Big resorts dominate the tourist corridor between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Travelers looking for peaceful alternatives to the behemoth hotels that front this Sea of Cortez stretch will be happy at the area’s smaller boutique resorts, which hone in on service and local style.
One & Only Palmilla is an ultra-luxury resort, shrouded by jungle, located on swimmable Pelican Beach. Nearly every detail here feels perfect, from the two beautiful pools (one with an infinity-edge, waterfall, and swim-up bar) and wonderful restaurants (including a steak house by Jean-Georges Vongerichten) to the 173 massive rooms with terraces, elegant bathrooms, and rustic-contemporary style. Some rooms have hot tubs on their terraces or small lagoon pools, while others include private butlers. Unpacking, garment pressing, daily snacks, and above-and-beyond turndown service come standard. All in all, One & Only Palmilla has the five-pearl game down pat, and with a six-to-one staff-to-guest ratio, it's impossible not to feel pampered here.
Casa del Mar Golf Resort & Spa is a lovely luxury hotel with a quiet vibe and serene gardens. It's a tranquil alternative to the area's many mega-resorts, and has most of the same great amenities: there are multi-level pools, a pleasant spa, three a la carte restaurants (plus 24-hour room service), and a swanky bar. A small, private beach club is located on the white sands overlooking the Sea of Cortez, though rough currents can make the water unsafe for swimming. All 50 guest rooms are suites (starting at 450 square feet) and come with teak furniture, Mexican art, flat-screen TVs, balconies, and ocean views.
In an area of Los Cabos that's full of ultra-luxe condos and surfer crash pads, this tiny, tucked-away hotel is the definition of a hidden gem. The 14-room boutique is set on one of Los Cabos' few swimmable beaches. It's a humble spot, with no active bar scene, though the stylish pool area, with hammocks strung from palm trees, and casual terrace restaurant both offer places to hang out. Rooms are individually designed, with rustic hardwood furniture, free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and bathrooms covered in vibrant Mexican tilework. All rooms have at least partial sea views from terraces. There is a highway behind the hotel that's a bit noisy, but the surf is the loudest sound at night.
Cabo Surf Hotel is a seriously cool, eco-friendly boutique hotel with an extraordinary beach setting. Sunrises from the property are not to be missed and early risers can often also expect to see surfers arriving to ride the first waves. Most guests spend the day at the two infinity pools or using equipment from the top-notch surf school (rentals available), playing frisbee, or just lounging. The sound of margaritas shaking starts in the afternoon, and as sunset turns to dusk, the restaurant attracts a lively crowd (as at the beach, expect both locals and tourists). Both pools light up for evening swimming, and cooler nights provide the perfect environment for a dip in the two hot tubs under moonlight. Many of the 36 beach-chic rooms have kitchenettes, and all have private balconies, some with stellar sea views. A spa and a fitness center are on-site, and free yoga classes are held every week.
Chances are that if you tell people you're staying at the Tropicana Inn, they'll know the place. With its bustling sidewalk cafe, a well-known restaurant with live music and dinner shows, and an enviable location right near the town's main plaza, this quaint hotel has made a name for itself. There's nothing fancy about the property, but it's intimate and well-kept, without any pretense. The 39 rooms are simple but pleasant, with a blend of rustic and more elegant details, as well as with air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, bottled water, and mini-fridges. After the popular restaurant and cafe, the hotel's lovely courtyard pool is a close runner-up when it comes to features.
On a cobblestone street in the town's historic center, the budget hacienda-style El Encanto Inn & Suites is ideal for families and couples looking to relax and experience Old World Mexican charm. The hotel is close to historic churches and the vibrant Art District, but is a 25-minute walk to the beach. The hotel has 27 rooms are split between two buildings, with the major differences being price, proximity to the pool, and views. Rooms in the inn building have no views except for the street or the small garden area, while rooms in the main building overlook the pool and tropical gardens -- but cost more. All rooms feature wrought-iron and carved-wood offset by vibrant art pieces, as well as standard amenities like TVs, coffeemakers, and air-conditioning. Like many boutique hotels, the small El Encanto Inn doesn't have a ton going on, but the lovely pool terrace, tropical garden, courtyard, and chapel make for a nice list of features.
Casa Natalia is a wonderfully executed 16-room boutique in downtown San Jose del Cabo. Everything from the quaint lobby with original artwork to the on-site restaurant has charming local flair. Even standard rooms are spacious, with living rooms and hammock-clad terraces. The only way to beat the heat on-site is an attractive but small pool that's walled in (read: no views), but the beach is only a short drive away.