Travel Tips

Cabo San Lucas Resorts Brace for Hurricane Jimena

Locations in this article:  Los Angeles, CA Mexico City, Mexico Seattle, WA

Storm cloudsHotels and resorts at the tip of Baja California are battening down the hatches in preparation for Hurricane Jimena, which is on a path toward Cabo San Lucas.

The Category 4 storm is expected to pass within 100 miles of the Mexican resort area later tonight, then head up the coast of Baja California before moving further inland over the following four days.

But the most surprising thing about this dangerous weather system might be how people, especially travelers, are reacting to it …

Rain and rough surf are already lashing the coastline in advance of the storm and the Mexican government has issued an official hurricane warning for areas from Cabo San Lucas to Punta Abrejo on the Pacific side of the peninsula, and from Cabo to Mulege on the Gulf of California side. The warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within the next 24 hours.

Hurricane Jimena pathAs of 9 a.m. Pacific time, Jimena was centered 140 miles south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas and was packing 145 mile per hour winds. According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm is heading northwest at 12 miles per hour. Experts warn that it could turn into a Category 5 storm by the time it hits Baja on Tuesday night, but it may weaken once it makes landfall.

Managers at many of the resorts that dot the tip of Baja say that while some guests opted to leave via extra flights added by many airlines, others chose to stay and ride out the storm. In any case the airport in Cabo is now officially closed, so those who were wavering are now stuck for the duration.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a major international financial organization, was scheduled to hold at two-day meeting in Cabo this week but decided to move the conference to Mexico City for safety reasons.

Previous hurricane season 2009 coverage:

According to the local Cabo hotel association, about 7,000 tourists remain in Los Cabos and hotels are reporting a 25 percent occupancy rate. Many who stayed behind are surfers looking to experience the massive waves, or deep sea fisherman looking to catch one of the huge marlin that such storms normally bring in.

A manager of one local resort said that his staff was moving all outdoor furniture into secure areas and securing the hurricane shutters that protect the windows. He added that most of the hotels and resorts in the area are built to withstand hurricanes and that guests are safe sheltering inside the larger structures on the property. The town also has designated hurricane shelters as well.

satellite image of hurricaneThe U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for Baja California and is advising those who had plans to fly there in the next few days to postpone their trip until after Jimena has passed.

Most U.S.-based airlines that fly to Cabo are allowing travelers to make changes to their itineraries without incurring financial penalties. For example, Alaska, United and Continental are all offering passengers a waiver that allows them to rebook flights to Los Cabos for another time.

Many cruise lines that serve the area, including Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean, have canceled port calls and changed their itineraries to avoid the hurricane. If you are sailing to the area in the next few days you should check with your cruise line to see if your trip will be affected. You should also check with the cruise line and your insurance company whether refunds or credits are available if you decide to postpone or cancel.

Jimena is one of the biggest storms to have ever hit Baja California, and is the 10th named storm of the 2009 Pacific hurricane season. It is expected to produce up to 10 inches of rain and cause significant coastal flooding.

By Karen Elowitt for

Related links: CNN, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Voice of America, Reuters, Seattle Times

Previous hurricane season 2009 coverage: