Located on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, Los Cabos is defined by two oceans, miles of white sand beaches, an expansive desert and majestic mountains. The area is blessed with good weather, beautiful landscapes and a bounty of accommodations. The Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California) offer year-round aquatic activities.
The last time I visited Los Cabos, the hotels and tourist attractions were concentrated in Cabo San Lucas, known for late night discos and swim-up bars. A handful of hotels were located on the Tourist Corridor, a highway that stretched twenty miles between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, which wore its identity as a quiet fishing village and artist colony with pride. On that visit several years ago, in Cabo San Lucas we had elaborate dinners and encounters with the night life. In San Jose del Cabo we took walking tours of art galleries and enjoyed dinners al fresco in courtyards with outdoor kitchens.
Today, much has changed. The highway between the two towns is lined with quality hotels, many having recently opened, many currently under construction. There are a mix of accommodations: hotels for short stays, time share properties and villas and apartments for purchase. Los Cabos offers enough choices to appeal to couples on a romantic get-a-way, families on vacation or anyone in search of a warm weather second home.
Le Blanc Spa and Resort - Not All-Inclusive Hotels Are Created Equal
The advantage of an all-inclusive hotel is that you know what your vacation costs up front. You pay extra if you want a spa or beauty treatment, something from the gift shop, a special event meal or a special activity.
But otherwise, when you are hungry, you eat. Thirsty, order a drink. No need to pull out your credit card and calculate the tip or sign the bill. At some all-inclusive hotels, while the price is right, the service and quality of the food are not ideal.
Reflecting a trend in luxury all-inclusives, at Le Blanc, the service, facilities and food were excellent. Quality products and quality preparation combined with attentive service to make all the meals memorable experiences.
When I checked in at reception, to refresh me after my plane ride, Jocelyn handed me an ice-cold coconut milk cocktail and an aromatic, warm neck pillow to place around my neck. Using a layout of the hotel, she pointed out the four pools, the fitness center, spa and the hotel’s eight restaurants and six bars. Since Le Blanc was all-inclusive, I could enjoy whatever food and beverages I wanted, any time of the day or night since 24-hour room service was also available.
Before I entered my room, I was greeted by Omar. Every floor in Le Blanc has a butler. Every guest has access to the butler’s services from 7:00am to 11:00pm. To make my stay as comfortable as possible, if I needed anything, I could call him on the phone or connect with him using the butler-app.
During a tour of my room, he showed me the hotel’s Comfort Menu with a choice of half a dozen specialty pillows, handcrafted soaps, aromatherapy fragrances for the room and aromatic salts for the bath. If I wanted to arrange an off-property adventure, an ATV ride in the desert or scuba diving off the coast, he would connect me with the Vacation Planner desk.
He opened a cabinet to show me a drawer with snacks, a mini-bar with refrigerated beverages and the espresso maker. Everything was complimentary and would be replenished daily. If I wanted a cocktail, I could call room service or I could make my own with the premium bottles of rum, vodka and whiskey in my room’s liquor cabinet.
During my stay, my day always began the same way. I had breakfast at Blanc Ocean. On the covered terrace, I enjoyed an espresso, a plate of fresh fruit and freshly prepared eggs or a seafood enchilada. My entertainment was watching the surf crash on the beach and guests on horseback having a guided tour along the shoreline. One day, I watched as a small gazebo was set up on a stretch of beach in front of the restaurant. The sand was raked smooth. A couple holding hands took their place in the gazebo. A half-dozen friends and family took their seats and witnessed the couple renew their vows under a bright blue Los Cabos sky.
The eight restaurants at the hotel touched the high points of global cuisine. In addition to the Baja Mexican cuisine at Blanca Ocean, we tried Blanc Italia, for classic Italian dishes, Mezze for a taste of the Middle East and Blanc Asia where we returned several times to have the perfectly prepared pork bao, pad Thai, softshell crab rolls and a tender-as-could-be steak with charred baby vegetables.
As with all the hotels along the Tourist Corridor, at Le Blanc, the ocean is a key attraction. Standing on the balcony in my room, I enjoyed my view of the Sea of Cortez, its immense beauty stretching to the horizon.
