CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico -- The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Odile in September of 2014 still lingers at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.
Cranes -- fixing shuttered, high-rise hotels -- dot the skyline. Passengers arrive at an airport with only one functioning terminal. Without enough new toll booths to handle the crush of winter-weary tourists, the road from the airport to the famed highway "corridor" between the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo often gets snarled with traffic, a tangible reminder that Cabo still has a ways to go before life returns to normal.
So is this the season to skip Cabo? Hardly. This might be the ideal time to visit.
Airline tickets seem to be a bit cheaper. Flights I've taken from northern California in December and January have been three-quarters full, a rare luxury these days. Think of it this way: There are enough people to keep the legendary party in Cabo San Lucas alive. Missing is the human crush that makes downtown feel overcrowded. That means less competition for a barstool or a table at dinner.
Tee times are more readily available, too. The buzz of several new courses -- Quivira Golf Club by Jack Nicklaus, El Cardonal at Diamante Cabo San Lucas by Tiger Woods and Chileno Bay by Tom Fazio -- only adds to the urgency for golfers to see Cabo sooner rather than later.
Every resort and golf course and person has a horror story about the hurricane -- villas virtually gutted by winds and rain, flooded entrance roads, sand-filled pools and entire beaches washed away.
According to Nubia Sarabia Fornes, the golf coordinator for the Los Cabos Tourism Board, approximately 9,000 of the 14,000 hotel rooms in Cabo have reopened for business. Unfortunately, most of the luxurious resorts along the corridor are still closed -- One&Only Palmilla, Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, Esperanza an Auberge Resort and the The Westin Resort and Spa Los Cabos, for example.
Fornes indicated that Palmilla and its 27-hole Nicklaus course are scheduled to open March 15. All of the other 13 courses in Los Cabos are back online after extensive cleanup efforts.
Greg Tallman, the director of golf at the 36-hole Cabo del Sol, lamented that much of his business comes from these high-end resorts, but he's putting a positive spin on the situation. Many properties are using their insurance money as a chance to upgrade infrastructure and amenities.
"Fast forward to next fall, everything will be better than it was," Tallman said.
Cabo's new courses and more
Despite the ongoing cleanup, most tourists won't even notice a hurricane plowed through nearly six months ago. The resorts and courses close to Cabo San Lucas escaped the worst of the storm. The downtown was bustling day and night in mid-January.
Cool hangouts such as Salvatore's Italian Restaurant, Bar Esquina at the Bahia Hotel & Beach Club and Sunset da Mona Lisa all still required reservations to get a prime table.
Migrating humpback and grey whales -- oblivious to the issues on land -- continue to put on a show. I witnessed a whale breach right next to the boat during a whale-watching excursion orchestrated by Nexus Tours. I saw even more spouts while playing golf on the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol and Quivira, arguably the two best Nicklaus courses in Cabo.
The hurricane delayed the grand openings of El Cardonal and Quivira for several months, although both played to perfection in January, roughly a month after their grand openings last December. Each requires a stay-and-play at specific properties, so call ahead before you book.
The all-inclusive resorts I called home -- Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Resort and Spa in December, and the RIU Palace Cabo San Lucas in January -- showed virtually no signs of wear and tear. The Pueblo Bonito and RIU brands have multiple resorts in Cabo, but these two are their premier properties. Guests at the RIU Palace get 20 percent off at the three courses run by Questro Golf: Puerto Los Cabos, Cabo Real and Club Campestre San Jose.
Believe it or not, it rained during my January round at Cabo del Sol. I was told it only rains a couple days a year in Cabo. By my calculations, between the hurricane and my wet round, odds are anybody who visits the rest of the year is virtually guaranteed sunny weather. Snowbirds would be wise to take flight.