by Jim Dobson FORBES Senior Contributor
I visited Cabo San Lucas reluctantly last week as one of the first tourists to the area since the pandemic started. Cabo has always been one of my favorite escapes with an easy, inexpensive flight from Los Angeles, but this visit was dramatically different.
The United States is the primary tourism market for Los Cabos, contributing 80% of its international travelers. On June 20, Los Cabos started welcoming flights from California, and Texas. In August, budget Eastern Airlines will launch its first direct flight from New York JFK to Los Cabos, operating twice a week.
According to Rodrigo Esponda, Managing Director of Los Cabos Tourism, during the first week of July, almost 70 hotels have opened for tourists. However, don’t expect to see crowds at any of the resorts since the phased opening is only 30% occupancy per property, which also includes residence owners.
The experience was blissfully peaceful and eerily quiet. At the time, American Airlines was still committed to social distancing, and the flight was not full. Los Angeles International Airport was a ghost town with no traffic, no lines, and few passengers in the terminal. Onboard, travelers are handed a paper bag with a bottle of water and a small pack of crisps, and that’s it for customer service.
The flight attendants are never seen for the rest of the flight, as there is no service whatsoever. Masks, of course are required, and you are given a form to fill out with extensive questions about symptoms and where you have traveled previously before you are allowed to enter the country.
Upon arrival into Los Cabos, it was refreshing to see the remodeled and expansive Terminal 2, and with so few visitors at the time, the entire arrival experience took barely five minutes to complete the customs process. A thermal scanner takes temperatures at the entrance and hand sanitizers are plentiful. Every single worker in Los Cabos is proudly wearing a mask for protection.
Luxury visitors are met by their resort driver outside of the terminal entrance and quickly whisked away in a large SUV where a masked uniformed driver and butler provide guests with pre-packaged goodies and drinks as well as hand sanitizer. The quick trip into town makes for a smooth transition. It is recommended you arrange private transportation through your resort in advance.
This property is located on one of the few swimmable beaches in Cabo, and the crowd here is more upscale than most. Positioned along a protected, quiet cove, guests can snorkel colorful coral reefs where you may come across celebrities and billionaires who are among the regular visitors and residence owners. During my visit, there were several billionaire homeowners, an Oscar nominee, and a pro athlete practically enjoying the entire resort to themselves.
The arrival experience is smooth, and you avoid the check-in process as you are taken by buggy directly to your villa. Among the best options at the Auberge property are the open-air oceanfront villas with sliding walls bringing in the constant breeze from the Sea of Cortez.
Guests can select from a wide variety of accommodations, including the dramatic and pricey 24,000 sf Brisa Del Mar Villa, which features six bedrooms that accommodate 12. You can host your entire family in the villa with your own private media room, outdoor terrace with custom bar, and outdoor pool table. The large outdoor pool with private outdoor shower also includes private beach access.
You can also opt to stay in one of the stunning Sky Villas with up to 5,700 sf of luxury indoor/outdoor living. The villas include a rooftop pool, up to four bedrooms, and an enormous bi-level rooftop terrace with dramatic ocean views, a private pool, fireplace, wet bar with grill and dining area. The sliding glass walls give you plenty of fresh air. The villas include a private butler, where everything from unpacking to preparing cocktails and snacks is provided.
There were few guests during my brief visit as the property had just opened, and considering the limit on occupancy, there is not a lot of contact with other people. The numerous outdoor health options include in-water spinning classes, snorkeling, swimming, and luxury Auberge spa treatments in airy cabanas on the beach, where you will find yourself far removed from the headline news.
The resort is headed by the wonderful GM Roger Ponce, who has put together an energetic staff dedicated to the customers safety and health concerns. All employees are masked, and every room is completely sanitized before you check in.
Guests are also provided with masks for use only when around other guests; you have the freedom to not wear a mask as you choose or when enjoying activities or dining. The dramatic open-air concepts at the resort provide many social distancing options from dining outdoors at the amazing wide open space of the COMAL Restaurant with possibly the world’s best tacos from one of my favorite Chefs in all of Mexico, Yvan Mucharraz.
I took a tour of the stunning Las Ventanas, one of my favorite resorts in Mexico, and it is easy to see why the rich and the famous make this their ultimate retreat. With expansive open walls in their amazing Ocean Front Villas, this is the perfect place for travelers who are nervous about staying in hotels.
The Rosewood branded resort re-opened July 1 and features 84 luxury suites and villas. Among the new highlights promoting social distancing is the newly built-out Speakeasy lounge, which is now located outdoors floating on a pool for Cuban singer Rosalia de Cuba to perform socially distanced from the audience.
This is the more difficult option in Los Cabos as many restaurants are still closed, and most visitors end up dining at their individual resort to stay away from the crowds. Famed open-air restaurants like my favorites Flora Farms and El Farallonrecently opened, but to extremely limited capacity to guarantee social distancing.
And the crowded downtown Cabo with its famed tourist bars is quiet. “The bars are not open,” says Esponda, “We decided to design a five-phase reopening of the destination. Right now, we’re in phase one which is just 30 percent capacity. The bars will likely open later in the year, towards the fall.”