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At the southern tip, it's still old Baja.

LOS CABOS (THE CAPES) REFERS to two distinct areas on Baja's southern tip: Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Cabo San Lucas lures schools of sportfishing aficionados and herds of sun-worshipping vacationers.

But just 20 miles east on Trans-peninsular Highway 1, the 250-year-old village of San Jose Cabo is a less crowded, more authentic part of old Baja. Here, sailors and pirates used to make a final pit stop before heading out to sea.

The heart of this semitropical town is the Iglesia de San Jose, on the Plaza Mijares. Above the church's arching doorway, a colorful tile mural depicts an early missionary being beheaded by Pericu Indians, the area's original inhabitants. On Saturday evenings beginning around 6, the town hosts a fiesta in the plaza. Stroll among the locals, sample slices of melon and mango, and relax near the fountain.

Around the plaza are small shops selling regional goods, and restaurants with good food and reasonable prices. Shop hours vary; most close from 2 to 4, and many are closed Sundays.

Antigua Los Cabos sells handcarved furniture, hand-painted ceramics, and other decorative items. Artesanias Wendy has the best collection of small wood and papier-mache masks. Also look for silver jewelry, pottery animals (particularly fish), and Day of the Dead folkloric items.

If you're just looking for trinkets or souvenirs (and enjoy bartering), walk down main street, Paseo Mijares, to the open-air stalls. If you're persistent, you can get gemstone rings, handblown glass, rugs, and a huge selection of Mexican kitsch at bargain prices.

Among the restaurants, here are two we like. Damiana, in a converted 18th-century adobe mansion, serves Mexican dishes like octopus in a light garlic sauce. Pietro's, near the mission, is known for its fresh pasta.

Within walking distance of town, the tourist zone includes the cape's only golf course, the nine-hole Los Cabos Golf Club, and six beachfront hotels (because of strong tides, ocean swimming isn't recommended here). They range from an economical Comfort Inn to the Stouffer Presidente, which fronts the San Jose River estuary, a bird sanctuary for more than 200 species.
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Title Annotation:Baja California, Mexico
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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