Think You Know Cabo? Think Again.
Long known as a haven for privacy beloved by Hollywood’s elite thanks to its terrific sunshine and surf, Cabo is only getting better with age.
On a recent trip with our Smartie crew, we made it a personal mission to experience this chilled-out beach destination from the perspective of its most highly regarded properties. To that end, we personally visited six of the destination’s top resorts, some are our team’s all-time favorites like Rosewood Las Ventanas al Paraíso, One&Only Palmilla, Montage Los Cabos, and Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedegral; and others are exciting new openings like the Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas and Zádun, a Ritz Carlton Reserve – each with their own set of advantages and uniquely paired activities. Here’s our rundown on what’s hot in Baja, including twenty of the most unique experiences to really make your trip special.
Las Ventanas al Paraíso
A repeat guest of this exquisite Rosewood Hotels property, Austin-based travel advisor Amanda Poses shares, “The experience is simply magical from the moment guests are picked up from the airport; stepping on property ignites the senses with a mariachi band and foaming margaritas to accompany the sweeping views of the sea. And well beyond arrival, the Las Ventanas team truly anticipates your every need, from creating a customized sewing kit by observing your wardrobe and finding threads that match your clothing to knowing the type of cocktail you like to order, to already having the gluten-free toasts waiting for you at breakfast to moving the beach umbrella while you nap on the beach so you are shaded the entire time; the list of ways in which they personalize the service for guests goes on and on.”
In terms of accommodation, all room categories are fabulous (even the garden views have glimmers of the ocean!). Amanda explains, “The ante is really upped with rooftop terrace room categories which give guests front-row views of both sunrise and sunset. Don’t feel like leaving your private sanctuary to go to the gym? No problem; your butler quickly can assist with a yoga mat on the roof so you can proceed with your morning routine overlooking the Pacific Ocean! For families, the 2- and 3-bedroom villas are a great option as their kitchen allows you to enjoy breakfast in the morning made by your butler or an afternoon snack followed by happy hour. Beachfront villa guests also get an extra special message each morning raked into the sand!”
- Taco Academy: This recently launched interactive cooking class is set outdoors at the Taqueria, just beside the Oasis pool. Great for families, the culinary team leads guests through the preparation of several taco varieties including Spiced Oyster Mushroom, Tikin Xic Lobster and Charred Baja Sea Bass tacos, along with delectable Mexican small bites such as quesadillas, ceviche and tostadas.
- Driving Razers: For the adrenaline junkie, this off-roading excursion is sure to delight. These all-terrain ATVs will put your driving skills to the test to handle rough terrain roads, desert, dunes and on the thrilling sand. The best part? They drive right up to the hotel entrance to start your adventure, and you return directly back to the hotel (albeit, much muddier than when you left!).
- Sea Safari: For guests with an interest in conservation education, embarking on ‘sea safari’ led by local fishermen is a great way to take advantage of the varying seasons of Los Cabos where different marine life becomes prominent. The experience is curated in partnership with Nakawe Project, which focuses on destigmatizing sharks and reducing illegal shark farming and black-market shark trade. Proceeds from participation (this activity is exclusive to Las Ventanas guests) support the Nakawe Project mission.
- Magical Dinner: For an interactive dining experience, The Magic Dinner is a highlight. The property has a partnership with Sterling Dietz, a remarkable magician who trained in Las Vegas, who leads diners through a mystifying story, which unfolds with each passing course. The show is now in “season two” which centers around Día de los Muertos and is set in an outdoor space for something extra special.
- Dinner in the Grotto: While floating effortlessly down the lazy river, guests have the opportunity to dine and relax in a jacuzzi hidden inside Las Ventanas al Paraíso’s Oasis pool. Unwinding in warm waters in a private grotto, guests will embark on an all-enveloping sensorial journey, complete with live music and colorful works of art as they dine on pan-Asian cuisine and wines from around the world. The experience can be enjoyed by up to six guests.
Who’s it for?
