TRAVEL Q&A

Out-of-Cabo Experience

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 21, 2006

Q. I'm traveling to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with a group of guys for a weeklong get-together. Any suggestions for out-of-the-ordinary activities?

Bil Anderson, Washington

A. Cabo San Lucas may be the endless spring break, but the resort town's wild side goes beyond table dancing and body shots. "Sport fishing made Cabo famous," says James Glover, a Cabo resident who publishes the travel Web site Baja Insider (011-52-624-143-4327, http://www.bajainsider.com/ ), "but golf is becoming world-class, and Vegas people love it for the desert."

Cabo, which sits on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, is surrounded by waterfalls, hot springs, arroyos and mountains, and you can spend an entire week taking side trips to its natural attractions. The most adventurous way to travel is by Hummer, ATV or Jeep. Baja Outback (011-52-624-142-9215, http://www.bajaoutback.com/ ), for one, mixes a Hummer drive through the hills, desert and mango fields with a dip in a waterfall. Wide Open Baja (949-340-1155, http://wideopenbaja.com/ ) lets Andretti wannabes commandeer Chenowth Magnum race cars (like a dune buggy on steroids) on a desert course. For less speed and more altitude, Canopy Costa Azul Xtreme Tour ( http://www.canopycostaazul.com/ ) will harness you to a zip line that spans Costa Azul Canyon.

Golf is also a growing sport in the region: "It's Palm Springs by the sea," says Glover. Most of the championship courses fall along the Tourist Corridor between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. See Golf Cabo San Lucas ( http://www.golfcabosanlucas.com/ ) for more info and courses.

Heading out to the Sea of Cortez, Cabo Pulmo is a national marine park on the East Cape with coral reefs that rank high among divers and snorkelers. Besides tropical fish, Cabo's waters are also full of cocktail cruises. For something less boozy, charter a sailboat or catamaran; the 45-foot Tranqila ( www.seekerexpeditions.com ), for example, holds up to 14 people, and passengers can customize a sailing tour that includes a private chef, cigar sampling and tequila tasting.

For Cabo info: Los Cabo Tourism Board, 866-LOS-CABO, http://www.visitloscabos.org/ .

My husband and I would like to take a whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Any advice on short hikes and travel, including a scenic flight to/from Las Vegas?

Caryl Talcott, Stuart, Va.

When it comes to raft trips down the Grand Canyon's Colorado River, ask yourself: arm or engine? "There are two ways to experience the Grand Canyon," says Steve Markle, marketing director of OARS (800-346-6277, http://www.oars.com/ ), which organizes canyon trips, "by motored raft or oar-powered raft."

Consider not only your fitness level but also your expectations. For the motorized trips, travelers spend six to eight days in a 34- or 38-foot pontoon boat and ride the rapids along the entire 280-mile canyon route, from Lees Ferry to Whitmore Wash or Lake Mead. The boats fit eight to 16 people and carry camping and cooking gear. Due to the long distance, though, most of the trip is spent on the water, with fewer hiking opportunities.

By comparison, an oar-powered 17-foot dory or 18-foot inflatable raft goes much slower, taking two weeks or more to complete the river run. However, companies offer shorter excursions, such as a six-day trip from Lees Ferry to Phantom Ranch. These trips also include treks into areas inaccessible from the more crowded rims, with visits to waterfalls, swimming holes, etc. "You can't see the whole canyon," says Markle, "but your canyon experience is much more in-depth." In addition, some expeditions pair the rafting with a nine-mile hike into the canyon and a helicopter ride out.

Another add-on is the "scenic" flight to or from Las Vegas. However, Markle says the plane should be considered "a means of transportation, not a way to sightsee," since the park service restricts flight paths in the canyon.

The park also caps the number of rafting trips per year, and many companies sell out a year in advance. Markle, though, recommends placing your name on a wait list, since people often cancel at the last minute and spaces open up. He adds that September and October are more readily available on short notice. For more info on rafting trips: Grand Canyon, 928-638-7888, http://www.nps.gov/grca.

Postscript

Evelyn Johnston of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., throws in her "two cents" about traveling in Greece (April 30). Johnston calls Santorini a "spectacularly beautiful place" and enjoys Patmos "for its breathtaking beauty and also for the cave where John is said to have written the Book of Revelation." But her favorite Greek destination is Meteora: "I would hate to have gone to Greece and missed it. . . . What an incredible combination of nature and man. It meant that two ladies in their mid-70s had to rent a car and brave the Greek roads and drivers, but it was more than worth it."

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include name and town.

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© 2006 The Washington Post Company


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