Los Cabos earned a spot on our Top Places to Travel in 2019 in no small part because the hotel scene there just gets better and better. Jessica Cantlin, who's been traveling to the area for decades, checks out the latest from Montage.
SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico – Montage has hit it out of the park with Montage Los Cabos, the boutique hotel company’s first international outpost, located in a quiet cove in a previously undeveloped bay on one of only swimmable beach in the area.
I have been visiting Los Cabos regularly since 1980 (my family had a second home there for twenty years) and grew up taking the public bus to snorkel at Santa Maria Bay. Back then, the small, crescent-shaped, white-sand beach was a haven for locals and people in the know. There were no facilities and no restaurants, which meant it was a peaceful place to relax in the shade of an umbrella, float in the crystal waters, and make friends with the fish. Adjacent to Santa Maria Bay was the old-school Twin Dolphins Hotel, a luxe haven for hippies and travelers that opened in 1977 and was torn down for redevelopment in 2006. When I stayed there right before it was demolished, I had trepidations about what would happen to Santa Maria Bay and the Twin Dolphins property — specifically, whether it would sadly go the way of all the mega-resorts in Cabo. For ten years, the property just sat there, as if the development had been abandoned. Then on a visit to the area in 2017, I noticed access to the beach had changed and there was action on the flat slab of dirt where the hotel had been. And when I heard that Montage was developing the property, I was pleased because of the company’s good reputation, but curious how a hotel on the beach would impact the relaxed feeling of Santa Maria Bay.
This fall, I went for a visit to find out. Not only was our stay at Montage relaxing and luxurious, but I am happy to report that Montage has skillfully preserved that peaceful, secluded feeling that should have been its responsibility in developing such a private cove. Not only did Montage do an excellent job integrating the hotel into the natural landscape of the Bay, but it enhanced the public access and facilities to the beach, encouraging community and reinforcing the understanding that in Mexico, everyone owns the beach. Well done, Montage!
I visited Montage Los Cabos in mid-September, a few months after its opening and in the middle of Baja’s short hurricane season (I like to roll the dice), which meant it was quiet and not even close to capacity. We arrived at the hotel after a quick twenty-minute drive from the airport and were welcomed with a margarita and escorted to our room. Management at Montage was smart to realize that when most guests arrive at the hotel, they want two things: 1) a cocktail, and 2) to get to the pool as quickly as possible. Done and done. The property tour could wait.
Montage Los Cabos is built on the shores of pristine and previously undeveloped Santa Maria Bay, a quiet cove halfway between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Occupying one of the few stretches of swimmable beach in the Los Cabos area, Montage is the ideal place stay if you are interested in swimming, snorkeling, and paddle boarding in a secluded and peaceful environment.
The hotel was purposefully designed to blend into the environment. The collection of two-story buildings features contemporary architecture influenced by traditional Mexican design. During construction, native plants were removed from the property, sent temporarily to a “plant hotel,” and reintroduced to the finished landscape when construction was finished. As a result, the property simultaneously feels new and mature. Viewed from the sea, the hotel seamlessly blends with the desert landscape and merges with the gentle shores of the sea.
This Place Is Perfect For
Everyone. Whether you are traveling with a loved one, the whole family, or a group of friends, Montage Los Cabos can accommodate all. Montage is especially well set up for large groups, as all rooms are interconnected and can be booked as a block to make your group feel like you have your own space. Mezcal (the marquis restaurant) has a large, intimate private dining room that can seat up to twenty. For bigger groups, Montage has several outdoor dining options that can be transformed for weddings, birthdays, or large corporate events. Families will be happy, too: Big kids will love playing Marco Polo in the huge pool, while a wading pool and sandbox is set off to the side for the youngest crowd. And when parents need a break from the children, they’ll be cared for and entertained at Paintbox, the fully staffed kids club.
But Not So Perfect For
Budget travelers and those seeking quiet and seclusion. Montage is a large, full-service resort — with the people and noise that come with it. Rooms at Montage are not inexpensive and the food and drinks are priced to match.
