INTRO – Mexico isn't particularly known for being a safe haven for weary workers looking for a relaxing holiday break, but Los Barriles, nestled in the Bay of Palms on the Sea of Cortez, is like an oasis of calm and charm... and is very windy year round, too. Highly recommended by all accounts, Megan O'Leary of EXOTIKITE tells us how she came to fall in love with the place and settle there.
This feature is taken from Issue #59 - SUBSCRIBE TO KITEWORLD MAG HERE
Once an old Mexican fishing village, Los Barriles has become a vacationers' dream. While still maintaining its small town ambience, Los Barriles has a wide variety of restaurants, bars, banks, markets and hotels to accommodate all budgets. Night life is scarce, there are no discos or bars open until the wee hours of morning. People here play hard during the day and, when Baja midnight hits at 9pm, most start heading for their pillows. That being said, if nightlife is your cup of tea, there is always a party to be found somewhere, if you ask the right people.
November through April the El Norte wind arrives in Los Barriles, drawing wind seekers from all over the world with some of the best bump and jump conditions this side of the equator. The warm winds blow almost everyday over those five months, consistently side shore and reading 18-22 knots on the wind dial, peaking around 30 knots with a fantastic variety of water and swell conditions. Winds typically kick-in around midday, although novices can kite in the lighter morning winds or on light wind days.
You will find wide open, sandy, beaches lining the turquoise waters of the Bay of Palms, offering safe and beautiful launching and landing areas. Winter time isn't the only season to kiteboard as riders find good conditions here all summer long, too, although the winds switch 180 degrees and come from the south in the summer season. Travel 20 miles south and you'll reach the secluded beach of El Rincon, ideal for lessons and sessions during the hot summer months.
Most commonly, there are two different scenarios that play out every kiteboarder's dream session round here. The first is when it has been blowing hard for four or five days straight and the long fetch of the Sea of Cortez creates these amazing rollers, sometimes getting up to as much as 12 feet from crest to trough. During those times we will launch from our spot in Los Barriles for a 15 mile downwinder to La Ribera, following the coast line and riding unimaginable swell and breakers all the way down. The entire ride is lined with white sand beaches, so there's no worries riding up close to shore, and the scenery of the majestic mountains butted right up to the turquoise sea is a sight not to be missed.
The second dream set up takes place at El Rincon in the spring. When the winds switch south, they are most consistent to the south of Los Barriles. El Rincon is an almost untouched beach, accessible only by the washboard coast roads of the East Cape. The drive out is an adventure, taking you through quiet little Mexican towns, rarely visited by tourists. Once you arrive you'll find what feels like an abandoned bay and warm, shallow water; just the perfect recipe for improving your freestyle. Every time we go out there it is with a close knit crew, relaxing on the beach, kiting and generally enjoying the beauty of Baja.
A visit to Los Barriles is not just for wind seekers, though. There is also epic mountain biking, SUP-ing, surfing and hiking, all within a quick walk or drive from your hotel.
I have been visiting Los Barriles since 1992 when I vacationed here with my family. We used to come down to dive at Cabo Pulmo, roughly 25 miles south of Los Barriles. Once called 'The Aquarium of the World' by Jacques Cousteau, Cabo Pulmo is teeming with snappers, sharks, manta rays, marlin, tuna and five of the world’s seven endangered species of sea turtles. There are plenty of dive operations that run daily excursions to snorkel and dive on the reef.
My parents loved the Sea of Cortez so much they bought property, built a house and retired to Los Barriles in 1998. On a break from earning my MBA, I came down to visit them in 2003, learned to kiteboard and never went back. In 2004 I bought into ExotiKite Kiteboarding, started by Ian Sanders in 1998, and my pursuit since then has been to share my love of kiteboarding with others in a fun, safe and encouraging way. I'd say that's pretty true of the atmosphere in Los Barriles: everyone is here to have a good time and in turn will take the time to lend a hand, advice, or just encouraging words.
My advice to someone visiting Los Barriles for the first time is to step away from the pool! There are so many things to see and do in the East Cape area, and don't be afraid to just stop someone on the street and ask; everyone is happy to help. There is a charm and friendliness in Los Barriles that is seldom found in the big tourist destinations.
LOS BARRILES LOGISTICS
There's everything from first class resort amenities to smaller more intimate digs in Los Barriles. On the food front there's everything from taco stands and family style restaurants to fine dining with grilled seafood and lobster.
There are jet services from many major US and international airports to San Jose del Cabo (SJD) or La Paz (LAP) airports, about 45 and 80 minutes respectively from Los Barriles.
For more information on kiteboarding lessons and accommodation, contact Exotikite - www.exotikite.com
This feature is taken from Issue #59 - For more travel stories like this one SUBSCRIBE TO KITEWORLD MAG