In some resorts it’s the low bellow of a conch shell. Other resorts ring a bell or blow a foghorn. More often than not, the first signal that something major is up is someone shouting out: “OHMIGOD! Did you see that?” All eyes lock on the sea when suddenly a massive gray whale silently breaches through the surface, announcing its presence by spouting a tower of mist before waving bye with its huge rolling tailfin.
Whale watching is high drama in Los Cabos, where you can see the massive mammals at play right from the beach. Dawn and dusk during winter season are when the whales are most active, leaving plenty of time in between to meet and mingle around these two Baja beach towns.
The 20-mile highway “corridor” connects Cabo San Lucas with San Jose del Cabo, cutting a swath between the mountainous desert and powdery beaches with coves etched into the shoreline by the Sea of Cortez surf. This seemingly incongruent combination of arid land surrounded by endless teal blue water is Cabos’ most sensual and alluring pull. Dry, salt-tinged seabreezes take the edge of the Baha sun, and the only thing sweating is the outside of a tropical fruit-filled sangria pitcher.
Golfers love the lack of humidity, and planners are well aware of the area as one of the world’s top golf destinations with nine oceanview courses, and nine more in development. But for group business, another lure of Los Cabos is its reach across Mexico’s personality spectrum, juxtaposing cultural and contemporary sentiments. Equally attractive, Los Cabos is Land’s End, far away from so many of today’s realities, only a few hours south of the US border.
The quaint city of San Jose del Cabo is a throwback to colonial Mexico with its cathedral situated on the Plaza Mayor. Rough wooden pews and brightly colored stained glass infuse the quaint old church with a pastiche of familial warmth, keeping a watchful eye over school children ruling the plaza at noon recess. Jacaranda trees line the sidewalks where street vendors sell fried fish to those idling in the square.
Older adobe homes have been converted into trendy restaurants like Tequila Restaurante, which operates the certified organic farm Tamarindo. Groups can book both cooking classes and educational gardening tours to learn about sustainable foods and healthy, tasty eating. Only the freshest handpicked vegetables and herbs make it to your table. Try the Lobster Bomb. The succulent lobster meat is wrapped in wonton atop black bean chipotle sauce. Cindy Crawford and Quentin Tarantino swear by ’em.
Meanwhile, Cabo San Lucas is the live wire at Land’s End, with a bustling big-boat marina, high-end shopping, and a vaunted nightlife lubricated with ubiquitous tequila jello shots. Everybody’s first stop is Cabo Wabo, the margarita-fueled party pad owned by rock star Sammy Hagar. The psychedelic colors, cavernous ceilings and live rock make it infectious for both young and not-so-young. Permanent spring break.
A batch of established DMCs such as Cabo Adventures and Land’s End DMC offer explorations into Cabo’s natural environment with climbing walls and zip lines through nature preserves, a 4×4 desert safari ending at an authentic Mexican ranch for local food and tequila tasting, and various dolphin interactions. Whale watching from small boats or large ships is a natural in winter. FYI: the small boats get closer.
We suggest you take the group sailing. Like, really sailing.
Under the supervision of a world-class crew, participants board America’s Cup racing yachts to hoist the sails and man the big winches themselves to steer the sleek multimillion dollar boats through the waves. You’ll learn to tack and jibe (turning, in sailor-speak), and heart rates really get cranked when the wind catches the sail full force and the boat tilts at crazy degrees. This is teambonding at its best when awkward footing and jostling in the boat subsides, giving way to sheer exhilaration as you feel the ocean rushing beneath your feet.
For something a little more sedate, the DMCs put together private charters aboard classic sailboats where passengers can still help aboard deck if they want to. Options tend towards lunch and snorkeling or cocktail receptions at sunset while rounding The Arch, Cabo’s mythical rock portal.
Brightly colored and ruggedly nestled in the Sierra de Laguna mountain range, the 243-room Westin Resort & Spa Los Cabos established the destination’s modern tone when it opened, with its square arch in the curvy facade providing stunning views of the Sea of Cortez. Near the elevated open-air lobby is a kind of hybrid amphitheater/solarium, near multi-leveled pool terraces and pathways leading through an oasis of water and palms. The 10,900-sf Plaza Vista is a grand stage under the stars, while inside meet space runs 11,000 sf.
Of the eight restaurants/bars, the fine-dining Arrecifes oozes sophistication in an open-air rotunda nestled in surrounding rocks lit up at night by glowing candlelight. Jazz musicians keep time with the constant surf while sushi chefs hand roll the day’s catch. Today is yellowfin tuna with sesame ponzu sauces. The tempura softshell crab soars, followed by a ceramic spoon of tequila-mango sorbet. The beef tenderloin is so beautifully pink and tender that a steak knife is an afterthought, under seared foie gras and viscous demiglace. Lastly, a simple almond tuile full of fresh berries is accented by the words “Elevate Your Senses,” written in chocolate.
For lots of local flavor, the 203-suite Marquis Los Cabos celebrates Latin American heritage with commissioned bronze sculptures, oil paintings and 65 types of tequila. Its famous barrel-vaulted, open-air lobby is stark white, dramatically offsetting the deep cobalt blue water. You’re also pulled towards the 36-ft waterfall cascading down two tiers to the resort’s main pool.
Of the 238 accommodations, the 1,675-sf beachfront casitas with private pools are the most coveted, especially #701 for its privacy. The 28 casitas also feature a kitchenette, hydro-massage tubs and living rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows offering unhindered views of the beach outside the door. Indoor function space tops 12,000 sf, complemented by expansive pool deck space totalling 30,000 sf.
For the luxury incentive crew, the 5-diamond Las Ventanas al Paraiso seemlessly melds opulence with old world tradition, where fine Mexican craftsmanship evokes the romance of a grand hacienda. Sweet extras include a mini stress relieving massage upon arrival, a cell phone and preloaded iPod, a personal butler to unpack your bags and create a sewing kit based upon the colors of your wardrobe, and aromatherapy turndown service designed especially to satisfy your scent proclivities.
“Most resorts have the big things,” says Mark Kerwin, director of sales/marketing. “Preferred customer ratings at golf courses, spa facilities, plasma TVs. It’s the little touches, the details that set you apart and really make the difference.” We like the idea of an intimate dinner in the 2,400-bottle wine room, La Cava. Degustation dinners are scheduled weekly.
“There is always something taking place here,” says Kerwin, “so groups can be as adventurous or as laid back as they want to be.” For teambonding, he recommends the private beachfront cinema, a sunset cruise on one of three luxury yachts, and the chance to create a special group menu with the chef that everyone cooks together in an open-air demonstration kitchen by the herb garden. “The real essence of Cabo is here, you just have to ask for it.”