Mexico’s Baja Peninsula offers unabashed luxury in a setting of natural grandeur.
Jutting out into the aquamarine junction of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, the southern capes of the Baja Peninsula, or “Los Cabos,” have long served as the West Coast’s answer to the distant Caribbean and the even more remote Pacific islands. Since tourism began here in the late ‘70s, the scramble for the 20-mile corridor between the towns of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas inevitably spawned gimmicky hotels and tawdry motels. However, it also brought some of the most lavish, show-stopping resorts, aptly fit for their regular Hollywood A-list clientele and the global elite with a desert-meets-the-sea romantic vibe. Indeed, magnificent resorts like the One&Only Palmilla and Las Ventanas al Paraíso rank among the globe’s finest, earning Los Cabos a spot high atop the list of the world’s most luxurious locales.
Villa Cortez beachfront pool Casita Master Suite at One&Only Palmilla
Designed as an intimate beachfront hacienda for the mid-20th century’s rising rich and famous, One&Only Palmilla once attracted the likes of John Wayne, Lucille Ball, and Bing Crosby. Over time, improved infrastructure in the Baja Peninsula catalyzed expansions, but the resort’s original ethos—an unapologetic, decadent respite from reality—remains unchanged. Nowadays, the 250-acre One&Only Palmilla redefines the concept of barefoot luxury with sumptuous accommodations and exalted outlets at the tip of the Palmilla master-planned community.
An ambassador of South of the Border luxury, One&Only Palmilla exudes a true sense of place. The contemporary incarnations of the original accommodations take the form of 12 traditional casas boasting a total of 173 rooms and suites that range from large to palatial. All face the ocean, are outfitted with sprawling terraces and patios, and offer the brand’s signature butler service. Lively, eclectic Mexican design abounds, right down to the last detail, while massive wooden doors and room partitions, intricately studded and bursting with character, reflect the Colonial farm style typical of San Miguel de Allende. One-of-a-kind rustic floor tiles complement the understated tapestries, hand-embroidered cloths, and colorful linens.
One&Only Palmilla’s ample acreage separates the more family-centric north from the more adults-driven south. That’s not to say that these regions are mutually exclusive or that any age will forgo frivolity and fun on the hilltop; simply put, One&Only Palmilla champions the best of both worlds.
Vacationing families gravitate toward the resort’s central and northern reaches, where the rocky outcrops give way to placid beaches. Nestled in dense foliage and teeming with towering palm trees, this vast expanse includes half of the resort’s lavish casas, the principal pool and connecting children’s pool, the unique “Mexiterranean” Agua Restaurant & Bar, and an ESPA spa. Lining the southern rim of the property, 16 units with private oceanfront infinity pools and three dozen junior suites cater to couples seeking honeymoon-style romance. At the multi-tiered, adults-only Vista Pool & Bar, complimentary foot massages, ginger margaritas, homemade sorbets, and towel fluffing are all on the menu. Come nightfall, a mesmerizing fire pit illuminates and creates idyllic ambience for good conversation and stargazing. A stone’s throw away, Suviche Lounge buzzes with the sweet sounds of live music and the chatter of margarita-merry patrons, while the neighboring Market restaurant doles out Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s award-winning French-Asian cuisine, peppered with regional Mexican spices and ingredients.
Between January and March, mammoth gray whales arrive at this coastal refuge to give birth and rear their young. They are often visible with the naked eye, though in-room telescopes bring them up close and personal. One&Only Palmilla is a year-round habitat for relaxation and uninterrupted bliss for both the affluent family and the starry-eyed romantic.
Oceanview suite at Las Ventanas al Paraíso
Las Ventanas al Paraíso
There’s no case of getting lost in translation for Las Ventanas al Paraíso. These “windows to paradise” overlook a stunning panorama of desert and sea that embodies our contemporary definition of “paradise.” Comprising 11 whitewashed, low-rise buildings that are enveloped by diverse cacti and framed by the most brilliant blue skies, Las Ventanas imparts an ambience of far-and-away storybook romance.
The resort impresses from the onset, with an expansive alfresco lobby opposite the rising tides, hovering over an enclave of inspirational architecture. The artisan floors are composed of contrasting stones, beautifully arranged along the labyrinthine walkways, while the ceilings are bound by traditional dried latilla sticks. Bare branches from the Baja desert come to life with hand-blown red and pink glass ornaments, complementing the color-splashed desert foliage. Freestanding rectangular stairs intersect reflection ponds, leading toward sea-level amenities and outlets like the resort’s fine-dining restaurant or the more casual Mexican-inspired Sea Grill. Seven distinctive pools offer varying degrees of privacy, and a warm and smiling staff surprise at every turn, eager to deliver stellar service.
Las Ventanas’s 71 suites perfectly balance elements of luxury with regional authenticity. Its understated interiors pay homage to the flavors of Mexico’s 32 diverse states, cast ashore on a seaside desert. Even the recent spa expansion showcases a multi-faceted example of Mexican craftsmanship, with ornamental glasswork from Oaxaca embellishing an outdoor traditional Bajan palapa that serves as the spa’s relaxation area.
Due in part to its extensively manicured grounds, Las Ventanas exudes a constant spa-like placidity. Here, the few interruptions to guests’ R&R usually occur poolside or beachside with hourly offerings of homemade sorbets, water coolers, and other thirst-quenching delights. Perhaps you’ll wake up from a post-massage, sun-kissed snooze to a distant horn signaling the presence of whales in the area. Like One&Only Palmilla, Las Ventanas al Paraíso is a superb spot for witnessing the renowned gray whale migration, one of nature’s most majestic sights.
Highlights Los Cabos With all the shameless pampering you’re bound to experience at One&Only and Las Ventanas, heading off site can seem like a ridiculous idea. But if you can manage to break away, here are a few can’t-miss activities in San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Art Walk Exposition On Thursday evenings, the wildly popular Art District in San Jose del Cabo comes to life as dozens of galleries offer patrons complimentary wine and insight into their fabulous displays and works by Mexican and international artists and artisans. Land’s End Think of Los Cabos and a vision of Land’s End quickly comes to mind. This impressive cluster of rock formations, including the famous Arch of Poseidon, appears on nearly every postcard of Los Cabos. During high tide, panga boats (dinghies), from either the Marina or from El Medano Beach in Cabo San Lucas, offer rides to the Arch. Better yet, during low tide, intrepid travelers can get there by foot by way of Lover’s Beach. Whale Watching From January to March, gray whales rule the Cabo coastline. Around 6,000 whales come here annually to birth their young. While it’s exciting to view the whales from the coastline, the full gamut of boat tours—from zodiacs to sail boats—offer an even more exciting way to immerse yourself in their world.
*More luxurious images from Luxe Cabos