When people mention Cabo San Lucas, some picture a honky-tonk at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where sunburned yahoos do tequila shots and gigantic cruise ships disgorge hordes of pant-suited retirees. Similarly, when people mention Hilton, some think of a soulless, corporate chain, serviceable for business travel, perhaps, but not what they’re looking for in a vacation. The Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort defies all such preconceptions. Set 25 minutes north of Cabo on one of the few swimmable stretches of beach along the Sea of Cortez, it offers all the luxury of a world-class resort (hence its AAA Four Diamond rating). After a multi-million-dollar facelift (more on that later), the property reopened in July of 2016 and unveiled a “hotel within a hotel” concept, the La Vista Club. Its 66 superior rooms and suites boast handcrafted murals, bathrooms larger than most studio apartments and extended balconies overlooking the ocean. And round-the-clock concierge service means a guest experience indulgent enough for the most spoiled sybarite, yet subtle enough not to make anyone feel self-conscious. Club members are identifiable to staff by chic, understated bracelets, which confer privileges like preferred seating by the pool and on the beach.
On that beach, a breakwater provides a safe place to swim, even after a storm has churned things up, while most of the neighboring coastline is too rough to do much more than dip one’s toes. However, even those who abhor swimming pools are likely to be won over by the two infinity pools, each with a swim-up bar manned by incredibly friendly and accommodating bartenders. The pool concierges, meanwhile, can provide iPods, books and games, and they attentively wait on the chaise lounges, daybeds and seating areas decorated in hues recalling the mid-century heyday of Palm Springs.
Anyone seeking a sedentary getaway can while away the hours soaking in the sun, but when the rays become too much, the Eforea Spa awaits. Hilton’s oasis spans 9,700 square feet, with 15 treatment rooms, a zen garden, a “movement studio” (a.k.a. a gym) and a relaxation deck where a “living wall” grows local medicinal plants used for the signature Escape Journey treatment. Other options include an espresso mud body treatment, a lemongrass mimosa body scrub and a blue eucalyptus energizing massage, while the spa’s gift shop sells handcrafts from local artisans, with 100 percent of the proceeds going back to the women who make them.
For the more energetic, there’s no lack of activities, beginning with the Cabo Real Golf Course that makes up part of the resort’s name. The Robert Trent Jones-designed links include a dramatic sixth tee set nearly 500 feet above the crashing waves. Watersports, not surprisingly, are also a major draw. Jacques Cousteau dubbed the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium,” and for those so inclined, there is unsurpassed scuba-diving and snorkeling, while fishermen can enjoy a deep-sea adventure in the so-called Marlin Capital of the World. From December to April, the migration of humpbacks down the coast makes for a jaw-dropping whale-watching experience. And the hotel’s beach serves as a nursery for Ridley sea turtles, so guests can watch the hatchlings being released into the ocean at dusk between July and November. Although it necessitates a trip into town, it’s worth braving the swarms of tourists for an excursion to see the famous Arco, a natural rock arch on a peninsula teeming with sea life at the exact spot where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. Swimming with dolphins and horseback riding along the beach at dusk are just a few of the other ways to commune with nature, the easiest being to simply lie back and listen to the pounding surf.
Opportunities to improve oneself likewise abound. The resort offers flower-arranging classes as well as lessons in the “origami” that turns washcloths into various local animals to greet guests at bedtime. Hardcore locavores will enjoy a trip to the organic farm where the resort sources much of its produce. Perhaps most enticing, however, is the opportunity to have executive chef Mauricio Lopez teach you how to make the local and simple version of ceviche that’s served at nearly every meal.
Speaking of meals, the dining options onsite are superb, all with an emphasis on fresh native ingredients. El Meson has a contemporary take on traditional Mexican cuisine, while Vela serves a south-of-the border spin on Italian fare and Madera offers Mexican-American comfort food. For dining on the beach, there’s the casual Onda, and the whimsical Mio serves as a poolside snack bar, decorated with colorful hanging swings. The most memorable of the property’s eateries, however, is the lobby centerpiece Azul, with its Subzero tequila and mezcal bar serving a vast selection that includes such top-shelf rarities as Reserva de la Familia. An extra anejo tequila selected from the private cellars of the Cuervo family, it’s considered the king of tequilas (although you can also order it while sitting waist deep at the pool bar).
Like any great resort, the soul of Hilton Los Cabos lies in its people, and the best illustration of their unfailing hospitality can be found in the calamity that led to the aforementioned renovation. In September of 2014, Baja was walloped by Hurricane Odile, the most devastating storm ever to hit the peninsula; Hilton Los Cabos was directly in its path. The property, and its guests, withstood a harrowing ordeal. However, the survivors’ stories emphasize the lengths the staff went to, not only to keep them safe, but to assure they were well-fed, comfortable and even entertained. Thankfully, living through a storm like Odile happens maybe once in a lifetime. Properties like the Hilton Los Cabos, meanwhile, are one in a million.
-The airport is located in San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas’ sister city. As yet, there are no nonstop flights from Boston, and at best, it’s an 8-hour trip, so save it for sometime when you have more than a long weekend to spend.
-Many restaurants and resorts automatically add a gratuity. Look for a charge marked “servicio” on your check, and if a “propina” is necessary, anything more than 15 percent is excessive.
Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort hiltonloscabos.com