Tragedy Brings Triumph at a Luxury Baja Resort

In September 2014, one of the world’s most decorated hotels was forced to close after the catastrophic Hurricane Odile.

In 2014, the One&Only Palmilla marked its 10-year anniversary with reason to celebrate. The Mexican resort ranked 35th on Travel + Leisure‘s “Best Hotels in World” list and was also the recent recipient of the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award. Considered by many to be one of the finest resorts in Los Cabos, let alone all of Mexico, it also boasted an impressive and recurring guest list, composed of presidents, A-list Hollywood actors and global sports stars.

Then on September 15, at 4:45 a.m., Hurricane Odile hit the tip of Baja California Sur with peak winds nearing 140 mph. It was one of the worst storms the region had ever seen, and the results were catastrophic: flooding, a sweeping loss of electricity and 15 deaths. The One&Only Palmilla, like much of Los Cabos, was left swimming under water with its doors closed. But on April 20, 2015, after seven long months of repairs and renovations, the resort reopened to loyal patrons hoping it was as good as they remembered. Fortunately, it was better.

The infrastructure of the One&Only Palmilla resort dates back to the 1950s, when Don Abelardo Rodriguez, the son of the Mexican president at the time, built a 15-room mansion at the very end of Baja California, looking out to both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. Early guests included John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball and former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, drawn by both is remoteness and the sport of deep-sea fishing — still a major tourist attraction to Los Cabos. Following the resort’s initial $90 million renovation in 2004 after One&Only purchased the 250-acre grounds, the hotel is made up of 173 rooms. Every single one of them offers scenic terrace views facing out toward the sea.

In a nod to old-world hospitality, every guest at the One&Only Palmilla is assigned a 24-hour butler.

Today, the resort makes up the coastal edge of the Palmilla community, the halfway point between the infamous party town Cabo San Lucas and the new budding cultural center of San José del Cabo. Year-round good weather, lush beaches and easy-going vibes have all made Los Cabos destination-worthy over the years. Resorts like the One&Only Palmilla have made it one of the world’s finest.

Arrival here begins with a gesture: a hand over the heart, an informal greeting among staff members that hails from Guadalajara in mainland Mexico. It’s a simple but endearing symbol that distinguishes the resort within a cultural context. Most of the employees that work here, natives of the region and well versed in the flavor hidden outside the resort grounds, are proficient in both Spanish and English and do well to greet every guest by name. Another part of the welcoming tradition is a complimentary Mexican tequila tasting waiting for guests once they drop their luggage.

The rooms, tiered on amenities and space, are scattered across the property in individual clusters the resort calls casas — or homes, in Spanish. The accommodations range from cozy 500-square-feet rooms for couples to the expansive Villa Cortez at 10,500 square feet, situated on its own private beach. The new renovations after Hurricane Odile saw the resort implement a modern and clean aesthetic to each room — white walls, slim furniture — while reserving the bright Mexican flourishes that patrons came to love about the original, including patterned sheets and native houseplants to make guests feel like they’ve arrived somewhere different and new. In a nod to old-world hospitality, every guest is assigned a 24-hour butler to accommodate any questions, concerns or needs.

A large part of the One&Only Palmilla brand is its promotion of wellness, and its promise to help you achieve it during your stay. This isn’t just a world-class hotel, it’s also a world-class spa and fitness center, one that caters equally to both sexes. A state-of-the-art gym, equipped with TechnoGym equipment, also offers classes in a range of different disciplines, including pilates, yoga and boxing led by personal trainers and instructors. The newest addition to the roster of spa services is the Barber and Blade Grooming Studio for men, offering wet shaves, haircuts and scalp treatments utilizing the esteemed products from Murdock London.

But perhaps the biggest and most exciting revamp to the One&Only is for visiting gastronomes. Helmed by Chef Larbi Dahrouch and the three-Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the resort champions three diverse fine-dining experiences: Suviche, Agua by Larbi, and newly added SEARED, a surf-and-turf steakhouse with red snapper and A5-certified Wagyu entrees. Though farm-to-table is a relatively new concept to the Mexican dining scene, much of the organic produce sourced for the restaurants comes from a neighboring farm, Huerta Los Tamarindos (where One&Only guests are invited to take cooking lessons), or from the newly implemented garden that grows indigenous chilies, cilantro, epazote, sweet basil, and hibiscus tea plant directly on site.

The allure of the resort is plain as day, a culmination of comfort, luxury and accessibility. When you factor in that it sits a short 90-minute plane ride from LAX, the question isn’t how soon can you buy a ticket, but how long can you afford to stay? Waking up to a soundtrack of crashing waves and a soft knock that says a breakfast of fresh, local fruit is at the door, the answer, hopefully, is a few extra days.

Book Now: $625+

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