First time visitors are always amazed that with miles of Instagram-perfect beaches, no one swims in the ocean. The reason is simple. Ocean tides make swimming unsafe. A powerful surf generates an equally powerful undertow. In Los Cabos there are a handful of beaches, called Blue Flag Beaches, where swimming is permitted. Unfortunately, in front of Le Blanc the beach was look-but-do-not-touch beautiful.
One afternoon, after a long day visiting hotels along the Tourist Corridor, it was time to enjoy the infinity pool. At the swim-up bar I ordered an ice-cold drink and settled along the edge of the pool. I was mesmerized by the surf rolling onto the sand. A few seagulls and pelicans flew overhead, occasionally dive-bombing straight down in pursuit of an afternoon snack.
To stretch my legs, I took a walk along the beach and saw the care the hotel staff gives to the sea turtles who come here to lay their eggs. The area around each nest was clearly marked with a tall pole and concentric circles marked in the sand.
At dusk I sat on the beach enjoying the serenity of the water, watching pelicans calmly riding the waves, without a care in the world.
Viceroy Los Cabos – Elegance with Attitude
When you enter the award winning Viceroy, the buildings demand attention. The Viceroy took over the Mar Adentro, built by famed Mexican architect Miguel Aragonés. Looking to make a statement, Aragonés created a dramatic architecture of imposing white cubes looming over dark blue ponds that interact with one another in the dazzling Los Cabos light.
The contrast of white and blue is everywhere. The white of the buildings mirrors the beach. The blue of the reflecting ponds and pools echo the ocean and the sky above.
A reimagining of the property began when the hotel reopened in May, 2018 as part of the Viceroy Icon Collection. Complementing the minimalist, graphic lines of the buildings, many details were changed including the addition of earth tones in wood trim over walkways and a colorful mural painted on an otherwise stark white wall.
In the middle of stark geometric shapes in the main courtyard, there is an apparition. The Nido Cevicheria and Bar (the Nest) is a dark brown inverted oval woven from a tangle of mangrove branches.
Open at night, the Nido’s tangle of branches glows from inside, coming to life with music, fine dining snacks and a cocktail menu. The food at the Nido is a modern take on Mexican cuisine, reimagining classics like pico de gallo, using watermelon instead of tomatoes, and featuring freshly caught seafood served grilled or seasoned with Japanese spices.
On our tour in the late afternoon, we followed the path that led past sunbathing areas with rows of chaise lounges, residences with massive glass walls to give the owners views of the water, an intimate movie theater, a high-tech work out room and the spa.
We continued on until we heard the surf before we saw the beach. Greeting us was a Nido-Mini-Me. A smaller version of the Nest was located at the entrance to the beach. The Nidito Beach and Poolside Bar serves snacks and refreshing beverages. An oasis providing refreshment before you walk onto the beach or when you want to take a break from soaking in the cool infinity ponds or from lying on a terrycloth towel as you develop a million-dollar-tan in the Los Cabos sun.
The rooms at the Viceroy offer rare pleasures. Private outdoor patios have soaking-tub Jacuzzis with a view of the pools on the lower floors and the Sea of Cortez from the upper floors. In a room we visited, the bed was positioned next to the wall-sized floor-to-ceiling window with a view that brought the outside inside.
When the sun meets the horizon and long shadows stretch across the infinity pool, staying at the Viceroy means finding the best place to feel inspired and rejuvenated. Settle down on the beach, dig your toes into the warm sand, hold hands with a loved one and watch day turn into night.
To celebrate the expansiveness of the Viceroy’s location, find a seat at the new Cielomar Rooftop Bar where the 360-degree view lets you take in the beauty of the hotel framed by the ocean, beach and mountains.
Solaz, A Luxury Collection Resort, Los Cabos
Opened in September 2018, the Solaz made a statement. Dominating the entrance are giants of the desert, five-hundred-year old Saguaro cacti and dramatic works by the famed Mexican sculptor and painter, César López-Negrete.
The cacti announce the hotel’s dedication to the bio-diversity of southern Baja California. Unlike many other luxury hotels we visited, Solaz had no palm trees lining its driveways or surrounding its infinity pools. As Ricardo Iriarte, Communications and PR Manager for the hotel told us, that is because the landscaping is sourced locally. Only indigenous plants were used to celebrate the local flora and to reflect Solaz’ commitment to low-impact landscaping. Palm trees are not indigenous and they require large quantities of water, so no palm trees at Solaz. The hotel’s commitment to sustainability extends to the desalinization plant constructed on the property to supply fresh drinking water.
