Just returned two days ago to Montana from five great days at HBV. It was our second trip to the East Cape; the last was seven yeas ago to a nearby and well respected resort/fish camp that we also enjoyed very much. I wouldn't try to compare places as both of our visits were great and would return to either in a heartbeat. Except to say that the Valdez family and their entire staff go well above and beyond all expectations in trying to make your visit relaxing and care free. And maybe this is where our real appreciation for HBV is and where their destinction shines... in their people and the atmosphere they cultivate; where guests can quickly relax and visit with each other, and the staff, over the course of a couple of days, become friends.
Where do you go and find the owners themselves making time to personally rustle up and assemble snorkel gear from off-season storage upon request (Felipe)? Or take time out of their busy day to look through your tackle to help pick out the right lures for Roosterfish, Sierra, and Cabrilla (Saul)? Elizabeth at the front desk is absolutely a hoot with her infectious energy, laughter, and sincere desire to help coordinate any activity or request from our much anticipated marlin fishing trip to our tour of La Paz. She even turned over her office and computer to us on the last morning so we could personally check in for our departure flights, pay for baggage, and print boarding passes... can you imagine?!
Our drivers were outstanding...Hector our driver to and from the resort to the airport was extremely gracious when he had to wait an extra hour and a half for our friend's delayed arrival flight. Like Abraham our driver and "tour guide" to La Paz, they were both awesome when it came to answering any imaginable question about the area history, culture, politics, the desert, or fishing. The day to La Paz was more than what we expected... mostly due to Abraham's openess to sharing so much about life in Baja and his willingness to show us more than just the tourist side of things. He even took us to Pez Mar where he joined us for lunch for the very best seafood tacos imaginable.
Over twenty five years of professional guiding/outfitting and high-end property and ranch management experience affords us a unigue perspective to evaluate an operation like HBV. Bottom line we would feel fortunate to have any of HBV's staff work for us! They're that good!
Other reviewers focus on the facilities, food, lack of nightlife, etc., etc. And for the most part they are right on the money. If you insist on staying in accomodations that have that prestine, unlived-in feel that is a common industry standard, and you yourself live that way at home, then the rooms here will not be as you would expect. However, if you concern yourself with the things that count, and not how well the paint on the window trim and caulking looks, then you'll be satisfied. The rooms are colorful, the sheets and towels are clean, the full-size beds are firm, and the A/C kicks butt. Our room had great water pressure in the shower and more than enough hot water. The sink faucet was low on pressure but the screen could have been plugged with sand... I didn't think to bother unscrewing the screen and checking- blame it on "Baja Brain!" Heck, you're not in the rooms very much.
Power outages in the East Cape do occur, but HBV has it's own large generator plant to make sure that guests experience as little disruption as possible. Power went out a couple of times for a short spell while we were there, once during dinner, but Felipe and Miguel where right on top of it. No problemas... Looking up and down the coast from our terrace dinner table, while the towns of Buena Vista and Los Barillos were dark, we had lights, music, and dinner without delay.
Meals are ordered off the menu and there is plenty of variety for a week's stay. The presentation is better than where we stayed before and the quality and quantity was very good. You will not go hungry on the American plan! And besides, if you're lucky enough to get Letetica or Esperanza as your waitress, an abundance of smiles and laughter are thrown in for good measure.
The landscaping and pool area are highly maintained and aside from some occasional missing roof shingles and cracked or chipped adobe, the building facilities are well cared for. Remember, this is the East Cape where life and the charm of the place is much more laid back then the hustle and bustle of the sterile, corporate-owned and operated Cabo corridor.
Now let's talk fishing...
Fishing on the East Cape is the area's internationally known claim-to-fame and for good reason. The resort has a long and distinquished legacy of catering to fisherman and they are not only proud of it, but take it very seriously. They really want their guests to do well.
March is not a peak month for either fishing from the beach or boat. However, Striped Marlin are caught year-round and we were very grateful that our requested boat "3Hermanos" with Captain Ramon and Tio were able to get the boat out of winter storage and ready in time for our day on the water. Arrangements for the day were discussed the evening before, licenses and breakfast at 6:15 am and on the boat at 7:00 am. Traveling twenty five to thirty miles off shore gave this old fishing guide and outfitter plenty of time to check over the boat and equipment. Top flight is all I can say. As for the crew, they definately know what they are doing. Not only can they handle their equipment and take care of what needs to be done with a minimum of effort and the familiarity that only comes with time, but they also know the water and have the eyes and "sense" of what is happening on the water that day. While our "rookie eyes" were fading by mid-day after searching hour upon hour for birds hunting bait schools and tailing marlin, Ramon and Tio stayed vigilant and continued to spot tailing marlin and sailfish in the afternoon.
Our daughter was able to land and release a 130-140 lb class marlin after a one hour fight. The battle was made even more epic and difficult when the marlin, after it's third or fourth jump, became tail-wrapped by the line! Considering this was her first marlin, she sure met the challenge. For the day we had four marlin and one sailfish into the spread and coupled with the marine life (manta rays, whales, dolphins,etc.) one sees while out there, the day was more than we could have hoped for. As it was we were one of only two boats that day that landed a marlin... bueno trabajo y gracias Ramon and Tio!
The resort has a couple of kayaks that folks can use to paddle off the beach to reach inshore and reef fishing. I enjoyed my last day paddling and fishing for hours while a big school of Roosterfish literally made the calm ocean explode all around my kayak as they tore into and destroyed a school of baitfish. Didn't hook up but didn't care either... the show was that good! Not sure if HBV has more kayaks, if they do great, but this is one aspect of their fishing program that would greatly help the visiting angler and make them more competitive with a neighboring fishing resort. For whatever reason: budget limitations for multiple days cartering a boat, waiting for an available boat, or just having the fantastic opportunity to experience another way of fishing (and seeing the ocean environment up close), having a good supply of kayaks and well-maintained equipment for rent is a huge attraction for the visiting angler.
This might be a wild idea, but if HBV had one or two plexiglass bottom kayaks so folks could paddle over the reef to view the abundant marine life, what a marketing tool and boon to those who aren't comfortable with snorkeling or to reach more remote spots on the reef.
We could go on and on but if you're the kind that can appreciate the singular pleasure of enjoying a Sea of Cortez sunrise while watching the fishing fleet prepare for the days' work, walking the beach and visiting with those that you meet there, reading a book in a hammock, or taking an area tour, and then sharing your adventures with your new friends at the dinner table next to you at day's end... than pack your bags to the East Cape and "Old Mexico" and soak in some sun and hospitality HBV style. You'll be planning your next trip as soon as you get home just like we are!