Five “Pretty Villages” cling to the Pacific Ocean on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, including the newest Towers at Pacifica, a half-mile stroll down a private strand of beach from the “World Top 100” ranked Jack Nicklaus roller-coaster at Quivira Golf Club.
WELCOME TO CABO SAN LUCAS
Hundreds of airport visits for hundreds of flights over three decades of travel and I’ve never — NEVER — experienced such a seamless and stress-free customs transition as we had arriving in Cabo. Even with thousands of travelers deplaning we seemed outnumbered by the agents. No Walmart parallels there, with eighty stuck at a single open register tendered by an employee on their first ever shift. Instead, we found twenty lanes of steady flow past experienced and efficient agents with warm welcomes. “Bienvenidos a Mexico!”
Why thank you!
For all the slights of Mexican airport operations and vacation experiences I have heard, I’ve yet to relate. In fact, other than a handful of birdies on golf courses, I’ve never had a single subpar experience in Mexico — not in Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Loreto, Tijuana or Cabo. I’ve loved each day of every trip! But, if I had to pick a favorite place to visit in all of Mexico, it would be the Baja Peninsula — Sea of Cortez to the East … Pacific Ocean to the West. It’s a veritable “El Cierro” on earth. And, if “Heaven” in Mexico has a capital, that capital is Cabo San Lucas.
JUST ASK JESUS
Jesus was our ship’s “not captain” for a day, and that young man could rattle off every celebrity who’d ever spent a night on the “dorado” coast. “Everyone who is anyone comes here,” he said, spreading his arms wide, sun slicing through the clouds behind him. “What’s not to love?”
Other than the Zac Brown Band blaring over the ship’s speakers …
I couldn’t think of anything significant.
We’d had a massive breakfast that morning at the Pueblo Bonito Rosé. There flamingos roamed freely, croissants were very chocolatey, and hotel guests could stroll the silk-sand beach unbothered near the iconic rocks of Land’s End and “El Arco.” Post Rosé, we walked a dock past sunning seals and sailed in sunny comfort (Mimosa in hand) out of Cabo Bay. Then, we watched whales breach and spout west of us, in otherwise calm seas, as we sailed north for an offshore view of our home for the week — Pueblo Bonito Pacifica.
Check … check … check …
Yep! I loved everything.
Our hostess for the visit, Karen Moraghan of Hunter Public Relations, stood beside me basking in the sublime setting. “Amazing isn’t it?” she asked. I nodded and paused before replying.
“Amazing isn’t enough.”
I’ve asked Karen several times for a favorite from all the properties her company represents. No luck. Honest as she always is, she’s never once tipped her cap towards any specific destination. She’ll only give me this (with a smile). “Mexico is hard to beat.”
Hard to beat. Hard to argue with.
THE PRETTY VILLAGES OF CABO SAN LUCAS
For a golfer, the combination of Pueblo Bonito Resorts and Quivira Golf Club are a particularly enticing draw. Quivira rounds are so in demand now that there are very few tee times available each day. But, Pueblo Bonito guests have exclusive “public” access to those rounds. Not a perk to be undervalued.
We were staying in the Towers at Pacifica on our visit — Pueblo Bonito’s “Adults Only” oceanfront oasis. Generously granted a “plus one,” I’d brought my 19-year-old son, Dylan, on his first ever visit to Mexico. He had no idea what to expect, but was counting on it being “warmer than Minnesota with better scenery and no sad country music.” (Three-for-three until Jesus took the wheel.)
PUEBLO BONITO PACIFICA GOLF & SPA RESORT
The entrance to the luxurious, 201-room, all-inclusive boutique resort is at the top of a mountain. From that wall of rocks and square houses the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean are nearly endless. I asked the chauffeur, as we stood there stunned, if that was the Great Wall of China in the distance. “No,” he replied solemnly. (Didn’t get my humor.) But, it was that clear of a day and it did feel like you could see that far.
A winding road down that mountain takes you a kilometer past the family-friendly Sunset Beach to the doors of Pacifica, patrolled by a dozen baggage attendants eager to escort you to your room. Your room door opens and the porch curtains suck in, revealing a sprawling pool and beach spread below that any honeymooner would fawn over. “Holy … ” Dylan muttered.
