LOS BARRILES, Baja Sur, Mexico – John Ireland, owner of the fabled Hotel Rancho Leonero on Baja’s East Cape, knows what makes his special property work. The fishing is great – better than ever, actually – and the Ranch remains rooted at an earlier, simpler place in time.
“The Ranch always stays the same, always,” he says. “That’s what keeps people coming back. We improve it but we don’t change it.”
2020 has been a challenging year at the Ranch, as it has been everywhere in the world, but as soon as it reopened June 23 after a government mandated shutdown, things were back to normal. In other words, back to wonderful.
Sure, there are some changes in recognition of the COVID era. The famous buffet is now behind plexiglass, and servers dish out portions of the Ranch’s delicious cuisine. The employees, always warm and friendly, now wear face coverings. The Hotel itself is currently limited to 30% occupancy, which equates to 13 rooms. Different, but the same.
“It feels fairly normal,” Ireland says. “It’s as safe a place as you’re going to be in. It’s familiar territory, we don’t have many visitors and there’s not much interaction with people on the outside. Come on down and join us!”
And why not? The fishing has been phenomenal. “The yellowfin bite has been as good as I can recall,” Ireland says. “We really haven’t had much fishing in the East Cape since November 2019. The months of light fishing pressure are really showing. There aren’t many boats going out, we’re sending 5 or 6 a day. There are so few boats out that when you run into tuna they stay up.”
Fishing for big roosters has been spectacular. Ireland says the average has been 40 pounds. There’s no place better to chase them in the world, Ireland says. “Some are butting up against 100, as big as I recall,” he adds. Marlin have been hot too, with as many as 15 stripers caught and released at one go. “Those guys wanted to beat themselves up,” Ireland jokes.
Ireland says 90% of new visitors return to the Ranch. It’s his home, and when you stay at Hotel Rancho Leonero, it will feel like home to you too. “I couldn’t believe I could actually purchase it,” Ireland says. “That reef in front, it’s a special place, a cool spot to be. Among the employees the average tenure is 24 years, all the same people, a good bunch. They know everyone. We’re lucky.”
Weekends have been booked up, but Ireland says some rooms are available mid-week, particularly Monday through Wednesday. From Southern California, it’s a short hop via Alaska Airlines to the East Cape, he adds.
For more information or to book a trip, visit rancholeonero.com.