A day trip to Los Barriles is a must for those looking for a small-town Baja vibe with beautiful, swimmable beaches and a plethora of activities. 

 

Home to many snowbirds and ex-pats who embrace the relaxed lifestyle at the foot of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains, Los Barriles is just 40 miles from San Jose del Cabo and 60 miles from La Paz. 

 

Los Barriles and its adjacent town, Buena Vista, are jewels of the East Cape, offering pueblo charm coupled with modern services such as cultural and sporting activities, beaching, banking and health care in a tight-knit community of Mexicans and ex-pats estimated at around 4,000.

 

Located on the tranquil Bahia de Las Palmas, Los Barriles offers year-round activities and a strong sense of community perfect for day trips from your Los Cabos home, or a beach retreat for those looking to purchase real estate away from, but still accessible to, the hustle and bustle of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas

 

Here’s more information on what makes Los Barriles such a special place:

 

            

Los Barriles fountain 

 

What is the history of Los Barriles?

 

The first residents of Los Cabos and the Southern tip of the Baja peninsula were the indigenous Pericúes, whose history in what would become Los Cabos and La Paz dates back at least 10,000 years. 

 

Nomadic and thought to be matriarchal, the Pericúes used rafts and watercraft quite skillfully and developed elaborate and efficient fishing techniques.

 

Encounters with Europeans began in the 1530s when Hernán Cortez ‘discovered’ the Baja peninsula on a quest to find Calafia, a mythical land of beautiful women and black pearls.

 

Later Spanish galleons from the Philippines en route to or from mainland Mexico used the Los Cabos and East Cape areas as a waypoint to stock up on fresh water and supplies during their travels. 

 

Explorers, pirates and missionaries followed in their tracks over the coming centuries, culminating in the Jesuits' arrival to the area in the late 1600s, the founding of the mission in Loreto in 1697, and 20 subsequent missions over the next 60 years.

 

The influx of European missionaries and their attempts to convert the indigenous tribes brought disease and uprisings. By the dawn of the 19th century, the indigenous population had dwindled to some 5,000 and would become culturally and linguistically extinct. 

 

Yet vestiges of their culture remain, including hand paintings adorning a giant boulder known as “Las Manitas” near Santa Anita, on the way from San Jose del Cabo to Los Barriles.

 

 

Los Barriles and the legendary the barrels of gold

 

Los Barriles means ‘The Barrels’ in Spanish, hence the barrels and fountain at the entrance to town, and there’s an intriguing legend surrounding the naming of this sleepy little town. 

 

The story passed down through generations, claims that in the 1800s, a ship bearing treasure was anchored just offshore from Los Barriles, which was then called Ensenada Las Palmas. With a storm approaching, the pirates needed to lighten their ship and offloaded barrels full of gold and jewels which they buried ashore.

 

Martin Verdugo, owner of Martin Verdugo’s Beach Resort, recalls his grandfather telling him the story of the barrels, and that a pirate ship was carved into a tree near where the treasure was buried to mark the spot. 

Many have looked for this elusive buried treasure, he says, but  it has never been found.

 

Although there may or may not be a fortune in Spanish gold in Los Barriles, life in the sleepy town is a treasure trove of activities throughout the year.

 

 

 

Fishing in Los Barriles

 

While the warmer summer months mean a slowdown in tourism for other Baja resorts due to soaring temperatures, not so on the East Cape where as the weather and water heat up, so does the bite.

 

Roosterfish, wahoo, dorado, marlin, sailfish, amberjack, sea bass, sierra, tuna and other species are plentiful in the area fishermen have been frequenting in greater and greater numbers since Highway One was opened in 1973 connecting Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas. 

 

The Sea of Cortez offers some of the best fishing in the world and Los Barriles is a great place to set off on a deep sea adventure. From the gorgeous sunrises to whales breaching to the frequent cries of ‘fish on!’ Los Barriles is uniquely blessed.

 

 

Well-known tournaments include the Dorado Shootout, the Tuna Shootout, the Bisbee’s East Cape Offshore, the Salt Patrol Marlin Tournament and numerous others including a more recently inaugurated ladies-only tournament. Fly fishing, surf fishing and kayak fishing are also options for intrepid anglers.

 

 

Early Los Barriles pioneers

 

The waters around Los Barriles are teeming with sea life and the area has always been a fisherman’s paradise even before northern visitors first began trekking down the peninsula some 70 years ago.

