by Erika Kotite
Seasoned family travelers can usually quickly tell the difference between a destination created from the get-go with children in mind and one that attempts to go “family-friendly” well into the journey. Our early winter trip to Cabo San Lucas landed us in a spectacular hotel of the latter variety. Built 15 years ago for the affluent couples, retirees and celebrities who came regularly to this desert oasis, the Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, is now trying, with some success, to attract family travelers.
Many of Cabo’s newer resorts are located on an 18-mile stretch called The Corridor Region (or “Resort Corridor,” as some have christened it). This corridor stretches between the main towns of southern Baja: San Jose del Cabo on the east and Cabo San Lucas on the west. From the hotel, it is a short pleasant ride to town, and services like AMI are readily available, so you can easily get where you want to go. The friendly drivers and tour guides provide information about sites and events along the way.
Situated just off the southernmost stretch of Mexico’s Highway 1, the Westin is a dramatic structure, seemingly built out of — and into — the red clay hills and cliffs on which it rests. Architect Javier Sordo Madaleno blended stark modern lines with the sensibility of ancient cliff-side pueblos, resulting in two main towers that curve determinedly toward the Sea of Cortez. Between them, a soaring open space evokes “El Arco,” that most famous landmark in Cabo consisting of a large rock at Land’s End with a circular archway through its middle.
Since rain is uncommon in Los Cabos, the Westin has a large lobby that is almost completely open to the outside. Porters greet guests emerging from the van with bottles of chilled water and (for the grownups) frosty margaritas. From there it was a somewhat bewildering trip to our room — the lobby is technically on the fourth floor and we had to go down one floor, cross through the courtyard and then go back up on another elevator to reach our room; we got the hang of it after a wrong turn or two.
Our stay at the Westin Los Cabos was punctuated with exceptional service (a maintenance manager actually knocked on our door unasked, to make sure everything was working properly), friendly staff and lots of appreciated extras. Whether or not it was built as a family retreat is somewhat irrelevant — the question to ask is, “did we all have fun?”
Yes we did!
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Our Editor Loves
- Attentive staff
- Nighttime classic movies projected onto the arch wall
- Extensive spa and exercise facilities
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Onsite Dining
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With 223 villas including one Governor Suite and one Presidential Suite, it's hard to believe that every single one boasts an ocean view -- but it is true. Madaleno curved both towers in such a way that all windows are situated on the convex side facing the sea. We could enjoy the late afternoon vista of sapphire-blue water and a large swath of white sand from eight floors up.
The resort completed a multi-million-dollar transformation in 2017 and offers a variety of family-friendly villas complete with plenty of amenities.
The resort offers studio, one- and two-bedroom villas with king beds, fully equipped kitchenettes or kitchens, separate living spaces and private balconies. A big splurge on the Governor's or Presidential Suite provides up to 2,000 square feet of space, including a chef's kitchen. The balconies throughout the hotel are magnificent -- slightly low guardrails give you the feeling of being suspended in air. Although many thousands of children have safely enjoyed their lofty perch, the low rails might be of concern to some parents.
Much of our time nevertheless was spent out on the balcony, gazing at the sand and blue water below. Although we were about two weeks early for any serious whale watching, we looked for them anyway.
Just got home after spending 6 days at the Westin Resort in Los Cabos with another couple. Our suite was excellent—the ocean view was fabulous. Unfortunately, the sea in that part of Los Cabos is too dangerous for swimming (not just at the Westin, but for all resorts in that area), but the ocean front heated pools made up for it. The food was delicious and service was generally great, with the exception of one night at the Cocina, where it took an hour until we even got our appetizer, and 2+ hours to finish our dinner for 4! I don’t know what went wrong that night, but it was a singular occurrence, and they comped our drinks while we waited, so we decided not to let it spoil our trip. We enjoyed the Latin night and Mexican night buffets, as well as a breakfast buffet. We took the Baja Pacific transport to and from the airport because we were reluctant to rent a car in an area that was completely unknown to us— but after we arrived and discovered that there is only one main highway (you either go east to San Jose del Cabo or west to San Lucas), and drivers were not cutthroat as they are in some cities, we rented a car at the resort, which gave us freedom to explore. We attended a number of classes and activities at the resort. The staff were consistently helpful and present when we needed them. When we arrived, we discovered that one of our shower doors didn’t close all the way. Maintenance sent someone up within 15 minutes, and it was fixed within the hour. Jose, our water aerobics instructor, margarita instructor and all-around cheerleader, was a lot of fun, as was Carla. The valet staff drove our rental car to and from the parking lot multiple times a day, always with a smile. But most of all, we appreciated Rafael, our personal concierge, whose assistance and recommendations for out of the way restaurants, shops and activities were specifically tailored to our needs and preferences. Without his “guardian angel” help, we would have wasted much precious vacation time figuring out what to do and where to go. This was a first time in Los Cabos for all 4 of us, and we will definitely be back.
