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Forget competing with Cancun; these days its high-end Punta Mita thats in Cabos sights.
A hurricane is never a positive. But strolling the wide vistas that connect the tourist meccas of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, it’s possible to at least glean a silver lining from the destructive path that Hurricane Odile visited upon this area in September 2014.
Before that time Cabo was one of a handful of interchangeable Mexican destinations that serviced the desperately-in-need-of-sun-and-margs crowd. Sure, there were some beautiful properties—Palmilla, Esperanza jump out—but the bread and butter was package tourists at all-inclusives sucking back Coronas by the dozen and searching for a Señor Frog’s.
What a difference a half-decade makes. Forget competing with Cancun; these days it’s high-end Punta Mita that’s in Cabo’s sights. The area is awash in luxury as new property after new property continue to open, each trying to out-luxe the other. We spent a week sussing them out, and separating the golden wheat from the diamond-encrusted chaff.
Vibe: Frank Lloyd Wright loved to design places with modest entrances so as to impress people once they walked in. He would love The Cape, as the arrival route from the highway is underwhelming, dotted with drab condos and low-end hotels. But once you reach the Cape itself it all makes sense—this is the most dramatic piece of property in the area. The 161 rooms all have ocean views, with the famed arch and the city of Cabo San Lucas perfectly framed, and the crashing surf right in front.
Clientele: Given the dramatic setting there are a lot of weddings here, so expect a mix of young and old with some kids thrown in. More East Coast than the other resorts.
Beach Time: Perfect, if you’re a surfer who likes left-hand breaks. Terrible if you’re a swimmer.
Eating and Drinking: Manta is helmed by Enrique Olvera of Mexico City’s Pujol, long considered the best Mexican restaurant in the world. It’s pricey, but given the pedigree and the view, worth it.
Insider’s Tip: The rooftop bar has hands-down the best views in the area and, while not advertised as such, it’s open to the public for a perfectly framed cocktail.
Vibe: Another SoCal import, the Montage skews a little more adult than the Viceroy. James Perse-clad families amble about the low-slung resort (there are only 122 rooms on 39 acres), done up in muted, elegant shades of cream and beige (that’s both the resort and the guests). The rooms feature a warm modernism—think more restoration hardware than B&B Italia. The 40,000-square-foot spa is a stunner, the biggest around.
Clientele: Jeff Bezos has a house here—that pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?
Beach Time: It doesn’t get better. The Montage has one of the few completely swimmable (and snorkel-able) beaches in the region.
Eating and Drinking: High-end comfort food, which is great if you’re staying here, but not worth a separate visit if you’re not.
Insider’s Tip: There’s a good-sized outpost of Eclectic Array here, which is the best place for high-end, design-driven crafts (like beaded cow skulls).
Vibe: We’re not in Kansas anymore—or are we, because people seem seriously interested in farming around here. Acre is the brainchild of Vancouverites Cameron Watt (the Keefer Bar) and partner Stuart McPherson and it’s a serious case of if you farm-to-table build it, they will come. Set in a lush valley a few kilometres from the ocean, Acre has a boho-agrarian vibe (its original genesis was as a restaurant), with most everything you need being harvested nearby. Their newly opened treehouses are rustic (as in no A/C) but Instagrammable to a hipster fault. Cool-kids central.
Clientele: Do you know those people you see at Coachella who wear overly creased straw cowboy hats and aviators way down on the brim of their nose? Them.
Eating and Drinking: The restaurant that started this all is still one of the vibey-est places in Baja, and dining al fresco under the hanging lights one feels two to three notches cooler. The food is as local as it gets, the drinks excellent. The prices are solidly bourgeois, though.
Insider’s Tip: Acre is not that far from San Jose, but the road can get a little wonky and Google Maps can get seriously confused, so be careful driving at night.
Vibe: Wow. If there’s a property that captures Mexican modern better than the Solaz, we’ve not seen it. Designed by Mexico City’s acclaimed Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, the property feels expansive and airy—even underbuilt, given that it’s situated on 34 waterfront acres but only has 147 rooms. The property is also dotted with private nooks that you can have to yourself.
Clientele: The hotel’s owners are a very wealthy Sinaloa family, and a large portion of who you see here are wealthy Mexican nationals to go with the wealthy Americans and Canadians.
Eating and Drinking: All very low key—La Deriva Cucina is one of the better Italian options in Baja, but seems to fly under the radar. Expansive Mexican wine selection.
Beach Time: This is all oceanfront and the beach is often swimmable (there are lifeguards on duty), which is no small measure in Cabo.
Insider’s Tip: Even the basic rooms are huge—1,000 square feet is the norm, making for a perfect family spot, and there are full kitchens in most suites in case you want to stay in (or at least do breakfast at your own pace). Also, there’s a small but interesting museum on site that chronicles the exploration and landscape of Baja.
Vibe: Modern doesn’t even come close. “It looks like a prison,” says our driver in reference to the sheer expanse of white that marks the Viceroy’s street-side facade. But once inside, the interior—designed by famed Mexican architect Miguel Angel Aragonés—opens to a beachfront cross between Venice (there are reflecting pools everywhere) and Richard Meier’s Miami. The nicest gym in Baja is on a subterranean level, as is a very large screening room/movie theatre that can be privately booked. And the rooms all face out with walls of glass, so people-watching is definitely a sport here.
Clientele: Given Viceroy’s SoCal pedigree, there are a lot of beautiful young Angelenos milling around, with a liberal dose of celebs. Not the first choice for families.
Beach Time: It’s on the water and most rooms have views of the ocean, but you have to follow a series of tunnels to actually get to the beach. Marginally swimmable.
Eating and Drinking: Nido, the resort’s signature room, is a giant, open-air bird’s nest that serves high-end sushi and very serious cocktails—try something with pox, the new mezcal. It’s worth a visit even if you’re not staying here.
Insider’s Tip: It’s right in San Jose so it’s the only new resort where you wouldn’t need a car.