My guide in San José del Cabo is explaining to me that he resides in Cabo San Lucas—the neighboring Baja California Sur city that is 25 minutes away; together, they form the Los Cabos metropolitan area—but he’ll sleep in his office if he stays too late because of the number of drunken drivers on roads near his home at night.
Think of Cabo San Lucas as New Orleans and San José del Cabo as Palm Springs: Both have their charms, but each has a distinct vibe. Cabo San Lucas is where you go to party your ass off, and San José del Cabo is where you go to recover from Cabo San Lucas.
Those who have flown into Los Cabos International Airport and taken ground transportation to Cabo San Lucas should recognize San José del Cabo as the first town reached after driving through the desert toward the coast. But if you have not Cabo Waboed in a while, you may not recognize San José del Cabo. I could not believe the number of top-of-the-line resorts currently being carved into beachside cliffs as an SUV took me to the one I stayed at, Marriott International’s 128-room Solaz, A Luxury Collection Resort, Los Cabos (Km 18.5 Carretera Transpeninsular CSL-SJC, Cabo Real, San Jose del Cabo, 888-734-8507), which only opened last September.
You will spend a pretty peso to stay in such a joint. I just checked the rate of the single room I stayed in: $389 per night. Many others in town cost more than a grand, and Solaz includes permanent residences that occupy entire floors of buildings and were on the market for $1 million to $3 million.
Those freaked out by headlines regarding drug-cartel violence and assorted Mexico-bashing will be pleased to know there is plenty to see and do without leaving the gated Solaz property. Just a few doors away from where I put my head down at night is a museum dedicated to Baja’s natural and manmade history. It’s not huge, but there is enough to see to occupy an afternoon.
Actually, there is eye candy everywhere, as the resort includes more than 400 pieces of art curated by renowned Mexican artist Cesar Lopez Negrete. Gardens and ultra-modern structures are art pieces, as well. Solaz was recently named a finalist in the Resort category at the 15th annual Hospitality Design Project Awards, which are bestowed to locations around the world.
Among the multiple on-site bars and restaurants is Al Pairo, the restaurant where I had my last dinner after taking in La Cava, a wine cave stocked with more than 2,500 vintages. (Most of my favorite wines of the trip came from Baja vineyards.)
Bars are strategically placed near the property’s five pools, including two Olympic-size infinity options. I took a dip in one with a swim-up bar, where I grabbed a mojito, turned around and soaked in the stunning view of the Sea of Cortez. Whales, dolphins and the occasional boat pass by, but there are no sunsets as the flaming orb dips behind hills blocking Solaz. You can walk for miles along near-empty white sand and crashing surf, however.
Even better than sand for digging tootsies into is Himalayan salt. Solaz’s Ojo de Liebre Spa boasts of being the only such facility in Baja with a Himalayan salt igloo. The attraction also includes saunas, indoor pools, high-pressure rain showers, communal and personal spas, and above- or underwater lounge chairs. Guests can get a locker, a massage and a facial, and the spa staff includes a meditation expert and a curandero (healer) who performs mind and body cleanses.
As much as my chakras need realigning, the parts of my March trip I recall most fondly happened off property, although all were arranged by Solaz’s ever-helpful staff. The resort’s personal-concierge service has a combination bellhop/concierge/butler assigned to you your whole trip. Make sure to get an international plan on your cellphone because you mostly communicate with him or her via texts.
Text your concierge to get you to the weekly Art Walk in San José del Cabo’s historic plaza. The last time I saw so many white people in one place in Mexico was after a booze cruise dumped passengers off in Ensenada. Art, food, drinks, knickknacks and street performers fill not only the plaza, but also side streets lined with shops, eateries and art galleries. And of course there is a craft brewery, silly.
Also ask the Solaz butler about the day trip an Aussie fellow leads to a giant rock in the middle of nowhere. (He’ll know what you mean.) Don’t miss dinner in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains at Flora’s Field Kitchen, which serves only what they grow, raise and make. However, my culinary highlight of the trip was lunch at Koi Sushi, which is next to the Walmart in Plaza San Lucas that caters to townies. It provided one of my top three all-time sushi experiences.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.