Some six to 10 million years ago, the Pacific and North American tectonic plates began to pull diagonally away from each other, tearing a 1,100-mile strip of land away from mainland Mexico. From this indomitable geological movement, a dramatic natural beauty was born: Baja California and the Sea of Cortez.
In 1956, a private 15-room luxurious hideaway was built on the Baja peninsula by Don Abelardo Rodriguez, son of the President of Mexico. The resort was accessible only by yacht or private plane until the construction of the Transpeninsular Highway 14 years later. Following a $90-million refurbishment—which also ensured that the original buildings were preserved—the One&Only Palmilla opened in February 2004. Each of the 172 guest rooms are beautifully appointed with elegant modern decor featuring handcrafted Mexican accents; all open out onto a patio or balcony with unobstructed beachfront views.
Guests are greeted by staff throughout the property with a signature gesture—the right hand folded across the chest, palm over heart—that makes you feel warmly welcome. Great care is taken to ensure that guests have a personalized experience, and attention to detail is acute. Your choice of fresh fruit and cocktail snacks are delivered daily, and a pillow selection menu is available to ensure you sleep soundly. At dinner, a curious hooked wicker stand is revealed to be a handbag hanger for the ladies. (Mexicans can be deeply superstitious; it’s believed that placing your purse on the floor means you could find yourself broke in the future.) And, when you return at the end of the evening, it’s to the aromatherapy scent of your choice and a beautiful array of flower petals are delicately arranged by hand onto your bedspread.
Complete and utter relaxation is achieved immediately upon arrival. The resort’s original infinity pool overlooks the beach and includes a swim-up bar. For guests lounging poolside, there’s an attentive concierge service that ensures you are at your most comfortable with head rests, leg pillows, blankets, and yes, even foot massages. It’s entirely possible to indulge in this lull of activity all week, however, you may be surprised how rejuvenated, and even energetic, you feel after one full day of idling. Luckily, there are plenty of things to do.
Stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking are excellent ways to explore Pelican Beach, just a stroll away. About 70 kilometres east is Cabo Pulmo National Park, where you can explore the only living coral reef in Baja California; the water has an astonishing clarity, with visibility of up to 120 feet—ideal for snorkelling or diving. For guests wanting to go even further, the One&Only Palmilla yacht, the Azimut 40S, offers excursions out to Land’s End, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, and beyond. Deep sea sport fishing is another favourite activity in Los Cabos, with more than 800 species of game fish including blue marlin, tuna, sailfish, dorado, and wahoo. Back on land, there’s hiking, horseback riding, safaris, and ATV rides into the desert for a bit of frolicking around the sand dunes, to mention only a few.
The spa menu is just as extensive, and it’s likely you’ll want to spend a full day there, particularly if you’ve been active. But the feature not to miss is the Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio by internationally renowned French podiatrist, Bastien Gonzalez—the only one in North America. Gonzalez’s extraordinary treatments emphasize natural beauty; nails are buffed, ever so gently, with chamois leather and a mother of pearl cream, restoring a radiant, glossy shine that no one will believe isn’t clear nail polish. Another unique treatment is the Bastien Gonzalez Duo, which consists of a simultaneous pedicure and manicure conducted by two therapists and that culminates in a four-handed synchronized massage; it’s enthralled men and women alike.
So there are plenty of decisions to make, and plenty more to make when it comes to eating. Breeze, the outdoor terrace café, keeps it light for lunch, or a midday snack, and you can keep the margaritas coming, for there are 11 different kinds to try, including the classic. MARKET by Jean-Georges is, as always, a fine choice; Agua by Larbi is perched on a bluff overlooking the Sea of Cortez, and features Moroccan executive chef Larbi Dahrouch’s “Mexiterranean” cuisine. Some of the delights: parrotfish, sautéed diced shrimp, Kennebec potato and fennel juice; slow cooked saffron Valencia rice, Baja seafood, chicken, chorizo, and roasted red peppers; roasted pork chop “Pibil” style, Huilacoche taquito, roasted chayote, achiote sauce. Meanwhile, sushi and ceviche are the offerings at Suviche, prepared by chef Yoshiaki Akaike and designed for sharing. Here, you’ll find such dishes as local mackerel and red chili mole; crispy short ribs with an ancho chili glaze; and salmon, cucumber, and cilantro ceviche alongside a selection of maki, nigiri, and sashimi.
The One&Only Palmilla is an oasis on the Baja peninsula. Each October, groups of gray whales in the Pacific begin what’s believed to be the longest migration of any mammal: a two to three-month journey south from the Bering and Chukchi seas to the warm-water lagoons of Mexico’s Baja peninsula. It’s no surprise so many others try to follow suit.