Just a year after being torn apart by a hurricane, one of Mexico’s top resorts is back—and even better than before, writes Leanne Mirandilla
Just a year after being torn apart by a hurricane, one of Mexico’s top resorts is back—and even better than before
The mexican sun is toasty and bright and the breeze balmy, as I open the curtains to the promise of the morning. The only sound is the gentle lapping of the Sea of Cortez below. It’s hard to imagine that a year ago, this idyllic spot on the Baja Peninsula was awash with the floodwater and detritus of a ferocious storm. In a rampage that rained misery across a large swathe of Mexico and the US southwest, Hurricane Odile had shredded One & Only Palmilla, leaving it uninhabitable.
“In 100 years of the history of Los Cabos we have not seen a storm of such force,” says Sebastien Arnaud, manager of the reincarnation that has so spectacularly risen from the ruins of the luxurious celebrity hang-out. “We had winds up to 300km/h. Everything was blown away—the rooms, the pools, the landscaping, the power, everything. We didn’t have anything at the destination for two weeks. It took us seven months to rebuild the resort and the destination.”
The new One & Only Palmilla is better than ever. Not content with just rebuilding and refurbishing, One & Only has introduced new attractions, including a restaurant by French celebrity chef Jean-georges Vongrichten, a huge new spa and fitness centre, and a special pool and lounging area where adults can enjoy a break from children. Just four months after its reopening in April, the resort’s loyal A-list clientele, which includes Jennifer Aniston, Bethenny Frankel and Eva Longoria, are back, lounging on beaches so pretty and pristine it’s as if Odile had never visited.
Even before it became one of the jewels of the ultra-luxury hospitality brand, the resort had long been a celebrity destination. It started life in 1956 as a 15-room luxury hideaway, only accessible by yacht or private plane, built by the son of a Mexican president and his Hollywood actress wife. The couple frequently hosted star-studded gettogethers—lucille Ball, Bing Crosby and John Wayne featured on their guest lists. After the home was redeveloped as a commercial resort, the celebrities kept visiting, valuing its luxury and privacy. Since coming under One & Only’s umbrella, it’s been renowned as one of the country’s most sumptuous and exclusive destinations.
Approaching the 100-hectare estate, one of its advantages is immediately clear. It’s perched on the very tip of the Baja Peninsula, ensuring spectacular ocean views from every suite. During the spring, when jetsetters flock to the area to watch the annual migration
of whales from Alaska, guests can survey the progress of the huge mammals from the comfort of their rooms and terraces. While the resort is only a short drive from the tourist mecca of Cabo San Lucas, it’s cossetted away from the bustle in its own peaceful microcosm.
In architecture and decor, the resort is Mexican in every way, from the white-walled buildings to the zigzag patterns and prints gracing the walls, floors and seating. The 173 plush rooms are studies in Mexican chic, featuring traditional design and handcrafted accents, with plenty of warm bronze and wood. Of the various suite styles, the pool casita suites are perfect for couples. Tucked into the peaceful south side of the property, each has a private terrace and plunge pool. They face the pool reserved for adults, which features a swim-up bar. For families or groups of friends, the opulent, 10,000-square-foot Villa Cortez is the ideal choice. The fourbedroom beachside villa features a private pool, gardens, lavish entertainment areas, a 12-person screening room—and a staff of 12.
Seared by Jean-georges Vongerichten brings the resort’s tally of restaurants to five, not counting the One & Only Lounge, which also serves delicious Mexican and international bites. Seared has a casual yet sophisticated vibe, and a breezy terrace popular with cigar connoisseurs and canoodling honeymooners. The steakhouse boasts a gleaming, glass-fronted meat cellar that shows off tempting dry-aged cuts of Wagyu and Kobe beef like Cartier jewels in a
display case. The restaurant, which also serves fresh Pacific seafood, is a buzzy, innovative replacement for the resort’s pre-hurricane fine-dining eatery.
“Our guests usually come from big cities, where they can eat fine cuisine every day,” says chef Sebastian Agnes, who worked closely with Vongerichten on the project. “We wanted to do a luxurious barbeque or steakhouse—something more casual.” The Wagyu ribeye—with a touch of Argentinian chimichurri sauce—should not be missed. Nor the corn soufflé.
The spa has exploded from what, preodile, was a modest space for massages and facials into a lush, 22,000sqft refuge where guests can indulge in any form of pampering they desire, both indoors and outdoors. It has a series of new sections each dedicated to delivering a single treatment perfectly, and everything can be customised. Each of the 13 private treatment villas has an air-conditioned massage pavilion and an open-air garden, many complete with plunge pools, rain showers and swinging day beds. Guests can also enjoy a choice of fresh juices or a tranquil lunch in the spa’s yoga garden.
If it’s a manicure you’re after, there’s the OBO by Jonathan & George nail bar, where you can sip a cocktail while your nails are painted. Or visit the Pedi:mani:cure Studio by French podiatrist Bastien Gonzalez for some healthy, soothing attention. The spa also offers special options for children and teens, and Barber & Blade provides all the grooming requirements of the modern man.
If the luxury and pampering are not enough to have every guest feeling like a celebrity, the expert staff will put that right. “Our repeat guests are normally assigned the same private butler so that they can form a relationship with them,” says Cecilia Aragon, the resort’s director of public relations. Staff are always on hand to help, whether cleaning smeared sunglasses at the pool or organising a day trip on a yacht.
With the resurrection of its Baja resort complete, One & Only is planning to break new ground, developing its first city hotel to complement its string of ultra-luxury resorts. While no details are available yet—it’s still considering options in the US and Europe— One & Only Palmilla gives a sense of the masterpiece we can expect.
edge of heaven The warm waters of the Sea of Cortez bathe three sides of One & Only Palmilla, which occupies 100 hectares right at the end Mexico’s Baja Peninsula
local style From top: The spacious rooms feature handcrafted accents and spectacular views; traditional architecture pays homage to the Mexican aesthetic
in and out Seared by Jean-georges Vongerichten serves the finest cuts of Kobe and Wagyu beef as well as seafood plucked from the Pacific
Hamachi sashimi is one of the seafood dishes served by the resort’s signature restaurant, Seared by Jean-georges Vongerichten
serene seclusion The terraces of the villas and suites make for romantic evenings overlooking the ocean, and they’re a great vantage point during the annual migration of whales