Los Cabos Gets a Second Wind

Roughed up by Hurricane Odile, Mexico’s resort hub quickly roars back.

Early last September, when the tropical storm that would become Hurricane Odile was gathering intensity in the Pacific Ocean, people on the Baja California Peninsula initially had little cause for concern. Forecasters predicted the path would avoid land as it tracked northwest and out to sea.

But on September 13 Odile’s Category 4 (135 mph) winds took an unexpected turn directly towards the peninsula.

The winds slowed to Category 3 (125 mph) when Odile made landfall September 15, but the storm ranked as the most severe to bludgeon Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo in nearly 50 years. It caused severe flooding, pummeling hotels, disrupting power, crippling the international airport and forcing reportedly 30,000 tourists and nearly 70,000 locals to seek shelter.

Averaging 10 inches of rain annually, the southern part of the peninsula saw seven inches fall in about an hour as the storm hovered. An estimated 12 inches fell over the next 36 hours.

Although battered and dazed, area business owners, residents and tourists stranded in Mexico’s third most popular vacation destination all witnessed an immediate response from the Mexican government, which mobilized federal troops, police and natural disaster-related personnel to begin the process of rebuilding.

The Commission for Federal Electricity (the equivalent of Colorado’s Xcel Energy) dispatched more than 5,000 employees and some 3,000 trucks to the region to begin replacing the sub-stations, thousands of electrical line poles and fallen wires. Similar efforts were done by the telecommunication, and natural gas and water companies, and the government also sent 3,000 soldiers and federal police to assist in the recovery effort.

“You have to give a lot of praise to the Mexican people,” says Jason Ballog, PGA Director of Golf at One & Only Palmilla (pictured below). “They understood what they needed to do, they understood that this is their livelihood and so they were out there in full force cleaning up and working hard. They knew they needed to get ready for the high season and they did an amazing job.”

Pictured: One & Only Palmilla, Nicklaus Course

SILVER LININGS

Surprisingly, damage to Cabo’s 14 golf courses was limited largely to lost vegetation and sand erosion. While winds from the hurricane uprooted hundreds of cacti, palms and shrubby trees the fairways and greens soaked in much needed moisture, leaving the courses incredibly lush.

“No doubt Cabo got hammered,” says Dave Osborne, director of SV Capital, an Englewood- based real estate investment and development firm that has a role in a boutique luxury hotel and golf project in Chileno Bay, just south of San José del Cabo. The Tom Fazio-designed course “actually fared very well and is probably in better shape than it was before because of the amount of rain we got, which filled the retention ponds and the lake.”

“The arroyos were flowing like rivers and a lot of the bunkers lost sand because of the wind,” explains Palmilla’s Ballog. “But other than that we’re in pretty good shape.”

Ballog confirms the course’s automated irrigation system suffered a substanital beatdown, and that a metal maintenance hangar where mowing equipment is stored was destroyed, but otherwise the course didn’t take much of a hit. It will reopen in March, at the same time as the resort, which sustained heavier damage.

Scheduled for a December 4 grand opening, Quivira’s Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, according to PGA Director of Golf Brad Wheatley, only sustained minor sand intrusion and cactus loss, and the beachfront clubhouse also weathered the storm.

Pictured: Aerial view of Quivira's 5th green

Pictured: Quivira's 11th green at sunset

“We are very pleased to welcome guests once again to our five Cabo San Lucas resorts, which are as spectacular as ever,” he says, referring to the family of Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts, “and to unveil the new Quivira Golf Club.”

Located at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, the gorgeous 7,139- yard layout rewards golfers who enjoy play along massive dunes, sheer cliffs and desert foothills.

“We worked hard to reestablish all services and to repair, even improve, aspects of the resorts,”commented Ernesto Coppel, the owner of Quivira and Pueblo Bonito. “I have always insisted on building structurally sound, high-quality facilities, and because of this requirement, our recovery time was fast.”

Three Stay & Play packages, each including treatments at what Condé Nast Traveler readers ranked among the “Top 25 Spas in Mexico & Central America,” are in place to encourage visits to the luxury resort.

BUSINESS AS USUAL

According to the Los Cabos Tourism Board, the Los Cabos International Airport resumed operations in late October with flights provided by eight major U.S. and Canadian carriers serving the region. Fifteen ships from Princess Cruises, Holland America, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line have come into the cruise ship terminal, which was undamaged, and more than 90 percent of the restaurants and retail stores have reopened.

