Over the years, I have seen several vacation destinations grow from small tourist enclaves to big time resorts. Typically, beach resort destinations by and large evolve from a small fishing village that has both beautiful beaches and are blessed with considerable natural beauty. Once such an idyllic place is discovered, usually tourism development will follow shortly thereafter and over a period of time, tourism can overwhelm and change the basic personality of a place. More often than not, this is what happens to the vacation paradises of our yesteryears to the point that we start looking for new unspoiled places to go to.
Two of the places that come to mind are Cabo San Lucas in Mexico and Negril in Jamaica, I visited both of these popular vacation destinations in the winter of 1980 when both Cabo San Lucas (Cabo for short) and Negril were still relatively undeveloped and there were only a handful of legitimate hotels and resorts in each area. Over the ensuing 14 years, I visited Cabo on four occasions and went to Negril every year as I personally witnessed both these resorts grow up from toddlers to young adults so to speak. Today, both Negril and Cabo are truly international resort destinations. My last visit to both Cabo and Negril coincidentally was in the summer of 1993.
At the time of my first visit in 1980, people were just starting to discover Cabo, an area that had long been a favorite among the sports fishing crowd, celebrities and the jet set. People fell in love with the rugged, natural beauty of the Cabo area and for its small town frontier ambiance - there were no tourist crowds here and it had not been yet tainted with the commercial excesses of mainland resorts like Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Mazatlan. The dramatic desert and seaside landscapes as well as deserted white sand beaches were breathtakingly beautiful. In particular, the vistas near the tip of Baja California, where the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez merge and where the mountainous desert terrain plunges into the sea were truly spectacular. Since the international jet port in nearby San José del Cabo hadn’t opened up yet, most visitors to Cabo flew into La Paz (the capital of Baja California) located further up the coast on the Sea Cortez side, whereupon they either rented a car or took a bus for the scenic three ride along a relatively good highway to Cabo. I remember the bus ride as being rather enjoyable as we traveled through some rugged mountainous desert terrain. After the international airport opened up in 1986, tourism to Cabo really took off.
On my last visit to Cabo in October 1993, the new Marina had been built and there were many new hotels and resorts at the tip and along the Baja corridor. As evidence of the tourism growth, a number of championship caliber golf courses had sprouted up along the Baja corridor. The downtown area had grown considerably and there were quite a few more restaurants, bars and shops - the downtown area throbbed with activity as tourists paraded up and down the streets not to mention the many sales representatives who were pitching naÃ¯ve tourists to attend some slick condo time share presentations. As more and more Californians and residents of BC established 2nd homes in the area, Cabo started to assume a real Californian (gringo) personality. Being in Cabo, was like never leaving the States. The small, quiet village of Cabo of 1980 - with its dusty downtown streets, quaint Mexican cafes and deserted beaches - was well on its way to becoming an international resort destination. After that last visit to Cabo, I never returned and I never looked back. The Cabo I knew was gone forever and so was I. However, for somebody who is visiting Cabo for the first time, they will probably love this quaint, relatively unassuming but throbbing resort town, but they have no prior knowledge of what it was like before as I do (when Cabo was a relative toddler as a resort town). Such is the phenomenon known as the Kathmandu Syndrome.
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Next up: Kathmandu Syndrome Revisited (Part 2 ) - A Look at Negril