Solaz, like Le Blanc, has a turtle protection program. When turtles lay their eggs on the beach, specially trained staff members carefully relocate the eggs to a more secluded beach.
Close to the lobby entrance, we walked through the Gabinete del Marco. A carefully curated museum with artifacts, some historical, some recreated using a variety of materials, traces the history of the peninsula. The skeletons of large sea creatures float overhead. In glass-fronted cabinets, displays of prehistoric shark teeth and antique maps document the life of Baja California. Representations of indigenous peoples and European outsiders who called the area home decorate the cabinets that fill the museum.
Across the plaza from the museum, Dos Peninsulas is that rare gift shop that offers more than designer clothing and souvenir trinkets. Like the Gabinete del Marco, Dos Peninsulas offers guests a view into the history, heart and culture of the region. Handmade artisan products are offered for sale. That can mean a scarf, a coat, a box of colorful chocolates and a curiously enigmatic small figure of a woman who has an inscrutable Mona Lisa smile.
Solaz offers four floors of standard rooms and suites in the main building and more rooms in the villas that follow the contours of the hill down to the beach. On the lobby level with a view of rooftop gardens, the hotel’s restaurants and bars have staked out excellent views of the Sea of Cortez. Casabel, open currently only for breakfast, will soon be serving meals all day long. Fine dining Al Pairo next door focuses on seafood at dinner. A Japanese restaurant is in the planning stages and Cava, the wine cellar next to Al Pairo can be reserved for private meals and wine tastings.
When we visited, we enjoyed an alfresco lunch at Mako on an open-air covered deck above the infinity swimming pool facing the beach. The view was spectacular on a day when the wind tossed water in the air as the waves crashed on shore.
Montage Los Cabos
Located in the Twin Dolphin luxury community, the Montage has the feeling of an intimate, boutique hotel. Instead of one large building dominating the property, guest rooms and owner-residences spread out over the contours of the hill that faces the bay.
At the Montage we saw something we had not seen anywhere else on our trip. People swimming in the ocean.
The beach at Santa Maria Bay is one of nineteen certified Blue Flag beaches, accessible to the public and safe to use. To enjoy the calm waters of the bay, guests are provided with complimentary blankets, umbrellas, chaise lounges, kayaks, pedal boats, paddle boards and snorkeling gear to explore the bay and the area around the rocky cliffs.
The Montage avoids the either-or of some hotels that choose to be either family-friendly or adults-only. The hotel provides for both. In addition to the Blue Flag Beach where children can play and parents do not have to worry, a specially curated area just for children is situated away from the beach. In the kids pool and play area with soft sand and a water feature, children can delight in making sand castles without worrying that the tide will wash away their creations.
But kids aren’t the only ones pampered at the Montage.
For adults there is an indoor Jacuzzi-pool and a Himalayan Salt Room perfect for meditation. Next to the world-class spa, the Serenity Pool with eight couples-sized cabanas is an adults-only refuge from the world and available to any guest without purchasing a spa treatment.
We visited Acre, a farm-to-table restaurant and boutique hotel located on a dirt road that twists and turns into the hills far from the beach. We were here to eat not to stay the night in one of the thatched-walled treehouses. While we waited for our table, we explored the open-air bar and its substantial collection of tequila and mezcal.
The menu aims to highlight the local produce which is largely produced on the farm surrounding the restaurant. A mix of cuisines, some dishes were a modern take on Mexican classics like aguachile ceviche, gazpacho with strawberries, scallop ceviche and fish tacos. There were also dishes familiar to many farm-to-table restaurants. Charred Brussels sprouts, kale salad, vegan burgers, beets three ways (Beets on Beets), tender, moist short ribs, a tomahawk steak and even a luxurious pasta agnolotti with lobster and English peas.
When you eat at Acre, while you enjoy your meal and sip one of the well-crafted cocktails made with tequila or mezcal, be on the lookout for Chucky the peacock. One of the farm’s menagerie of friendly animals, Chucky walks around the dining room, happy to spend time with guests and share Acre’s delicious food.
