Es­cape To

The Call of Los Ca­bos – Mex­ico’s prime get­away des­ti­na­tion is hot

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENT - By Lark Gould

The Baja Penin­sula is that jagged arm that juts south into the Pa­cific from the crowded borders of Cal­i­for­nia. At its south­ern­most tip are the rock in ’town of Cabo San Lu­cas and its art town neigh­bor of San Jose del Cabo. To­gether they com­prise what is widely known as Los Ca­bos and in many ways, the two des­ti­na­tions could not be more di­verse. But the twin towns are held to­gether by a steady stream of vis­i­tor traf­fic flow­ing from one town to the other in a 20-mile coastal by­way of ho­tels and re­sorts fondly tagged “The Cor­ri­dor.”

For Hol­ly­wood glit­terati and West Coast board­room ti­tans, the sun-drenched break­ers of the Baja are a mere two-hour pri­vate jet too­tle from Santa Mon­ica. But the lux­ury of Los Ca­bos is also read­ily ac­ces­si­ble to those of us in the rank-and-file as well, thanks to easy com­mer­cial jet hops from a va­ri­ety of US des­ti­na­tions.

Cur­rently, eight US-flagged airlines and as­sorted Mex­i­can and Cana­dian car­ri­ers link the US and Canada with Los Ca­bos In­ter­na­tional Air­port (SJD). South­west is the latest en­trant to come on line with a pop­u­lar non-stop from and Los An­ge­les. Mean­while, Delta and United are also busy ex­pand­ing their ser­vice to Los Ca­bos, pos­si­bly as a re­sponse to all the lux­ury ho­tel and re­sort ex­pan­sion busily per­co­lat­ing along this strand.

The lively line-up of lux­ury lodg­ing along the Pa­cific and Sea of Cortez beach­fronts of Los Ca­bos runs the gamut of mid- to lux­ury-class bud­gets. Think adult all-in­clu­sive, such as Se­crets

and Mar­quis, or such five-star citadels as the One&Only Palmilla, the Re­sort at Pe­dre­gal, Rose­wood’s Las Ven­tanas al Paraiso, and Au­berge Re­sorts’La Esper­anza.

All in the Fam­ily

Tucked into this cast of lu­mi­nar­ies are some fam­ily-owned ho­tel com­plexes that whis­per lux­ury rather than shout it and put it in reach of a wide range of pock­ets.

The Ha­cienda En­can­tada in Cabo San Lu­cas is one of those – an easy 20-minute drive from the in­ter­na­tional air­port and a con­ve­nient spot about equal dis­tance from the har­bor ham­let of Cabo San Lu­cas and tony San Jose del Cabo. How­ever, as an all- in­clu­sive re­treat with five din­ing venues, end­less pools, a spa and plenty of loungers look­ing over the break­ing waves, there is not a lot of rea­son to leave.

The prop­erty has 150 rooms with pre­cious kitch­enettes, cou­ple­sized Jacuzzi tubs with win­dows into the room and views, am­ble closet space, gran­ite and Span­ish tile bath­rooms, walk-in shower, pri­vate com­mode and pretty much any­thing else you can ask for. Yes, there is cof­fee, thanks to handy Hamil­ton Beach Brew Sta­tions and daily pack­ets of sus­te­nance. But there is break­fast too, prob­a­bly a high­light of the day in the Las Marias buf­fet over­look­ing the surf.

There, wait staff know your name and get your fa­vorite eggs as you pore over the plethora of fresh fruit and hot meal en­trees. The restau­rant leads down to some lower lev­els where gourmet din­ing lights up the evenings while a harpist strums, waves break and a de­li­cious breeze blows in from the east. Gua­camole lovers can learn to make a mean con­coc­tion of their own in cui­sine classes of­fered on­site – chips in­cluded.

You can see touches of the fam­ily in­flu­ence in the décor, in the paint­ings and the fur­ni­ture choices where flour­ishes seem to have the per­sonal eye of moth­ers, aunts and ac­tively in­volved sons. Ac­cord­ing to Gabriel Ibarra, di­rec­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing for Mex­ico Grand Ho­tels, the ho­tel’s par­ent brand­ing, his un­cles made their start with open­ing Car­los‘n Char­lies and Señor Frog’s.

The prop­erty re­cently added El En­canto de la Ha­cienda on a stun­ning spread of ocean­front just steps away from the Ha­cienda’s es­tab­lished ac­com­mo­da­tions. Th­ese are 52 owned stu­dios and multi-bed­room units that will have their own ameni­ties – de regueur in­fin­ity pool, a va­ri­ety of restau­rants, a swim-up bar and a des­ig­nated event space for wed­dings, as well as to­tal ac­cess to all of the ameni­ties at the main re­sort.

For guests of any sis­ter prop­erty lo­ca­tion, an op­tion to book room-only is al­ways on the ta­ble. But guests who choose the all-

in­clu­sive plan can dine at all of the re­sort’s restau­rants in­clud­ing those restau­rants and eater­ies lo­cated in the party-fo­cused ma­rina of Cabo San Lu­cas.

