We traveled the second week of December 2012 and got to see the resort decorated for the holidays making it even more impressive at night than usual. Prior to this, we last visited One&Only Palmilla in October of 2010. While we enjoyed this visit very much, there were a few differences we noticed that I hope aren't permanent. While it was very hot and humid in October, mid-December was breezy and in the mid to upper 70's which felt cool at times. However, the whales are beautiful and make everything seem ok. Warning: you will get used the service, some of the best anywhere, and you will miss it when you get home.
Check-in: Once we overcame the minor inconvenience of Mexican Immigration not knowing what flight numbers were coming in that day (speaking Spanish was very helpful), and security wanting to search our bags (who is smuggling contraband IN to Mexico?), it was smooth sailing. Pickup was a breeze, the hotel was expecting us and in fact, we were greeted by the same person who had greeted us more than 2 years prior. We skipped the tour since we were familiar, but we of course partook in the popsicles and tequila once we got to the room.
Room: On our last visit, we stayed in a Beachfront Jr. Suite on the first floor of building 11 with a large terrace. This time we were in a Beachfront Pool Casita Jr. Suite in building 22 (Casa Sirena) very convenient to the adult pool, with a smaller terrace and small private infinity pool. When we walked in, I said, "is there a party?". They had decorated the room with balloons and a birthday cake which we hadn't even mentioned or asked for. It was amazing, and it is for reasons like that I can overlook things like Slipper-Gate (read further). The rooms here are truly some of the most unassuming and beautiful I have ever stayed in. The Mexican furnishings and design influence gives local flavor without the kitsch. The bathroom in this room was very slightly smaller than the other. The closet was considerably smaller which necessitated our bags being on racks in the hallway the whole week, but it wasn't a problem. It's nice having the separate living area and the view was gorgeous. Breakfast on the terrace every morning is the best way to start the day that I can think of, and ring the telescope, you will see wales December-March. Housekeeping was very good, quickly replenishing used toiletry items. One evening we came back from dinner to find that they had made up the sofa bed which we weren't using, but they returned to put everything back to it's natural state. One SMALL annoyance: EVERY night we had men's slippers on one side of the bed and women's on the other. While thoughtful, it's a bit off putting with 2 men staying in the room. It's interesting that the two most highly rated properties I have stayed at (Palmilla and Auberge du Soleil) both commit this albeit forgivable sin. Attention to detail.... Side note, I wish the pools were a little warmer. They said ours was 86 degrees but there was no way.
Spa: The second stop after dropping our bags in the room. As with the rooms, the spa is one of the most gorgeous I have ever seen or used. The facilities, craftsmanship, design and service are all above and beyond. We had a massage together in one of the Oceanside palapas. A great massage and very relaxing, but I think this time of year they should not schedule them after 4pm. It was quite windy and chilly; borderline cold in fact. All of our treatments however were very, very good, and they even gave me a little birthday present, though my birthday was almost 2 weeks prior. Very nice!
Room Service: Probably the highest quality room service food and most efficient service anywhere I've been. The French Toast is to die for. Frankly, it's quite reasonably priced for what you get as well. We always felt like we could skip lunch and settled for a small midday snack. Typically ceviche and tacos by the pool.
Resort Food: The last time we were here, we were absolutely blown away by the variety and quality of the food; across the board. From Jean-Georges to room service, there was not a missed opportunity to impress your palette. This time, I would say that Agua was a low point. The menu was what you would expect; an inventive merging of Mediterranean flavor and Mexican flair, but somehow, it fell flat. It's harder to digest the prices when you aren't as impressed. To be fair, it wasn't bad, it just wasn't as good as we remembered. Market was very good, but the prices on their wines are CRAZY. I think it is the first time I have ever said, "You know, I just can't bring myself to do it." Examples are a 1,200 dollar bottle of Opus One we can get for 250 in the states, and a bottle of Layer Cake (which I wouldn't drink at home) for 90+ dollars (I think usually around 18 in the States). We had to assume there is an incredible amount of import duty on the wine, otherwise someone has just gotten carried away. Most things were 400-600% markup from U.S. retail. The sushi at Suviche was very good, and we even shared a toast with our sushi chef. Kampai!
Check-out: Smooth, but there was some confusion about our package that lead to a lengthy process and line by line examination of the bill I would have rather avoided. Everyone was perfectly friendly, I just find that process unpleasant. We had bought the package through Conde Nast Traveler, and it was quite inclusive which I think lead to the complications. In fact, it was so good, I wish I could get the package again.
Notes: I am far from an avid golfer, but we did go and play the Ocean Course which was quite lovely and not terribly difficult for a beginner. The hotel will set up just about anything you could ever want or need to do. We found everything very easy, as would be expected. We also had the pleasure of meeting Peter Bowling, Managing Director of the resort, twice; once on his own and once escorting his lovely wife for dinner. He speaks to everyone and seems genuinely excited to be at the helm of such a storied, respected resort. After an amazing job launching Capella Pedregal (home of our favorite local dining spot, Farallon at Capella), I'm sure he'll do great things at Palmilla.
Tips: Don't sweat the money, you'll leave thinking it was worth it (except for the wine). All of the rooms are beautiful with a view of the sea, but if you can, stay on the beach, you're on vacation. Bring about half the clothes you think you'll need. The dressiest place is Market and it's resort/dressy casual. Spend some time at Agua Bar and try some amazing tequila you can't get at home (sip it, it's delicious). Finally, I'd recommend running all of your requests, however big or small, through the butler service. That really seems to minimize crossed wires and lots of people knocking on your door.
Bottom line: a fairy-tale resort, truly deserving of its accolades, but not without very minor hiccups.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A verdant oasis on the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Where azure waters greet the mountainous desert and the Pacific Ocean merges with the Sea of Cortez. Where warm waves break onto a dramatic shoreline… and gray whales can be seen rising majestically in the distance. Here, the gracious style of Old Mexico - with its red-tiled roofs, whitewashed walls, and idyllic setting of exquisite fountains - is quietly nestled amidst swaying palms, bird of paradise and other tropical bloom. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- One&Only Palmilla Hotel San Jose Del Cabo
- One And Only Palmilla
- Palmilla Cabo
- One Only Cabo
- La Palmilla
- One & Only Palmilla Resort Los Cabos/San Jose Del Cabo