Restaurant Los Tres Gallos
We did not eat at Los Tres Gallos (The Three Roosters) but we loved their food. At a nighttime event on the grounds of the expansive Cabo Real Golf Club, a dozen local restaurants and purveyors of tequila and craft-beer offered tastings. Under a clear sky and cooled by an ocean breeze, we wandered the grounds, tasting and sipping and talking about Los Cabos.
At the Los Tres Gallos open air-stand, Maricela Palacios encouraged us to taste the restaurant’s tortillas. One tortilla enclosed a light-as-air-crisp shrimp, another a melt-in-your-mouth delicious bone marrow. The crowning glory was the third taco.
Topped with fresh blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, the visuals signaled that this was a sweet taco. One bite confirmed the visual impression. A perfect combination of flavors and textures. Acid from the berries. Crunch from the caramelized pistachios. Sweet and creamy from the chocolate ganache. Chewy, musky-sweet from the tortilla flavored with cacao. Unique and delicious. We knew on our next trip we would make time to visit Los Tres Gallos in San Jose del Cabo.
When you go
For detailed information about Los Cabos, visit the official website.
With a demand for leisure accommodations, Los Cabos already has 17,000 rooms. In 2019, there are plans to add another 2,000 rooms and another 2,000 in 2020.
Even with the development of new properties, Los Cabos is an eco-friendly destination. The area hotels promote conservation programs that eliminate plastic water bottles and straws, the installation of desalinization plants and landscaping using low-water-use indigenous plants.
With many airlines servicing Los Cabos International Airport, the area is easily reached from anywhere in the U.S., Canada and abroad. Small craft may dock at Marina Puerto Los Cabos and the larger Marina Cabo San Lucas. Reservations are advised.
When booking a room, besides considering the room rate, check for added fees which will include governmental VAT and lodging fees and also a hotel service charge. In some cases, that can add as much as 35% to the cost of a room. On rooms priced between $800 and $1,500 USD, that is a significant amount.
Consider also that some hotels offer a choice of either an all-inclusive or a European plan in which costs other than the room are added on an ala cart basis. If both are offered, consider which best suits your needs. All-inclusive plans are especially popular with families.
ACRE, Calle Sin Nombre, Animas Bajas, 23407 San José del Cabo, +52 624 171 8226. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Brunch on the weekend. When you visit, allow time to have a leisurely meal to enjoy the food and the setting.
Cabo Real Golf Club, Carretera Transpeninsular Km 19.5, Zona del interior, 23405 San José del Cabo, +52 624 1739400.
Le Blanc Spa and Resort Los Cabos, Carretera Transpeninsular Km 18.4 SJC-CSL, +1 888 702 0913, Lomas del Tule, San Jose del Cabo 23400. All 373 rooms in the adults-only, smoke-free resort have balconies with either full or partial oceanfront views. In the room, a bottle of wine and chocolates greets every new arrival. Among the amenities are Apple TV and free phone service to the U.S. and Canada. The spa offers Hydrotherapy facilities, with hot and cold plunge pools, a hot tub, herbal steam room, sauna music therapy, an ice room and high pressure showers to clean and revive tired skin. The large Spa facility has fifteen single massage suites, nine couples suites and one Le Blanc D’Or suite with a private area in addition to the treatment room.
Montage Los Cabos, Carretera Transpenninsular Km 12.5, Bahia Santa Maria, Twin Dolphin, Cabo San Lucas 23450, 800 772 2226, +52 624 123 2000. With 122 guest rooms, suites and villas as well as 52 owner residences, some of which are available for rental, the Montage has a great variety of accommodations. Rooms are priced depending on size and location.
Solaz Los Cabos, Marriott, Luxury Collection Resort, Corredor Turístico s/n, Km 18.5, Cabo San Lucas-San José del Cabo, Cabo Real, 23405 San José del Cabo, +1 855 323 2625, Option #2, +52 624 144 2100. 128 rooms and 21 residences with more to be built.
Viceroy Los Cabos, Paseo Malecon San José Lote 8, Zona Hotelera, 23400 San José del Cabo, +1 844 222 6987, +52 624 104 9999. 192 rooms and 50 residences which become available if owners want their properties included in the Viceroy Rental Group. During the holiday season, the Viceroy offers a variety of special events. (pictured below)