Destination of the Week: Cabo San Lucas
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Whether you want to gallery hop, try craft brews, surf or simply lounge by the pool, it’s all here at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Many of Cabo’s luxurious resorts feel a world away from the melee and nearby towns like historic San Jose del Cabo, up-and-coming Puerto Los Cabos and artsy Todos Santos offer a complete change of pace. For today’s Destination of the Week, TPG Contributor Casey Hatfield-Chiotti takes us to Cabo San Lucas.
WHAT TO DO
Rich with postcard-worthy scenery, natural rock formations, the Arch – or El Arco de Cabo San Lucas – and Lover’s Beach are Cabo’s most popular and photographed landmarks. You can get to the picturesque spots by taking a water taxi from the Cabo San Lucas Marina or, for the more adventurous, the spit of land that juts out (also referred to as Lands End) can be accessed by doing an easy rock scramble at the end of the beach in front of Capella Pedregal and the Grand Solmar. The walk will take you past Divorce Beach on the Pacific Ocean side before you reach calmer Lover’s Beach on the Sea of Cortez side. Depending on the tide, you may or may not be able to see the Arch from the sand. Boats anchored off Lover’s Beach will take you to get a better view for a fee.
Cabo San Lucas is a relatively new city with much of the development growing in the 1970s, however, the town of San Jose del Cabo dates back to the 1730s when it was founded as a Spanish mission. The historic Spanish-colonial center includes a beautiful church and main plaza, where art galleries and restaurants line the surrounding streets. Baja Brewing, the only microbrewery in Baja California Sur, is located in the historic arts district. Try the Baja Blonde, a complex yet mild take on a Mexican-style lager.
A new bike path has been constructed in Puerto Los Cabos, a resort and golf community just east of San Jose del Cabo. You can rent vintage reproduction cruisers at the new Hotel El Ganzo or at several other stops along the path. The 3-mile trail will take you passed Wirikuta, a newly opened botanical garden that is home to 1,500 species of cacti, a sculpture garden and the Dolphin Discovery Center, a marine park where you can swim with dolphins in an ocean marina.
Los Cabos is famous for its beautiful white sand beaches but many are not safe for swimming. If you want to surf, head to Cerritos about 40 miles north of Cabo San Lucas on Highway 19. The long stretch of sand and surf is great for beginners and there are many kiosks along the beach where you can rent boards and wetsuits.
Early summer marks the start of the “sea turtle” season in Los Cabos when thousands of sea turtles return to the beach where they were born and lay hundreds of eggs. Many hotels in the area offer conservation programs and turtle camps to protect the eggs from predators and poachers. In the fall, guests can participate in a turtle release, where they can help release the baby sea turtles back into the ocean. Ask your hotel if they offer such a program.
WHERE TO EAT
Many resorts like Capella Pedregal have outstanding restaurants (see below) but for more unique, independently owned restaurants, San Jose del Cabo has some great options.
Flora’s Field Kitchen is located on an organic farm and serves fresh salads, seafood and wood-fired oven pizzas. The open-air restaurant also has a grocery where you can get prepared food to go and a lively bar, which often has live music. Cocktails are served in mason jars and include farm-fresh ingredients like the restaurant’s signature Farmarita, a margarita made with heirloom carrot juice.
At Deckman’s, Michelin starred chef, Drew Deckman, originally from Peachtree City Georgia, serves sophisticated 5- to 7-course tasting menus. Dishes like quail with beets, garbanzo beans and grapefruit verge on molecular gastronomy and feature only local, sustainable ingredients.
In Todos Santos, El Zaquan on Juarez St. serves fresh seafood and El Paraguito, just off the main road when you come into town on Del Huerto, makes quintessential Baja-style fried fish and shrimp tacos and is a popular stop for truckers – so you can be sure the fish is fresh. La Esquina, north of downtown Todos Santos on Horizonte Street, is a popular surfer hangout and makes fresh squeezed juices, smoothies and burritos. They also have a nightly happy hour when beers and margaritas are two for one.
Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations since we don’t have the time or funds to visit all these places in person and report back to you. Nor are they endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there. As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of these destinations.
Los Cabos International Airport services both Cabo San Lucas and San Jose Del Cabo. Major airlines including Aeromexico, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier and United fly in and out and service major US hubs including Chicago O’Hare, San Diego, New York-JFK, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Denver.
