Review: Cabo’s Rancho San Lucas Feels Like a Gated Community in Paradise
The Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas is a private oasis built around a saltwater lagoon
Cabo is a classic vacation for a reason: it’s Cabo. Maybe the ocean isn’t safe for swimming, but it’s there, shimmering on the horizon, while the sun beats mightily on pools glistening with swim-up bars and plates of the freshest fish tacos around. The flight is just over two hours from L.A., and while Tulum might be the trendiest new hot spot, Cabo remains a tried-and-true original, year after year.
For any number of reasons (COVID-19 definitely being one of them), avoiding the crush of in-town Cabo and heading a little further afield of downtown is the move for 2021. Out in Rancho San Lucas — which is just off the beaten path, about 30 minutes from the airport — a private oasis awaits.
This secluded, 800-plus-acre “resort community” comes equipped with one clutch factor right off the highway: a guard booth. No one goes in or out of “The Ranch” without owning property, booking a room or obtaining a special guest pass from someone on the inside. It’s the perfect hack for showing up to one of the most chaotic party towns in the country and trimming the guest list way, way down. Complete with an 18-hole golf course designed by the legendary Greg Norman — with ocean views at every hole — it’s easy to see why so many people get hooked on spending time in this part of Mexico.
Visiting the Grand Solmar Hotel in Rancho San Lucas is like staying at a resort within a resort: The property offers a bevy of on-site restaurants and bars, a saltwater lagoon for kayaking and stand up paddleboarding, and countless pools and hot tubs for swimming and lounging. With something for everyone, the sprawling grounds offer so much space that the property feels nothing but serene, even in the middle of the day. Here’s a rundown of exactly what makes this hotel our pick for your next trip to Cabo.
The absolute bounty of pools, swim-up bars and that stunning saltwater lagoon
The number-one reason to visit Cabo is and always will be lying by the pool, followed directly by having a very boozy daytime drink in and around said pool. Sometimes, though, the resort pool experience can be marred by either screaming children ready to jump and splash, boisterous twenty-somethings on the prowl or senior citizens who glare if you so much as have a conversation near them. The real problem with these three demographics is simply space, so Grand Solmar solves for X by providing four or five separate pockets of pools and bars. That means if the screaming children arrive, you can simply meander on over to the adults-only pool. And if things escalate there, mosey down to the sandy beach by the lagoon and laze in some saltwater until the sun goes down. You can always hit one of the property’s many hot tubs for a soak before dinner, too.
On-site restaurants like Anica offer a serious fine dining experience, with mixology, wine pairings and even vegan options
Don’t head out to The Ranch thinking it will all just be burgers and campfire food — there’s not one but two formal, sit-down restaurants on the property. Bacari offers themed nights like “country grill night” to provide an alternative to endless tacos and other traditional Mexican staples (although they have those, too), but also includes standard American entrees that will exceed any preconceived notions about “resort food.” On the even higher-end, their oceanfront restaurant Anica is a whole fine dining experience, with multiple courses and wine pairings, impeccable service and a chef-driven menu that can be altered to be completely vegan (!) at a guest’s request. The food here was on par with some of the best spots in L.A., so travel doesn’t have to mean sacrificing taste. Oh, and put in a request for a mixology class if you want to be wowed by how far Mexican bar culture has come past the standard cerveza, tequila shots and margaritas.
There’s a free shuttle for visiting downtown Cabo or other Solmar properties
Being in seclusion is all well and good, but human nature means wanting what we can’t have. Real adulthood is just accepting that and planning for it. So Grand Solmar offers their guests a complimentary shuttle to visit town if they’re so inclined, as well as the option to check out Solmar’s Land’s End property in that area. For guests on a longer visit, this option also offers a welcome change of scenery, and for newcomers, a chance to explore all that Cabo has to offer. If you make it down to Land’s End, make a reservation at La Roca around sunset for breathtaking scenery and another unexpected farm-to-table menu. The shuttle can also take interested buyers up into the residential areas of Rancho San Lucas to check out property and tour a model home.
A golf course designed by a pro with ocean views and a luxurious clubhouse
I’m not really a golfer, but if it’s good enough for Greg Norman, it’s good enough for me. The idea of riding around in a golf cart all day, drinking and eating snacks, playing music and hitting a ball while communing with nature has never been more appealing than when it comes with an ocean view. Rancho San Lucas’s course also employs Norman’s signature “least disturbance” sustainable design: the course transitions seamlessly into the natural landscape, keeping dunes and cacti intact and intermingled with the green. Before playing a round on the beachfront course, head up to the clubhouse and stock up on provisions, sunscreen, and roadies.
Solmar Hotels & Resorts is a second-generation, family-run business built by a plucky teenage immigrant
Sometimes, traveling to a tourist-driven city like Cabo can feel a little soulless. But learning the backstory of the Solmar hotel group helped me understand just how central hospitality is to the area. Solmar was founded in the 1970s by the late Don Luis Bulnes Molleda, a Spaniard who immigrated to Mexico City at 19 to work in a cannery there. After a few years, he was transferred to Cabo, and initially found the seaside town lacking in hospitality. Though he worked at the tuna cannery for years, eventually Don Luis began building a hotel empire that shifted the entire economic landscape of Cabo. Now, the family carries on running the company’s seven resorts in his stead, which means a stay at any one of Solmar properties is also a chance to support Cabo’s longest-running family business.
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