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In the Cabo Zone

With one of the world's richest marine environments, the fishing at Los Cabos is just about as good as it gets. In fifteen years of wetting a line in these waters, I've landed striped and blue marlin (releasing them all) as well as tuna, wahoo, dorado, roosterfish and a dozen other species. I've also been skunked a few times, so the best advice is to be patient and enjoy your time on the sea.

Most tourists charter a sportfishing cruiser, depart the harbor early in the morning, then troll out in the Pacific for marlin or whatever else hits their lures. What I've learned is that it's important to take the best advantage of your time on the water. Don't go with a hangover and do book the best boat you can afford. Perhaps the best commercial operator in Los Cabos is Bob Smith, the owner of Minerva's Sportfishing and Minerva's Baja Tackle (011-52-624-143-1282), in down- town Cabo San Lucas. You might also consider driving an hour northeast to Mark Walters's Rancho Buenavista (011-52-624-141-0177; forty-five minutes northeast of the airport), one of Baja's oldest fishing lodges in an area where you'll often catch more fish than in Cabo. Both Bob and Mark are square guys with first-rate boats, captains and gear. Rates start at about $250 per day.

If you've never caught a marlin, Los Cabos is probably the best chance you'll ever get. And there's nothing in the world that compares to the scream of a gold Penn reel as a feisty striper or big blue grabs your bait and heads for Hawaii. Much of the thrill comes from the fact that there's no telling what's going to happen next. I'm a pretty big guy by anyone's standards, but my first striped marlin pulled hard enough to make me cry out loudly as the pain shot from my arms to my legs and back again. But, thirty minutes later, after some nice aerial displays, the fish was tagged and swimming free.

If you're looking for a little fast action, you can do no better than to charter a panga--a twenty-two-foot fiberglass skiff with a fast outboard motor--from Palmilla Beach or Playita in San José del Cabo. I've fished a number of times with Brad Wheatley, the director of golf at Cabo del Sol. On a recent trip, we left Palmilla with his favorite boatman, Nino, and raced at top speed to the Inner Gordo Banks, where schools of yellowfin tuna were soon chomping on our live sardines and giving us the battle of our lives. Within two hours, we'd caught all the tuna our exhausted muscles could manage. We ate a couple of big fillets that night; the rest was dropped off at the house of an old man who smokes the fish for you and keeps half in payment. I brought home incredible smoked tuna for all my family and friends and felt like a real hotshot, but the important thing was that we teed it up at Palmilla by noon that same day. It doesn't get much better than that. --T.P.

1 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. orange juice
1 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
3 oz. José Quervo 1800
4 oz. Sprite or similar
Ice cubes--frappe, amount depends on size of glass

Mix all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. For the final touch, add Sprite.

Flights arrive at the Los Cabos International Airport, just inland from San José del Cabo. You can take a cab or arrange transportation through your hotel, but you'll have more freedom to explore if you rent a car. Opt for full insurance coverage (insurance from home won't apply).

The water in Los Cabos, especially in the first-class hotels, is safe to drink, but why take chances?Drink only bottled water (and drink lots of it).

BEACHES: Pristine beaches abound, but many have a severe undertow. Often called the most beautiful beach in Mexico, Playa Santa María, while hard to find, is a sheltered cove with good snorkeling. Playa del Amor, near "El Arco," or the natural arch at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, is accessible only by water taxi or challenging rock clamber from Cabo San Lucas. It's very secluded, and the beach faces both the east side and the powerful Pacific. Ask at your hotel for directions to all.

NIGHTLIFE: Cabo San Lucas is as well-known for its wild late-night atmosphere as it is for golf, yet three hot spots along the main drag downtown seem to gather most of the action. When owner Sammy Hagar is in town, everyone flocks to his gigantic cantina, Cabo Wabo (011-52-624-143-1188), for loud rock and roll and mindless fun. A block away at the Giggling Marlin (011-52-624-143-0606), willing women are hung upside down like billfish, an activity that both bares their chests and keeps the bar crowded for long hours. Late night, the crowds stagger to El Squid Roe (Lázaro Cardenas and Ignacio Zaragoza) for more drinking games and dancing on tabletops.


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