Solaz, So Good: A Review of Solaz, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Los Cabos, Mexico
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All across the southern tip of Baja California Sur, hotels have been opening with dizzying frequency. Solaz, a Luxury Collection Hotel from Marriott, debuted in September and has distinguished itself as one of the top properties on the peninsula for points travelers.
During a recent trip to Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, I spent two nights at Solaz and discovered a serene desert escape on par with some of the peninsula’s more high-end five-star properties, like the nearby Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort, and the new Montage Los Cabos up the road.
We paid $525 (£21) per night for a superior king room. My folio indicated separate charges for a value-added tax (16%), a government tax (3%) and a daily service charge of 1,449 pesos (about £58).
About 30 minutes from Los Cabos International Airport (SJD), Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort, sits squarely between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas on a stretch referred to by some (real-estate developers, mostly) as the Golden Corridor. Solaz occupies 34 acres and faces a wide, pretty stretch of beachfront. It’s a knockout property, with even the most basic rooms overlooking the turquoise Sea of Cortez.
But you can’t just walk off into town the way you can at properties closer to San José del Cabo. The gated back entrance is accessed from coastal Interstate 1, and I can’t really visualize another way you’d get off the property, save for walking down the beach for a few miles.
From behind, the Solaz really isn’t all that attractive — and frankly, I felt like I was pulling up to a prison or secret government compound. The resort’s ultracontemporary aesthetic, with its stone towers soaring over “gallery”-level rooms and suites terraced into the hillside, is probably off-putting to some. And you won’t see any palm trees here. Instead, Solaz is landscaped exclusively with endemic vegetation — 145 species of native cacti and succulents.
But once I adjusted to the layout, which was definitely unconventional, I felt immersed in the landscape. I wasn’t just staying at a resort in Cabo — I was in Cabo.
Two days before I arrived in Cabo, I received a “fancy welcome letter” — according to TPG travel analyst Zach Griff, who helped with my booking — from the chief concierge at Solaz. It was the first sign that the service was going to go above and beyond.
My driver pulled right up to the open-air lobby, one of those rare spaces that physically forces you to stop, drop your suitcase, look around and take unusually deep breaths. The massive, museum-like lobby had reflecting pools, carved-wood seating and a glimmering gold César Lopez-Negrete sculpture of Baja California, among other sculptures by the Mexican visual artist.
While I waited for my room (I’d arrived around noon, because I’d been promised early check-in), I sipped my complimentary, nonalcoholic welcome cocktail — something with rosemary and grapefruit. But I only had to wait 15 minutes before my room in the main building was ready and I was escorted to the fourth floor by my designated “artisan butler” (their words, not mine, but apparently the butlers are artisans of butlery).
I don’t want to say my expectations were low, because they weren’t. But whenever I book an introductory-level room, I’m easily floored. And this room really wowed me with amenities like an oversized balcony and a floor plan exceeding 700 square feet.
All the furnishings and decor felt expensive: textured marbles, Huanacaxtle wood and another Lopez-Negrete wall sculpture above the king-sized bed with a cushioned bench at the end and eight (yes, eight!) pillows.
Above each nightstand were controls for the room lighting, two outlets and two USB ports. Only one console had the controls for the ceiling fan (at least as far as I could figure out) which was annoying. After all, when I’m not traveling to review hotels, I tend not to look so closely at every individual outlet.
The compartmentalized bathroom was unconventional and probably a bit polarizing: A large shower with both overhead and hand-held fixtures; a toilet room; and twin faucets over a wide, shallow sink basin and countertop that separated the entryway from the rest of the room. The bathroom areas were stocked with fragrant Le Chemin-scented BYREDO products and a separate vanity featured an adjustable mirror and four outlets for all of your styling and charging needs.
My room also had a well-stocked (and pricey) mini-bar area with international snacks (whole almonds, baked apple chips), premium liquors (Glenmorangie Scotch, Pierde Almas Espadín mezcal and Veuve Clicquot, to name a few) and local specialties like salted apricots and worm salt that you could probably pack up and take home as souvenirs if you never make it into town. The room also had a coffee and tea bar with a Nespresso and Tea Forte teas that felt a bit out of place in the bathroom but was otherwise a nice touch.
There was more seating than I knew what to do with (do guests ever really use the corner rocking chair, I wonder?), including a somewhat frivolous little table with two stools that looked better suited for a kindergarten (albeit a very fancy one) than an upscale resort, and room-length windows that flooded the space with light. With polished stone floors, neutral hues, warm woods and natural textures that evoked the scenery outside, my room at Solaz was a relaxing space to return to come nightfall, when I nursed my sunburns.
Some of the features I loved, but others were a little awkward. The furnished balcony with eclectic chaises was ideal for lazy afternoons lounging, but the hammock was totally unusable, because it was draped across the seating.
And there were a few issues, too. When I first checked in, the lights to the bathroom spaces didn’t work. I called down to the front desk and they sent someone up right away. Truly, the technician seemed to materialize instantly outside my door.
But it wasn’t an easy fix: The first person who came was able to get the bathroom lights working, but only if the bedroom lights were off. If the bedroom lights were on, the bathroom lights would shut off. They had to send two electricians who did, indeed, make it possible to turn all the lights on at the same time, but it took some time. I was sort of surprised they didn’t offer me a new room or some other compensation, but ultimately, I didn’t ask — and the problem was solved before dark.
Food and Beverage
One of the confusing things about this property was that it blended seamlessly with the residences and vacation club properties by the same name. Technically, the on-site Solaz resort restaurants included Cascabel (Mexican), Al Pairo Seafood Market and the poolside Mako, as well as the Arabica Coffee and Lounge which specialized in espresso-enhanced cocktails. (Order the Collins Supremo, with Tanqueray, Lillet Blanc, rosemary, soda and espresso for 220 pesos, or $11.50.)
