Time-share pitches and beach vendors can be a nuisance
Stiff rules; late check-outs not granted
Too few umbrellas at the pools
Beach occasionally disappears during storms and high tides
Daily per-device fees for Wi-Fi
This time-share property with direct views of El Arco is the family-friendliest of the three Villa Group properties in Cabo San Lucas. Its 460 units -- with up to three bedrooms -- have neutral, understated decor, stocked kitchens, and balconies, many with ocean views. The property has outdoor pool areas and a waterslide, but umbrellas are difficult to obtain. All-inclusive packages are available and there are three restaurants, a grocery store, and themed nights with live shows; parents can rest assured that nightlife quiets down after 11 p.m. Beware of annoying daily charges for things like Wi-Fi, as well as time-share pitches. If there's room in the budget it's worth considering slightly pricier sister property Villa Del Arco, home to a luxurious spa -- though guests here also have access to it.
A mid-range and fun (but not party-hearty) time-share property with lots of groups and families
Villa Groups is a thriving Mexican resort company with eight properties in Mexico, including three on this stretch of beach near downtown Cabo San Lucas. Sociable Americans and Canadians of all ages typically check in and stay a week, so expect Saturdays to be bustling in the lobby. The majority of guests are families and groups in fun vacation mode, but it's not a place for party-hearty spring breakers. In fact, after 11 p.m. the hotel enforces quiet hours and most head off to bed. Social drinkers, fret not -- there are weekly themed events for interaction, and a sports bar. A big grocery store on-site also sells a full range of beers and liquors to store in the kitchens. Sales pitches for time-shares and spa treatments are often integrated into the activities, so be careful not to commit to anything while under the influence.
The layout of the hotel is perhaps its best attribute. Three separate yellow structures wrap around a large terrace facing the ocean and rock formations in the distance; cruise ships often dock next to El Arco. Guests will have to get to the pool early to snag prime seats as the best spots get taken before breakfast, though the pool enforces a no-reservations policy. The fight for umbrellas can also be a frustrating experience. Other than these minor inconveniences, it's all about kicking back and enjoying that view!
Beachfront location with direct views of El Arco, a short taxi to the town of Cabo San Lucas
At the southern tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula is Cabo San Lucas -- a beach town on the stretch of coastline collectively known as Los Cabos (The Capes). This has long been a popular vacation spot for sun-worshipping party seekers. Villa del Palmar is located slightly away from the main action, which is great for families looking for a big resort environment with more peace and quiet (beach vendors still make their way here, however).
The resort is part of a huge development with three resorts by Villa Groups, and it can be reached by the Transpeninsular Highway that connects San Jose del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas. Guests arrive to Los Cabos International Airport, about 35 minutes away, and either take a taxi or rent a car to get to the property. For those who choose the latter, free parking is protected by a gated entrance and security guard. There are several golf courses and excursions like whale watching and diving nearby, as well. Taxi fares from the hotel are quite high, but there are options to take a local bus that will save money for regular trips into town. Free transfers between Villa resorts take place in an authentic (and free) trolley.
Kitchen-equipped rooms ranging from studio to three-bedroom units, with modern, neutral decor
The resort opened in 1994, but it was last renovated in 2013 and things still look somewhat fresh. There are 460 units in four categories: Junior Villa, One-, Two-, and Three-Bedroom Suites. They have furnished balconies (many with ocean views), seating areas, sofa beds, and satellite TVs. Kitchens are equipped with breakfast bars, cooking supplies, cutlery, glasses, coffeemakers, toasters, and stovetops (though no ovens). There are modern furnishings and travertine tile bathrooms with tub/shower combos, but dated elements from 1994 are still present (such as fixtures, doors, and machine stucco on walls and ceilings). Decor is neutral and not especially memorable, but nice enough for this caliber.
Families staying in the Three Bedroom Villa Suite will be rewarded with a great deal more living space, large dining rooms, three bathrooms, washer/dryer units, and bigger kitchens with ovens. Terraces are spacious in these units, too, with sun loungers and whirlpool tubs.
The hotel implements strict overnight fees for extra guests, as well as late check-ins (4 p.m. during our visit) and early check-outs (11 a.m.). Also be wary of overpriced minibar items, which can be bought downstairs at the grocery store for less money. Laundry facilities are available near the grocery store.
Great outdoor pools, and access to the stunning spa next door
There are two separate pool areas in the resort's central expansive terrace, open during our visit from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. Both are family-friendly: one area has a shallow pool for toddlers, and the other has a whale waterslide plunging into the lower level. Sun loungers are available in both areas, and are lined up facing the ocean. Lounge chair reservations are prohibited, and the resort claims to remove items left over an hour, but that does not stop guests from staking their spots before breakfast. Umbrellas, which may also be used for the outdoor restaurants, are even harder to get. Towel cards are provided at check-in and guests must pick up and drop off towels at the pool each day.
Two tennis courts and a spacious fitness center with big windows are a highlight. There are plenty of cardio machines and weights, and nice locker and shower facilities. Attached to this area is the hospitality center where guests can relax in near spa-like surroundings before their flight. For actual spa treatments, guests at Villa del Palmar are free (and frequently encouraged) to make appointments at sister property Villa Del Arco's luxurious Desert Spa.
The lobby has a tour desk for water and land excursions, and an entertainment office for on-site reservations. Parking at the hotel is free, but Wi-Fi requires an annoying daily fee, per device. Laundry facilities are also available.
Fabulous views from the terrace toward a big beach that at times disappears with the rising tide
The beach is, for the most part, a major highlight of the resort. It is a wide open space with clean white sand leading to a deep blue ocean. Beach walks or jogs are a popular pastime and offer direct views of the famous El Arco rock formation, mountains, and cruise ships. There is a roped-off area in the water near the resort that makes it safe for swimming. The water gets deep quickly, so it’s not the best for toddlers, but adults and strong swimmers can enjoy the cool water -- a rare treat for the area as water conditions at other resorts in Los Cabos are too dangerous for swimming. The resort's lounge chairs are sectioned off from the public (in particular, vendors) but this does not stop salesmen for trying to get the attention of guests. It's best to bring headphones, a hat, and a book to avoid harassment. Sometimes, by unfortunate luck of the draw, the sea levels rise all the way to the edge of the terrace, and the beach is taken away (this can happen during storms and high tides).
All-inclusive packages, and a grocery store to stock the fridge
Suites are equipped with kitchens, which can be stocked by shopping for food and booze at the resort's grocery store across from the main entrance. Prices are a bit high, but the convenience is often worth the price (there is a Cosco nearby, as well). Guests on all-inclusive packages have access to buffet meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and can expect revolving menus and themed events. For instance, Monday is Mexican night and the buffet restaurant is adorned with festive tables and banners. After dinner there is a live cultural show with traditional dancing and guest participation (and yes, tequila drinking). Other dining options besides the buffet include the Sports Bar near the lobby, and a romantic, gourmet Italian restaurant with fine wines. There are also a taco bar, coffee shop, and ice cream bar. In-room dining is also available.
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