Of the 59 hotels in the Los Cabos Hotel Association, 15 were up and running by mid-October and more are scheduled to be operational by early December. Sirena del Mar, Cabo Azul Resort & Spa and Meliá Cabo Real should open by January 2015; ME by Meliá Cabo plans to open in February.

“We are extremely grateful for the overwhelming support the destination has received from the local community, the federal and state government, our airline partners, wholesalers, incentive houses and of course, our visitors,” explained Renato Mendonça, President of the Los Cabos Hotel Association. “Los Cabos is full of surprises for everyone, nothing can stop us.”

Those hardest hit—One & Only Palmilla, The Westin Resort & Spa, Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos and Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort—intend to open in March. Hyatt Place Los Cabos anticipates reopening in July.

Held October 14 to 18, winning anglers reeled in some of the estimated $750,000 in cash and prizes during the Los Cabos Billfish Tournament. Bisbie’s Los Cabos Offshore Charity Tournament and Black & Blue Marlin Tournament took to the Sea of Cortez October 18 and 19, and October 22 to 24 respectively. Quickly getting back to full strength is the marina’s fishing charter boat industry.

It appears that the luxury property rental market looks largely unaffected as well.

“We’re sold out for Thanksgiving, and Christmas and New Year’s are booked solid,” said Dave Girard, SunCabo Vacations. “Wi-Fi is back, the marina is open, you can go deep sea fishing and parasailing. It’ll be a busy season.”

Girard, a partner in the Vancouver, Canada-based upscale villa and condo rental business, reports his company rescheduled a handful of guests who’d planned to visit in October, but that they’d had no cancellations.

In mid-October the Mexican Tourism Board launched an advertising campaign— “Los Cabos. Unstoppable.”—aimed at rebooting tourism to the area. Funded by the Mexican Government, the $5 million promotion kicked off with social media in part featuring locals and using the hashtag #unstoppable. Television ads and print ads followed in early November.

Pictured: The 13th tee at Quivira

PLAY ‘EM ALL!

At press time nine courses had opened, including the back nine of Cabo del Sol’s Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course and Cabo Real, a Robert Trent Jones. Jr. design measuring 6,848 yards from the championship tees.

Welcoming back golfers in October: the semi-private, 7,328-yard Roy Dye-designed Cabo San Lucas Country Club; Club Campestre San José, a Nicklaus design spanning 7,055 yards from the championship tees; and Querencia Golf Club, a private Tom Fazio layout measuring 7,050 yards.

Also playable in October were the two nines at Puerto Los Cabos Golf Club: the front nine Mission Course designed by Greg Norman and the back nine Marina Course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Twenty-seven holes at Cabo del Sol are slated for a November opening—all 18 at Tom Weiskopf ’s Desert Course and the front nine of Nicklaus’ Ocean Course.

Designed by Davis Love III, the highly regarded, private 7,300-yard Diamante Dunes Course (pictured below) will welcome players in November. And a month later Diamante will unveil its private El Cardonal Course, Tiger Woods’ much anticipated layout. El Dorado Golf and Beach Club, a private club, is keeping members apprised on an opening date.

Pictured: Diamante's Dunes Course

Of the over 160,000 reviews on TripAdvisor. com, Cabo San Lucas remains a favorite. “Paradise…even with a hurricane! The hotel is going above and beyond caring for each guest.” stated an October post describing a trip to Esperanza, an Auberge resort.

The well regarded destination has eight properties on the Condé Nast Traveler Best Hotels and Resorts in Mexico 2014 list, four hotels scored five-star of five possible stars on the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Hotels list and Elite Traveller readers named the Armonia Spa at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica, The Spa at Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Paz Spa at Cabo Azul, The Spa at the Westin Resort & Spa and Spa Marquis at Marquis Los Cabos among the best spas in Cabo.

For 60 years Los Cabos have welcomed visitors and no question travelers will keep returning. And they’ll be blown away by such welcoming hospitality.

RELATED LINKS

Cabo’s Courses Rebounding Nicely from Hurricane Odile

First Look: Quivira Golf Club to Debut This Fall

¡Qué Magnífico! Golf South of the Border

Las Casas en Los Cabos

Contributing Editor Kim D. McHugh is a Lowell Thomas Award-winning writer. For information on Stay & Play and post-Odile special packages, contact the resorts or visitloscabos.travel. For a list of Hurricane Odile relief funds, visit www.coloradoavidgolfer.com.

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