 

American pioneers in the area included Bobby Van Wormer, who first traveled to the area in the mid-1950s after his brother, Frank Van Wormer, and early East Cape developer Harb Tansey, regaled him with tales of bountiful waters. 

 

“I like to dive and came up with a mess of lobster. I thought, well there’s one good thing about this place,” Bobby told author Greg Nieman. “Then I went fishing and caught some nice cabrilla and sierra. Okay, great fishing, two things. I went dove hunting with equal success. Three. Then I looked up and down and saw nothing but unspoiled beaches for miles and realized at least four things make this a paradise. I knew then that this is where I belong.”

 

The Van Wormers built Hotel Palmas de Cortez, Playa del Sol, Villas de Cortez and the now-shuttered Punta Colorada

 

Tansey would turn a former goat ranch into a fish camp which later became the renowned Rancho Buena Vista, planting Los Barriles squarely on the map as a sportsman’s paradise with world-class fishing in an incredibly beautiful, yet remote, setting.

 

 Windy weather

Los Barriles: A wind sport Mecca

 

Fall, winter and spring in Los Barriles bring near-perfect conditions for lovers of wind sports which gained popularity on the East Cape in the 1980s as a near-perfect spot for wind and kite surfing.

 

Los Barriles has become a kiteboarding Mecca, drawing wind lovers from across the globe who flock to the area for the steady ‘EL Norte’  breeze that blows consistently from November through March.

 

With rolling swells and 18 to 25-knot winds gracing the expansive Bahia de Las Palmas, the destination draws newcomers to wind sports as well as seasoned veterans. 

 

Balmy air temperatures and comfortable water temperatures, no strong tides or currents, a sandy sea floor free from obstacles, easy entry and exit points and calmer, flatter stretches for beginners make this one of the top wind destinations in North America. 

 

Schools, equipment rentals and other support businesses are abundant, and even for those who don’t partake in the adrenalin-fueled sport, watching the kites sailing through the bay, and the acrobatics of those who pilot them makes this a delightful spectator sport.

 

 

Pickleball in Los Barriles

 

Not all activities in Los Barriles revolve around water. The active expat community has embraced pickleball, the fastest-growing sport in the United States, and several courts are available in the area for those already enamored of the sport or novices itching to see what all the hype is about. Warning: Pickleball can become addictive.

 

An amalgam of wiffle ball, ping pong and tennis, pickleball was invented in Washington State in 1965. It has enjoyed a surge recently due to its short learning curve, drawing players of all ages and athletic abilities. 

 

The NBA’s LeBron James and the NFL’s Tom Brady both own major league pickleball clubs in the United States, and the pickleball community in Los Barriles is strong and welcoming, with a number of courts, players, and tournaments during the winter high season. 

 

How to get around in Los Barriles

 

Los Barriles is quaint and laid back, but residents and visitors do have a well-developed sense of adventure. 

 

In an area with abundant natural beauty, and less abundant paved roads, ATVs are the way to get around. Whether riding along the sand to your favorite beach palapa, dodging occasional cows and goats on a trip to a local restaurant or cafe, or venturing back up the arroyo to a gorgeous waterfall hailing from the Sierra, quads/ATVs/UTVs/side by sides are the way to navigate this welcoming pueblo and its environs. 

 

ATV rental businesses abound if you don’t have your own, some including fishing rod holders and ice chests for that perfect Los Barriles vibe. Guided tours and community fun rides are also available. 

 

Los Barriles beach

 

Los Barriles offers something for everyone

 

There are myriad different yoga experiences and classes available in Los Barriles, where residents prize wellness and quality of life.

 

There’s a homegrown theater company called Baja Shakespeare, live music, a vibrant Saturday market, SCUBA diving, stunning sunrises and sunsets, stargazing, birdwatching, sea kayaking, paddle boarding, horseback riding, art festivals and classes, spas and massage services, miles of beaches to explore, hiking, mountain biking, shopping and excellent restaurants serving a variety of cuisines including ultra-fresh seafood. 

 

Golfers also can enjoy the Four Seasons Resort at Costa Palmas course (as well as its 220-slip marina), just 30 minutes south of Los Barriles. 

 

Los Barriles is a year-round destination offering something for everyone where Baja’s natural beauty and the bounty of nature shine brightly. Don’t miss out on this East Cape paradise.