By Maxine Albert
“Over there, I see them,” a young man shouted as he sprang to his feet. Everyone followed suit and there they were – what looked like a water ballet of grey ovals dancing across the horizon in the glistening sun. Then, as quickly as they appeared, they vanished. I returned to my table, lunching al fresco at the Fiesta Americana Grand Resort Los Cabos. I raised my glass of Lambrusco – the whales had arrived.
Each fall, these gentle giants migrate over 6,000 miles to mate and calve. They leave the cold Bering waters of Alaska for the warm lagoons of Baja California – ending up in Los Cabos. December through the end of March is whale watching season here and during this time these huge mammals are uncharacteristically friendly and jolly. They can be seen playfully breaching, spouting together and flapping their tail fins. You can go on a boat, get up close and even touch them. Or you might choose to savor a leisurely meal on the hotel patio facing the water, as a prime viewing spot. Either way, the phenomenon is thrilling and for many, reason enough to visit this gorgeous locale.
Bordered by the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez, amidst the beauty of the desert there are mountains, vineyards and swanky resorts. Located at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, it’s got an ideal climate – mostly sunny with low humidity, there are no bad hair days. A favorite of celebs – last month Cameron Diaz and A Rod, Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber, Bar Raphael, Jennifer Anniston and Sheryl Crow vacationed here. But when George Clooney leaves Lake Como for some R & R in Cabo, you know it’s the “Hot” place to go.
I thought back to the time when I deplaned, looked up and basked in those golden rays – a welcome respite from New York’s cold, snowy winter. Surrounded by people with yoga mats who had stripped down to skimpy attire, I was ready to enjoy this oasis where the desert and ocean collide.
The Fiesta Americana Grand Golf & Spa Resort was on my bucket list in the form of a “dream” getaway. What if you could choose a place where everything is tailored to your personal preference – and practically guarantee the weather? Seems like a tall order? My research picked this place as the perfect match for my “ideal” vacation.
Traveling through the “Corridor,” the stretch of road with gated resorts and designer golf courses which connects the two towns – charming old world San Jose to lively Cabo San Lucas – I arrived at my destination. The friendly staff is there to please, grant your every wish and will tell you that your happiness is their prime goal. All the rooms and suites have balconies and look out to the Sea of Cortez. Stone walls, rich marble floors and striking local art create a contemporary stylish décor. Guests have access to the famed 18 hole Jack Nicklaus Ocean Golf Course, the Desert Course and the Somma Wine Spa. With five swimming pools, private beach and excellent restaurants, the match was working.
I stayed at The Governors Suite, or as I came to call it – my lovely palace. Replete with the softest bed linen, spacious bathroom, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi and hot tub, and veranda with lounge chairs and dining area, I was in heaven. The room came with my own concierge, afternoon goodies and a bottle of wine. Before dinner, delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktails at the club lounge were just seconds away.
The breakfast buffet at the Vina del Mar Restaurant Terrace, overlooking the beach and sea, had every imaginable food one could think of. From the freshest fruits, pancakes, waffles, huevos rancheros, freshly made tortillas, enchiladas, pork, steak and eggs to bagels and lox. I relished my cactus, mango, pineapple juice combo – made especially for me.
Mornings were spent by the infinity pool in a lounge chair with an ocean view. There was always a bevy of attendants at the ready with a supply of cool towelettes, berries, and refreshing beverages. Afternoons, I preferred the beach and was impressed to find that this place takes guest relaxation seriously. In addition to the usual outdoor paraphernalia for sunning and reading there were couches with pillows and head rests, umbrellas, big chairs with ottomans, divans, and love seats everywhere. This was upholstered furniture – like the kind you would have in your living room – so comfortable.
What I grew to love was the “palm tree butler” on all the trees. It works like this: you’re lolling in your comfy chair and you need a little something to eat and drink. So, you speak into the palm tree button remote next to your chair, and within moments, your smiling server is there to take your order. Shrimp and tuna tacos with guacamole and chips were addictive. If you want a private cabana on the beach, you can have your meals there, including a candlelit dinner, and also enjoy a stunning sunset.
It was here, at their Peninsula Restaurant, that I was introduced to Pacific Rim Food. This gourmet cuisine with influences from China, Japan, and Chile, in addition to Mexico, was superb. My culinary journey included urchin soup with coriander and orange foam, innovative seafood dishes with sea bass and mahi mahi and creative vegetable inspirations like beet textures.
After snorkeling in the water, I knew why Jacques Cousteau named the Sea of Cortez “Aquarium of the World.” I have never seen such a rainbow of fish – yellow, orange, black and white spotted, bright blue, grey and white striped. And it was right on the property. I took long strolls along the white sand until I reached the rock mounds, where the mighty Pacific waves break high atop. It was quite romantic.
A favorite of Eva Longoria, The vinotherapy Wine Spa uses wine and grapes with their antioxidant and anti-aging properties in its treatments. My skin definitely looked better and felt softer after my Chardonnay Body Ritual and facial. While your body is waiting to be pampered, chocolates, wine, tea and grapes are served.
A highlight was the “Barefoot Elegance Experience” where you sit on the beach at night, under the stars, and stomp grapes in a basin with your bare feet. Afterwards, you are transported to another world as you get a foot reflexology massage while a warm towel covers your forehead. This turns into a wine tasting by the sea, using local vintages paired with yummy delectables. Before I retired to my sanctuary each evening, I would go to the fire pit, have a pina colada and listen to the musician sing and play the classical guitar.
Excursions: The streets of Cabo San Lucas are lined with gift shops, stalls with handicrafts, ceramics, plates and local wares. With a panoply of cafes, bars, restaurants and live music – it’s a hopping town. San Jose, on the other hand, is quaint with its colonial architecture, small trendy art galleries, boutiques, charming eateries and narrow streets. For a thrill, try the America’s Cup at Cabo Adventures. You’ll join a world class crew aboard a New Zealand or Australian sailboat that has actually competed in The Americas Cup. The Kiwis and Aussies will teach you to tack, grind the winch or trim the sails as you compete against another boat to win the race. Great Fun.
Getting There: Major Airlines fly to Los Cabos International Airport SJD