We are BonVoy members and stay with Westin/Marriotts all the time. I called in advance of my stay to ensure there would be a freezer in the room, because I needed the freezer to store breastmilk. That was my ONLY request. I was ensured that there would be a freezer in our room. Then, I arrived at check in and re-confirmed with the front desk that there would be a freezer in our room. They said yes. We went to our room, and there was no freezer. I immediately called the front desk and they said they would try and find a room with a freezer and would call me back in the room to confirm and move us. They did not call me back. I called the front desk back and they said there was no room with a freezer available. I am incredibly frustrated as I literally had no other requests and called in advance to confirm there would be a freezer in our room. I needed this freezer to freeze breastmilk to give to my infant. I am extremely disappointed with their dishonesty and false promises, particularly because this was a simple health-related request.
Pool and Kids Club
The resort has all of the kid-friendly extras that are expected at a world-class resort. One of the three pools are dedicated to families and family activities. The kids' club (open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily) has all of the usual amenities associated with its function as a quasi-childcare center: caring, attentive staff who love children, supervising them in a comfortable, if not overly large room filled with craft tables, books and a video viewing area. Next to the kids' club is a tennis court for more physical play. Parents of kids from ages 4 to 12 can drop off their kids (for a small fee) to have fun and be cared for while they take in a spa treatment, work out at the gym (with a view of the ocean) or go snorkeling. In-room babysitting can also be arranged for the evening, so you and your spouse can dine alone.
Putting Green and Movies
Yet more impressive than the kids' club, and likely to be remembered most vividly by kids, are the more casual experiences. The seaside putting green occupies the best real estate on the property, offering nine holes and lofty views from its bluff location on the beach's right side.
The full-service spa offers many special packages for families, mothers and daughters in particular. Check out their manicure and pedicure combination featuring the new trendy gel polish (stays on for more than a week). There is also a generously-sized steam room and sauna. Reservations for all services are highly recommended.
Exploring Sea Life
A sea-Lover's paradise, Cabo's Sea of Cortez is a long narrow gulf separating Baja California from mainland Mexico. The waters are exceptionally rich in sea life -- many species of whales, especially humpback and gray, as well as marlin, sea lions and the beloved dolphin call these waters their home. Sea turtles are watched over and fiercely protected here.
Although sport fishing is a huge industry in Cabo, we were more interested in simply getting as up close and personal with the sea life as we could. The concierge at the Westin can offer suggestions for the best scuba diving in the area; snorkeling equipment is available for a modest fee poolside from the towel concierge (who also dispenses a wide selection of sunscreen products).
Of course, a Cabo vacation should always include plenty of downtime in a lounge chair on the beach. The stretch of beach at the Westin is a marvelous combination of sand (with a slightly coarse grit that is nevertheless easy on the feet) and craggy-rock formations, where tide pools await to be discovered. The surf breaks hard directly onto the shoreline, with a current that can be very strong, so swimming in the ocean is not permitted.
San Jose del Cabo is a small, historic village dating back to the early 18th century. The layout and architecture still reflect its Spanish Colonial origins and the tiny streets radiating off of Plaza Mijares (the town square) are filled with fascinating art galleries, jewelry stores, and restaurants. Take a half-day excursion here and visit the Mission (Iglesia San Jose) and enjoy eating lunch. We loved Mi Casa, located in the heart of the Art District -- their mole offerings (such as El Manchamantelas de Morelia) are exceptional.
