About the East Cape of Baja California Sur – A Sportsman's Paradise
Baja Sur’s East Cape
By Slade Ogletree
The term “East Cape” here in Baja, refers to the lovely and largely unspoiled (comparatively) region beginning just east of San Jose del Cabo and running northward along the Sea of Cortez about 100 miles to Bahia de Los Frailles. Some say the East Cape hubs of Buena Vista and Los Barriles, magnificently situated on Bahia Las Palmas, are the Los Cabos of twenty years ago. If you want to fish, snorkel, SCUBA, or just relax and enjoy a laid back pace of life, this may be your nirvana.
This is where the waters of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean mix, and as you may expect these are some of the best waters for fishing on the Planet!! Nutrient rich Pacific water feeds the vast assortment of Marine Life found here. Noted for its reef-building corals, this Bahia Las Palmas is bound by Cabo Pulmo to the north and Corral de Los Frailes to the south. Coarse white-sand beaches ring the bay, most of them readily accessible from the parallel Coastal Road. Baja California pearling once reached its southernmost point here.
This is one of the first areas to be “re-discovered” by post war Americans, which led to its subsequent development. At the end of WWII Baja was rarely visited by outsiders.
There was no highway, and the society here was almost feudal in design. To get here one had to have access to a long-range private yacht or an airplane. The brief post-World War II period of 1950-1953 was pivotal in the history of sportfishing in Baja California, Mexico, for it saw the establishment not only of Baja's first four great fishing resorts--Rancho las Cruces, Rancho Buena Vista, Flying Sportsmen Lodge, and Hotel los Arcos--but also the brand new, weekly newspaper that would make them all famous in the coming decades, The Western Outdoor News, first published on Dec. 3, 1953.
At The East Cape, the history of the modern sportfishing era really began in 1951. In that year, a retired World War II era TWA pilot named Herb Tansey lived in San Diego, and he had two sources of income that seemingly were somewhat at odds with each other: he owned a bar on University Avenue, and he also gave flying lessons at Kenny Friedken’s School of Aeronautics. One of Tansey's flying students at the time was a young man named Enrique García, and one day, Enrique’s father, José “Joe” García, came to the school and started talking about a place he knew way down in Baja California where there were “more fish than anywhere else in the entire world.” This place was an old goat ranch called “Buena Vista,” and Joe García said that if anyone ever wanted to start a fishing resort, Buena Vista was the best possible place. Soon thereafter, Tansey and Joe García flew down to Buena Vista in Olen Burger’s Navion airplane. They landed on what is now the soccer field of the small town of La Ribera and caught a ride to the goat ranch.
The fishing was very good. A partnership was formed, with Herb Tansey putting up cash and Joe García putting up sweat equity as onsite manager of the planned East Cape fishing resort of Rancho Buena Vista. The East Cape sportfishing business started out very slowly. By January 1957, Tansey’s money had just about run out and he was ready to give Rancho Buena Vista back to the goats.
But in the final week of that month, an American writer, Ray Cannon, Western Outdoor News' first Baja Editor, arrived by taxi on the long dirt road from La Paz (today it’s only an hours drive), in the company of another writer, Frank Dufresne of Field & Stream. The two writers were on their first trip around the southern tip of Baja, and they had stopped at Rancho Buena Vista to test the fishing, and in particular to fish for the “Albacore” they had heard about in La Paz. These so-called “Albacore” turned out to be Yellowfin Tuna, a disappointment for Cannon and Dufresne, but otherwise the fishing was a spectacular success, and the two writers advised Tansey to hold on a little longer; they promised him they would help to publicize Rancho Buena Vista and save the business.
Over the course of the next two years, widespread publicity in Western Outdoor News and in such national publications as Saturday Evening Post and Field & Stream caused the East Cape sportfishing business to skyrocket, and Rancho Buena Vista became the most popular fishing resort in Baja California.
Many East cape fishing resorts--along with the original Rancho Buena Vista, the nearby Buena Vista Beach Resort of the old time Chuy Valdez family, John Ireland's Rancho Leonero sitting like a South Seas island retreat at the south end of the bay, and Martin Verdugo's Beach Resort in downtown Los Barriles--have so far remained remarkably true to the old fly-in sportfishing formula established in 1951.
Granted, nowadays, guests fly down in airliners and land at Los Cabos International Airport, rather than crash landing their own planes on the beach behind the hotel, but other than that, at East Cape, the golf, partying, and nightlife of modern packaged tourism still takes a back seat to good old fishing, just like the days when the likes of John Wayne and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower fished here.