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Cabo San Lucas: Where the Ocean Meets the Sea

by Elaine Sosa

There was a time when Cabo San Lucas was such a sleepy fishing village that you didn't have to call ahead for a boat. You simply walked down to the docks at 6 AM and approached one of a handful of captains waiting for a fare. After a quick boat check and some price talk you were on your way. Boy, how times have changed!

Long considered one of the top sportfishing spots on the planet, Cabo San Lucas is now trying to be something for everyone. Thankfully, it seems to be working. Located at the tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, this longtime fishing resort is morphing into an overall sportsman's paradise. Five top-notch golf courses have been built between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, with two more on the way. Tennis, horeseback riding, hiking and diving are all in ample supply. And those fishing boats are now fleets - and yes, you should call ahead.

Despite the increase in development, the Cabo area is still blessedly spare and pristine. While booking a hotel room in Cabo San Lucas proper is no longer such a good idea (a bit too crowded), one of the resorts along the Carretera Transpeninsular roadway between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo (the "Los Cabos" area) is just the ticket. These properties benefit from an oceanfront setting and cooling sea breezes, a nice counterpoint to Cabo's arid climate. Thankfully, since Cabo and most of the Baja peninsula are desert, you won't have to deal with humidity while at this beach. Have a great place to stay and feel comfortable in Cabo San Lucas hotels.

Ready to sign up? Here are three resorts we're sure you'll enjoy.

Westin Regina, Los Cabos

In the mood for some color? Well, you've come to the right place in the Westin Regina. As you walk up to this 300-room resort, you are greeted by blocks of color: the shocking pinks and lemon yellows of the reception area are contrasted against the burnt orange of the main tower. These structures play against the verdant landscaping and cobalt blue of the sky and sea. It's big and bold, but it works. One of architect Javier Sordo Madaleno's nicest tricks is a "window" cut into the main building. This opening allows you a view to the sea from almost every point on the property, never allowing you to lose touch with the real reason you're here.

The Westin's rooms are all graced with an ocean view, but it gets better than that. As the main structure is built in a convex manner (jutting oceanward), you can't see into the next balcony, or any other, from your own. Read: privacy. You won't be spending much time in your room, but when you do, you'll find it a comfortable space with pinks and blues set against bright white walls. The requisite amenities are present, including TV, full minibar and a cozy seating area. Extra touches are a super-firm mattress and plush towels. Opting for a junior suite at the Westin is a fine idea, as you'll get a room that's twice as big with the added extra of a jacuzzi tub on the balcony. Now you might spend more time in your room.

Once you make it outside, it's the usual resort roulette. Visit the pool first? Have something to eat? Go to the beach? Face it, you'll get to do all three, so start with a meal at Las Cascadas, one of five restaurants at the Westin. This restaurant is set behind the "window," which means that it manages to be in the shade while affording a view of the sea. A nifty idea, and the hearty Mexican fare (including a sumptuous brunch) is dee-lish. Duly fortified, head to one of the resort's seven pools. At the Westin, the serpentine pools seem to flow one into the next, so you're never quite sure which one you're at. No matter, order a Hornitos margarita and enjoy the cooling dip. A sea of white umbrellas and plenty of chaises beckon you to relax once back on terra firma. Pop down to the water's edge later on - the sand here is smooth and clean and while the waves can appear a bit threatening, it's also fun to take them on.

The Westin sees to it that you'll keep plenty busy while you're here. While the concierge can arrange for everything from sportfishing charters to a half day on horseback or a snorkeling adventure, the property itself boasts several tennis courts, a fitness center and a spa which is a pampering pleasure. An afternoon snack at the poolside La Playa restaurant is sure to keep you going till dinner, which you'll want to enjoy at Arrecifes, the resort's top table. The glass walls afford an ocean view, but you should spend some time looking at your plate, too, as chef Patrice Jaumon's food is superb. Working with Mexico's natural bounty whenever possible, Chef Jaumon is creating dishes which are stunning in their freshness and simplicity. Start with the black pepper-crusted tuna carpaccio and continue with shrimp in an orange glaze or a buttery filet with a sweet foie gras sauce. Have something decadent for dessert and finish up with the Mexican coffee, a fiery display of tableside preparation which will end this meal on a high note. Oh, and order the Monte Xanic Chardonnay with your meal - this Baja California wine is a local favorite for good reason!

While you can do a lot at the Westin Regina, you may want to consider doing just a little. Much pleasure can be derived from simply strolling this visually-stunning property, taking in the play of light, soft sea breezes and view to the sea. You may be at a large resort, yet it doesn't feel at all crowded here. Read a book. Think. Relax. Feel lucky you're here.

Westin Regina, Carretera Transpeninsular Km 22.5, Los Cabos. (011) 52-114-29000 or (800) 228-3000 in the US. Rates from $275 to $630 USD; special package rates available.

