach the sand.



51.6 km (31.9). In December, a short detour here had become a
drivable catch basin of rain from fall rainstorms (chubascos); stately
snowy egrets found it a popular water stop.


53.4 km (33.1). An easy cutoff to the left takes you northward,
paralleling Mexico 19. Shortly, you make a left turn leading to a beach
with perhaps the coast’s most dramatic backdrop: the rugged cliffs
of Punta Gasparino to the north look as if they belong in the Pacific
Northwest. You can walk for miles, but don’t play in the surf; at
low tide, a 4-foot-high cliff of sand separates the upper and lower
beach, attesting to strong wave action.



If you miss that trunoff, 1 km (.6 mile) north, look for a shpar
hairpin cutoff to the left; it slopes down alongside a dry wash to the
same beach.



65.1 km (40.4). Turn left down a wide, well-graded dirt road;
you’ll drive 2.7 km (1.7 miles), crossing a few cattle grates to
reach the pristine arc of Playa Los Cerritos, the coast’ss best
surfing beach and a good place to test the water. In the shallows, the
sun glints off bits of feldspar that shine like grains of gold. A
thatched shelter offers some shade.



73.2 km (54.4). Opposite the cluster of white buildings that is El
Pescadero, an uppaved cutoff bears left, paralleling the road. If you
see the primitive gate open (sometimes the ranch gate is closed),
continue to Playa San Pedro, a favored camping spot of vacationers in
the spring.



76.0 km (49.1). A wide, graded dirt road leads .5 km (.3 mile) to
Playa Punta Lobos, home of the Todos Santos fishing fleet, comprised of
some two dozen colorful pangas. These boats come in with their catches
between 2 and 3 P.M. weekdays, a bit later on weekends. You’re
likely to see locals spearfishing for octopus from rocks near
road’s end. This beach is not recommended for swimming, but you
can walk miles northward.



77.5 km (48.0). Paving ends at the town of Todos Santos.
Colonial-looking buildings around the flagstone-paved town center data
from the 1860s. Narrow roads lined with eucalyptus and concrete
irrigation ditches fan out into surrounding farmland planted in
sugar-cane, citrus, mangoes, and bananas. Neon-bright blazes of
bougainvillea cloak fences and roofs.



Paving resumes on the north outskirts of town. From Todos Santos
to Santos to La Paz, it’s 84 km (52 miles) of easy driving.

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