“You’re here at the wrong time.” “Come back in November.” “The whale sharks prefer winter.”
As I explored the Mexican state of Baja California Sur in July, these refrains became so common I started to finish locals’ sentences. The decision, however, came down to more than syncing my trip with wildlife migration or the maturing of sea lion pups; rather, I needed a break from the 16 months of cloistered monotony that was living in New York’s Catskills during the pandemic.
I didn’t care that it was summer in Mexico and Cabo might be sizzling. I needed to exercise my passport and put eyes on a beach. Preferably a beach affronting the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal’s infinity pool, boasting a swim-up bar serving spicy, smoky mezcalitas all day. The Waldorf would be the first international hotel I had stepped inside since 2019.
When the pandemic first exploded—expressed as swelling bloody bullseyes across CNN’s virtual map—I felt lucky to have a literal cabin in the woods to escape virus-addled Manhattan.
But by 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 nesting, perpetually restless and ready to go.
As the virus eased up and international travel looked promising, I booked flights with United miles to Cabo. I scrolled through websites and reviews, hunting for something luxurious, on the coast, that would feel secluded from the notoriously hard-partying throngs of Americans.
Dozens of upscale brands have outposts in Cabo San Lucas, each vying for the moneyed Californians who fly down for weekend getaways. Ultimately, I selected an ocean view king with plunge pool at the Waldorf. As a longtime New Yorker, I was curious to see how a legacy hotel from the city interpreted its brand identity in a Mexican desert.
The internet warned me Cabo would be hot; instead the weather in early July was a perfect 80 degrees with a breeze. Back home, the northern states spanning Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine roasted under a heat dome. Would migration patterns of the future result in the counterintuitive fleeing of northerners from the 45th parallel for the 23rd? I tried pushing out thoughts of climate change with each sip of my watermelon cocktail, trying to live in the moment rather than the unknowns of the future.
Living in the now wasn’t hard at the Waldorf. From every friendly greeting by staff, each one patient with my high school Spanish, to the sound of the ocean thrashing the rocks at night, the property engaged all my senses simultaneously.
For starters, the site of the hotel is a visual feast fit for a photo frame: sympathetic to the taro hues of the dusty landscape, it unfurls across 24 acres of craggy rocks at the southernmost tip of the Peninsula. Land’s End.
Turns out, the dining is good at the end of the earth.
Against the lavender and peach tones of a disappearing sun, I sipped bubbles on the terrace of El Farallon, Cabo’s only true Champagne bar. The sommelier, tall and thin looking relaxed in morel-colored linen, wore a matching mask. Despite the mouth covering, I could see the joy he felt sharing wine with guests in his smiling eyes.
He poured three Champagnes and explained how he paired them with sea salts. “The minerality in Champagne plays off the mineral content of the salts” he said.
Knowing that salty potato chips and bubbles go together 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 finished with vintage Dom Perignon. The pairings: a Hawaiian black, Himalayan pink, and brown smoked salt, respectively.
From the confines of the woods, trapped literally and mentally in a perpetual state of Covid-fueled anxiety, to relaxing above the Pacific Ocean, sipping wine in the summer breeze, my eyes welled up with a little joy, too.
Dinner at El Farellon was a blur of fresh seafood, a gorgeous cut of steak paired with Mexican Cabernet Sauvignon, and capped with a plate of hot and crunchy cinnamon-spiced churros dunked in caramel beneath the sparkling stars. One of the best meals in Baja.
After a few minutes of savoring the remaining night, we wobbled out of our seats and made our way through the discreetly lit property. I noted the carefully edited xeriscapes of drought-resistant agave—after 18 months with a garden, I had a newfound obsession with plants.
The feast continued the next morning with a knock on the door. Prior to departing, my personal hotel-appointed concierge, helped me book a floating breakfast for the private plunge pool on the terrace. For fun, I created an IG reel of the preparation, watching the server set each plastic wicker basket into the pool. Then I slipped into the cool water to dine in a bathing suit on fresh fruits, eggs benedict, and Mexican breakfast pastries.
I left the property once — to find Baja fish tacos. A noble reason. Then I promptly scurried back for a few final hours by the pool.
As with all trips, Mexico went too fast and I didn’t see enough. I returned to New York still hungry to see (and eat) more of Baja California Sur’s delights, knowing there would never be a bad time to visit Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal.
For images from the trip, visit my IG page ChasingtheVine.