“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Cabo San Lucas. To be honest, Cabo San Lucas has always conjured up images of cheap tequila shots, drunk college kids, wild bachelor parties and general debauchery. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against good clean debauchery (assuming good clean debauchery is a thing that actually even exists). Believe it or not, I used to be one of those very same college kids. But now, almost a decade removed from my last frat party, I’ve turned down the volume a few notches. When I go on vacation these days, my main goal is to decompress. I try to relax, stay away from technology as much as possible and enjoy the local food and culture. I was skeptical that my new assignment in Cabo would afford me this opportunity but I was ready to embrace it for whatever it was.
My wife and I recently moved to the West Coast and now reside in the city of San Francisco. When traveling, there’s nothing I hate more than layovers, so leaving out of SFO made my trip to Cabo a lovely two hour, forty minute direct flight. We got to the airport about two hours prior to our scheduled departure. We arrived at the gate with the Virgin America attendant wearing a sombrero and handing out beads (no joke) to those who could answer “trivia” questions about Cabo. I know this was all in good fun but it did nothing to temper my preconceived notion of Cabo being a tourist trap. That said, our flight was great. We arrived ahead of schedule and were promptly picked up and transferred to our villa in the upscale golf community of Querencia in San Jose del Cabo. Upon arrival at Villa Vista del Mar, we were greeted by one of our knowledgeable Cabo property managers. Not only did he take the liberty of prestocking our fridge with an ice cold pitcher of margaritas and preparing fresh guac, he explained everything from the satellite TV, to our golf cart, to the proper way to turn on and off the Jacuzzi. He even went as far as to recommend a few of his favorite local restaurants and activities. Note: Travel Keys will have a local property manager that meets guests for every rental, no matter where in the world it may be. The property managers are there to help you with anything you might need during your trip. Just before he departed the villa, we were surprised by a team of massage therapists who showed up to give my wife and I a complimentary 30-minute massage. While I’m not fond of being touched, much less massaged by strangers, my wife enjoyed her massage tremendously. She was happy so I was happy, and thus was the start of my (unexpected) relaxing vacation in Cabo.
The next morning I awoke well rested and ready to do my due diligence on my tour of villa inspections. What are villa inspections and why would I be doing these, you might ask? Well, in case you are not yet aware, you are reading a travel blog sponsored by a company called Travel Keys. Travel Keys is an elite travel broker representing over 5000 villas in over 75 destinations worldwide. If it is not obvious by now, I work for them. My job (in a nutshell) is to sell you, John Q blog reader, on one of the many luxury homes within our collection. It helps that I know these homes personally. Now that we have that cleared up, there I was — speeding down the winding highways of the Baja Peninsula, wind in my hair, with the crashing waves of the Sea of Cortez crashing mere feet to my left off the roadway. I was headed thirty minutes south to the neighborhood of Pedregal.
Pedregal is in the heart of Cabo San Lucas proper and flanked by the marina, downtown Cabo and several beautiful beaches. This is where all the “action” is (so to speak). There are several well-known beaches in the Pedregal area. There is Pedregal beach on the Pacific Ocean side of the Baja Peninsula and then there is Medano Beach on the Sea of Cortez side. While Pedregal Beach is one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever seen, you can neither swim nor go into the water here. The waves are monstrous and the rip currents are a killer. Pedregal Beach is ideal for a day of relaxing and watching the waves roll in. As for Medano Beach, this is the party zone. There are a string of seemingly never-ending beach bars and restaurants here. There is also a string of never-ending beach vendors selling everything from knock off Ray-Bans to handmade bracelets to henna tattoos. Please note: these guys are relentless. They move back and forth on a 100 yard stretch of Medano Beach in front of a beach bar called “Mango Deck”. I would highly encourage anyone coming here to purchase a “No. Gracias.” sign to stick in the sand. You have been warned. Aside from the annoying beach vendors, Medano Beach is actually quite nice and it has the calmest and most swimmable water of any of the beaches in Cabo proper. Between Medano Beach and Pedregal Beach is the marina. There are an infinite number of excursions that leave from the marina. You can take a $5 ride in a small “panga” over to El Arco or Lover’s Beach or you can head out on a more upscale sunset cruise. If it’s nightlife you crave, there are a number of clubs in downtown Cabo just a few minutes’ taxi ride from anywhere in Pedregal. There is the infamous Squid Rowe where the beer flows like, well, beer; and then there is the more upscale club next door known as Mandala. Here, you can get a table with bottle service while EDM (Electronic Dance Music) pumps through your bones into the wee hours of the morning. Whatever you are looking for in the nightlife scene, you can likely find it in Cabo.
After a day of villa tours in 100-plus degree heat, I was happy to head back to the confines of Querencia and Villa Vista del Mar. After a dip in the pool and refreshing cold shower, we headed out to the famous Flora Farm Restaurant for dinner. Note: getting to Flora Farms is simple enough but there is some light off-roading required. We had a small economy car and it was no problem. Once we arrived, we were transported to what I now consider farm-to-table restaurant heaven. The grounds and gardens were meticulously maintained. There were also high-end specialty boutique shops surrounding the restaurant which only added to the experience. But what about the food? I’m getting to that, but let me preface this by reminding everyone that my wife and I live in San Francisco. Coming from San Francisco, you get used to being able to find the best of anything food related. In fact, one could argue that San Francisco is the biggest foodie city in the United States. So, that said, I’m not easily wowed by food—especially not in third world countries. On this night we would sample a variety of dishes from Flora Farms, including several appetizers (Pate Board and Asparagus with Poached Egg), shared two main courses (Double Cut Pork Chop and Margherita Pizza) and a dessert (Ice Cream Sandwich Four Ways). While these may sound like fairly pedestrian options, they were prepared flawlessly and were as flavorful as any dish of their kind I’d ever tasted. At the end of the day, it was one of the top ten dining experiences I’ve had. From the pre-dinner bespoke cocktails, food and service, Flora Farms is a can’t-miss on any trip to Cabo. It was as good (or better) than any F2T experience I’ve ever had. In fact, it was so good that we came back again for their Sunday brunch a few days later. If Cabo is in your future, do yourself a favor and make reservations. Note: Be sure to make reservations well in advance—especially if traveling during peak season.
The remainder of our trip was fairly anticlimactic, which is pretty much exactly what I’d hoped for. We lounged around the pool, took trips to the beach and ate out at several other restaurants. Of course, there were more than a few villa inspections sprinkled in and I hope you enjoy browsing some of the homes we visited in the hyperlinked list below. Before my trip to Cabo, I thought of it as a glorified Spring Break destination—not somewhere I want to go to relax. The real Cabo is an exotic destination with miles and miles of pristine beaches, great food and a Cabo that is miles away from what this Mexican beach town is notoriously known for. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my travels, it’s this: your destination is what you make of it. If you want a never-ending beach party ripe with shots of Patron and bottomless margaritas, you can no doubt find it here. But, if you want a relaxing, high-end beach vacation, you can have that here too. Cabo is whatever you want it to be.
Villa Tours in Pedregal:
Villa Tours in Corridor and San Jose del Cabo area:
Flora Farms – Farm to Table in San Jose del Cabo
El Farallon – Fine Dining at The Resort at Pedregal
The Office – Casual fare on Medano Beach with amazing fish tacos