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Cabo's New Cachet

Jeanne Cooper | September 21, 2018 | Story Travel

Apart from sport fishing, Los Cabos traditionally stood for sybaritic pleasures: sun, sand, sipping margaritas. Add in a round of golf, a massage or perhaps a sunset cruise with seasonal whale watching, and most would have considered their itinerary fully booked. But in the wake of 2014’s Hurricane Odile, which devastated structures in Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and the upscale “Corridor” between them, a more experiential and cultural travel ethos has emerged. The now-cresting wave of new lodgings—nearly 4,500 hotel rooms in 2017 and 2018, plus hundreds of condo villas and custom homes—has also created a surge of interest in active and art-driven experiences along Baja California’s southern tip.

In Puerto Los Cabos, an elite enclave east of San Jose del Cabo, a new bike path winds around the spacious marina, where a recent installation of 15 sculptures and 50 signs honors the life and work of surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. At the artsy, eco-friendly Hotel El Ganzo (winter rates from $420), I rode my loaner beach cruiser past Carrington’s artwork to the 12-acre Wirikuta Botanical Cactus Garden, which boasts a million succulents and cacti from around the world, a bougainvillea labyrinth and a palm grove dotted with massive sculptures by some of Mexico’s most renowned living artists. Cyclists can also enjoy a new 2 1⁄2-mile path from San Jose del Cabo’s hotel zone to its recently repaved main plaza, now a pedestrian zone.

On another day, I harvested cherry tomatoes under a brilliant blue sky at Los Tamarindos, an organic farm close to San Jose del Cabo that offers walking tours, cooking classes and a restaurant in its 19th-century stone farmhouse. Dining on grilled vegetables that I’d helped to prepare, along with fresh seafood roasted in a wood-burning oven, was almost as restorative as a sip from the owner’s private-label mezcal. Another night, I let a guest chef do all the work for an art-inspired dinner in gallery owner Patricia Mendoza’s eponymous new venue in San Jose del Cabo, following the historic town’s weekly Thursday evening Art Walk. Performing arts patrons will want to schedule a visit around the annual Gala de Danza in March; founded in 2013, the spectacular open-air showcase at Viceroy Los Cabos attracts internationally recognized dancers, musicians and vocalists, including opera star Denyce Graves in 2018. One of Mexico’s indigenous cultures informs the new, bespoke temazcal experiences at the spa of One&Only Palmilla (private sessions from $540, group sessions from $130 per person). I sat in my swimsuit inside the dark, womblike temazcal—a domed adobe sweat lodge in a private courtyard—while shaman Raul Retana applied herbs and water to heated volcanic rocks in between ritual chants. I emerged from the spiritual sauna feeling renewed—and up for more adventures, which developers as well as hoteliers are happy to provide.

Auberge Resorts’ Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, which opened in 2017 on a virtually private, swimmable beach on the Corridor, made an easy jumping-off point for me to kayak, snorkel and hike to a secluded cove. This fall marks the debut of its second phase, including 28 new villas (four bedrooms, from $2.7 million) and 12 hotel rooms (from $800). Two swimmable beaches on Santa Maria Bay are the main draw for Montage’s first international resort of Montage Los Cabos, which debuted in May, but miles of hiking and biking trails beckon across the highway, where an 18-hole Fred Couples Signature Golf Course opens this fall. The resort features two-and three-bedroom condo-style Residences (from $2.7 million) as well as 122 stylish hotel rooms and suites (from $725). It’s part of the master-planned Twin Dolphin community along with the 260-acre Maravilla Los Cabos resort, where residents of custom homes and villas (from $3 million) have access to Montage facilities and a two-story climbing wall, an 18-hole putting course and the 18-hole Twin Dolphin Golf Club, among other perks.

Off-resort attractions are also key to enticing buyers. The private golf club resort Querencia (condos from $1.5 million, custom homes $8 million), which recently unveiled a new beach and surf club, also added exclusive excursions such as an all-day jeep tour to remote surf breaks. Visiting the East Cape’s fledgling Costa Palmas resort an hour northeast (flats and residences from $2 million), I hiked with one of its guides to a waterfall swimming hole in nearby Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve and swam with sea lions at Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park. Sun, sand and sipping margaritas still entered into the picture, but the new experiences made me even readier to return.

Originally published in the September issue of Silicon Valley

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