Las Ventanas is truly made for couples, especially those celebrating something special. It’s a haven for foodies, whether you want to keep it healthy at the newer oceanfront restaurant or stick to traditional Mexican, the cuisine is divine. And of course, the tequila selection is fabulous! The property can also be a great fit for families that enjoy high-level service but do not necessarily need kids club to keep them busy all day.
O&O Palmilla offers one of the few swimmable beaches on the famous stretch of coast between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
NYC-based travel advisor Tom Bartholomew shares, “One & Only Palmilla is the original Cabo hotspot; dating back to the 1950’s it offered a luxurious escape for the Hollywood jet-set and today, it remains a chic hideaway. The historic whitewashed chapel, fountain and first hotel building still stand and provide the resort with a wonderful sense of place. Tucked into a private cove, One&Only Palmilla offers one of the few swimmable beaches on the famous stretch of coast between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. It exudes an aura of traditional Mexican glamour, ensuring guests really feel transported to vacay mode.”
Tom elaborates, “All rooms and suites include personal butler service and ocean views. My personal picks would the Casita Junior Suite Oceanfront With Infinity pool. Or for a larger group, the elaborate and private Villa One which can accommodate up to 8 guests across 4 bedrooms. And in terms of food and beverage, prepare to be delighted! One&Only takes advantage of its enchanting location overlooking the Sea of Cortez with Agua Bar, the perfect spot for a drink as the sun sets before dinner. While you can go the traditional Mexican route, they also offer Japanese fusion restaurant with a Mexican flair at Suviche for something a little different.”
- Tropic Surf School: For aspiring surfers, the property houses a surf school with breaks ideal for learning just 200 meters from the resort. Guests can experience the fun of surfing with the knowledgeable guide, Mike, who’s passion shines through. Or, for those who want to take on some waves beyond Pelican Beach, there is an option to do a Pacific Coast Road trip and make a day of it!
- Temazcal Ritual: An illuminating, awakening ritual, temazcal is an ancient Mayan ceremony led by the property’s dedicated Shaman, a leader of the local indigenous Mayo tribe. Meaning ‘house of heat’, temazcal has been practised for health and purification since pre-Hispanic times. The temazcal ritual is a total body experience with drumming, chanting and intense perspiring that some describe as akin to being reborn.
- Personalized Fireworks: For a true ‘wow’ factor, the resort can arrange personalized fireworks at the beach. One moment, you are wrapped up at the fire overlooking the sea and the next, you are experiencing your very own set of fireworks illuminating the sea and sand. This is especially perfect for a special occasion or proposal.
- Tequila Tasting: Would you really be in Mexico if you didn’t do a tequila tasting? Allow their resident tequila and mezcal expert to guide you through four different pours, each paired with bites meant to enhance the natural flavors of the tequila. From Don Julio 1942 to more elusive brands, you’re sure to find a new favorite.
- Spa Yoga + Pilates: Take deep, restorative breaths of sea air and completely relax during your one-on-one or group yoga and Pilates classes. An integral part of the One&One wellness philosophy, guests will find it easy to stay moving on property. Plus, they have a cute juice bar just beside the yoga area to grab a drink afterwards!
Who’s it for?
The hotel navigates the delicate balance of being both perfect for adults wanting a romantic getaway while also catering to families. For families, the staff go above and beyond with dedicated kids clubs, KidsOnly (up to 11-years) and OneTribe (ages 12-17). Over the years, the property has become a haven for multi-generational trips, because there really is something for everyone.
Montage Los Cabos
Boston-based travel advisor Julie Palo Hayes shares, “Montage Los Cabos blends feeling organic with a little Mexican flair, exuding a sleek, subdued vibe. The property fits perfectly into its stunning natural environment, set on Santa Maria Bay in a protected cove. And perhaps most notable, boasts a swimmable beach! It gets extra bonus for ping pong and volleyball right on the sand. You really feel the essence of the resort is about having fun, even in the way the food and beverage is designed; from early morning visits to Paletas – the coffee shop and boutique below the lobby – for an early morning java and pastry to casual beachfront eats at Marea, guests are relaxed here.”
