The Low-Down on Cabo's 3 Great Luxury Hotels

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico -- It's a frequent weekend getaway for such Hollywood celebrities as Jennifer Aniston, John Mayer and Gerard Butler. Eli Manning loved it enough to tie the knot there, and it was the honeymoon hideaway for hockey player Mike Comrie and former child star Hilary Duff. And despite the flurry of recent headlines regarding warring drug lords and violence along the U.S. border and other Mexican resort towns like Zihuatanejo, Acapulco and Mazatlan (all officially mentioned in the U.S. Department of State travel warning for July), Cabo San Lucas continues to thrive as an uber-luxury beach getaway.

Questions about Cabo in Internet chat rooms and on Facebook walls -- especially for vacationers going for the first or second time -- aren't about violence, but more like: "Do I stay at Esperanza, Las Ventanas or One&Only Palmilla?" These are the three great luxury resorts of Los Cabos, the ones that brought the region onto the five-star tourism map, where the highest room rates vie with those in St. Bart's and Maui.

If choosing alphabetically or just looking for the top luxury resort close enough to hit Cabo for a gourmet dinner, Esperanza is your best choice (even though the facilities will make you reluctant to leave). Located four miles outside the town, Esperanza Resort comes into view along a rocky shoreline with clusters of palm trees camouflaging earthy-colored stucco buildings, palapa roofs and heavy stone detailing.

Esperanza is the smallest and most spa-like of Cabo's three great luxury resorts. The gated, fortified entrance and thatch-roof porte-cochere promises a private seaside residential experience, and the rest of the grounds bear out that promise. There are just 57 rooms and an array of private residences among wandering pathways adorned with gardens and an impressive art and sculpture collection. There are three oceanfront pools, including a main pool area with a bi-level infinity edge -- more modern than you'd expect -- descending onto a private sand beach wedged between dramatic rock outcroppings. Rows of preening sunbathers indulge almost year-round, especially since they are advised against swimming; those dramatic rocks are pretty to look at, but less than ideal to swim among in choppy waters.

If the experience of Esperanza feels like a spa retreat you'd find along the Sonoma Coast, it's because it's owned and operated by Auberge Resorts, which also manages such properties as Auberge du Soleil, Calistoga Ranch and Solage Calistoga -- the top luxury resorts in the Napa Valley. Esperanza is a high-end spa concept in a Mexican landscape, a holistic retreat with freestanding spa that offers open-air treatment rooms and a beachside massage cabana only feet from crashing waves. Daily free yoga classes take place in a 1,000-square-foot studio, with outdoor showers and steam cave to follow. Food can be tailored for Hollywood dietary requirements, including raw or vegan options. After all that good health, visitors can go to the hotel's EL Bar to sample more than 100 tequilas and a cigar bar offering rare Cuban imports.

Farther down the coastline, a trip to Las Ventanas al Paraiso usually begins with a pickup at the airport courtesy of the hotel's fleet of specially blinged-out Mercedes G-Class SUVs. Visitors arrive at a dramatic, all-white court graced with cactus, a calm backdrop for staff hurrying about with luggage and silver trays of champagne or aqua fresca. An open-air reception with Dorothy Churchill-Johnson artwork and a mural by native artist Fernando Andriacci -- as well as glimpses of a brilliant blue ocean -- gives a Mexican Riviera feel. The native furnishings have a sophisticated feel without losing an inherent Mexican charm. The property is owned by Beanie Baby billionaire Ty Warner, who also owns the Four Seasons Hotel New York and Biltmore Santa Barbara, and managed by Dallas-based Rosewood Hotels, founded by Caroline Rose Hunt, who also operates New York's Carlyle and new Rosewood Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen.

Las Ventanas is all about service. It offers some of the best one-off amenities known in the hotel business. The free-form pool area facing one of the area's more swimmable beaches (though swimming is still not advised) looks like an architectural watercolor, but what caps the glittering sunbathing scene are the pool butlers serving the latest tabloid with frozen-chocolate sorbet cups and lemongrass popsicles. If that's too much interaction, hammocks on the sand offer private siestas; sleeper are awoken at a set time by the light rattle of a teponaztli drum once used by Aztecs. For even more privacy, the hotel has its own three-yacht fleet for private excusions a la James Bond.

Slightly larger than Esperanza, Las Ventanas' 71 rooms feature an Aegean-meets-Sea of Cortez feel with mostly white living and sleeping areas inlaid with intricate mosaic stone detailing, rafter ceilings and wood-burning fireplaces facing the occasional outdoor plunge pool or rooftop Jacuzzi.

 Cabo
One&Only Palmilla Resort's Cortez Suite is most frequented by Hollywood actors and biz execs.

Farther from Cabo San Lucas is the resort most frequented by Hollywood's celebrity circuit. One&Only Palmilla dazzles at the original location of the famous Palmilla Resort that hosted luminaries Jean Harlow, Bing Crosby and Ernest Hemingway back in the day -- and, more recently, Tom Cruise, Oprah and John Travolta. Visitors arrive to a compound built for privacy, including incredible security gates that open to a promenade driveway of majestic king palms usually seen from from the window of the in-house Hummer. A triple-arch porte-cochere leads to the main lobby. The hotel's original infinity edge pool also still exists, seen from a reception area overlooking a private beach with waterfalls and a swim-up bar.

The Spanish Colonial details of the historic resort have not been lost on ever-posh One&Only, which uses sexy ad campaigns to attract the world's rich under-40 luminaries. It also plays up recognizable names, which are common at Palmilla. There's an outpost of Market restaurant, the first foray south of the border by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Vongerichten also oversees the Suviche Restaurant and Lounge, which specializes in sushi and ceviches by Japan-plucked prodigee Nobuo Iwaseya.

Rooms at Palmilla are the priciest of the three hotels mentioned. Beachfront rooms offer a 24-hour butler in rustic contemporary spaces with infinity pools and Lady Primrose bath amenities, which seem to be the norm in these parts. Style mavens will want to splurge on Villa Cortez -- the price of a used luxury car on a per-night basis, but fit for a rock star with private kitchen, outdoor entertaining area with firepit and rain showers, and even a sound studio. So will anyone looking for the best high-roller suite in Cabo.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

RELATED STORIES:



Follow TheStreet.com on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.

More from Personal Finance

Summer Travel: The Best Places to Visit in the U.S.

Summer Travel: The Best Places to Visit in the U.S.

9 Best Investment Books for Beginners

9 Best Investment Books for Beginners

How to Calculate Your Net Worth and Pin Down Your Financial Health

How to Calculate Your Net Worth and Pin Down Your Financial Health

The Best States for Millennials' Money and Health

The Best States for Millennials' Money and Health

U.S. Banks Urged to Make Small Loans In Competition With Payday Lenders

U.S. Banks Urged to Make Small Loans In Competition With Payday Lenders