Palmilla, Los Cabos

Old Mexico meets the beach at Palmilla. As the name suggests, swaying palms are in plentiful supply throughout this lushly landscaped property. The rest of the surroundings are colonial in feel, with heavy wood furniture juxtaposed against whitewashed walls and graceful arches. This 114-room resort is intimate in feel, with low-slung buildings scattered throughout the ample grounds.

Begin your visit with a welcoming Margarita, served up in a huge goblet. You could be drinking for hours, which may be the idea if you're having this cocktail at the Bar Neptuno, arguably the prettiest bar in Baja California. Expansive arches encircle the bar and bring the sea right in. Order some guacamole with your drink and settle in for a while. When you finally do get up, pay a visit to your room, but only to slip into a swimsuit for a visit to the pool. Grab a couple of towels and settle into a cushioned chaise with a view to sand and surf A dip in the deep pool will be cooling, the better to feel refreshed back on deck. Palmilla is wonderfully relaxing, the kind of place where it's as easy to take an alfresco nap as it is to stroll the beach. And while there's a fitness center and video library on the property, it's unlikely you'll want to do a whole lot more.

You will get hungry while you're here, so plan on dinner at the resort's restaurant, La Paloma. The Caesar salad, prepared tableside, is fresh and flavorful. Crepas de huitlacoche, classic Mexican black mushroom crepes, are expertly rendered here. The catch of the day, with a touch of butter, garlic and lime, is a great way to round out your meal, although you won't be blamed for ordering dessert. An after-dinner drink back at Bar Neptuno will send you into restful slumber.

Awaking the next morning, have breakfast delivered to your room, although you'll want to enjoy it on your spacious ocean-view balcony. Your room, a mix of sturdy colonial furnishings with the requisite modern touches, is lovely, but it's hard to beat the outdoor experience at Palmilla. If you're here on Sunday morning, mariachis will be serenading from the central courtyard.

A visit to Palmilla is sure to make the rest of your world feel, well, worlds away. This resort invites you to reflect, and the resulting experience is deeper than at many other places. If total relaxation is what you're after, come to Palmilla.

Hotel Palmilla, Carretera Transpeninsular Km 27, Los Cabos. (011) 52-114-45000 or (800) 637-2226 in the US. Rates from $295 to $850 USD; special package rates available.

Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, Los Cabos

The Cabo area's newest resort is a luxe retreat which can be summed up on one word: magical. This spell, however, comes at a price. Las Ventanas al Paraiso ("windows on paradise") is as its name suggests - a sybaritic retreat which is soothing to mind, body and soul. Sixty-one suites are located in stone-colored structures which blend in beautifully with the desert setting. A bright blue pool meanders along the property, inviting you to take a dip at every turn. Cacti and blooms abound, as do views of sand and sea.

The serene elegance of Las Ventanas creates a somewhat hushed atmosphere which may not be for everyone. While the property is small, guests are nonetheless invisible. Granted, some may be at the beach, others playing golf and yet a handful more enjoying the services of the spa. Still, where is everyone? At Las Ventanas, they may actually be in their suites.

Each suite at Las Ventanas is nearly a thousand square feet in size, the focal point being the richly-appointed sleeping area done in soft tones and featuring a wood-burning fireplace. Yes, it does get cool here at night but it's also the perfect romantic touch. Suites also include a jacuzzi tub (either inside or on the deck), telescope and ample living area. Have a meal delivered to your suite or enjoy it at the Sea Grill, one of two restaurants on the property. While the Sea Grill is snug to the sea and affords a lovely view (and the food to match), The Restaurant is a fine-dining table where you'll get the ultimate gourmet experience.

Golf is a stone's throw away at Las Ventanas, although the attentive waitstaff is ready to arrange for any other pleasure which comes to mind. The ultimate pleasure at Las Ventanas, however, is simply being here.

Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, Carretera Transpeninsular Km 19.5, Los Cabos. (011) 52-114-40300 or (888) 525-0483 in the US. Rates from $475 to $675 USD; special package rates available.

Random pastimes…renting a jeep while in Los Cabos is a great way to get a lay of the land and to zip from one Cabo to the other. Most car rental agencies charge about $60 USD per day…pay a visit to Playa El Medano in the heart of Cabo San Lucas. While it's crowded with revelers looking for sun and then some, rent one of the many waverunners at the water's edge and zip over to Los Arcos, stone arches about a mile out to sea which are easily the area's most famous landmark. A few waves away is Playa Del Amor ("Lover's Beach"), a secluded stretch of stand for those in search of seaside romance…if you can't leave the area without a wild and crazy time, have a few pops at either El Squid Roe or the Giggling Marlin in downtown Cabo San Lucas. Both of these bar/restaurants are Cabo classics…Pisces Fleet Sportfishing, docked near Plaza Las Glorias in Cabo San Lucas (tel. 011-52-114-31288/fax 011-52-114-30588), has one of the area's best catch-and-release fleets to help you nab the big one. Their 31' Bertrams come fully equipped and will run you about $465 for a day of fish 'n fun (maximum four persons). Try and snag Capitan Benito on the Tracy Ann or his equal number Luis on the Ruthless.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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