Surfing, mariachi and tequila – Laura Jackson has a much needed break in Los Cabos

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  • Marie Claire columnist Laura Jackson first fell in love with Mexico and its food four years ago. Here's what happened when she returned for some surf and sunshine in the beautiful region of Los Cabos.

    It’s late afternoon and I’m out on the waves in the Pacific Ocean, on a secluded beach just off the Baja California Peninsular, Los Cabos.

    I’m just about to catch my first wave of the day. ‘Paddle, paddle, faster, faster’ shouts Mike, my surf instructor. I’m paddling as if my life depends on it, and as the water lifts and pushes me forward, I try to remember the moves we practiced on the beach moments earlier.

    ‘It’s all about the pop up’ Mike has drilled into me. So I push myself up with my arms, moving my left leg beneath my chest. But just as I’m about to ‘pop’, I face plant, swallowing what feels like the whole Pacific… which then decides its only exit route is out through my nose.

    I can hear Mike clapping in the distance. This isn’t the Blue Crush moment I was hoping for.

    This is the second day of a short but sweet three-day break at One&Only Palmilla. It’s my first time in Los Cabos, although it’s not my first visit to Mexico. I fell in love with this country after a short holiday in Mexico City in 2014 and have been returning year on year ever since – I blame the tacos.

    After a 2014 Hurricane devastated the area, Los Cabos has had a major facelift. Following the storm most of the existing hotels were refurbished, while plenty of new ones were also established. But it’s One&Only Palmilla that still reigns supreme in Los Cabos. It sits in a prime spot of the Baja peninsular, where the rugged desert meets the deep blue sea. Looking out at uninterrupted ocean makes you feel like you’re sitting on the edge of the world.

    The white-washed hacienda-style walls and Spanish colonial architecture are the first things you notice when you pull up to Palmilla. There are perfectly rounded archways adorned with cobalt blue and sorbet-coloured flowers. After your nose is hit with pleasant wafts from the well-pruned gardens, your breath is taken away by the view. Framed by an archway leading off the reception is the Sea of Cortez, where white yachts bob on the horizon.

    One&Only has 173 rooms, 2 villas, 4 restaurants, 2 pools, a private beach, a spa/wellness centre and a church, yet it still feels relatively intimate. It’s nothing like being in a resort. I take a golf buggy to my suite, room 1412. I have my own 24-hour butler and an evening cocktail and hors d’oeuvre await me. The room also boasts Tequila, a coffee machine, turn down aromatherapy scents and a telescope for stargazing and whale watching from my private terrace with unobstructed views of the pacific. The bathroom has a rainforest shower and a jacuzzi bathtub with beautiful marbled floors and yellow and green patterned Mexican tiles. My walk in closet has enough hanging space for a month. I’m a little overwhelmed.

    The onsite Spa feels like it wouldn’t be out of place on Rodeo drive. Beverly Hills celebrity hair stylist Amanda George has a studio using only organic hair products, Barber and Blade (for the boys), invites you for optional tequila tasting pre haircut. Nestled within the beachside palms is an outdoor yoga studio and secluded private pool – the attention to detail on every level is second to none.

    I’m only here for a few days and have a packed schedule – which is perfect for me as I’m not a big sunbather. Stephanie, our lovely guide, has organised a tequila tasting. Tequila and mezcal have taken the liquor world by storm in recent years, with George Clooney even producing his own brand.

    It’s now become the grown up drink of choice, and no, it’s not served in a shot glass with a lime wedge and salt. We sip four different kinds of tequila with a food pairing. After a lesson from the bar manager I leave vowing to only drink 100% agave tequila for the rest of my life.

    After a boozy start to the afternoon I head into town. Just ten minutes away is neighbouring San Jose, which has a villagey feel with colourful streets of boutique shops, art galleries and restaurants. Every Thursday evening the town comes to life with live music, street vendors and dancing. La Lupita is the place to be, where the simple taco and Mezcal menus are delicious – if you’re feeling adventurous try the Oaxacan grasshoppers!

    The ‘Farm to Fork’ movement is taking Los Cabos by storm. Two biodynamic farms tucked into the foothills of San Jose are becoming increasingly popular with both tourists and locals. Acre is an organic farm with treehouse accommodation and an award wining bar and restaurant. I order a spicy mezcal margarita and watch the chefs cook our lunch in the open kitchens – the highlight is fried tomatoes with honey syrup and grilled fish tacos.

    Acre is very sophisticated and more architecturally led than its neighbour, Flora farms. Flora is rustic, its restaurant sits in the centre of the self-sustaining farm and meals are served on communal tables so there’s more of a family feel.

    Back to Palmilla and the highlight of my trip: Catch, Cook, Cocktail. As the name suggests, you catch your own lunch and cook it with the chef back at ‘the ranch’ – cocktail in hand. But rather than sending you on your way with a fishing rod and sandwich wrapped in cling film, there’s a glamorous white speed boat at the ready with a stash of tequila and your own personal fisherman.

    I spend the day sea watching black dolphins play around the boat while keeping an eye on my fishing rod for a telltale tug from a Cabrilla. Apparently, fishing isn’t my forte and we come back empty handed, but I’m still able to rustle up some local Cabrilla and guacamole for lunch in the kitchen with Chef Larbi.

    One&Only Palmilla is like no other luxury hotel I have ever experienced. It’s not in your face, it’s not brash or crass, blingy or stuffy. It’s comfortable, chic and elegant. Your name is remembered, you’re always welcomed, and your every need and wish is tastefully looked after. It’s no wonder that Hollywood A-listers flock here – James Corden is a regular at Villa one and Rhianna had just left as we arrived (I know, gutted).

    It’s not cheap, so it’s more of a once in a lifetime trip, a treat of all treats. But if you want to celebrate something, or just really push the boat out, this is the perfect place.

    To book visit

    Rates at One&Only Palmilla start from £477 between June – September 2018 and £608 between October – December 18th2018, per night, subject to availability. 

    Words by Laura Jackson 

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