One afternoon we visited Costa Azul Beach, where High Tide Sea Expeditions' shop staff conducts group lessons for wannabe surfers. This is a great half-day activity for the whole family -- the fee for the lessons includes: transportation to and from the hotel; a two-hour lesson with CPR and First Aid-certified instructors; wetsuits, rashguards and water shoes; soft-beginner boards with rubber fins; and shaded chairs for the spectators. Up to 10 people per group are teamed with four instructors, who stay close to the younger surfers at all times.
Our favorite experience had to be Dolphin Discovery. Adjoining San Jose del Cabos' exquisite new marina (built over an old flood-prone soccer field), this "Dolphinarium" is a string of large rectangular tanks, or "lagoons" filled with sleek, well-tended dolphins. Surrounded by bay waters and minimally touched landscape, the dolphins appear to be in their natural habitat as they surface playfully just inches from delighted visitors on walkways surrounding each lagoon.
For a fee (not an insignificant one), you can actually swim the lagoon with the dolphins. Pay a bit more and you get a "Boogie Push"; the granddaddy "Royal Swim" gets you nearly airborne as two strong dolphins push your feet. This is something we would definitely come back to do again-and-again. And don't miss the spectacular Wirikuta Desert Botanical Garden nearby, filled with 1,500 different types of cactus (entrance included with Dolphin Discovery).
With four dinner venues and a market place, families have plenty of dining options to choose from. The restaurants feature classic Cabo dishes with a heavy emphasis on seafood. The meals we had were very good, if not over the top. Variety and impeccable service overcame any slight deficiencies in taste or preparation.
El Ciruelo is a slightly more casual restaurant offering Latin American cuisine. Incredible panoramic views of desert, sea and sunset don't hurt, either.
Located beachfront with a spectacular view of the Sea of CortÃƒÆ'Ã†'Ãƒâ€ 'ÃƒÆ'Ã¢â‚¬Â 'ÃƒÆ'Ã†'ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ'Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©z, Coralline offers a selection of light fare like shrimp and octopus cocktail Acapulco style, as well as burgers and more.
Cocina Casera offers an elaborate breakfast buffet as well as nightly themed buffets featuring a variety of international cuisines.
La Cantina Sports Bar
La Cantina Sports Bar serves up cocktails and sports bar-inspired fare. Gather together and cheer for your favorite team at this fun and festive spot with something for everyone, and set the stage for an awesome night.
Stock up on food and beverage staples-including fresh produce and meat, wine and various deli items-at Mercadito, or partake in the delicious Mexican barbecue tradition known as "fuego." Three distinct barbecue and picnic areas around the resort offer three grills each, ensuring there is plenty of space for you to prepare an unforgettable meal.
There are plenty of options for kids too, even those who aren't big fans of seafood or Mexican food. The usual fare such as mac-and-cheese and hamburgers is always available, and most of the restaurant menus have simple Mexican dishes such as tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Buffet breakfasts, with warm French toast, cereal and plenty of fresh fruit, are a kid favorite.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
If you like Starwood properties (which include Westin, Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridien, W and The Luxury Collection) be sure and apply for The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), a loyalty program that issues points and rewards with no blackout dates.
The Art of Smart Timing
Cabo San Lucas is located within Mountain Zone Time, and the region has a dry, arid climate with very little rainfall. In high season temperatures are between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (October through April) and in low season they run 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (May through September). Water temperatures average 72 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year and reach up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime.
Visitors fly into the Cabo San Lucas International Airport, which is about 30 minutes away from the resort. The only potential snag is navigating through all of the eager (or you might say aggressive) timeshare salespeople vying for your attention.
You should arrange for pickup with the hotel in advance or book transportation online. At the terminal, the Los Cabos Express shuttle (fee) runs to the Sheraton. Taxis, more expensive than the shuttle, are also available.
For Mom and Dad
While swimming or lounging in the infinity pool overlooking the sea of Cortez, swim up to the bar and enjoy tropical cocktails or a freshly made smoothie.