Whale season is getting underway in the Mexican Pacific, and Baja California Sur (BCS) is the place to be.
“The opportunities for whale encounters here are truly exceptional. We have the blue whale, the largest mammal on earth. We also have grays, humpback, fin, minke and pilots,” Bryan Jauregui tells Travel Agent.
Juaregui and her husband operate the boutique hotel Los Colibris Casitas, in Todos Santos. They also own Todos Santos Eco Adventures.
Todos Santos is a small Pueblo Magico, or Magic Town, located 45 miles up the coast from Cabo San Lucas. It’s about a 75-minute drive from the San Jose del Cabo Airport, and a 45-minute drive from Cabo San Lucas.
The destination attracts nature lovers and surfers throughout the year. But, whale season offers extra incentive to visit.
Humpbacks are usually the first whales to visit Todos Santos and environs. They arrive in October, stay through January and return in April. They’re known for their acrobatic breaching out of the water, to the delight of observers.
Gray whale sightings typically begin in BCS mid-January. The whales arrive to give birth in calm lagoons, then head back to their Alaskan feeding grounds with their young. It’s a 12,000-mile round trip. Encounters with them and their babies are nothing short of “transformative,” said Juaregui.
The whales give birth in Magdalena Bay, one of the most important wetlands ecosystems in North America.
“From the third week of January to mid-March, we have a two-day one-night trip there. We do six hours of whale watching in small boats. The mothers bring their babies up to us. You can put your hand out and touch them. To encounter these giant, but benign creatures in this setting is a spiritual experience,” said Juaregui.
Her company also operates a luxury tent camp on Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez. The island is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the world’s best marine and bird-viewing destinations.
More glamping than roughing it, Camp Cecil features tents with real beds and linens, furniture, showers, plus an on-site chef.
The product has already received international media attention.
“The reason that Camp Cecil has done so well in the first year is a combination of factors. We have a beautiful natural environment. Espiritu Santo is magnificent. All we have to do is make guests comfortable while they’re there. Everything is at a very high level, and guests appreciate that,” said Juaregui.
As for Todos Santos itself, Juaregui has seen its evolution firsthand.
“The artist Charles Stewart came here from Taos in the early eighties. This destination attracts artists because it has the same air quality as the South of France. The same light and thin, fresh air. After the artists came, that attracted a second wave of restaurateurs and chefs. It’s a small town, but there are fabulous restaurants here. Los Cabos is great if you want to have drinks around the pool. It’s a mass-market tourist destination. But, this is a completely different set up,” said Juaregui.
For clients who do want to have drinks around the pool, there’s a slate of hotel openings in the Los Cabos lineup.
Krystal Grand Los Cabos has debuted in San Jose del Cabo. The 454-room all-inclusive features four pools, a kid’s and teens club; fitness center; Eternity Spa; business center; eight meeting facilities and a wedding gazebo.
Guests booking the VIP Altitude suites have the use of private concierge services, a private swimming pool and access to the Altitude Club and Sky Lounge. The latter is atop the Altitude Tower, and offers rooftop views.
The hotel’s San Jose del Cabo setting offers a contrast to the party atmosphere of Cabo San Lucas.
“San Jose is such a quaint little town. You can walk around the cobbled streets, see the locals in the plaza," Theresa Tyo, owner of Camelot Journeys, says. "I’d definitely recommend that clients go for a visit, even if they’re staying in the hotel corridor. You can look at the art galleries, stop in and meet people in an authentic setting."
After the holidays, wellness travel is typically a big draw. The opening of Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos in January 2018 will make a well-timed addition to the hotel scene.
The 373-room luxury adults-only resort will feature suites ranging from 760 to 1,400 square feet. Amenities include round-the-clock butler and room service, aromatherapy, Apple TV, Bvlgari toiletries and goose down pillows.
In addition to four pools and an expansive fitness center, the property offers seven dining venues and 14,000 square feet of meeting space.
But like its namesake in Cancun, Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos is all about the spa experience. The spa on property is more than 29,000 square feet in size, and includes a hydrotherapy area, hot and cold plunge pools, a sauna and herbal steam room, ice room, relaxation lounge and 25 treatment rooms.
Though hotel options (especially on the luxury side) are expanding in Los Cabos, the property will deliver something unique, Kathy Halpern, vice president of sales and marketing for Palace Resorts tells Travel Agent.
“Wellness is such a huge experiential draw now. Our past guests have always indicated that they’d like us to bring the Le Blanc concept to Cabo. We have a lot of discerning clients from the west coast already. So, this is a natural step for us to come here,” said Halpern.
She added: “Look at this beautiful location. We not only have a spa, but an all-inclusive, adults-only property. You look at the choices we offer for dining. The fare is so unusual. The same client may want the spa menu one night, and a brick-oven pizza the next. It’s a complete experience that hasn’t been available yet in Cabo,” adds Halpern.