What’s on Site
Don’t even think about visiting without spending time luxuriating in the 40,000 square-foot Spa Montage. The spacious complex features a large, adults-only pool with private cabanas, his and hers Jacuzzis, light-filled treatment rooms, and a state-of-the-art gym with complimentary yoga every morning. Treat yourself to a four-hands massage or go for it with the full Baja Experience Spa Package, which includes a foot soak, body wrap, and simultaneous facial and massage. The estheticians and therapists at Montage Los Cabos have worked and trained at some of the best spas in the world, so whatever treatment you chose, you will leave feeling like a new person. In addition to Spa Montage, I really liked Paletas, the small coffee shop and boutique below the lobby, not only for the namesake paletas (Mexican popsicles) in a huge range of flavors (like guava and watermelon), but also for the coffee and pastries in the morning.
A few steps from the deck of the infinity pool is a staffed water sports shack, where guests can check out complimentary kayaks, paddle boards, and snorkeling gear. No need to carry your board into the water – they do that for you around here.
Food and Drink
Everything I ate at Montage Los Cabos was excellent. So good, that I felt no need to leave the property. A la carte breakfast is served daily at Mezcal, the contemporary Mexican restaurant that is the highlight of the hotel. I kept it super simple with avocado toast and smoked salmon … unless I went all out with chilaquiles or lobster eggs benedict. As far as I’m concerned, there is no better meal than breakfast in Mexico because the food is simple, fresh, includes as much avocado as I want, and has just enough spice to make me forget my indulgences from the day before. Lunch is served by the pool or at Marea, the hotel’s open-aired beachfront restaurant. Fresh seafood and locally sourced grilled meats are the stars here. Don’t miss tuna sashimi – one of the best meals of our stay. We switched between Marea and Mezcal at dinner but preferred the intimacy and cuisine of Mezcal, where chef Alexis’ talents really shine. The food at Mezcal is innovative without being too intimidating. The menu, a mix of small plates, highlights Baja’s freshest ingredients. Everything we ate at Mezcal during the course of our stay was exceptional, but we kept coming back for the suckling pig and the nopal salad. We also particularly enjoyed sitting at the bar watching Carlos, Mezcal’s lead bartender, create his liquid miracles. I know this is Mexico and you have to have at least one margarita, but you must allow Carlos to show off his talent by creating a cocktail for you. Ask him for a smoked shot of tequila. You won’t be disappointed by the show. I won’t spoil it with details, but it felt like we were watching the tequila smoke marijuana, circa 1990. Don’t leave Montage without experiencing a mezcal tasting at Mezcal. Side note: Montage goes out of its way to accommodate allergies, so don’t be afraid to let them know.
The 122 guest rooms and suites are all designed to take in the views of stunning Santa Maria Bay. For a more exclusive experience, Montage Los Cabos has three individual villas that can be available by the night, with butler service, private swimming pools, spa amenities, and expansive living quarters. Designed as traditional Mexican haciendas, the villas are a lovely contrast to the contemporary design of the individual guest rooms. In addition to the guest rooms, 52 privately owned two- and three-bedroom Montage Residences border the rear perimeter of the property and can be booked for those looking for larger accommodations with resort amenities and all the creature comforts of home (full kitchen, laundry, parking).
All guest rooms feature both indoor and outdoor showers, as well as over-sized soaking tubs. Luxury bath products by Seattle based Antica Farmacista are a lovely amenity of the expansive bathrooms. The fully stocked mini-bar includes artisan tequila and mezcal and a Nespresso machine, for when you just can’t quite leave the room for coffee. WiFi is good and strong throughout the entire property.
Los Cabos gets 350 days of sun per year. There is absolutely no drawback of spending a few of them at Montage.
The staff and service are exceptional. Clearly, the management spent a lot of time cultivating the best talent to open this hotel, and it shows.
What to Do Nearby
There is really no reason to leave the hotel, but if this is your first visit to Baja, have the concierge arrange for a catamaran tour of the Sea of Cortez. If boats make you seasick, have a taxi drop you at the main square in San Jose del Cabo, home to lovely galleries, boutiques, and local restaurants. If you want to go out for an evening, have the hotel book a table next to the garden at acclaimed restaurant Flora Farms, a twenty-minute taxi drive away.
Good to Know
Don’t screw around with hiring a taxi or a shuttle from the airport. It’s a huge hassle, and, if you are like me and want to get to the hotel the moment you step off the plane, then arranging for a Montage driver to pick you up is the way to go. Also, gratuity is included in your final bill.
A rental car is a must if you plan on exploring Baja and Los Cabos, as taxis are not cheap. If you only intend to leave the hotel once or twice, I would forego the hassle of renting a car (because it is a hassle) and rely on taxis for transportation.