It was our last night and we were having champagne, just the two of us, in front of a fire pit steps from the ocean. Behind us was a lone table, impeccably set for dinner with candles and two very attentive wait staff ready to serve our 5-course dinner whenever we were ready. The clouds parted and the stars overhead illuminated the setting while we toasted to 26 years of marriage.
I am normally a passenger seat traveler. My husband is the planner. Until we met John, our friend and our amazing travel agent who can do everything, Jeff booked airfare, found the hotel or resort, made dinner reservations, booked excursions, etc., while I happily went along for the ride. Fortunately, we have been able to travel to some pretty cool places, and the more Jeff stepped in and planned, the more I sat back and enjoyed. But after my broken leg last winter forced us to cancel our plans for our 25th anniversary trip, I wanted to plan a special “make-up” excursion for our 26th.
Last August my friend Kelly told me about a trip she had recently taken to the One and Only in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. It sounded perfect. Since we are in Colorado for the winter, the flights to Cabo are quick and easy, and our anniversary in March is the perfect time to get away from the snow. I decided to surprise Jeff and called John. Actually booking and paying for a trip like this on the sly was more difficult than I realized. I needed to buy airline tickets right away and the stay was to be paid in full no later than 30 days in advance. How to actually do that when our finances are wide open to each other was sticky. I won’t go into all the details, but it involved a lot of surreptitious plotting and almost getting caught several times. I went back and forth on whether or not to let him know, with my desire to totally surprise him competing with the fact that I could never pack his suitcase sufficiently, so 30 days beforehand I told him we were going someplace warm. He was actually pleasantly surprised, so the trip was a go.
We arrived at the Cabo airport in early afternoon, and after making our way through the maze of airport attendants offering “special discounts” on numerous excursions, were greeted by our One and Only driver who whisked us in air conditioned comfort (with wi-fi!) to the property. Check-in was a breeze, as we were welcomed upon arrival and taken immediately to our oceanfront suite and introduced to Carlos, our butler. Carlos showed us around the suite, explaining the various amenities (a tequila welcome platter, choice of afternoon snacks, amply stocked mini-bar, chocolate tower, automatic light switches, huge walk in closet, gigantic bathroom with full size tub and walk-in shower, and a double terrace with the ocean steps away). We changed clothes and hurried down to the adult pool next to our building to relax and unwind. When we went back to shower and change for dinner, Carlos had beautifully organized, folded and hung our clothes that we had so hastily unpacked. He and Victor Hugo (yes, that’s his name) combined forces to provide everything we needed, and some things we didn’t know we needed.
I had four nights of dinners to plan and I decided there was no need to make dinner reservations anywhere off the property. There were two restaurants by chef Jean Georges Vongerichten (Suviche and Seared), and an oceanfront restaurant by chef Larbi Dahrouch called Agua. Since we are huge fans of chef Jean Georges, I saved Seared and Suviche for later in the trip and we made our way to Agua for the first night. I was actually a little worried about this choice, as I had not heard of Larbi but that night was perfection. The wine list is always a priority for Jeff, and this one did not disappoint. We had a beautiful al fresco table, looking out over the beach and ocean and next to the soft live music, which was delightful. Every morsel of food from the tuna roll (a ceviche-type tuna rolled in avocado), my salmon and Jeff’s blackened tuna was perfect. The only thing that would have made it more perfect in Jeff’s eyes was to have one of the tables directly on the beach with curved sofa-type seating (more on that later).
The romantic turn down was a beautiful ending to the day.
A gym is always one of our priorities. In order to really enjoy the delicious food and wine, we need to get in a workout at some point every day and this place did not disappoint. The gym is attached to the spa area, and we were warmly greeted and escorted to the large, well-appointed rooms. Ample state of the art pieces of cardio equipment, choice of cold or room temperature bottled water, free weights and yoga mats are shiny clean and readily available.
John and Marie (guest relations at the One and Only Palmilla) made it so easy. They gave suggestions on various special touches, and it worked out that every day brought an additional surprise for Jeff. The first day was a couple’s massage in a private spa suite. It was amazing, and Jeff said it was the best massage he’d had in his life. This means a lot coming from someone who has had at least a weekly massage for the last 15 years. Towards the end of the session as I relaxed blindly with eye pads on, I heard the sound of water running. Much to our surprise, following our treatments we had the use of the private suite area, with outdoor bathtub, showers, outdoor bed and lounge chairs, tea and snacks. Pure bliss.
Dinner that night was at Seared, by Jean Georges. We were seated inside but requested a table outside, so they graciously accommodated us. However, the wind was blowing so hard we asked to be moved back inside and were instantly whisked to a beautiful inside table, no questions asked. It was another delicious dinner, with great wine. We shared the Dover Sole and it was fabulous.
Day two we got up early to work out, and met our ride to the ferries at Cabos San Lucas. Even though I got my time mixed up and we were an hour late, our driver waited for us, and we were able to enjoy the next surprise…a four hour boat ride and lunch around the tip of the peninsula. The Grey yacht was beautiful, with cushioned beds in front and in back, and a private chef to prepare delicious ceviche appetizers, seared tuna salad and grilled shrimp for lunch. We were able to get up close to the arch and “window to the pacific” where you can look through from the sea of cortez to the pacific ocean. We cruised around the southern tip and several beautiful whales gave us a pre-lunch performance.
The third night we had reservations at Suviche, Jean-Georges’ other restaurant at the resort, and as delicious as the menu looked, Jeff wanted to return to Agua. Our dinner there was so perfect we wanted to repeat it. He made a phone call and asked if any of the beach tables were available, and luckily they made room for us there. We sat on the circular seating facing the water, our toes in the sand, and enjoyed another fabulous dinner. The chef made a vegetarian entree for me, with chickpeas, quinoa, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and squash. I didn’t think to take a picture until after I had scarfed up most of it, but it was delicious.
Our last full day was spent at the beautiful adult pool, with swim up bar and what seemed like more attendants than guests. They are on hand to deliver iced buckets of bottled water, evian spray, and to turn the lounge chairs to face the sun throughout the day. It was a gloriously warm but not hot day. At one point, I started feeling a little hot and at that instant someone walked up to offer little chocolate dipped frozen bananas on a stick…perfect timing and perfect refreshing bite. We lingered as long as possible before heading back to get ready for the last surprise.
Marie knocked on our door at 7 p.m. to deliver us to our private dinner on the beach. I had pre-chosen each of the 5-courses which they had graciously accommodated for our Pescatarian diets. It was a perfect ending to a perfect trip.
We are fortunate to have experienced many luxury resorts, but in comparison the One and Only outperformed in all areas. The pros are too numerous to mention. The only con is the cost. I think that it is good that in our first 20-plus years of marriage we couldn’t afford vacations like this because now we can truly appreciate it. Looking forward to our next visit!