Any hotel brand worth its salt has opened an outpost at the tip of Mexico’s Baja California Sur. The area of Los Cabos, which encompasses Cabo San Lucas, near the famous rock arch Land’s End, and San José del Cabo, a historic colonial town close to the airport, boast a density of high-end properties comparable to the world’s great cities. In other words, the competition among hotels for American jetsetters and West Coast weekenders is fierce. After booking flights, I spent days reviewing properties, prioritizing a great pool, high design, beach access, and good food. All boast these amenities, but one property on the Sea of Cortés delivered: the Viceroy Los Cabos.
Opened in 2018, Viceroy Los Cabos brought the WOW factor to the stretch known as Zona Hotelera near San José del Cabo. The building itself debuted in 2016, an ambitious creation juxtaposing wide soft curves and hard geometric lines in pure white, set against a desert backdrop and a blue sea. The lauded Mexican architect, Miguel Angel Aragonés, also incorporated elements of light and water in a bold modern design that looked ready to host the next White Party.
To rebrand the former Mar Adentro into a Viceroy property, the hospitality investment firm Rodina Group initiated renovations and enhancements to the 198 guest rooms, suites, plus villas, with the lobby interiors by Mexican design firm Al Arquitectura de Interiores. Other changes, including the reimagined restaurants and a new beachfront pool and bar, caught my attention. The fitness center, designed by celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, was beautiful – but I wanted to eat and relax on my first trip out of the US since the pandemic started.
It’s hard not to feel both calm and stimulated the minute you walk through the entrance and behold the gleaming triple height room with views to the sea beyond. After a breezy check-in, my husband and I were on our way to our sleek, sunlit room. With an ocean view and a balcony spacious enough to work (I always bring my laptop, just in case) or have a bath in the outdoor tub, I felt we could settle in for a few days rather than the mere two I allotted out of a 9-day circuit.
The first afternoon we spent drinking jalapeño mezcalitas by the pool. (Like a fruity margarita with mezcal). I’m not normally a “resort” person. My travel preferences entail breaking free of the property bubble to explore the area and eat at local spots whether family-owned restaurants, taco stands, or in the case of Cabo, the area’s wealth of organic farm-to-table restaurants. Nevertheless, Viceroy Los Cabos cast a spell of pure hedonistic laziness that helped me wile away the day doing nothing but swimming and sipping.
The two complementary pools on the beach seemed small initially, but the diminutive size encouraged a festive atmosphere and socializing among the mix of mostly American guests. Many weekenders from Los Angeles, and weeklong visitors from Arizona, Florida, and New York, shared stories of their pandemic year, clearly thrilled to be somewhere other than home, namely at the Viceroy in Mexico.
The property offers several restaurants. With limited time and a night dedicated to the nearby farm restaurant Acre, I could only pick one. We reviewed the menu at Nido. Billed as a robatayaki, it offered a tableside Japanese grill concept plus sushi/sashimi dishes served beneath a woven structure evocative of a bird’s nest flipped by the wind. (Nido in Spanish means nest.) Surrounded by water or water mirrors, “espejos de agua,” the setting looked transporting. However, after 18 months in the Catskills mountains of upstate New York, I wanted views and a sunset which the top floor restaurant Cielomar provided at 360 degrees.
I’ve eaten at enough lifestyle hotels to be skeptical of rooftop venues serving a mixed menu of pizza, seafood, and meat (something for everyone!), especially when they turn into a club after dark.
I don’t care, I thought. We’ll simply lower our expectations and soak up the tangerine sky with mezcal and accept whatever fare we’re served.
Cielomar (sky and sea) proved a revelation, delivering one of the best meals of the year. From our wildly friendly server who spoke of his dreams and passions and his love of hospitality while sharing fond memories of his upbringing (note to all hotels: hire people like him), to the expertly mixed cocktails and impressive wine list featuring a cache of Mexican wines, each element of the meal was a new gift in a ribbon.
A note for the future: while I was stuck on Mexican spirits, we were in Mexico after all, the Faba Star cocktail with Hendricks’s gin, elderflower, aquafaba, and citrus looked perfectly refreshing.
As for food, we went overboard, ordering far too much food based on menu descriptions.
Melted Oaxacan cheese & burned artichokes? Yes.
Fresh oysters with chili cascabel mignonette, avocado and spinach butter? Yes.
Baja grilled blue shrimp with coconut habanero sauce and a dash of jalapeño oil? Absolutely. (So good, we ate this twice.)
And those were the starters. We tried the whole snapper, caught fresh that morning and grilled to retain its delicate meat. The seared exterior of rack of lamb with fennel-mint sauce held a tender crimson center. And on and on until dessert for which we capitulated to one more dish—because Mexican chocolate.
The promise of nightlife on the roof never arrived, perhaps because our stay fell during mid-week or fewer Americans traveled to Mexico during July. Regardless, stuffed and sated, sleep called; we fell out of the elevator and into the room.
Before departing the next day, I squeezed in a visit to the spa for a massage. After touring the 11,000 square feet of wellness offerings including vitality pools with hydro massage and thermal chambers in a grotto, culminating with ice fountains and experience showers, I wished I’d arrived earlier.
Nevertheless, a capable deep tissue hitting the knots from the plane, paired to tranquil music, worked as sworn. I was in and out in 75 minutes, ready to grab my bags for the next segment of our road trip around the peninsula: La Paz.
While the region offers so much–boating, fishing, surfing, beach hopping— I found it difficult to escape Viceroy Los Cabos. I would do all those things at the next hotel, I said. Just this once, I don’t want to move from a lounge chair, I said. And I kept my word.
Viceroy Los Cabos – it sucks you in, but releases you refreshed.
Viceroy Los Cabos, P.º Malecon San Jose Lote 8, Zona Hotelera, 23405 San José del Cabo, B.C.S., Mexico