George and Judy Slemmons, Bellevue retirees who’ve been coming to Cabo for almost 20 years, arrived Monday for their second visit since the September hurricane. To them, the place is “almost all recovered,” an enthusiastic Judy said as they waited at a car-rental counter outside Los Cabos International Airport.
But that’s compared to their Nov. 1 visit, when they stayed at Sheraton’s Hacienda del Mar resort, and “you could see shards of red tile everywhere” from the resort’s damaged roofs, George recalled.
They came after canceling a visit scheduled for early October, before the airport — and many hotels — reopened. In the midst of repairs and rebuilding, they were impressed by the vigor with which workers tackled renewal efforts.
“It was amazing. We were here for three weeks and they worked all day, every single day except Sunday,” Judy said.
They replanted palms and replaced every roof at Hacienda del Mar, George said. “I think half the windows blew out.”
While recovery efforts regionwide have drawn praise for the Mexican people and their government, evidence of the hurricane’s ferocity remains — in little things like freshly plastered walls or missing ceiling panels in the airport. Or the wrecked auto-rental office my shuttle passed on the way to the National car rental agency, which itself has a sparkling new office, just completed thanks to Hurricane Odile (which trashed 250 of the agency’s rental cars, according to my rental agent).
My drive from the airport to the Holiday Inn Resort in San Jose del Cabo this evening was made more exciting — and a lot slower — by a stretch of several miles of the old highway where traffic signals were missing or inoperable at busy intersections. Locals seemed accustomed to treating each dark intersection like a four-way stop, but for a visitor it was an exercise in frayed nerves. Take the toll road from the airport ($2.50 U.S.) and you’ll miss out on that.
Despite remaining glitches, visitors are returning. The Alaska Airlines nonstop from Seattle on Monday had seats open, but not many. The majority onboard were older travelers, including other Baja veterans. A Cabo-bound passenger on my plane, a retired physician from Bellingham, visits at this time every year, and he didn’t let the hurricane stop him from meeting up with old friends at a favorite hotel in Cabo San Lucas, the Pueblo Bonito. He said he heard his favorite restaurant was closed because of hurricane damage, but that the rest of the resort was OK.
Cabo San Lucas was spared the worst of the storm, which hit hardest to the east around San Jose del Cabo. “We heard some of the places on the beach in San Jose just got hammered,” he said.
That’s why I chose to spend this night in San Jose, to take a look. It was dark by the time I arrived, though my dinner on the patio gave a clear view of some beat-up palm trees that looked like they’d been through the wars. But overhead was an obviously brand-new, and handsome, shelter of bamboo and peeled timbers. So that might be the story in Los Cabos this season: Be ready for some hitches as you get along, but also expect some spiffy new facilities that you can be among the first to enjoy.
No matter what else might be tarnished, the full moon ducking in and out from behind clouds over the Pacific tonight is the kind of thing that makes you glad to be here. Tomorrow I’ll report on how San Jose del Cabo looks by daylight.