An­other such fam­ily-owned op­tion is Grand Sol­mar at Land’s End, a par­tic­u­larly en­chant­ing spot at the bot­tom of the penin­sula prac­ti­cally within throw­ing dis­tance of the fa­mous arch of Cabo San Lu­cas. All rooms are spa­cious ocean­front suites, start­ing with the 737-square-foot Grand Stu­dio.

The re­sort fea­tures eight restau­rants and bars, a pri­vate beach, in­fin­ity edge pools, a spa and some breath­tak­ing spots to have a meet­ing – specif­i­cally a mag­nif­i­cent 4,600-square-foot out­door ter­race for spe­cial events, re­cep­tions, par­ties and busi­ness gath­er­ings.

More to Come

By the end of 2017, in fact, Visit Los Ca­bos of­fi­cials are ex­pect­ing an ad­di­tional 3,900 ho­tel rooms to come on line, bring­ing the to­tal count to 18,000. Pop­u­lar brands in­clude The JW Mar­riott Los Ca­bos Beach Re­sort & Spa, which opened this fall. Other new or soon to open in­clude VieVage Los Ca­bos, An Au­berge Re­sort; the Hard Rock Los Ca­bos; Ritz-Carl­ton Re­serve; So­laz, a Star­wood Lux­ury Col­lec­tion prop­erty; Mon­tage Los Ca­bos; and Grand Sol­mar Ran­cho San Lu­cas.

In 2018, Los Ca­bos will have its first Four Sea­sons Re­sort, 145room bou­tique prop­erty with a Robert Trent Jones II-de­signed 18-hole golf course, a 250-slip deep-wa­ter ma­rina, and beach and yacht club, all spread across mul­ti­ple build­ings on a two-mile stretch of white-sand beach in the warm, swimmable wa­ters of the Sea of Cortez.

Cur­rently, Los Ca­bos counts nine golf cour­ses, all pretty spec­tac­u­lar and all pretty pricey (if you find a $150 tee time, take it!). Lux­u­ri­ous ocean-fac­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions dur­ing the high sea­son months (Oc­to­ber to May) run the range, from $400 for a fam­ily-fo­cused re­sort to more than $1000 a night for a stay in a ro­mance lair at such prop­er­ties as One&Only Palmilla.

Be­yond Los Ar­cos

Once the din­ing and the sun dos­ing pass their prime, and that itch to ex­plore be­yond the pool bar takes hold, Los Ca­bos has a wealth of op­tions for easy day trips that move well past the iconic Los Ar­cos im­print of the des­ti­na­tion.

At the boun­ti­ful se­lec­tion of four- and five-star prop­er­ties, there is usu­ally a ded­i­cated concierge or two avail­able to cre­ate a pack­aged out­ing for most in­ter­ests. And of course, you’ll find no short­age of tour mon­gers ped­dling trips to nearby beaches, whale watch­ing cruises, dol­phin petting pro­grams, horse­back rid­ing, dirt­bik­ing, fish­ing, sail­ing, snor­kel­ing and the latest dar­ling of mustdo ac­tiv­i­ties: fly­board­ing. Costs run from $30 to $300 per per­son, de­pend­ing on choices and time al­lot­ments. What is clear, how­ever, is that Los Ca­bos is much big­ger than beach, desert and mar­gar­i­tas. A mod­icum of cu­rios­ity can bring plenty of un­ex­pected ac­tion.

Ad­ven­tur­ists, es­pe­cially those with skate­board­ing pro­cliv­i­ties, will want to press their feet to the fly­board for a good 30 min­utes of run­ning loops and jumps over the waves. With spe­cial boots con­nected to a skate­board-sized fly­board, an at­tached hose lets sea­wa­ter power the rider well above the waves – up to 45 feet in the air. Rates run around $200 for 30 min­utes of flight: hel­met, life­jacket and boot-rigged fly­board in­cluded.

Boat trips into the Sea of Cortez to see the fa­mous arc-shaped rock for­ma­tions, as well as the beaches they hide (calm and ca­sual Lover’s Beach and the wave pounded Di­vorce Beach, ad­ja­cent) are usu­ally man­aged on small, mo­tor­ized skiffs with lit­tle shade against the sun.

Whale watch­ing is a must for those who want to wit­ness the world’s mam­moth cetaceans. Of the world’s 11 species of whales, sev­eral ven­ture to the wa­ters off Los Ca­bos, (iminke, bryde, fin,

sei, hump­back, gray and blue among them) dur­ing their win­ter breed­ing sea­son in warm wa­ters.

Jac­ques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the World’s Aquar­ium and it lives up to its name with sea lions, whale sharks, manta and mob­ula rays, dol­phins, all man­ner of mi­crofish and some fas­ci­nat­ing bird life.

Art & Cul­ture in the Baja

But not ev­ery­thing Ca­bos de­pends on the sea. Two art colonies re­mind wan­der­ers that Los Ca­bos has cul­ture, too.