When it comes to room categories, we gleaned some definite tips from our visit. Julie shares, “To put it simply, splurge on a suite; they are palatial at than 1,500 square feet. Or, if you have a small group (whether it be family or friends) we loved the hacienda-style residences. There are only a few as the design of the property took a different direction, but this makes them even more special. For instance, Casa Cardon features five-bedrooms and four guestrooms with 10,870 square feet of elegant interiors of classic wood and stone architecture. The master suite offers sweeping views of the Sea of Cortez, with two of the four guest bedrooms providing private entrances for additional privacy and luxurious seclusion. For ultimate privacy, additional amenities include a private garage, infinity-edge pool and expansive outdoor living spaces like courtyards and a palapa.”
- Swimming + Snorkeling: We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again (and again), for those who want to swim, this is your spot. In Cabo, it’s such a rarity to be able to leave your room with goggles in hand and be seeing marine life within minutes of reaching the shore! You can explore for hours just in Santa Maria Bay, seeing all kinds of fish.
- Ziplining: Begin by launching yourself into a series of exciting zip lines where you will fly across picturesque desert canyons. Enjoy Mexico’s longest, highest and fastest zip lines, as well as many other exciting and fun activities. Set in an absolute oasis that is part of the UNESCO biosphere reserve known as Sierra de La Laguna. The professional guides are members of the National Association of climbers and rappels.
- Whale Watching: While you may spot whales from your guestroom, here is an opportunity to see them up close! Complete with expert insights from experienced marine naturalists, private and group charters out of the marina offer a whole new perspective of the Pacific Ocean’s most majestic creatures. Your best chances of seeing whales is from November to April.
- Golfing: Known as the capital of Golf in Mexico, Los Cabos offers some of the most recognized golf courses in the world. Top players and designers alike, such as Fred Couples, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tom Fazio have crafted courses which highlight the shoreline’s sun-drenched beaches, turquoise-blue water and mountainous deserts and most importantly, challenge the most experienced players.
- Outback + Camel Safari: Set out on a voyage of unique proportions as you journey through the Baja desert atop a friendly camel. Discover the natural wonders and rich Baja Californian culture of the region from the expert guides. Finish your day with a delicious, multi-course Mexican lunch complete with refreshing beverages and tequila tasting.
Who’s it for?
It’s sexy for couples but suitable for families; guests blend in an organic way. Active travelers will love this stretch of swimmable beach (one of the very few in Cabo) for its ability to easily snorkel, kayak and get on a SUP. Overall, it’s definitely the spot to be if you want more of an upbeat atmosphere!
Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas
Freshly opened in October, Four Seasons has a contemporary Baja vibe. Louisville-based travel advisor Erin Trager-Kusman shares, “Located about an hour north of the main drag, the property sits on a gorgeous, remote stretch of [swimmable!] beach, near the small town of Costa Palmas. The Oceanfront one-bedroom suites can comfortably sleep a family of 4 (complete with 2 bathrooms) and if we book it for you, we can guarantee a ground floor unit which includes a plunge pool and outdoor shower – indoor/outdoor living at its best. If you need a break from beach, pool, repeat, check out the state-of-the-art gym, the spa inspired by indigenous treatments, or one of the four unique dining outlets.”
- Sport Fishing: Before there were championship golf courses, stunning spas and the development of so many luxury resorts, Los Cabos was known for its sport fishing. And it still is! With the marina so close to the property, you can be from your suite to a boat in mere minutes. Depending on your interests, you can set up a half or full day of fishing with the local experts with a focus on billfish, especially blue marlin, black marlin and striped marlin.
- Non-Motorized Watersports: Take advantage of the calm waters on which the hotel is set and get out on the ocean! The activities team sets up early each morning, offering guests everything from kayaks to stand-up paddleboards. There is so much to see along the shoreline, so, get exploring!
- Farm Tour: Remarkably lush and green, the vast Costa Palmas community includes 7 hectares (18 acres) of organic farms and orchards – providing truly locally sourced ingredients for our Four Seasons restaurants. Meet the farmers and get hands-on to learn the latest techniques in sustainable organic growing.
