By Matt Villano, on November 2, 2013

Off-roading near Los Cabos

There’s more to Los Cabos than beaches, resorts, and bars; between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose Del Cabo, to the east, lie some of the best dirt roads anywhere in the Americas.


On my most recent visit, after having explored the air and sea, I decided it was time to see what Cabo’s desert landscape is all about – from an ATV. My guides for the day: the folks at Wild Canyon Adventures, one of the backcountry outfitters that takes visitors out into the Desert Park Natural Preserve, the untrammeled wilderness east of the resorts that line the ocean(For what it’s worth, another good outfitter is Cactus ATV Tours.)


Following check-in at a kiosk just off the Transpeninsular Highway (Highway 1, for those of you scoring at home), I headed to an open area for a quick lesson. The ground was so dry that each footstep kicked up a cloud of dust. “You might want to wear this,” the teacher warned as she gave me a bandana to cover my nose and mouth. “It gets pretty dusty back there.”

Viewfinder Tip: Bring goggles to protect your eyes from dirt and dust on an ATV tour near Los Cabos. 

Looking like a true cowboy, I strutted to my fire-truck red ATV and saddled up for a lesson. Apparently, I needed all the practice I could muster – in my first three minutes on the machine, I stalled twice and fell once. I was contemplating a retreat to the car when my guide, a 19-year-old, sauntered over. We exchanged pleasantries in Spanish. Then he zoomed away.


Reluctantly, I followed, zipping past cacti and a landscape browner than toast. Even at 15 kilometers an hour, the first ten minutes of our ride was terrifying. As we drove deeper into the desert, however, the driving got easier. We descended to the dry arroyo of the El Tule River, where I ignored my contractual promise to keep the ATV under 35 km/hour and took the vehicle up to 50 on a mile-long stretch of washboard sand. Over the last set of humps, I stand up on the four-by-four and whoop in exultation: this is fun.


My guide led the way back up the ravine, and at the top, we stopped to drink some water and soak in the view. To the south, the azure Sea of Cortez sparkled like a field of sapphires. Behind us, to the north, the moon had risen and seemed close enough to hit with a rock. Just as we were ready to climb aboard the ATVs to head back, a hawk swooped in and settled on a nearby branch to check us out.


From this point, we literally zoomed toward the parking lot, reaching speeds that made me wonder if I should have invested in a better life insurance policy. At one point, my guide kicked up so much dust that all I could see in front of me was the Honda insignia on his red T-shirt. At the end, 55 kilometers later, the guy greeted me with a quizzical smirk and nod.


“Todo bien?” he asked, wondering if I was OK, if all was good.


“Todo bien,” I responded, reflecting on a great ride. “Todo es muy bien.”


What kind of adventures do you seek when you travel?