Grand Velas Los Cabos, and its pools, are enticing from above. (Julie L. Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Carpe diem in San Jose del Cabo

Close-by holiday hot spot in Mexico has something for everyone

A short flight brought me to the balmy temperatures of Los Cabos International Airport, just three hours from San Francisco International Airport. Twenty minutes after touchdown, I walked into Grand Velas Los Cabos, an all-inclusive 307-room resort at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, where the desert weds the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean.

The architecturally significant lobby houses an enormous sculpture by Guadalajara artist Alejandro Colunga. (Julie L. Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The expansive ocean view lobby houses several oversized Dali-esque sculptures by Guadalajara artist Alejandro Colunga. Here I was handed a glass of Veuve Clicquot with molecularly-created mango “caviar.” A spa employee had me inhale some botanicals and gave me a mini-shoulder and neck massage while another employee obtained my room key. Once in my room ­— my luggage simultaneously arrived — I was in a state of complete relaxation.

The bed

All rooms at Velas have ocean views dramatic both for the white sand expanse and intricate rock formations. Massive terraces furnished with extra-large day beds are picture-perfect. Starting at nearly 1,200 square feet, rooms are enormous and contain mid-century modern furnishings, 70-inch flat screen televisions, a work desk and comfortable sitting areas.

Rooms at Grand Velas Los Cabos are elegant and serene.

For the caffeine-addicted among us — and you know who you are —the rooms have Nespresso machines. The also included daily-replenished mini-bar is fully stocked. Beers, sodas, chardonnay, merlot, mezcal, chips and granola bars vie for space next to Oreos, Snickers and M&Ms.

Generous bathrooms have double vanities, make-up tables, soaking tubs with L’Occitane products and wonderfully large walk-in showers.

Grand Velas is designed to satisfy couples, friends traveling together or families. There is a fabulous adults-only infinity pool, Jacuzzis, hammock area and adult activities such as yoga, beach volleyball and cooking classes. There are also two family pools, a children’s playground and fun-filled kid’s club and separate teen’s club that will keep kids and teens busy and happy.

Grand Velas Los Cabos’ adults-only infinity pool overlooks the Pacific. (Julie L. Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The meals

Eating and drinking at Grand Velas are practically art forms. There are seven gourmet restaurants serving authentic Mexican, classic French, Italian, seafood and steaks. Michelin two-star chef Sidney Schutte culls his artistry during a 10-course sumptuous tasting menu at Cocina de Autor, Velas’ concept restaurant. There are also five bars and a café to keep guests well hydrated, making the word “diet” in this corner of the universe completely prohibito.

At Frida — in honor of Mexican folk artist Frida Kahlo — dinner started with a marvelous tequila, mango and hibiscus juice concoction rimmed with cricket and worm salt. More on insects later.

A fabulous libation is made of mezcal, mango and hibiscus. (Julie L. Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Homemade breads with mole sauce risked becoming my meal until I was faced with fondue-like melted cheeses served with steamy tortillas. Beautifully presented ahi crudo, grilled octopus and duck tacos followed, barely leaving room for dessert; however, warm churros simply had to be tried.

Getting into a food rhythm was tough because there were so many choices. Days normally started with an amazing breakfast/brunch at Azul.

An outstanding array of fresh fruits, including honey-sweet papayas and quarter-sized blueberries, beckoned. Western specialties — eggs Benedict and made-to-order omelets, crepes, waffles, gourmet cheeses, meats and fish — competed with Mexican specialties of Chile rellenos and made-to-order tacos and quesadillas. Not enough? Homemade granola, Greek yogurt parfaits and bakery items as good as one would find in Paris enticed. And since it is always 5 p.m., somewhere, a Bloody Mary, tequila, Mimosa station and full bar was front and center.

Lunch usually consisted of incredibly fresh, mouthwatering ceviche by the pool, guacamole served with crunchy homemade chips and my new favorite libation, a Mezcalito tamarindo — mezcal blended with ice and tamarind juice — and rimmed with a chili lime salt called Tajin that I fell in love with at the swim-up bar.

At Velas 10 with its glorious oceanfront setting, I wanted to order a tomahawk steak that looked so inviting as it passed my table, but opted instead for a roasted beet salad and blackened locally sourced Sea of Cortez sea bass. Flavorful and perfectly cooked, it permitted me to be slightly smug as I dreamt of the next day’s brunch.

Velas’ Cocina de Autor features artistically presented Angus filet on its tasting menu. (Julie L. Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Dinner at Cocina de Autor is a 10-course culinary extravaganza. It was so creatively presented, I felt a bit guilty eating, though apparently not guilty enough to stop. It started with ahi surrounded by crispy seaweed and topped with furikake, then a chocolate clam served atop white bean purée. Debuting next, tuna with ponzu jelly, horseradish cream and jicama veil, followed by Angus filet, black garlic and porcini mushrooms. Other line up standouts: tiger prawns with dried cherry tomato coconut reduction, Sea of Cortez Lobina sea bass and mouthwatering lamb.

Grilled octopus at Frida is served with sliced radishes and herbs. (Julie L. Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The finds

One of the most fun and informative events at Grand Velas was the tequila and mezcal tasting. In the designated sixth floor ocean view space, tequila sommelier Claudia Pacheco presented a wealth of information.

Our flight included Casamigos Blanco and Reposado. Owned by trifecta George Clooney, Randy Gerber and Mike Meldman, Blanco is 100-percent blue weber agave and the Reposado is aged two to 12 months in oak barrels, thus accounting for its tan color and caramel and vanilla hints.

The 18-month aged gold-colored Tres Generaciones Anejo served over ice tasted of peppers, cloves and chocolate. While there are 259 types of agave, only the blue variety is used for tequila, while its cousin mezcal uses 130 different agave types.

Getting back to insects, next up 400 Conejos, a mezcal made from espadin agave. This was tasted with juicy orange slices served with salt containing roasted crickets, ants and worms, all of which live in the agave plant. Claudia did not tell me about the insect accoutrement until after I commented that it was delicious. At $250 a pound, insect seasoning is not for the budget inclined. Our flight ended with the creamy, tequila-based 1921, an after dinner drink similar to Baileys only better.

With all this eating and drinking, fortunately the hotel has a complete fitness center. State-of-the art machines including Technogym equipment assured I wouldn’t depart 10 sizes larger than on arrival.

The 35,000-square foot Se Spa is like no other, and not because size matters. A personal spa attendant guides guests through a hydrotherapeutic Garden of Eden designed to massage muscles one barely knows exists. Four hydro stations, Jacuzzi and cold plunge are set within a warm expansive exquisitely designed pool. This was followed by a restorative massage in a private treatment room. Afterward, had I been offered the Brooklyn Bridge, negotiations for a purchase may have ensued.

Nearby, there’s sailing, snorkeling, scuba, surfing and during winter months, whale watching. There is the party scene in Cabo San Lucas and the local art, historic streets and souvenirs of central San Jose, not to mention pharmacies on every block selling everything from antibiotics to Viagra.

San Jose del Cabo’s historical district offers shops selling artisan wares. (Julie L. Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The lesson learned

Whether you are seeking a romantic getaway, a family retreat or a girlfriend gathering, the all-inclusive Grand Velas Los Cabos makes planning the trip a snap. Good food and drinks, kind bi-lingual staff and attentive service make you feel so at home, you’ll surely want to soon return.

Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney and legal columnist based in Los Angeles and the author of the award-winning book “Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com. Some vendors listed hosted the writer; however content was not reviewed by them prior to publication and is solely the writer’s opinion.

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