- Explore Surrounds: Get off property to discover nearby gems; for instance, it’s just a half-hour drive to the quaint community of Santiago. Or, take a short hike and go for swim beneath a waterfall pouring off granite cliffs. Alternatively, head to El Triunfo, a 19th-century mining town where several old buildings have been restored and converted to restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and a museum.
- Mezcal Tasting: Whether you want to lean into an existing love or just learn more about this Mexican classic, sit in on a mezcal tasting at the ceviche bar outdoors. You’ll learn how to sip and savor this smokey (often misunderstood) spirit, as well as pair it with freshly-caught seafood.
Who’s it for?
While it would certainly be a fit for couples with it’s sexy design and secluded destination, it is especially suited for families or groups, with an array of complementary activities, a fantastic kids club, and breathtaking multi-bedroom villas.
Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal
Dallas-based advisor Courtney Beaver shares, “Located in one of Cabo San Lucas’ most coveted pieces of land at the southernmost tip of Mexico in Baja California where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, the majestic Resort at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal provides a dramatic entrance with views of the Pacific. Guests can expect unprecedented luxury, sophistication and personalized service. Unique to the property is the tunnel which separates the town of Cabo from the Pacific Ocean and . The Resort is both visually stunning and in harmony with Cabo’s natural environment, featuring Mexican-inspired style and art.”
Courtney goes on to share, “I have been going to Cabo since I was young and have had the pleasure to stay at Pedregal a couple times. In terms of rooms, they have some great multi-bed units that work well for families or groups of friends traveling together. I had a 40th birthday celebration there a few years ago and it was perfect. And for those who want to really experience the destination, you’re in the heart of it all; the New Wave of Explorations highlighting the Baja Peninsula’s land, wildlife, and people.”
- Swim with Whale Sharks: Experience a live version of Shark Week starring… you! Clocking in at 40-feet long, whale sharks are the world’s largest fish and completely harmless to humans thanks to their exclusive diet of microscopic plankton. Set out on a panga boat toward La Paz into the calm blue waters, and search for your new swimming partners as they glide close to the surface, mouth wide open like a vacuum, filtering food from the water. Once back at the resort, regale in your epic tales with a margarita.
- Savoring Todos Santos: To grasp the rich topography of nearby Todos Santos, explore both its agricultural history and its artisan town center, overflowing with legendary art, culture and icons like the Hotel California (their famous margaritas are amazing!). Spend the morning meandering through boutiques, art galleries and a textile exhibit as well as culinary landmarks including coffee roasters and candy maker for a sweet souvenir. For lunch, it’s back to the ranch for “table-to-farm” at Jazamango, a new culinary destination where our Executive Chef Gustavo Pinet teams up with culinary legend Javier Plascencia. This is Baja at its most bountiful, dining amid the organic farms, sampling oysters plucked from the nearby sea; quail eggs and venison from local ranches; and prized craft beer and wine serve as the ultimate pairings.
- Xandu of Baja Sierra: Only a few backroads of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains lead to Baja’s best kept secret. Outside the tiny town of Santiago, our 4×4 jeeps commandeer the route, chauffeuring guests to an enchanted jungle wonderland lush with flora and fauna of the desert. Consider it Baja’s own Xanadu, an otherworldly landscape singular to this setting. Here, guests discover discreet trail-heads, hike amid heroic granite boulders and over-sized cacti, uncovering oases of hidden waterfalls, swimming holes and hot springs. After a magical morning of excursions, refuel at the rustic Rancho El Refugio ecological reserve where a local culinary legend will dream up an indulgent surprise feast.
- Pulmo Marine Park: Get up close and personal in Baja’s Sea of Cortez, deemed “the world’s aquarium” by ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau and universally hailed as the finest UNESCO conservation effort. During an intimate Panga boat excursion, bilingual naturalists identify five thriving habitats, navigating snorkelers though dazzling schools of Horse Mackerel, silvery Sardines and effervescent Sea Lions. Bragging rights come courtesy of Lower Coral Reef and Little Mermaid Coral Reef, which have lured pilgrimages of divers from around the globe.
