Par­adise re­stored

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

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

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

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