Voyages: The Case for Cabo | AspenTimes.com
by Meredith C. Carroll

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Voyages: The Case for Cabo

"Welcome to Miami," the server said to my husband and me when we sat down for lunch after arriving in Puerto Vallarta.

We laughed, although it was clear he wasn't entirely kidding. While our vacation was festive and fabulous, it became evident pretty quickly we very well may have had an identical experience in South Florida as Mexico.

It's open for debate whether the unofficial No. 1 offseason destination for Western Colorado residents is Moab or Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita. As I recently discovered, though, not only do Cabo's staggering views give Moab's natural beauty a run for its money, not to mention Cabo is even easier to get to than PVR, but being in Cabo also feels as if you're actually in an entirely different culture (and not just because you won't bump into all the people you know from Aspen around every corner).

Airfare from Grand Junction to Cabo can be found for just over $400, and taking a crack-of-dawn flight means burying your toes in the sand by 2 p.m. My friend and I went last fall for a long weekend and because we were so tickled to be getting away — anywhere — all we really knew is we were staying at a Sheraton, which was a minor cause for concern.

If you've ever stayed at the Sheraton Downtown Denver on the 16th Street Mall, you, too, would likely worry about traveling 1,889 miles if it meant once again encountering dreary popcorn ceilings that bear a suspicious resemblance to bat guano, and brown carpet that the 1970s called about and said, in fact, to keep. Thankfully the Sheraton Downtown Denver is not the Sheraton Grand Los Cabos Hacienda Del Mar.

Sheraton Grand was introduced in 2015 by Starwood, which they rightfully tout as a notch in their premier-tier brand. Sheraton hotels elevated to Grand status necessarily boast extraordinary locations and demonstrate exceptional quality and service. Thankfully that is the Sheraton Grand Los Cabos Hacienda Del Mar.

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Situated enchantingly at the southern tip of Baja Peninsula on the Sea of Cortez, the hacienda-style hotel has 270 rooms with private balconies that all have their eye on the prize: a private ribbon of the white-sand Tortuga Beach and crystal-clear, flawlessly aquamarine water that doesn't ever stop singing as it dances delightfully onto the shore.

It's probably hard to know if the resort is ever crowded since five pools — some with an infinity edge, others with a swim-up bar or waterfalls and waterslides — and pool concierges can keep everyone sufficiently spread out and pampered. The colorful Mediterranean architecture with a distinct Old Mexico flair accents the grounds as an ongoing reminder that this is not, in fact, the land of flamingos and mouse ears.

Another reminder that this isn't a cut-and-paste Sheraton is the hotel's Cactus Spa. Elegant wrought-iron furnishings and a stone terrace are accented with natural light and a fragrance that's a blend of the cucumber-infused ice water available in every private corner mixed with unreserved tranquility.

The resort belies any stereotype of hotel food, too. From the sophisticated and adventurous cuisine at the beach-side De Cortez restaurant to the authentic Mexican plates Girasoles de la Hacienda Restaurant, plus six other dining options, Executive Chef Manual DeLuca puts his prolific and innovative touch on so many gastronomic experiences that it's not necessary to leave the hotel in search of variety.

Worth leaving for anyway, though, is ACRE, a picturesque piece of farmland adjacent to San Jose del Cabo. The owners are in the process of developing indulgent hotel room tree-houses in a palm forest, and the recently opened restaurant feels like a jaunt to an exclusive jungle oasis. Between their own farm and neighboring suppliers, ACRE's menu proudly embraces a locavore attitude.

Operating on the belief that "people appreciate authenticity in their surroundings," the walls at ACRE are made from compressing the surrounding earth, and the quasi-roof over the bar and restaurant was constructed using sticks from local palo de arco trees. Everything inside, including lighting and accessories, hails from the Baja and Mexican mainland. The plan is for Nigerian dwarf goats to eventually roam the 25-acre property and donate their milk, which is rich in butterfat, to be used in house-made cheeses.

Another reason to adventure off the resort grounds is SUR Beach House, a newly opened and impossibly chic spot close to downtown Cabo on a deliciously swimmable shoreline. The menu draws inspiration from Mexico, Peru and Asia, and while the food alone is worth it, the structure and location are the real prize. Sitting outside on the effortlessly elegant deck means only having to walk down a few stairs and weaving between some beach chairs before diving into an eminently swimmable body of bath water. An outdoor shower abuts the restaurant, and the staff is eager to please — and save seats.

But you really wouldn't be faulted for never leaving the resort grounds. Not just because you don't need to be seen, but because everything you want is all right there.

IF YOU GO …

Sheraton Grand Los Cabos Hacienda del Mar

Rates start at $325 in April and $254 in October for rooms with private terraces overlooking the gardens or ocean.

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