“You’re here at the wrong time.” “Come back in November.” “Whale sharks prefer winter.”
When I explored the Mexican state of Baja California Sur in July, these abstinences became so common that I began to end the local sentences. The decision, however, came to more than synchronize my trip with game hiking or maturing sea lion cubs; rather, I needed a break from the 16 months of monastic monotony that lived in the New York Catskills during the pandemic.
I did not care that it was summer in Mexico and Cabo could sew. I needed to exercise my passport and put my eyes on a beach. Like a beach that overlooks the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregals infinity pool, which boasts a swim-up bar serving spicy, smoky mezcalitas throughout the day. Waldorf would be the first international hotel I had stepped into since 2019.
When the pandemic first exploded — expressed as swollen bloody bullseyes across CNN’s virtual map — I felt lucky to have a literal hut in the woods to escape the virus-ridden Manhattan.
But in the spring of 2020, with a double dose of Moderna in my arm and an endless gloomy winter that upstate New Yorkers call spring, I hit the proverbial wall. I was a travel writer, grounded and unused to nest, eternally restless and ready to go.
As the virus became lighter and international travel looked promising, I booked flights with United miles to Cabo. I rolled through sites and reviews, in search of something luxurious by the shore that would feel secluded from the notoriously hard-hitting flocks of Americans.
Dozens of upscale brands have outposts in Cabo San Lucas, each battling for the earned Californians who fly down for weekend getaways. In the end, I chose a king with ocean views with a plunge pool at Waldorf. As a longtime New Yorker, I was curious to see how an older hotel from the city interpreted its brand identity in a Mexican desert.
The internet warned me that Cabo would be hot; instead, the weather in early July was a perfect 80 degrees with a breeze. Back home, the northern states of Portland, Oregon were fried to Portland, Maine under a heat dome. Would the migration patterns of the future result in northern Jews fleeing the 45th parallel to 23rd? I tried to push the thoughts of climate change out with every sip of my watermelon cocktail and tried to live in the present rather than the unknown of the future.
Living in the present was not difficult at Waldorf. From every kind greeting from the staff, every patient with my Spanish high school, to the sound of the ocean beating the rocks at night, the property engaged all my senses at once.
To begin with, the hotel’s website is a visual feast that fits a photo frame: sympathetic to the taro nuances of the dusty landscape, it unfolds over 24 acres of sloping cliffs on the southernmost tip of the peninsula. End of the country.
It turns out that the eating is good at the end of the earth.
Against the lavender and peach tones of a fading sun, I sipped bubbles on the terrace of El Farallon, Cabos’ only real Champagne bar. The sommelier, tall and thin and casual in morel-colored linen, wore a matching mask. Despite the mouth cover, I could see the joy he felt as he shared wine with guests in his smiling eyes.
He poured three champagnes and explained how he paired them with sea salts. “The minerality of Champagne reflects the mineral content of the salts,” he said.
When I knew that salty potato chips and bubbles are related like, well, salty potato chips and bubbles, I was sold.
He started with Blanc de blancs by Ruinart, moved to a rosé from Henriot and ended with vintage Dom Perignon. The pairings: a Hawaiian variety, Himalayan pink and brown smoked salt, respectively.
From the setting of the forest, literally and mentally trapped in an eternal state of Covid-driven anxiety, to relaxing across the Pacific, sipping wine in the summer breeze, my eyes also floated up with a little joy.
Dinner at El Farellon was a blur of fresh seafood, a beautiful piece of steak paired with Mexican Cabernet Sauvignon and covered in a plate of hot and crunchy cinnamon-spiced churros dipped in caramel under the twinkling stars. One of the best meals in Baja.
After a few minutes of enjoying the rest of the night, we staggered out of our seats and made our way through the discreetly lit property. I took note of the carefully edited xeriscapes of drought-resistant agave — after 18 months with a garden, I had a newfound obsession with plants.
The party continued the next morning with a knock on the door. Before leaving, my personal hotel-appointed concierge helped me book a liquid breakfast for the private plunge pool on the patio. For fun, I created an IG coil with the preparation, and then the server put each plastic basket basket down in the pool. Then I slipped into the cool water to eat in a bathing suit of fresh fruit, eggs benedict and Mexican breakfast cakes.
I left the property once – to find Baja fish tacos. A noble ground. Then I immediately hurried back a few last hours by the pool.
As with all trips, Mexico went too fast and I did not see enough. I returned to New York still hungry to see (and eat) several of Baja California Sur’s delicacies, knowing that there would never be a bad time to visit the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal.
For photos from the trip, visit min IG page ChasingtheVine.