Courtesy of Acre Baja
In Mexico's Baja California Sur, luxury meets adventure and dreamy boutique resorts meet farm-to-table restaurants. Renowned chefs intertwine fresh and simple local produce with modern culinary adventures, resulting in an itinerary that's as easy to pack with memorable meals as it is with activities out on the water.
Having seen jaw-dropping images of the endless white-sand beaches that don the southern tip of Baja California, my initial thoughts of my first trip to Cabo were filled with preconceptions of how the trip would unfold. Given the opportunity to explore the hidden gems of one of Mexico's most popular regions was a pleasant surprise, however, and much of said exploring was done with a knife and fork in hand.
From boho-chic outdoor restaurants and beachside taco shacks to cosmopolitan bars, here's where to dine, drink, and stay in Baja California Sur, whether it's your first trip or one of many.
Acre Restaurant and Fausto's Diner
Courtesy of Acre Baja
Starting close to the heart of popular San José del Cabo, we ventured inland just a few kilometers from the coast down a winding, dusty dirt track until we arrived at a lush oasis tucked away in the jungle named Acre. We were greeted by the resident peacock perched high in his tree at the entrance, which he climbs every evening in time for sunset. The owners have affectionately named their casual eatery after this beautiful bird; Fausto's is a very cool Mexican twist on a classic American diner and the perfect place to start your day enjoying artisanal delights from freshly roasted coffee to pastries and granola bowls.
Courtesy of Acre Baja
If escapism was going to be the theme of the next five days in Baja, then Acre was the perfect place to begin. Beginning life as a rustic-yet-glamorous restaurant set among acres of jungle, the property now boasts 12 tree houses which fade seamlessly into the thick canopy of palm trees and vegetation to ensure complete privacy — an important detail when you consider the outdoor shower perched 40 feet above the jungle floor.
With the understated tree houses camouflaged into the scenery, it is the restaurant which remains the centerpiece of Acre — lit largely by candles and lanterns and resembling the look and sound of an Aztec nightclub, its chicly dressed diners leave you wondering which celebrities might be enjoying some time away from the spotlight as they indulge in the finest Mexican twists on local farm-to-table produce.
We began our night with a journey through the history of mezcal, learning all about the unique flavors produced from Mexico's many varieties of agave as we sampled numerous mezcals produced exclusively for Acre. If you're brave enough, sample the favorite local mezcal accompaniment — garlic-toasted grasshoppers — a real must-try as you settle into jungle life.
Patricia Mendoza Art Space
For our first full day, a lazy morning enjoying the property's tranquil infinity pool and meeting the numerous animals who call Acre home, including the puppies at its rescue adoption center, was followed by a short drive into Cabo to meet a local art gallery owner. The beautifully restored building which houses Patricia Mendoza's gallery displays an eclectic mix of pieces and is the perfect place to discover some of the area's history and personality through the works of local artists while enjoying wonderful mezcalitas prepared by the gallery's resident mixologist. Mendoza, herself a mezcal aficionado, has used the gallery's outdoor area to create a beautiful bar and event space.
For a true culinary delight in downtown San José Del Cabo, we next headed to Don Sanchez restaurant and let chef Edgar Roman prepare an ad-hoc degustation menu paired with wonderful local wines. Living in California, I am no stranger to a taco worthy of a Michelin star — but Roman's surf-and-turf taco is the first time a taco has ever made me curse with pleasure.
Coyote at El Perdido
After two nights at Acre, we headed north along the west coast, beyond Cabo and stopping just short of Todos Santos at El Pescadero as we arrived at El Perdido. With only a wooden road sign asking "Are you lost yet?" and understated exterior walls, you would be forgiven for wondering if you've really arrived at your destination, however, as soon as the wooden door is opened and you are greeted with your welcome cocktail, you are quickly left in no doubt that you've arrived in paradise.
