Crossing the Tropic of Cancer seems like it should be a momentous experience, with all the allure of the Henry Miller novel plus the bucket list quality of traversing a major planetary marker.
But while nothing mystical actually happens when you traverse this northern circle of latitude, you just might find yourself in an altered mind state, especially if you are on your way to the East Cape of Baja Sur California, where the lavishly quiet and still mostly under-the-radar development Costa Palmas promises an escape from the Los Cabos crowds on the swimmable edge of the Sea of Cortez.
While diehard geography fans might stop in the small town of Santiago to gaze upon sculptural monuments to this Northern Tropic, we had our sights set on Costa Palmas, which is less than an hour’s drive from Los Cabos International Airport and yet seemingly a world away.
The 1,500-acre, still-in-the-works development features a yacht-dotted marina, beach and golf clubs, a village with residences and a handful of stylish businesses, and is expecting the arrival next year of Amanvari Resort & Residences (the fourth North American property from the Aman hotel group and sister to Utah's famed Amangiri). But we are headed to the area's magnificent Four Seasons Los Cabos, which opened just a few months before the pandemic hit.
Arriving to this property is easy; leaving, not so much.
A Baja-chic aesthetic permeates the grounds where the landscape is thoughtful and fragrant, and interesting textiles provide pops of color against a palette of white, sand, pink, and the blue of seven swimming pools and the Sea of Cortez beyond. Guest rooms are designed for seriously chilling out, strewn with thick Mexican blankets and baskets, luxe Byredo Gypsy Water body products, upscale mini bars, and private pools at the bottom-floor suites.
It's enough to keep you tucked inside, but you'll venture out for onsite culinary offerings, each with its own appeal. In the mornings, grab a green juice at Ginger’s which also has air hockey and a game room. At lunch, choose from poke bowls and ceviche at El Puesto or gigantic salads and amazing tacos at Casa de Brasa. At dinnertime, catch the sun falling off the horizon at the lantern-lit Limón, which serves wood-oven-fired fare and excellent cocktails in a lemon grove.
(Courtesy of @mozzabaja)
Unlike in nearby Cabo San Lucas where holing up in a luxury resort for the duration of a trip is ideal, you'll want to hop on the water taxi for a five-minute splash over to the marina village, where you'll find a few small shops and casual dining options in what feels like a private island somewhere very far flung.
In the morning, order a superb avocado toast and legit espresso from Coffee Lab Baja at Casena, a grocery-coffee-shop hybrid that also sells a curated selection of linen clothing, handmade local pottery, and high end hats. The best meals are to be found at lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch at Mozza, the Baja outpost of chef Nancy Silverton’s popular Los Angeles–based restaurants. Reservations are required if you hope to get in on Mozza's greatest hits—antipasti, pizzas, pastas—in a playfully decorated space with an oceanfront breeze. After dinner, duck into Chiki, a nightclub and speakeasy inspired by Frida Kahlo’s Mexico City residence, Casa Azul. Martin Brudnizki's dazzling design will make you feel like you're having drinks inside a disco ball.
Back at the Four Seasons, there is also an 18-hole championship golf course, a 67,000-square-foot fitness center, and courts for basketball, pickleball, and tennis. The Oasis Spa is a dream, with a treatment menu that incorporates hot stones, aromatherapy, meditation, sound healing and yoga, as well as exclusive treatments from natural luxury skincare brands Tata Harper and Odacité. Parents need not sacrifice their leisure time: The Four Seasons' complimentary Kids for all Seasons program is practically legendary.
One of several cinematic spaces at Chiki nightclub.(Douglas Friedman)
But as easy as it is to just luxuriate on property, you would miss out on actually experiencing this part of the world, and some very unique adventures. Do not skip going for a hike in Rancho Ecológico Sol de Mayo. Located in nearby Santiago—a literal oasis with a natural mountain spring feeding organic mangos, avocados, and more—the ranch is a place to delight in a crashing waterfall, several swimming pools, and even a natural water slide. There are casitas available to rent there, as well as a small taqueria, if you prefer to make this magical place your home base.
If you're up for more of an adventure, the UNESCO World Heritage marine site Cabo Pulmo, less than 20 miles drive from the Four Seasons, is home to one of only three living reefs and the only hard coral reef in all of North America. Situated in the Sea of Cortez, which oceanographer Jacques Cousteau called “the aquarium of the world,” the site promises up-close encounters with sea life such as Mobula rays, turtles, bull sharks, and ample snorkeling opportunities. January through March, you can see migrating whales.
Cabo Pulmo National Park.