Yeah … It’s like that.
I prefer a top-floor room when I travel, maximizing the photogenic aspect and minimizing the stampeding footsteps of children. At The Towers I had no preference, not when the ground floor rooms offer plunge pools, and every floor up gives you enough of a view to gawk at. “Third floor okay?” I was asked.
“Perfecto!” (That’s “perfect” in Spanish)
The VIP Lounge
The hotel as a whole is built out just as perfecto — not too big, too small, too crowded or too bold — and smack dab in the middle of a beach. The 47 rooms and suites of The Towers (including an epic Presidential Suite) offer a number of other perks, from butler service to a private VIP Lounge popular as a whale-watching perch. I asked a bartender if he sees many whales there. He looked up for a few seconds, blindly mixing my drink, and replied, “I see three.” I spun around and sure enough, three spouts at various points on the horizon. “Wow,” I mumbled.
“We pay them to swim by,” he smiled.
I nodded and must have looked really gullible.
His brow furrowed. “We don’t really pay them.”
“Of course not!” I laughed, and he joined me, but as I retreated I’m sure he wondered if I was mentally all there.
My son and I make terrible statues — can’t even sit still for five seconds. Tired as we both were on arrival day, we didn’t make it ten minutes before heading down to the beach. Rip tides make the ocean dangerous for swimming on that part of the coast, so there are warning signs up, but you can still dip your toes in and race the waves back and forth.
We wandered up the beach to get our first glimpse of the course I’d longed to play since it was christened in 2014 as Golf Magazine’s “Best New International Course.” My good friend and professional photographer, Brian Oar, had shot pictures of the course then (before drones) that made me think he had to own a jetpack. “Are those real golf holes?” I asked. (They seemed ripped from the pages of those “World’s Toughest Golf Holes” calendars.) “You have to see it to believe it,” Brian answered. Easy for him to say.
It took seven years, but now I’ve seen it and I still can’t believe they’re real — still can’t believe Nicklaus built golf holes on those cliffs, and they stayed there! In fact, not only are they still there, but there are more golf holes coming! Quivira has aged phenomenally — now listed on Golf Digest’s prestigious “Top 100 Courses in the World” — and it was just announced that Jack Nicklaus is returning to build a second course at the resort, with construction starting as early as this year.
The Course Today
As it currently stands the Quivira clubhouse is a short 1.5 mile drive from Pacifica. I use “currently” because there is plenty of high-end construction taking place around it, and it wouldn’t surprise me if, in the next golf development phase, they decide to shift some pieces. The Quivira golf shop could be moved to another building with a higher perch and some of the current golf holes in the valley (holes 2-4 and the driving range) could become lodging of some kind (while some new holes replace them) — such is the incredible development value of that land.
I do hope they keep holes 1 and 18 though — both great holes — and it would make sense to keep them somewhere in the rotation, even if their numbers change. The road to the first comfort station climbs up the mountain right after hole 1, so that wouldn’t have to change, and no one wants anything to change about those comfort stations.
I can’t imagine there are many (or any) better views from a golf course than the one provided from Quivira’s second comfort station (between holes 4 and 5). You can see all the way down the beach and at least halfway to The Great Wall from there (on a clear day). Then there are the comfort foods and drinks ranging from cookies to tacos to tequila and lemonade (and much, much more). It’s all included in the experience — no additional cost — and the course’s four comfort stations are as close to a “Members Only” pampering as many of us public course golfers will ever get. At $380 a round during peak season, you probably want to know … “Do you really get what you pay for?”
You arguably get more.
About Those Signature Holes
What may or may not happen with various holes and developments is speculation on my part. Much as I know the scorching hot local real estate market dictates some adjustment, I still hope it’s not too much. “Don’t worry,” jovial Head Golf Professional Antonio Reynante assured, acknowledging that some changes were imminent, “Great as the course currently is, it’s only going to get better.”
