Experience a different kind of serenity in Baja.
By Steve Zepezauer
Whether you’re a geography nerd or not, the thought of visiting a place on the map that is so ridiculously distinguishable can be somewhat mind-blowing. Walking within a few hundred yards of the southernmost tip of the Baja peninsula is a Rubicon moment. Finisterra, or Lands’ End, marks the spot where land disappears into water and where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez. Staring out at both bodies of water at the same time is like a stranger in your head. It’s seems almost unreal, and one can truly comprehend that we are all just visitors here in this place at this moment in time.
When people talk about traveling to “Cabo” most think of the party-town of Cabo San Lucas with the likes of El Squid Roe, Cabo Wabo Cantina, and The Giggling Marlin with its upside-down tequila shots. However, “Cabo,” or more accurately, the whole Los Cabos area, has evolved from the once sleepy fishing haven, to the iconic spring-breakish destination throughout the 1980s, ’90s and early 2000s to the more grown-up version of Los Cabo today.
Over the last decade or so, the Los Cabos Corridor has been the talk of Baja travel, earning the area bragging rights as one of the top travel destinations in the world. With many of the finest hospitality companies developing very high-end properties along the 20-mile stretch of coast between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, there is no shortage of amazing resorts to visit along the Sea of Cortez.
Many of these developments include world-class golf and culinary experiences, as well as lavish oceanfront residences and clubs. The list of hotel brands getting in on the party is like a who’s who of luxury travel and includes Auberge Resorts, Montage Hotels & Resorts, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, One&Only Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton and Viceroy Hotels & Resorts to name a few.
The Pacific Side And Rancho San Lucas
Opting to stay on the lesser-developed Pacific side of Los Cabos, however, provides for a unique experience. The untamed Pacific side, where you’re more likely to see more whales in the ocean than people on the beach, offers its own kind of tranquility. There’s something wild about the Baja desert flowing down to a carpet of bright white beaches, which, in turn, disappears into the alluring, yet ominous blue sea.
There are a handful of resorts and residential developments that lead north from the tip of Baja, but they are relatively few and far between. These include Nobu Hotel Los Cabos, Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos, Quivira, Diamante Cabo San Lucas and the northernmost (and most secluded) property, the Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas, built within the exclusive 834-acre Rancho San Lucas development.
Rancho San Lucas is owned and operated by Solmar Hotels & Resorts, an award-winning, leading hospitality company whose collection includes seven resorts in Cabo San Lucas.
Just 30 minutes from San Jose Del Cabo Airport and 15 minutes from downtown Cabo San Lucas, the goal of Rancho San Lucas was to offer a level of seclusion and serenity rarely found in Los Cabos, and the development does not disappoint.
“Here in Rancho, people like that it’s very private, with no vendors in sight. That’s why it feels very exclusive,” says Rodrigo Gutierrez, general manager of Grand Solmar. “And many people say that the most beautiful sunsets can be seen on this [Pacific] side. The colors that you can get are perfect.”
The developer of Rancho San Lucas, the iconic Francisco Bulnes—who passed away this past summer—brought the vision of his father, legendary tourism pioneer, Don Luis Bulnes, to life. Don Luis had the foresight to purchase the land in 1963 and, today, the family dream is now reality featuring the Greg Norman Signature Golf Course at Rancho San Lucas, along with a pair of deluxe resorts, two upscale residential communities and 1.2 miles of virgin beach.
The low-density development has a keen eye toward conservation, and that is reflected throughout the property. Of the development’s 834 total acres, 106 acres have been preserved and left untouched.
“To my mind, Rancho San Lucas is nature at its finest,” Francisco Bulnes once said. “We have mountain foothills, a rich desert landscape, an amazing variety of wildlife and, of course, the orientation of living on the world’s largest ocean. It’s a beautiful property. I know it well. I roamed the land as a kid, climbing trees and chasing jackrabbits.”
The main resort, Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas, features spacious seaside suites with 828 square feet of luxurious accommodations, kitchens and generous terraces with ocean views. There’s a saltwater lagoon, kids pool with a mini waterpark, and a Seaside Spa with outdoor treatment rooms where the sound of the crashing waves mixes with the spa music for a unique experience.
Buying real estate in a foreign country can be intimidating for some but the team at Rancho San Lucas offers a one-stop-shop approach that makes it easy. The real estate opportunities include The Villas at Rancho San Lucas, an exclusive community anchored by the Greg Norman Signature Golf Course. The luxury residential community has 140 home sites priced between $400,000 and $1.7 million. Generally, from the selection of your home site to the completion of your home takes about 12 to 14 months.
Holly Bulnes, the designer at Rancho San Lucas, has set up a bodega-like design studio to help prospective buyers design their dream homes with total personalization of custom furniture and decor.
“The Ranch is a place that I want to feel like home, warm and inviting,” she says.
“Because of the ideal climate in Cabo, one of the main objectives here is to bring the outside inside, so that people can swing the doors open and enjoy the sunshine and cool ocean breezes.”
