Hurricane Henriette slammed into resorts on the tip of Baja California Tuesday with top winds of 85 mph.
Henriette's eye struck land at around just after 4 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. local time), said Daniel Brown, a specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Few tourists or residents had expected a direct hit, but they woke to dangerous winds and a closed airport.
Even before the storm came ashore, 15-foot waves sent plumes of whitewater 30 feet into the air at the main Cabo San Lucas marina and waves pounded the wall of beachfront hotels. One restaurant owner said he lost 40 percent of his beach before the storm even hit. Catamarans crashed against their moorings, rain fell in sheets and palm trees bent in the wind.
A deep-sea fishing trip was out of the question for Cynthia White, a 64-year-old retiree from Fort Myers, Fla., who spent hours before the storm watching waves break against the resort's famous rock arch.
"We're Florida tourists, so we know what it's about," White said. "It didn't ruin the vacation, but it ain't helping the case."
Henriette claimed seven lives even before it strengthened into a hurricane. One woman drowned in high surf in Cabo San Lucas on Monday, and the storm caused flooding and landslides that killed six people in Acapulco.
Forecasters predicted Henriette would drench Mexico's northern deserts and then the U.S. southwest on Thursday night.