From “better” to the “best” holes on the golf course … they weren’t just the cliffhanger par 3’s at 6 and 13 that everyone raves about (though hole 13 is my favorite). The downhill par 5’s at 10 and 12 are both spectacular as well, runaway plungers with views for miles. Houses are being built all over but in such a way as to not impose on the golfer’s views, and those views are killer throughout the entire round — ocean in view from every hole. If you’re paying attention to the ocean instead of golf you’re bound to see whales spouting (half of the year). But, even if there are no whales, you’re still going to see that beautiful body of blue, which is more than enough for most of us without an ocean at home.
The Par 72, 7,085-yard, design isn’t a course you walk, not with those lengthy transitions and steep mountain climbs — the highest point of the course (hole 15) is 350 feet above the lowest point (18 green). But, thanks to those incredible comfort stations, even the most ardent of “course-must-be-walkable” golfers won’t complain about riding. The golf carts provide plenty of storage space for all the food, snacks and drinks you’ll collect along the way, and a welcome break from the midday sun.
FIESTA NOW SIESTA LATER
You shouldn’t be hungry after a Quivira round — I sure wasn’t — but a 19-year-old boy can always eat, and there are no shortage of options at Pueblo Bonito. The perks of an all-inclusive resort are verbally obvious — all food and drinks are included. Every resort has their exclusions (mostly top shelf alcohols), but Pueblo Bonito gives you so much you’ll never feel shortchanged. Starting at the golf clubhouse and working south, you can shuttle over for breakfast or lunch at the oceanfront Quivira clubhouse. Or, better yet, you can soak in a colorful sunset at the Steakhouse for supper ($35 surcharge, no kids under 16).
Pacifica offers a plethora of its own dining options, from a bakery (Bocados) to the breakfast buffet and Mexi-Mediterranean meals at Siempre. Pescados has sushi, Partidos has sports, Refresca is the tequila bar and Aire is the Aquabar. There’s a little bit of everything, and then there’s Peninsula Restaurant and Bar serving Baja favorites with a formal ambiance indoors and an epic (more casual) setting on the glassed-in, outdoor patio.
Sunset Beach (just up the hill) is where you want to stay if you’re a golfer bringing the family. Still super close to Quivira Golf Club, but with more pools and dining options, Sunset Beach has a Teen Club and (in addition to all the restaurants) The Market at Quivira with NINE menus you can order from and a massive assortment of snacks and drinks. The editor of Islands Magazine, Ashley Burns, insisted he could stay at Sunset Beach for a month and be perfectly content eating every meal at The Market. “I’m in,” my son agreed, then turned to me. “Tell Mom you left me here.”
Yeah … That would go over well.
BUT WAIT … THERE’S MORE
The point I’m trying to make is that you won’t want for anything as a guest of Pueblo Bonito Resorts in Cabo. In fact, everything I’ve mentioned above is just from three of the five resorts there. Yes (that’s right) there’s more at the other two — lodging, dining and amenities. I’m also pointing out that no matter who you are — the couple seeking a romantic getaway, girlfriends on a getaway, golfer with family, or golfer with friends — there is more than enough here to satisfy every vacation purpose.
I didn’t even touch on the Armonia Spa … didn’t cover all the weddings and honeymoons that are booked here, or all the activities in Cabo (catamaran, zipline, fishing) you can book at the resorts. I was careful not to use hyperbole (those who have been may even accuse me of understating) so as to not spoil your own discovery at this peninsular paradise, whenever you’re able to make it down here.
AT TRIP’S END
“So,” I asked my son. “What did you think?”
He sighed, unsure where to start. “Amazing. (That’s from a teenager!) If only Minnesota had an ocean.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but … “Don’t, Dad,” he cut me off. “Don’t say it.”
“What?” I feigned confusion.
“You know … ”
An ocean of snow doesn’t count.
NOTES on CABO SAN LUCAS
The year-round population of Cabo San Lucas is just over 200,000 (not counting seals). Whale watching season tends to be from late November to early May, which aligns with peak Tourism season. It’s estimated that over 3 million people visit Cabo each year, via plane or cruise ship, with over half of those coming from the United States. There are 90 hotels in the area, but only five that give you direct access to private beaches AND Quivira Golf Club. If you do choose to live out this story in person, Pueblo Bonito Pacifica (and Sunset Beach) is an easy 25-minute shuttle from the International Airport (SJD).