San Jose Del Cabo, at the up­per eastern end of the re­sort cor­ri­dor, re­mains a charm­ing and walk­a­ble town that is an­chored by a church, nu­mer­ous art gal­leries, cre­ative no­tion stores, comely bou­tiques, a smat­ter­ing of hip restau­rants and cob­bled streets to keep it all tied to its en­chant­ing colo­nial roots.

The Mis­sion San José del Cabo was founded in 1730 and it was a no­table sup­ply stop for galleons trav­el­ing to and from the Philip­pines. The ex­pan­sive town square is the site of fes­ti­vals and art walks. On Thurs­day evenings from Novem­ber to June, art works fill the cam­pus and most stores stay open late. Get­ting there can be ex­pen­sive if you are stay­ing at one of the re­sorts and do not rent a car. A one-way cab ride from the Ha­cienda En­can­tada will run at least $25.

The other jewel of the area is To­dos San­tos, a colo­nial art town in the nearby moun­tains, about an hour’s drive away and best done through a half- or full-day tour pack­age if a car is not an op­tion.

The calm there is a nice segue from the fre­netic youth and party scene in Los Ca­bos and the set­ting evokes a strong el­e­ment of a dif­fer­ent time and place. The cen­tral mu­seum of this eight-block town is free for the wan­der­ing and of­fers a ca­sual slice of life, what the town was like a hun­dred years ago in photos and even ear­lier in ar­ti­facts.

Hand­made jew­elry, art­ful no­tions and col­or­ful cot­ton wraps and dresses mix in with the draw­ings and paint­ings of lo­cal artists in the shops in­hab­it­ing the old adobes lin­ing the main street.You can tour the mis­sion here, Misión Santa Rosa de las Pal­mas founded in 1723 and re­named the next year as Nues­tra Señora del Pi­lar de La Paz.

Stay at a cool and undis­cov­ered bed and break­fast at the end of the road and have a de­li­cious meal at the Ho­tel Cal­i­for­nia – the town’s cen­ter­piece. The ho­tel does not con­firm or deny any in­volve­ment as the fo­cus of the Ea­gles’ song but does of­fer plenty of odd art­works and pre­served am­bi­ence for any­one seek­ing spir­its in Ca­bos.

Los Ca­bos Cui­sine Scene

As for din­ing, the re­sorts them­selves as well as a wealth of op­tions around the ma­rina pro­vide fine fare for crowds seek­ing the usual sta­ples in a va­ca­tion in Mex­ico: tacos, tor­tillas, grilled meats, great guac and cer­vice and in­ven­tive forms of nopal.

How­ever, sur­prises await those who want to wan­der away from the madding crowd. Within the cob­bled streets of “Old Town” San Jose del Cabo find Don Sanchez Restau­rant. Half fine wine-and-dine hide­away, half gourmet cantina, the sig­na­ture among the 15 mo­jito op­tions on the menu is the wa­ter­melon and basil po­tion.

Chef Todd Chap­man puts Iron Chef cre­ativ­ity into his en­trees with such choices as cumin-seared yel­low­tail with straw­berry, tomatillo, ha­banero and cilantro. His Quinoa Crab Duo uses spe­cial lo­cal sea­son­ings with the hearty Peru­vian grain and soft-shelled crab. His fa­vorite lo­cal fruit is the pitaya, with which he makes some fla­vor­ful desserts and gelatos. En­trees av­er­age in the mid $20s.

A must for un­usual food ex­pe­ri­ence seek­ers in Los Ca­bos is a trip to Flora Farm. It’s a hilly ten-acre spread on an el­e­va­tion not far from the north end of The Cor­ri­dor and a fave with food­ies seek­ing to sam­ple or­ganic and cre­ative dishes in a very cool set­ting.

Flora Farm is a holis­tic con­cept in liv­ing and not just a great place to eat fab­u­lous hand­made fresh, GMO-free farm food. The farm fea­tures sev­eral wholly owned (and also frac­tion­ally-owned) homes that are all mod­els of what can be done by hand us­ing only lo­cally grown and re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als – from kitchen ap­pli­ances, to bath­rooms, to fur­ni­ture and tex­tiles.

The am­ple gar­dens are tended by those who live there and for vis­i­tors there are park-like grounds, some lo­cal dogs and a farm-themed restau­rant with pic­nic ta­bles, a bar that serves cock­tails in ma­son jars. Meals are served fam­ily-style in dishes with and with­out meat. Ex­pect a long wait even with reser­va­tions.

The one must-have if you are en­joy­ing the wait or just stop­ping by: the Farm­tini – a wild hi­bis­cus in­fused cock­tail with ice cold Grey Goose shaken and served up. Non-im­bibers: make it a fresh basil and mint lemon­ade.

Visit LosCa­ and VisitMex­

Cabo Pe­dre­gal pa­tio Right: Palmilla suite

Top row: A va­quero tends to his horses while wait­ing for tourists, the art of na­ture on Lovers’ Beach Bot­tom row: Ma­rina and down­town Cabo San Lu­cas, the Sea of Cortez

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