Because the area of Los Cabos, which encompasses Cabo San Lucas, San Jose Del Cabo and the tourist corridor in between, is fairly spread out, you may want to rent a car. Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National, and Thrifty all offer car rentals. Shuttle service and taxis to your hotel can also be arranged.
Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort: This spread out hacienda-style resort has direct access to one of the only swimmable beaches in Los Cabos, as well as a spa and four restaurants. Each of the 375-rooms has a private balcony with full or partial views of the Sea of Cortez, Italian linens, and artisan touches like hand-painted sinks and antique wooded armoires. The hotel also ranks well with visitors and received a 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award. Room rates start at $169 per night in July. This is Category 8 property and requires 40,000 (40,000-70,000 seasonally Hilton HHonors points for a free night.
There are currently no Hyatt-owned properties in Los Cabos but plans for a 157- room Hyatt Place in San Jose del Cabo are reportedly in the works. Stay tuned.
Fairfield Inn Los Cabos: This 128-room hotel is close to the “Medano,” one of Los Cabos’s most popular public beaches, and within walking distance to downtown Cabo San Lucas. Modest rooms offer modern décor and complimentary WiFi. There’s also an indoor pool and complimentary American breakfast buffet. Room rates start at $76 per night in July. This is a Category 1 property and requires 7,500 Marriott Rewards points for a free night.
The Marriott brand is planning to build two other properties in Puerto Los Cabos in the next two years including a 124-room Ritz-Carlton and a 300-room JW Marriott overlooking the Sea of Cortez.
Holiday Inn Resort Los Cabos All Inclusive: Nestled next to the Sierra de San Lazaro Mountains and an estuary, this 390-room resort offers lush grounds with manicured lawns and a variety of succulents. The W-shaped property also offers a little something for everyone with three distinct pool areas, one for adults, one for activities like water volleyball and one for families. Some rooms feature oceanfront lanais. Room rates start at $189 per night or 35,000 Priority Club Rewards points for a free night.
Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Golf & Spa Resort: This Spanish colonial-style property has red tile roofs, elegant archways and a dramatic hacienda-style courtyard. The property’s 290-rooms are spread amongst villas linked by lush grounds featuring various colors of bougainvillea. The Sheraton does not offer free in-room WiFi but it does give guests 30 minutes of free internet access per day in the lobby. The property also has five pools and rooms feature jacuzzis and private terraces. Neighboring Cabo del Sol has two world-renowned golf courses including the Jack Nicklaus designed Ocean Course, which overlooks a mile of craggy coastline. Room rates start at $149 per night in July. This is an SPG Category 4 property and requires 10,000 Starpoints for a free night.
Westin Resort & Spa Los Cabos: The somewhat imposing orange façade of this hotel hides a nice surprise – a beautiful infinity pool that snakes its way along the property and a large stretch of somewhat rocky but beautiful coastline. Each of the 243 rooms features contemporary furnishings rather than old world Mexican-style décor, like stark white linens and marble bathrooms. Shuttle service from the airport to the hotel can be provided for 20 dollars a person. Dining and drinking options include the swanky On the Rocks Bar and the Latin influenced El Ciruelo restaurant. Room rates start at $159 per night in July. This is an SPG Category 4 property and requires 10,000 Starpoints for a free night.
Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
Fine Hotels & Resorts is a loyalty program for The Platinum Card from American Express cardholders who receive special benefits at participating hotels such as early check-in and late check-out, complimentary breakfast, room upgrades, and other perks.
Capella Pedregal: The entrance to this 5-star resort is undeniably dramatic. Each of the 66 rooms and suites comes with its own private plunge pool, fireplace and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The sand-colored property also has an award-winning spa whose treatments change with each lunar phase. The hotel’s cliff-clinging seafood restaurant, El Farallon, is worth a visit even if you’re not staying at the resort. The “day’s catch” like chocolate clams and parrot fish are displayed over ice for guests to choose from. After guests make their selection, the fish is chargrilled and served alongside grilled vegetables like charred tomatoes and zucchini. Room rates start at $525 per night in July. Some rates are being discounted 50 percent due to construction on the mountain behind the resort.
