When Baja California’s secret recipe of cloudless skies, idyllic year-round weather, and desert-meets-the-sea romance went viral in the late 1970s, mass tourism commenced along the southwestern capes of this serene Mexican peninsula, littering the landscape with monolith hotels, gaudy motels, and cheap tequila bars. But from this Love Boat–era tragedy eventually rose greatness as investors capitalized on the confluence of cactus-speckled desert and blazing turquoise seas, endowing the area with some of the globe’s most lavish resorts, aptly showcasing the majestic surrounds, and shaping a phenomenon known as barefoot luxury.
Flash forward to today’s apex of über-Baja chic, One&Only Palmilla: an expansive beachfront retreat that continues to define—and immortalize—Mexico glamour. Designed as an intimate waterfront hacienda for the mid-20th century’s rising rich and famous, the initial structures of One&Only Palmilla attracted 1950s Hollywood royalty like Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, and John Wayne. The prime real estate surrounding this epic farmhouse—a peninsula where the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez unite—later became the anchor for the Baja’s coveted Palmilla resort community. By 2004, a true world-class resort had blossomed into full 250-acre glory, with a total of 173 rooms and suites—ranging from ultra- to hyperluxurious, all facing the ocean blues and strutting sprawling terraces and patios—that together form One&Only Palmilla.
To be sure, the resort’s hacienda-inspired architectural design reflects a sense of place and timeless Mexican elegance. But step inside, and eclectic Mexican design minutia also abounds. Massive wooden entrance doors and room partitions, intricately studded and bursting with character, reflect the colonial farm style typical of San Miguel de Allende. One-of-a-kind rustic floor tiles complement the understated tapestries, hand-embroidered cloths, and colourful haute linens.
When it comes to pleasing modern families versus DINKS (double income no kids), One&Only Palmilla champions the best of both worlds. Ample space facilitates a tacit division between the north, which is family-centric, and the south, with its adults-only areas (though no age forgoes frivolous fun on the overwater mega-hammocks and the suspended cliffside beds that swing over the rising tides). Water sports of all types, including snorkelling, are high on the agenda at Pelican Beach. Adjacent to this terrain lies half of the resort’s posh casas, nestled in dense, tropical foliage and teeming with towering palm trees. In late 2013, the resort elevated two dozen of these northerly units to the next level of decadence through the introduction of al fresco lagoon pools and terrace tubs.
Embracing the romance factor, 16 units with private, oceanfront infinity pools and 78 junior suites along the southern rim of the property cater principally to starry-eyed couples. The proximate beach, Turtle Beach, struts 16 full-service beachfront cabanas; sun worshipping, cocktail sipping, and towel fluffing are high on the agenda here. At the multi-level, adults-only Vista Pool, look forward to complimentary foot massages, fresh fruit icicles, artisanal margaritas from the swim-up bar, and across-the-board paramount pampering. At dusk, the brilliant blue hues of the ocean fade to burning reds as a mesmerizing fire pit illuminates the vicinity, fostering a seductive ambience.
Also on the resort’s expansive grounds, you’ll encounter the unique Agua by Larbi Restaurant, serving “Mexiterranean” cuisine by award-winning executive chef Larbi Dahrouch (think: a ménage à trois of European, Mexican, and Asian flavours). Walk toward the centre of the resort to reach the spa, which partners with the skincare line Espa and champions a mantra of “Unwind, Restore, and Elevate.” Take a quick shuttle to reach the 27-hole, Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course, which is immersed in ocean, mountains, and desert, and has been named one of the world’s best (and most beautiful).
In a single short decade, One&Only Palmilla has managed to restore golden age glamour, make us forget about Cabos’s tawdry past, and evolve into today’s ultimate resort destination.