- Giving Back: Nestled in a desert oasis lies the Nano-community of La Candelaria with a population of 76. During a rare peek into this town, volunteers spend the morning aiding in the upkeep of the Agustin Melgar Primary School with activities like painting, followed by lunch with the school children. The day is capped with a naturalist’s tour, surveying Candelaria’s endemic species, a historic cemetery and a multi-sensory oasis that has lured artistic visionaries and Jesuit missionaries.
Who’s it for?
If someone likes some action or likes to go out on boats, it’s all right there! With the iconic service that Waldorf Astoria has long been known to provide, loyal guests of the brand will rejoice that the property is now under its management; even more reason to check out this legendary build.
Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Freshly opened in November, there has been great anticipation around this fourth extraordinary property in the Ritz-Carlton Reserve portfolio. NYC-based advisor Erina Pindar shares, “Zadún is a haven of serenity set amidst the dunes of Puerto Los Cabos, with panoramic views of the Sea of Cortez. For those who’ve had the opportunity to stay at others within the Ritz-Carlton Reserve collection (for instance, our clients love Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico!), you see similar design elements. The desert and the sea are visible from the 115 elegantly appointed suites and villas, each placed gently along the natural slopes of the land.”
Erina continues, “An intimate oasis where travelers are invited to relax in barefoot luxury, Zadún offers numerous ways for guests to reconnect with each other, with themselves, and with nature. Whether exploring the vibrant ecosystems of the destination through Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment, enjoying rejuvenating treatments at Spa Alkemia, savoring Mexico’s rich culinary heritage, or taking a journey through agave-based spirits while gazing up at the night sky, guests at Zadún are invited to transform, renew and discover.”
- Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment: A deeper understanding of the natural habitats in Baja California, and the protected marine sanctuaries of the Sea of Cortez will be the focus of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program at Zadún. Offering activities for children, families, and adults, Zadún’s Ambassadors of the Environment will also pioneer a new environmental stewardship component.
- Flora Farms: One of the best-known farms in the area, this 25-acre working farm in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains in San Jose del Cabo draws in some serious crowds. While many visitors come just for the delicious meals at Flora’s Field Kitchen made with ingredients fresh from the farm (the pizza and ice cream are a must!), others choose to spend the day enjoying one or more aspects of the farm. Interactive cooking classes are held throughout the week where visitors can explore the farm on a guided walking tour or take part in a guided medicinal tour of the area followed by a lunch that includes local indigenous plants and herbs.
- Spa Alkemia: To transform, one must surrender entirely to that which it seeks. Inspired by this power of change, Spa Alkemia provides a playground of peaceful healing inspired by nature and tradition. The lushly landscaped setting is an oasis amid the desert, blurring the border between indoors and out. Here, treatments are performed in secluded settings amid the rich foliage, body scrubs are created in the moment and from local ingredients and ancient rituals are used to cleanse the body and clear the mind.
- Sotano Cellar: At Humo, requesting a bottle of wine is met with an invitation. In the restaurant’s Sotano Cellar, guests have the opportunity to make their own selection from the 1,000-bottle 450-label collection focused on wines from Mexico, the U.S., Argentina, France, Italy and Spain. The classically designed cellar also hosts tastings, dinners and classes focused on Mexican wines.
- Puerto Los Cabos Golf Course: Guests of Zadún have direct access to the sprawling Puerto Los Cabos Golf Course, adjacent to the hotel. The 27-hole golf resort features three distinct courses designed by Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus. The courses are championship layouts, perched above the Sea of Cortez and etched into rolling desert foothills, backdropped by the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains.
Who’s it for?
Truly, there’s a little something for everyone at Zadún! They’ve created a really fun and vibrant kids club to keep the children having fun while the parents relax, perhaps getting that well-deserved spa treatment. Plus, extra amenities like a teepee in the rooms is sure to keep the whole family happy.
Ready to plan your own Cabo adventure. Get in touch with a SmartFlyer agent to chat.