The One & Only Palmilla: This celebrity favorite started as a 15-room luxury hideaway in the 1950s – at one time it was only accessible by private plane or boat. It’s now grown to 115 rooms, but the lush property filled with swaying palm trees and birds of paradise still has an air of privacy and exclusivity. The hotel’s white-washed walls and heavy wooden doors are inspired by colonial Mexico but the decor also has a Moroccan feel. Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten oversees two of the hotel’s restaurants, Market and Suviche, but the most appealing place to drink and dine may be the Agua Bar located beneath a giant palapa with views of the gorgeous infinity pool. Don’t miss the zesty serrano margarita with a touch of chile and pineapple juice for sweetness. Rooms rates start at $446 per night in July.
Esperanza: This 57-room resort is a popular honeymoon destination and melds luxury with an authentic Baja-style ambience. Perched on a bluff, the tropical oasis has expansive views of the Sea of Cortez. The accommodations include villas and luxury suites with private terraces, walk-in closets, spacious bathrooms, down bedding and Mexican artwork. Dining options are almost all “al fresco,” like Cocina del Mar, a seafood restaurant located under a giant palapa, and El Bar a casual space complete with firepits and views of Lands End. There is also the Spa at Esperanza, which has been named the #1 spa by Travel and Leisure, featuring 14 treatment rooms, a large soaking pool, outdoor showers, and fitness center. The property also has an oceanfront sculpture garden and free WiFi. Room rates start at $550 per night in July.
Las Ventanas al Paraiso: As the name suggests, this refined and elegant ocean-front resort truly is a window to paradise. Everything about the décor, from the gently curved white stucco walls, to the strategically placed succulents, show restraint serving to magnify the beauty of the surroundings that much more. Las Ventanas’ recently renovated spa is truly world-class and offers indoor-outdoor treatments, a serene solarium and a new full-service beauty salon. Try the signature Baja herbal infusion treatment, which includes a custom-blended scrub and a massage technique created by Las Ventanas’ own therapists. Guests also receive a complimentary tequila welcome and access to tennis courts. Room rates start at $581 per night in July.
When cardholders use a Visa Signature credit card to book a room through the Visa Signature Hotels program, they are eligible to receive extra perks such as discounted room rates, room upgrades, free breakfast, early check-in and late check-out, dining and spa credits and more. Visa Signature cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire, British Airways Visa, the Hyatt card, the Marriott Rewards Premier and Marriott Rewards cards, the Southwest Plus card, Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines cards, Capital One Venture, Citi Hilton HHonors and Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, US Bank FlexPerks, Citi AAdvantage Visa Signature, and many more, so chances are you’re carrying at least one of them in your wallet.
Hotel El Ganzo: This brand new boutique hotel in Puerto Los Cabos is the brainchild of Pablo Sanchez Navarro, the son of one of the wealthiest families in Mexico, and is really a shrine to his two great loves – art and music. The 72-room hotel has an artist in-residence program, a stage and a recording studio, which can be accessed through a trapdoor in the lobby. Famous musicians like Sara Bareilles have already recorded and performed here. The white stucco building overlooking the Puerto Los Cabos Marina and Sea of Cortez features modern yet rustic décor with reclaimed wood accents and a colorful lobby inspired by the travels of Ernest Hemingway. The welcome drink is a Virgin Papa Doble – reportedly the writer’s favorite drink. The El Ganzo has complimentary WiFi and the rooftop offers a spectacular vanishing edge pool and a Japanese/Peruvian fusion restaurant. Room rates start at $187.25 per night in July.
Hotel Guaycura: Located about an hour north of Cabo San Lucas in quaint Todos Santos, this 14-room boutique hotel is housed in a historic building that dates back to the mid-1800s. Rooms feature terracotta flooring, understated Hacienda-style décor and complimentary WiFi. The hotel’s rooftop Sky Bar offers some of the best views in Todos Santos and serves fresh fruit margaritas. Room rates start at $146 per night in July.
Rancho Pescadero: While it’s not a member of Visa Signature or Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts, this intimate property just outside Todos Santos is worth mentioning, and a great place to stay if you truly want to relax and recharge. Located along two miles of pristine coastline, the 27-room oceanfront oasis offers daily yoga, complimentary surfboards and a restaurant that serves ingredients grown in the property’s own vegetable garden. Rooms all have canopy beds and minimalist Mexican style accents. The property even ages tequila in its own custom casks. Room rates start at $200 per night in July.