The exclusive hacienda-style Norman Estates are located within a private gated enclave and come with a lifetime golf membership. Each single-story residence (11 oceanfront and 21 beachside) comes with a panoramic view of the Pacific. Prices range from $3.7 million to $7 million.
Rancho San Lucas Golf Club
The centerpiece of Rancho San Lucas is the Greg Norman Signature Golf Course. Norman, because he is known for using a “least-disturbance” design approach, has created a course that looks like it’s part of the landscape, not built on top of it. The multi-themed course effortlessly travels through three different ecosystems: dunes at the start and arroyos in the middle before returning to the beach and oceanfront on the back nine.
According to Gutierrez, this is the only course in Cabo that has an island green (the signature par-3 17th hole) and the only course in Mexico that features revetted bunkers (a steep turf wall that helps to keep sand in the bunkers, sheltered from the wind, and also creates an intimidating look to the golfer), something more commonly found in the British Isles.
The golf course also features a large ranchero-style clubhouse featuring an indoor-outdoor restaurant and event lawn.
For those seeking a peaceful disconnect from the world (and the usual Cabo experience), a journey to the Pacific side, and Rancho San Lucas, might be the remedy for your pursuit. And one thing that makes the Rancho experience even more special is the people, the staff ambassadors. They all seem to understand the specialness of the environment and geography, as well as exactly what you need to become part of it.
Loreto: Villa del Palmar and TPC Danzante Bay
These hidden gems are worth finding.
Although Los Cabos gets a lot of recognition for being a hotbed for tourism and second home ownership opportunities, a lesser-known Baja paradise on the Sea of Cortez is making waves of its own.
The historic coastal town of Loreto is a laid-back, hidden gem that offers cobblestone streets, charming shops, authentic cuisine and all the tranquility anyone could desire.
With a stunning backdrop of crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches and jagged rock formations, the secluded Loreto Bay is also a protected national marine park and known as the “world’s aquarium” by the legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau. With more than 800 species of fish and marine life, an annual migration of humpback and blue whales, as well as excellent diving, snorkeling and exploration opportunities, the area is growing as an eco-tourism destination.
One of the most ideal places to make your home base while experiencing the area is the luxurious Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto—about 20 miles south of Loreto. The resort sits on an uncrowded stretch of quiet beaches and offers the perfect mix of modern luxuries, quaint Mexican charm, relaxation and adventure.
“Nestled on the turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez and beloved as a hidden jewel on the Baja Peninsula, Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto by Danzante Bay is the perfect destination to create meaningful new memories surrounded by spectacular natural beauty,” say developers Owen Perry and Luz Maria Torres.
In addition to an abundance of activities from hiking and horseback riding to kayaking and world-class fishing, Villa del Palmar offers several dining outlets and the 39,000-square-foot Sabila Spa, named one of Mexico’s Best Spas by SpaFinder.
The resort also serves as the backdrop for the Danzante Bay real estate community and the awe-inspiring TPC Danzante Bay golf course, one of the most visually stunning courses anywhere. The Rees Jones-designed golf course shows off the natural beauty of the region taking lucky golfers through valleys, dunes, arroyos, foothills and dramatic holes that hang over the Sea of Cortez.
Danzante Bay offers two distinct neighborhoods with custom homes to buy. The homes sites are adjacent to the Villa De Palmar resort and the TPC Danzante Bay golf course.
Buyers can choose from four predesigned home plans ranging from three- to six- bedrooms and 2,900 to 6,000-plus square feet. Pricing for built homes ranges from $1.5 million to $2.5 million and lot pricing starts at $375,000. Owners enjoy a private beach club, access to the resort’s fitness facilities and special rates at the spa and restaurants.
While Loreto is still relatively undiscovered as a resort market, one gets the feeling it won’t stay that way for too long. Loreto is special place that possesses an authentic energy and a sweetness about it. Best to go there soon before the world discovers it.
The expanding Loreto International Airport (LTO) has direct flights from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, San Diego (Tijuana) and Calgary. There’s also a new private terminal (FBO) offering all the support services needed for private aviation. Once you’ve touched down, it’s only 35 minutes to the calming waters of Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto and Danzante Bay.
As a result of all the high-end development, the culinary scene in Los Cabos has been greatly elevated in recent years. One of the gastronomic leaders in the area is Chilean celebrity chef Alberto Collarte, the executive chef at Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa, a sister property of Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas. The signature restaurant, La Roca, sits just above the beach near Land’s End. Here, diners can savor farm-to-table cuisine with a Baja flare while watching a dazzling sunset.
At Rancho San Lucas, three remarkable culinary offerings showcase Baja’s diversity. Anica, the resort’s signature restaurant, features an international menu featuring freshly caught seafood and contemporary Mexican flavors. Bacari is a theme-night restaurant offering an array of different international menus
on select evenings and Picaro is a farm-to-table Italian restaurant that features dishes with organic produce from locally sourced farms.