"Turn and burn!" Miguel yells into the wind as I paddle toward him on my surfboard. What? I think to myself. But before I say a word, Miguel is at it again. "Turn and burn!" he yells excitedly, before letting out a wild "Yahoooo!"

Then I see it. A big wave--that perfect kind of wave that every surfer lusts after--barreling toward us. So I turn and paddle quickly, and when I feel the crescent wave sweep up from underneath me, I hop quickly on two feet. I ride it all the way to the edge of the shoreline before raising my hands triumphantly in the air and falling backward into the sea, completely elated. 

Paddling back toward Miguel again, I hear my surf instructor clapping and whistling, "That's what's called 'turn and burn,'" he yells. 

So I gathered. 

Make no mistake: I am not a surfer. Before this bright blue morning in San Jose del Cabo, I had been on a surfboard just once, on Honolulu's Waikiki Bay. It was not pretty, and I left the sport thinking I'd never give it a second chance. But today, in the Sea of Cortez just off the sandy beach ringing the legendary Cabo Surf Hotel & Spa, things are different. Whether it's my instructor (Miguel has been surfing these waters for 35 years) or the effortless way that the waves seem to cradle my surfboard (custom made for the hotel's Mike Doyle Surfing School), I feel like I was born to do this. 

As I catch my next wave, I wonder if, more than anything, it is the major of Los Cabos that I should be thanking for my newfound talent. After all, this legendary slice of Mexico on the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula has had its own fair share of obstacles. Today, the sky may be cloudless, the waves steady, but the conditions are an unequivocal juxtaposition from the state of affairs last September, when Hurricane Odile left the entire region in shambles. Over the last year, however, the twin towns of Los Cabos--the laidback San Jose del Cabo and its ritzy counterpart Cabos San Lucas--have endeavored to make lemonade out of the truly rotten batch of lemons they'd been handed. Now, the longtime destination is finally back on track--and, this time, the wave it's been riding is bigger and better than ever. 

Viva Los Cabos

Los Cabos has long been the sort of stylish destination that a very specific type of in-the-know individual might toss into casual conversation over dinner at Spago in Los Angeles or drinks at the king Cole Bar in Manhattan. "Cabo" elicits a sort of status that ensures whoever utters it must certainly be well traveled and well heeled. Even as recent headlines of crime, corruption, and cartels kept many travelers away from other south-of-the-boarder retreats like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos maintained its appeal. 

The arrival of Hurricane Odile late last summer, however, changed all of that. The strongest Category Four hurricane to ever hit the Baja California Peninsula, the tropical cyclone left the entire region unrecognizable. "Odile was a hard situation," says my driver Carlos as we speed down the highway from Los Cabos International Airport past long stretches of sand dotted with first of construction. "We were in such an upswing at the time, and then everything just halted." As we make it closer to the resort corridor, the aftermath is still on display: We pass a sign with the letters "ESTN" sprawled across. "The's the Westin," Carlos explains. "Obviously they still haven't opened back up yet. And up here—the Grand Mayan—they're also still closed."

As we drive on, however, things begin to look up. With the sparkling sea to our left and taco shacks, cochinita pibil stands, and charming little boutiques to our right, we finally arrive at my four-bedroom villa, in the glamorous enclave of Punta Ballena. To many guests, the private residences at Punta Ballena—along with the Club's collection of Exclusive Resorts four-bedroom villas on-site at neighboring Esperanza Resort—look as pristine as ever. But to Cabo regulars, the upgrades are immediately apparent. "Everything has changed," says Diego Weiss, Esperanza's resort manager. "We used Odile—and the damage she left—as an excuse to create a completely new resort, inside and out." Indeed, a peek at the stunning cliff-side estate I'll be calling home for the next few days reveals a perfect picture of luxury: hand-crafted furnishings, an infinity-edge pool, and views over the beach that remain unobstructed for miles. 

See You In San Jose

Though tempted to settle into a padded lounger on my villa's sprawling terrace for a long afternoon filled with bocaditas, margaritas, and perhaps a little siesta, I instead hit the road with Carlos to explore San Jose del Cabo. Ask any local and you'll hear the same thing regarding this historic casco. It is the heart and soul of Los Cabos. Lined with 18th century Spanish colonial architecture and knobby jacaranda trees, the town's centro appears at first glance frozen in time. But as I round the old clock tower, and head past the twin-spired parish church just west of the main square, I discover a 21st century creative culture lies just behind the town's colorful adobe facades.

Among Calle Abasolo's shops hawking the usual cosas mexicanas—Pre-Columbian-style pottery, dia de los muertos skulls and figurines, and even the occasional lucha libre mask—I happen upon Enrique Bascon's art gallery. Small and dark, the space is a stark contrast to the artist's oeuvre of paintings and sculptures, which are bright and bursting with emotion. I admire a quartet of neon Frida Kahlo portraits that bring to mind a Latino version of Andy Warhol's famous silk screens. I soon find out that Bascon's international painting style derives from his many travels. A Spanish native, he nearly circled the globe before settling here in Los Cabos several years ago. "The art movement here is really great," says Bascon, who opened his gallery in San Jose last February. "On Fridays, we have live music and the galleries and shops stay open late and the streets become a big party."

