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Cabo’s Changing Culinary and Hospitality Scene

I was met seamlessly just outside the final sliding door of the airport. It had been more than a decade since my last trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and I was looking forward to seeing “the new Cabo.” After hearing and reading so much about the new developments, the recent arrivals of numerous luxury hotel brands and the growing culinary scene, it seemed to me that the once go-to destination for fishing and partying was all grown up. We begin the 35-minute drive toward our final destination and my glaringly courteous driver adjusts the volume of the music playing in our immaculate Cadillac Escalade. I immediately recognize the one-of-a-kind harmonies spilling out of the speakers and read the name of the album playing on the stereo: “Bee Gees – Their Greatest Hits (Disc 1).” I smile and hum “Jive Talkin’ ” and think to myself, “Yes, this is a different Cabo …”

 

hero-cabo

 

The once exclusive refuge for those wanting to get off the grid in this quiet fishing village came to tourism prominence shortly after Fonatur, Mexico’s national trust for the promotion of tourism, helped put the area on the global map. With an airport built in 1984 and the formidable Mexican tourism-marketing machine developing the area and selling the destination, it wasn’t long before the Cabo that most of us came to know as a year-round spring break destination was born. In recent years, however, the area has been going through a rapid metamorphosis, and now Cabo San Lucas (and the whole Los Cabos area) is showing every sign of becoming one of the world’s new luxury travel spots.

Make no mistake; there are still plenty of places to party in Cabo. For many years that was its calling card, with epitomical places such as Cabo Wabo Cantina, The Giggling Marlin and El Squid Roe, to name a few. But this Cabo has matured from its adolescent days of upside-down tequila shots and two-for-one Jell-O shots, though you can still get those if you want. This magical place at the southern tip of Baja California has not only rebounded from a devastating hurricane in 2014 and years of negative publicity about Mexico being unsafe for travelers—previous travel warnings about Mexico have hampered tourism destinations despite the fact that these areas remained largely safe—it is thriving and growing at an unprecedented pace.

 

The Arch in Cabo San Lucas

Your Room is Ready

There are many ways to define luxury, but there’s no denying that the quality and sheer number of swanky developments either already in existence or coming soon to the Los Cabos region is world-class. It’s easy to understand what attracts them to the area. From the quaint cobblestone streets of the authentic Mexican town of San Jose del Cabo to the much more high-spirited Cabo San Lucas, travelers can choose their pace. Then there’s the natural beauty and geography of the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. With the desert and mountains melting into the waters where the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez converge at Land’s End, it’s truly a unique and magical setting. Add in an updated and efficient international airport no more than 40 minutes away from any of the resorts lining the 20-mile shoreline from San Jose del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas, known as the Corridor, and the stage is set for a new chapter of unprecedented growth.

Some of the resorts leading the way include The Cape, a Thompson Hotel. This luxury beachfront boutique property combines a relaxed 1960s California vibe with modern Baja. Every one if its 140 rooms provides stunning views of the iconic El Arco.

Nearby, Mar Adentro by Encanto is a unique, high-tech, highly thoughtful resort designed by renowned Mexican architect Miguel Angel Aragonés. The resort features all-white structures that transform with the changing light and custom-made, hyper-customizable computer tablets in every room. On the other end of the spectrum, Breathless Cabo San Lucas is vivacious, hip and steps away from all the Cabo San Lucas nightlife. This resort also offers a more upscale version of the all-inclusive experience with unlimited top-shelf spirits and gourmet dining.

Set upon an 820-foot white sand beach on the Sea of Cortez, the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa offers an ultra-luxurious 45-room boutique hotel within the resort featuring exclusive amenities such as a movie theater, private beach and pool.

Many of the well-known Los Cabos-area luxury resorts also implemented extensive face-lifts following the 2014 hurricane, including the One&Only Palmilla, Esperanza, The Resort at Pedregal and Las Ventanas al Paraíso, a Rosewood Resort.

New developments coming to the Corridor include Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, an Auberge Resort; Solaz, part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection; Le Blanc Spa Resort, an adults-only, luxury all-inclusive resort; Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas, which will include a Robert Trent Jones II-designed 18-hole golf course and private yacht marina; Nobu Hotel Los Cabos; Ritz Carlton Reserve Residences; and the highly anticipated Montage Los Cabos.

 

A Taste of Cabo

 

The Culinary Landscape

Cabo has numerous old-school favorites that veteran travelers to the area know and love, such as The Office, where you dine with your feet on the sand; Edith’s, featuring a regional fusion of steaks and seafood with local ingredients; Mi Casa, a restaurant offering traditional Mexican fare for more than 20 years; and Nick-San, a fusion of Mexican ingredients and traditional Japanese cuisine in downtown Cabo (and a new location within the Palmilla). Cigar aficionados will also know J&J Habanos, which features Cuban cigars, premium tequila and Cuban rum, which they use to make Big Papa Mojitos, Ernest Hemingway’s signature drink.

However, with many new places opening and more culinary talent entering the scene, diners looking for a memorable meal have scores of options. Many of these can be found in some of the newer luxury resorts such as Manta, the signature restaurant at The Cape, a Thompson Hotel. Manta features contemporary Mexican cuisine with stunning views of the famous Monuments surf beach and El Arco. El Farallon, at The Resort at Pedregal, is considered one of the top dining spots in Cabo and features a great selection of local catch. And Seared at the One&Only Palmilla, conceived in partnership with culinary master Jean-Georges Vongerichten, has been wowing guests with 15 different cuts of the highest quality beef rivaling the world’s renowned steakhouses. 

Other favorites include Los Tres Gallos, an unpretentious downtown Cabo spot with tables set about in a romantic courtyard, and Sunset da Mona Lisa, an iconic restaurant serving gourmet Italian food carved into a cliff overlooking the Bay of Cabo San Lucas and Land’s End. For a more relaxed experience, try the rooftop of Sunset da Mona Lisa and enjoy wood-fired pizzas and tapas at Sunset Point wine and pizza lounge.

 

– Steve Zepezauer