But guests could easily stroll onto the adjacent vacation club’s property, home to chef Patron Emanuele Olivero’s Italian restaurant, La Deriva, open for dinner; Erizo, another casual seafood spot; and El Cardon, a Mexican restaurant known for its fired and grilled meats.
During my stay, breakfast was included in my rate, so I dined at Cascabel, the only restaurant technically at the resort to offer breakfast, both days. The standard rate is 600 pesos, or $32.
The buffet-style meal was well-presented and fresh, and there was a wide selection of international and traditional Mexican pastries; at least five fresh-squeezed juices and infused waters; gorgeous berries and a cook-to-order omelet station.
One of my favorite spots to drop by for a casual drink or light bite was Mako, which had poolside seating, swim-up bar seats and a standard bar. There were also waiters flitting around the pool chairs and taking orders all afternoon.
For dinner on my last night, I dined at Al Pairo. Because I was traveling by myself, I didn’t bother to make a reservation. I rarely have a problem scoring a seat or, at the very least, elbowing up to the bar. But the host at Al Pairo told me that the restaurant could only accommodate me if I sat at one of the chairs around one of the fire pits on the patio.
Nice in theory, but extremely hot and uncomfortable in practice. Without a proper table, I was forced to eat most of my plates on my lap or craned over a side table. They also seated another solo diner around the fire pit with me, and there was a lot of confusion about who had ordered what and whether or not we were sharing anything (we weren’t).
So lesson learned. But also the food was sensational, and a solid Earl Grey-and-Champagne-infused gin cocktail and plate of freshly-caught grilled shrimp aren’t things I’m ever going to complain about. Especially when, later, I realized the hotel did say reservations were required for Al Pairo.
In the name of journalism, I also ordered room service one night. It was extremely prompt and tasty, but my eco-friendly paper straw was still soggy by the time it arrived. For a shaved beet and fennel salad, guacamole and pico with chips, and a frozen piña colada, my dinner-in-bed cost 811 pesos (around $42.50).
If there’s one takeaway, it’s that the bar program at Solaz is second to none. The food was great, too, but it was the cocktails that really stood out. As I worked on this review in the days following, it was the cocktails I remembered best (like the 250 peso or $13 Luna Roja, pictured above, with Bombay Sapphire, Saint Germain and watermelon and cucumber juices) — and that made me really wish Solaz was an all-inclusive.
At first glance, the property reminded me of another Luxury Collection property, El Mangroove, on Costa Rica’s Peninsula Papagayo. The main difference being that at Solaz there was more swimmable space than I knew what to do with and an almost dizzying number of pool chairs.
Technically, Solaz had two heated, outdoor infinity pools (each one stretching to Olympic lengths) and two heated, outdoor children’s pools, as well as a whirlpool.
There were also a lot of reflecting pools that looked like swimming pools but aren’t.
But honestly, it was difficult to tell where the resort ended and the residences and vacation rentals began, so I’d be surprised if anyone actually prohibited access to the technically private, identical outdoor infinity pool.
Things weren’t cheap here — but one thing struck me as nothing short of miraculous.
The cabanas were free to use, and though you might have had to get to the pool by 6:30am for one of the super-primo poolside chairs, there was more than enough seating to go around.
Another standout feature was the spa. Of all three hotels I stayed at in the area, this was the one I decided to splurge on for a spa afternoon, because it was the only Thalasso therapy spa in Baja (meaning many of the treatments used seawater).
Called the Ojo de Liebre Los Cabos Spa, guests have access to a Himalayan-salt-block room that was beautiful, though I didn’t really know what to do with it (you just sit there, I guess) and a number of hydrotherapy pools, hot and cold whirlpool tubs, steam rooms, lounges and a miniature solarium. I spent 3,500 pesos (about $184) on one of the best 60-minute full body massages I’ve had in my l.i.f.e. With tax and the included 15% gratuity, that total came to 3,953 pesos ($207).
Pricey? Yes. Worth the cost? Yes. I’ve spent nearly that much on far less satisfying massages that didn’t include access to even remotely comparable facilities. You can also enjoy the spa without dropping a couple hundred dollars by booking a less-expensive treatment (salon services start at 390 pesos, or $20) or a day pass for $45 per person, plus taxes.
There was also direct beach access, a large, well-equipped fitness center and, oddly, a permanent exhibition (a museum of sorts, really) called El Gabinete Del Barco, which was anchored by a behemoth gray whale skeleton and displays a variety of other fossils and indigenous artifacts.
In the last hour before I had to check my bags and pack up, I decided to treat myself to a Bloody Maria (because Mexico). When the attendant came around to pick up my bill, he glanced at the receipt — where just my last name was printed — and said, “Melanie?”
I couldn’t believe he’d remembered my name from the day before. It was these moments — the receptionist at the spa saying, “Welcome back,” when I ducked in to see if I could afford the fancy sunscreen (I couldn’t) that made my stay truly special. I didn’t feel like I was staying at a Marriott — I felt like I was staying at an ultra exclusive beach club. And that I had been returning to that same spot for years.
Also, I didn’t realize until after I left and transferred to a far less relaxing all-inclusive up the road, Hyatt Ziva, that no small part of the peacefulness I felt during my stay had to do with the soundscape. Everywhere, soothing, barely noticeable but definitely there, music played in the background.
You simply can’t book a stay at Solaz and not feel compelled to relax and unwind.
All photos by the author.
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