Passion Points: Escape
Before I arrived at Rancho Pescadero near Todos Santos, Mexico, I assumed the area was another Tulum, an off-the-grid hippie-chic paradise just a skip away from the glammed up shores of Cabo. I was wrong. Unlike in Tulum, where one tiny hotel after another lines the beach and travelers bob between them, sipping margaritas and buying caftans, Rancho Pescadero offers almost total solitude. Instead of Tulum’s calm Caribbean waters, the Pacific hurls powerful waves at the wide, golden beach. I saw only one other person taking a walk at the same time as I. The small town of Todos Santos, a ten-minute drive from the hotel, does share some similarities to Tulum. There are fun restaurants and cafes, and I would imagine in-season quite a hopping nightlife. Yet the focus seems less on the “scene” and more on the art. The area transformed into an artist’s colony in the ‘80s when American painter Charles Stewart decamped here, and it’s remained a hotbed for up-and-coming artists, both Mexican and American.
Rancho Pescadero opened in 2009, the brainchild of Lisa Harper, a Fortune 500 executive between positions, and an avid traveler. She initially purchased her land along the beach intending to build her own home but then decided to give running a small hotel a shot instead. Her instincts were good, and when the project opened with only twelve rooms, they were so consistently full that Lisa relinquished her own house, just next to the two-storey “hotel” buildings, to be transformed into fourteen additional rooms. The rooms are simple but comfortable, with smooth tiled floors, soaking tubs and large terraces. Lisa sourced many of the furnishings during trips to Bali then used the wrok of local artists to jazz up the walls. (Tip: if you love the art, hit La Galeria de Todos Santos [33 Calle Legaspi y Topete; 52 1 612 145 0500] and talk to owner Michael Cope.) Although the hotel lacks televisions, telephones and, for the most part, an internet connection (I was able to access the WiFi by the pool but not in my room), each room has an iPod dock and a basket full of old school board games. It’s a refreshing change to ignore the news and instead turn on some music, drink a margarita and challenge your partner to a game of Scrabble. Also unlike Tulum, you will have reliable electricity at night, triple-filtered water from the faucet, air-conditioning and functional plumbing.
What’s perhaps even more remarkable about Rancho Pescadero is its pricing. Given the gorgeous location and pretty rooms, you’d think the pricing would be quite high. Not so. Rates start at $185 per night and even during Christmas, they don’t go above $500 for the nicest suite. As a result, the clientele is a wonderful mix of younger couples and groups of friends who appreciate the setting but are, in general, quite a bit more relaxed than the more demanding Cabo types. The hotel’s staff is well-matched to this kind of guest and seem to know everyone’s first name almost immediately. No one ever asks you to sign a check when you finish your lunch or order a margarita by the pool. They know who you are and are much more interested in learning how you liked the day’s surfing lesson or if you’re joining yoga the next morning than handing you a bill.
Another element worth noting is the food. Rancho Pescadero recently hired away one of the rising stars at One & Only Palmilla, Rodrigo Bueno. His food is gourmet yet unpretentious, and he creates memorable takes on Mexican classics from his organic garden and local fish. If you’re feeling adventurous, skip the menu and let Rodrigo invent a series of dishes for you. After a week of eating excellent upscale Mexican cuisine in Cabo, I was blown away to discover that delicate chile relleno Rodrigo served me was the best bite of food yet. Pair that with a spectacular Baha sunset, and you can see what drew the resort’s owner and its already devout following of guests here – unspoiled Mexico presented in a totally surprising way. (52 1 612 135 5849; ranchopescadero.com)
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