Across the street from Bascon's gallery in Galeria Corsica, where Bascon introduces me to the works of some of Mexico's most famous contemporary artists: the painter David Gutierrez and the sculptor Diego de la Sierra, among others. He also shares his hit list of local hot spots. 

The seafood at Seven Seas, the restaurant at Cabo Surf Hotel, is unbeatable. The scene at the wine bar at La Dolce is always hopping. And Flora Farms is, in a word, incredible. 

Armed with Bascon's culinary line-up, I rendezvous with Carlos (stopping first at Los Barriles de Don Malaquias to ogle its impressive collection of rare tequilas and snatch up a bottle of the boutique's own label) and head from the most enticing of his recommendations: Flora Farms. Carlos and I bounce along a dirt road for some time before we finally spy the verdant oasis comprised of 10 glorious acres of organic gardens. Here, giant mangos hang from branches, which droop from the weight of the humongous fruits. A sprawling lawn, where movies are regularly shown, is lined with rows of leafy green herbs and massive sunflowers. In the market, the homemade provisions include jars of pickled-this and jellied-that, warm loaves of bread, and fresh ice cream flavors like flan and carrot-almond. 

Chef Guillermo Tellez meets me at the Flora's Field Kitchen restaurant, where the evening is just getting underway. Ceviche is rolling out of the kitchen by the minute, and nearby, the wood-burning pizza oven has been fired up. Tellez came to Flora Farms just two months ago, but his tenure in Los Cabos dates back more than a decade to when he opened Charlie Trotter's C restaurant at the One&Only Palmilla in 2004. 

At Flora Farms, Tellez is "living the dream," as he puts it. "We're taking it to the next level." Indeed, he has created a new menu that takes greater advantage of the farm's homegrown resources. Back in the kitchen, we peruse the day's fresh ingredients. The Persian limes are sweet enough to eat straight. The asparagus is so tender is hardly needs to be cooked at all. And then there are mangoes. Meaty and succulent, equal parts sweet and savory, the mangoes are utterly addictive. "We have more than we know what to do with," Tellez says, tossing me a ripe one to take back to my villa as a souvenir. But first, it's fish tacos and an El Verano—Flora Bar's specialty cocktail of pineapple-infused mescal with cilantro and jalapeño—to end the night. 

Cape of Good Hope

"Have you met our whale?" Jorge Villarreal asks. "She is just a baby, but still quite large." I have just arrived at the lobby of the Cape, Cabo San Lucas's newest resort overlooking the Sea of Cortez,  but I have indeed already seen a whale. No less than 10 feet tall and, by my best guess, longer than a stretch limo, she is no heaving mammal, but rather a sculpture rendered in driftwood. "The wood was collected from the debris left behind from Odile," says Villarreal, the Cape's director of sales and marketing. "It's our way of remembering the hurricane."

The sculpture is certainly an appropriate homage: The Cape is the first new resort to open in post-Odile Los Cabos, and it is bringing plenty of new flair with it. Located minutes from Esperanza, the resort skips the traditional Spanish colonial style so common of Cabo San Lucas and instead assumes a modern, if slightly retro, Mexican decor that blends contemporary art and furniture with local artisan work like hand-painted tiles. The Cape's biggest news, however, is its Enrique Olvera restaurant, Manta. A Mexican native, the chef has recently made a name for himself with acclaimed restaurants in New York City and his flagship Pujol in Mexico City. Now, the new king of sophisticated Mexican fare is expanding his empire with his first Los Cabos outpost. 

"We tapped Olvera at just the right time," says Villarreal as we pass through Manta's heavy carved wooden doors. Inside, surfboards, antique tortilla presses, and colorful pottery line vibrant blue shelves, and floor-to-ceiling windows frame Los Cabos's famed El Arco rock formation in the distance. I quickly find that Olvera's tasting menu is no less inspired, featuring octopus cocktail with charred habanero peppers (a Yucatan peninsula specialty) and, for the dessert, raspados (Mexican snow cones) flavored with beets and local flowers. 

"You must come back for a cocktail on the rooftop tonight," Villarreal says after I've downed my last sip of the Cape's house tea infused with hibiscus. "At sunset, our views of El Arco are the best in Los Cabos." I agree that it does sound magical, but the call of my residence at Esperanza is even more tempting. I return to my villa just as the shadows begin to stretch longer and longer, signaling the sun's inevitable retreat at any moment. A salty mist hovers above the sea just inches from my infinity-edge pool; down the shoreline, I see the spotlight of a hilltop lighthouse sweep the darkening horizon. Soon, the last drips of sunlight have disappeared, and, as if on cue, a mariachi band somewhere in the distance strikes up. The music flows over me like a faraway serenade, lulling me into a much-needed siesta. Then, suddenly, the sky comes alive with an explosion of fireworks. Rapt, I watch with a margarita (mango-flavored, of course) in hand as the red, white, and green of Mexico's beloved bandera illuminates the sky one shimmering pop at a time.