I cannot overstate the amount of thought that must have gone into the overall design of this boutique resort. From the moment you walk onto the property, you get the unquestionable feeling that you will never want to leave. Set among the desert, it is reminiscent of an oasis mirage — a sprawling kitchen greets you upon entry, which has been sunken below ground level, allowing your eyes to meet the inviting blue water of the pool beyond, lined by beautiful sun beds with deep, white mattresses hanging over the water. There are just seven private villas (called jacales, or huts), beautifully crafted from cool concrete, wood, and bamboo and filled with locally sourced furnishings.
El Perdido is full of surprises, perhaps none more than the beautiful wooden "lookout tower" offering 360-degree views across the desert and out to the ocean with a deep, sprawling jacuzzi at its base. It really is the perfect place to watch the sun set over the Pacific. But my personal favorite surprise was being led from the main hotel lobby to an unassuming door, behind which sits Coyote.
With its tables organized among rocks and desert cacti, an Airstream trailer illuminated by "Coyote" in red neon lights sits at the center of this intimate restaurant. Chefs Victor Tafoya and Kevin Barrera Madrigal serve elegant yet hearty food changing with the season; in fact, they advertise their menu as "seasonal sea cuisine."
The man who brought this desert dream to life, Polo Perez, wanted to create the concept of getting lost in whatever makes you happy, be it simply reading a book from your hammock, enjoying an open-air bath under the bright Mexican stars, learning to cook a host of new recipes in your private kitchen, or, for the more energetic, loading one of their Polaris ATVs with a surfboard to enjoy the epic local breaks or joining a game of volleyball on their beautiful private court. Perez has succeeded in creating a masterpiece of a boutique resort which accomplishes exactly that, and I cannot wait to go back and get lost there again.
As much as you might not want to drag yourself away from your villa, there are many reasons to take one of the hotel's Polaris ATVs and explore the variety of diverse options that sit on the doorstep of El Perdido. Those seeking an adrenaline rush can book a surf lesson from the guys at High Tide at Los Cerritos beach and enjoy the free-spirited vibe of this renowned surf break.
Make sure you reward your efforts in the white water with a trip to Barracuda Cantina, an incredible tiki bar and surf shack where you can order fresh shrimp and fish "surfer's burritos," which will easily rival the size of the biggest wave you've seen from the beach.
Santa Terra Oystera
Courtesy of Santa Terra
Those wanting a brief reminder of the city life they are escaping can head to Baja's most cosmopolitan oyster bar, situated in the heart of Todos Santos. Just a short stroll from the original Hotel California, Santa Terra brings a modern elegance to a historic Mexican town. Here, you can enjoy Mexican versions of oyster bar classics including a wonderful local po' boy and lightly battered calamari while a roaming oyster server shucks beautiful, creamy local oysters.
Courtesy of Jazamango
Just a stone's throw from the center of Todos Santos, guests of Jazamango are greeted by a long, lush green driveway flanked by an orchard which leads to its beautiful open dining space. Here, chef Javier Plascencia has fully embraced the farm-to-table concept as diners are able to see many of the dish's ingredients growing around them from the comfort of their dining chair. Joined by a resident baker and local mixologist, Javier has created a menu bursting with flavors and fusions which make the most of his surrounding gardens. Try the passion fruit aguachile, wood-grilled chocolate clams, and beef tartare, and be sure to wash them down with a perfectly crafted house cocktail, like the Jazamango Gin, which is garnished with herbs from the garden.
El Mirador Oceanview Restaurant
Our final stop as we ate our way along the Baja peninsula was the spectacular El Mirador. Perched high on a cliff above Todos Santos with breathtaking views out across the ocean, you will struggle to imagine a more perfect location to enjoy a sunset dinner and cocktail. Arriving along the winding clifftop path which guides you to this dramatic, thatched-roof building, El Mirador is the ultimate boho-chic tiki-hut restaurant and easily the most romantic restaurant of our Baja tour. As the sun sinks into the ocean and illuminates the sky in fiery orange, the ocean breeze carries mouth-watering scents of fresh seafood across the restaurant — tuna tartare and mixed seafood pasta were wonderful choices to accompany the unique location. Music lovers should wait until Sunday and enjoy El Mirador's Live Jazz Sunsets from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. every week.