Somewhat exposed showers (in rooms) may put off some who prefer more privacy
Tucked away along the Sea of Cortez near Baja's capital is this 115-room luxurious (and yet affordable) resort with panoramic views in all directions. Amenities run rampant with three pools, access to La Paz Beach, an 18-hole golf course, a private marina, and a spa. If that's not enough, there's tennis, a yoga deck, and free use of non-motorized water sports (though the selection is limited). Rooms have slightly exposed walk-in showers and masculine decor, but guests can step out onto balconies for cheery vantage points. Open-air restaurants -- like Steinbeck’s, which boasts a boggling number of tequilas, and the Beach Club for stellar sunsets -- serve quality decor. The resort often hosts weddings, corporate groups, and romantic weekenders -- meaning it might not be the best pick for some families.
A retreat-like setting with attractive surroundings and a charming staff that's better suited for adults
Arriving to CostaBaja is part of the adventure; the massive 550-acre resort (and attached residential community) is enough removed from La Paz's central hub to make it feel special. Guests, if coming from Los Cabos, do not have to drive through the city, but instead can take an inland route through desert-y mountains dotted with cactuses that feel rugged, and, yes, wonderfully Mexican. It can be a bit confusing finding the entrance due to poor signage, but eventually, a turnaround entrance between two marinas comes into view. A valet attendant will assist with luggage as guests are led into a chic open-air lobby. The pool on the other end will distract, surrounded by healthy palms and bright flowering plants, but few crowds. West Coasters, Canadians, and Mexicans are common here -- many for three- or four-night getaways. The golf course designed by Gary Player is a big draw, and the hotel often hosts business and yoga retreats, and weekend weddings, so it's natural for everyone to spread out.
After a day of activities -- or, you know, sipping mojitos at the Beach Club -- guests can return to the rooms, change clothes and head to Steinbeck’s. A guitarist might be playing on the terrace as sunset turns to dusk -- which can be especially pretty when the moon rises above the hills (if lucky, a full moon). For some it can be an early night to bed; for others, mingling guests and boaters might end up together in the marina for an impromptu nightcap.
A natural setting with fewer tourists that Cabo San Lucas
The resort is located just a few miles from the city of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. This is on the east coast of the peninsula facing the Sea of Cortez, which is known for calm waters and frequent whale sightings. While most tourists flock to Los Cabos, three hours away by car, this part of Mexico feels like a secret gem. Water enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities for fishing, snorkeling, and diving, and golfers can use the resort's par-72 course with spectacular views. Boaters docked in the marina can access numerous islands nearby, including the uninhabited Isla Espiritu Santo, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Many will arrive by Los Cabos International Airport and drive north. Make sure to have good directions beforehand as signage is not always clear. For quicker access, guests can fly into La Paz's Manuel Márquez de León International Airport. There is free parking at the hotel, and also a free shuttle that makes regular trips to downtown La Paz. Malecon Road, in particular, is a newer stretch of sidewalk that opened in 2004 with restaurants and shops.
Contemporary rooms have darkish decor and open-style bathrooms
There are 115 rooms and suites in the hotel section of the resort. While sleek and contemporary, decor is a bit dark and masculine with deep blue headboards, pale blue walls, and wood furnishings. They are not very spacious in size, especially considering that the showers (with semi-frosted glass for privacy) are next to the beds. Other amenities include 42-inch flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, coffeemakers, working desks, bathrobes, and furnished balconies with views ranging from the pool, to the golf course, marina, or sea. There are Double Room and King Room options, while Suites have separate living rooms, kitchenettes, and bigger terraces with sea views. These bathrooms have bathrobes, double vanity sinks, and showers and separate tubs.
Showers and hot water may have some minor issues that need to be reported. It should also be noted that toiletries do not include conditioner.
The beach club, with free access for guests and amazing sunsets, is a highlight.
Three modern pools are accessible for guests at no charge. For exercise, a narrow lap pool overlooking the marina is located next to the fitness center. The main pool is in front of the hotel next to Mosaic restaurant and has pretty surroundings with flowering vegetation and palm trees. There are lounge chairs and umbrellas for shade and a bar is set-up here, but it is only in operation during peak capacity or private events. This pool tends to stay quiet, as most prefer the Beach Club's infinity pool (and hot tub) -- a short walk from the hotel -- that has views of, and easy access to, the sea. The vibe here is fun, and guests can mix and mingle with club members and marina boatsman, and order food and drink (the bartender makes signature cocktails). The beach in front has calm turquoise water and white sand, though some seaweed and rocks are visible. Whales and neat exotic birds are often visible in the distance, and sunsets are not to be missed. There are modern lounge chairs in the sand, as well as a fire pit. A small selection of basic water sports are laid out by the shore, but there are no stand-up paddleboards.
The resort's top-notch golf course opened in 2010 and has 18 holes -- 14 of which have gorgeous views of the sea. This is the only Gary Player Signature course in Mexico. There is a beautiful club house, pro shop, driving range, and lessons available.
The resort has its own 250-slip marina for vessels 30 to 200 feet. This comes equipped with 24-hour staff and security, and a fuel dock.
Near the entrance is the indoor Espíritu Spa with four treatment rooms and a number of signature treatments, including massages, facials and salon services. The small fitness center has big windows for natural light and offers a few cardio machines, free weights, yoga mats, and exercise balls. There is a nice terrace next to the lap pool for stretching or self-practice. The resort hosts occasional yoga retreats.
The front desk can arrange excursions like snorkel tours, deep sea fishing, and swimming with whale sharks.
Free Wi-Fi is available throughout, and there are some bright spots in the lobby for pulling out the laptop if the rooms seem too dark during the day.
Three main restaurants and a club house for golf breaks
The main restaurant is Mosaic on the lower level underneath the lobby and adjacent to the main pool with indoor and outdoor seating. It serves a buffet breakfast every morning starting early (though the selection isn't as big as those at other resorts of the same size). For lunch, if at the hotel during the day, guests typically head over to the Beach Club for its atmospheric bar and restaurant with shaded and sunny tables. Here staff offers fresh seafood (excellent ceviche) and bar food until after sunset. Nightly drink specials are offered every day for a limited time with two-for-one pricing for wine, beer, and cocktails. Steinbeck’s -- named after John Steinbeck who based his novel The Pearl on his visit to the region -- has gourmet California cuisine and an impressive collection of tequilas (one of the largest in Baja California with over 400 labels and rare reposados). LaPintada Restaurant is the restaurant at the golf course club house with sweeping views, open for breakfast and lunch only.
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