The grand opening of the One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos in
February was auspicious on several levels. The expanded and
remodeled resort has raised the bar once again in Los Cabos by
offering stunning suites, a Mandara Spa and a restaurant with a
celebrity chef. Private butlers tend to the needs of pampered
guests. Palm groves and golf fairways edge the secluded property.
Whales spout in the Sea of Cortez, visible from every room. It has,
in the words of international resort developer Sol Kerzner, “the
On a larger scale, the Palmilla serves as the first of many
Kerzner International Limited developments to come in Mexico. “I’ll
be disappointed if we don’t have several hotels in Mexico in the
next few years,” said Kerzner, the company’s enthusiastic chairman
and CEO. “I personally love Mexico as a tourist destination.”
Kerzner International is known for its resorts in exotic
locations, including Dubai and the Maldives. It’s also the
developer of mega-resorts at Sun City in South Africa, Atlantis in
the Bahamas, and the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Working with
Fonatur, Mexico’s National Tourism Development Fund, the company
last year acquired a 50 percent equity interest in and long-term
management contract for the Palmilla resort.
The company remodeled the Palmilla into a One&Only hotel,
Kerzner’s brand name for its luxurious five-star properties. The
Palmilla is the first One&Only hotel in the Americas a second
is scheduled to open in Havana, Cuba, within a year. The luxury
properties combine sublime creature comforts and stunning scenery.
According to Kerzner, they are designed to “blow away the
Kerzner did just that with the remake of the Palmilla, spending
$90 million in just eight months. The transformation is impressive.
The hotel’s landmark white wedding chapel still sits atop a hill
draped in fuchsia bougainvillea, but it now overlooks an elegant
spa where guests are pampered in private villas rather than common
A few of the property’s original white stucco buildings with
arches and tiled staircases remain intact, and the architecture of
the new buildings mimics the old. The much admired open-air bar
overlooking the Sea of Cortez still has tables and chairs nestled
under white archways, but the furniture is sleek and modern.
Charlie Trotter, whose eponymous restaurant in Chicago is famous
with foodies, oversees the menu and kitchen at his C restaurant
beside the bar. The decor is L.A. chic, with blue cylindrical
aquariums separating the dining room and kitchen, but the menu
reflects Baja’s influence on Trotter’s cooking.
“I didn’t want to impose Chicago style on Cabo,” Trotter said as
he juggled plans to feed celebrities at the opening. Instead, he’s
relying on local ingredients to create his daily menu.
A second restaurant, Agua, sits beneath a large palapa (thatched
roof structure) at the edge of the Palmilla’s new infinity pool.
Guests are greeted by private butlers when they check in to their
rooms, which combine Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican touches with
a definite wow factor. Until the 1980s, the rooms at the Palmilla
lacked TVs and phones; now they have plasma screen TVs, DVD
players, Bose sound systems, high-speed Internet connections (with
wireless coming soon) and telescopes. The bathrooms have “wet
rooms” with large, open showers with rainshower heads, oversized
tubs on platforms and windows facing the sea.
Each room is assigned a personal butler and all guests find a
handcrafted bottle of One&Only brand tequila by the front door.
Many of the employees who have worked at the Palmilla for decades
made the transition to the One&Only style, wearing new uniforms
created by Hollywood costume designers and clothing makers in
Edward Steiner, the hotel’s managing director and One&Only’s
regional vice president, said he wanted the employees to look like
performers on stage as they welcomed the guests.
“We have a lot of drama here,” Steiner said.
The Palmilla has been a magnet for celebrities since it first
opened, and the new incarnation is no exception. The day after the
grand opening, Hollywood stars arrived in a private jet for John
Travolta’s surprise 50th birthday party. The Palmilla got plenty of
coverage in the celebrity press, but the most important clientele
includes guests and their families who have been returning to the
Palmilla for decades.
“When people come back to the Palmilla, I want them to not even
realize anything happened,” Kerzner said last year when he broke
ground for the expansion. “Except they’ll love the new rooms.”
Km. 7.5 Carretera Transpeninsular
San José del Cabo
800-637-2226, 52-624-146-7000, fax: 52-624-146-7001
Hits: By retaining the Palmilla’s classic architecture, Kerzner
made sure returnees would not be disappointed with the expansion.
The food at C and Agua is innovative and excellent, and the service
is top-notch. The extensive library of CDs, DVDs and current novels
is great for those who want to lounge about in their rooms.
Experienced concierges have plenty of ideas for excursions.
Misses: Poor lighting on the balconies makes it hard to read at
night. The large daybed on the balcony is comfy, but there’s
nowhere to set your cup or glass. Room service can be slow and $19
for a continental breakfast is steep, especially south of the
Be Aware: My rainshower showerhead sprayed water all over the bath
area, soaking towels and anything else nearby. The in-room phone
system is complicated. Have your butler explain the various
electronic features and light switches.
Plugging In: Just put your laptop on the desk at the foot of the
bed, hook up the DSL cable hidden in a niche and sign on through
the hotel’s provider. The connection is complimentary.
Clientele: The rooms adapt well for those traveling on business,
though most guests are leisure travelers including celebrities,
wealthy families and wedding parties.
Rates: Room rates start at $325.
Commission: 15 percent