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One&Only Palmilla––San José del Cabo

Km 7.5 Carretera Transpeninsular

As part of a huge golf course and real estate development on miles of land, One&Only Palmilla is not exactly intimate. With a promise of exclusivity and privacy, however, it gets more than its fair share of flashy celebrities and new money billionaires looking to find some quality time with friends, lovers, or family.

One&Only Palmilla

Located on the corridor between San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, the One&Only Palmilla sits on 250 acres of a 900–acre master–planned community including private residences and one of the best golf courses in the region. A five–minute drive on a winding road goes past part of the 27–hole Jack Nicklaus course to the tiled entrance. As I arrived, the staff greeted me with a welcoming smile and unique relief from the muggy afternoon: a frozen pina colada popsicle.

Distinctive Mexican deco art with strong Spanish influence is evident throughout the resort in delicately patterned wrought iron, pre–Hispanic stone sculpture, along with massive wooden doors weathered with age. One&Only Palmilla offers ten categories of luxury accommodations, ranging from the 20 oceanfront superior rooms (at a generous 500 square feet) to their 12 beachfront one–bedroom luxury suites at 1,400 square feet. All rooms are presented as Mexican style "casas" in single– and three–story buildings hugging the resort grounds, perched above the resort's partially swimmable beach.

From the covered entrance, all guests are escorted directly to their room for personal check–in service by their butler. Over 50 butlers give 24–hour service to the 172 rooms and suites. Dependent upon your room category, you may share a butler with others in your casas or have your own personal butler. Personalized touches are helped along with the emailed preference checklist that guests complete before arrival. Based on your responses, your butler will take care to stock your favorites: Jack Daniels or Don Julio, fine European wine or local Mexican beer, fruits, or chocolate, starched or unstarched bed linen, or lilac or bougainvillea–scented aromatherapy.

The Terrace Junior Suites are decorated with what chic Mexican décor: soft warm neutral colors contrasting with an occasional bright splash of orange, green, red or pink. In these you can you enjoy the sweeping Sea of Cortez views throughout: from the spacious terrace, sitting and bedroom areas, and even from the bathroom.

Impressive baths feature a dramatic sculptured bathtub, rain shower, and twin vanity sinks. Standard amenities include flat screen satellite television, Bose system surround sound, voice and data lines, weathered wood writing desk and mini bar, and separate sitting area.

The grounds are beautiful and plush with shrubs, trees and flowers, almost as if the property was delicately etched into the vegetation. You will get your exercise walking as the property is spread out, but golf carts or bicycles are also available.

The original C restaurant created by celebrated chef Charlie Trotter was replaced in 2008 by the new Market restaurant from Jean–Georges Vongerichten. Judging by the crowds on weekends—even during the H1N1 scare season&mdashthe new version has been warmly accepted. It makes the most of local seafood, but concentrates on showy presentations under dramatic lighting. The wine list is extensive and private dining rooms can also be reserved. Settle into the romantic lounge for an after dinner drink in their comfy chairs with views of the sea and the pool.

The palapas–style Agua, overlooking the Sea of Cortez, offers more relaxed, casually elegant dining. A fireplace and serenading musicians set the mood for a menu tagged "Mexiterranean." Besides the great seafood, I found the pizza surprisingly tasty, served on freshly baked, crusty focaccia–like bread with several choices of toppings. Alfresco dining is available amidst palm trees by the fountain courtyard. Moonlight tables just off the courtyard can be reserved that include a visit from the chef.

Healthy–conscious folks will be rewarded with tasty menus at One&Only's Spa, with a menu planned by Moroccan–bornLarbi Dahrouch, who also is at the helm at Aqua. Think spices, lemongrass, and citrus instead of fat and calories.

Adjacent to the historic Palmilla chapel, the phenomenal Spa at One&Only is a one–of–a–kind, 22,000 square foot retreat. Once you check in, you weave your way through a maze of six secluded buildings with 13 private spa villas (including six double villas). Your private villa features red tiled roofs, whitewashed walls, and outdoor fountains and gardens. Inside the air–conditioned villas are the treatment rooms, with a sensory float bed and a connecting changing room. Your sanctuary includes an open–air garden with outdoor rain showers for two, whirlpool baths and palapas–covered Mexican daybeds.

one only palmilla villa

In late 2008 the resort added a spectacular private villa to the grounds with its own infinity pool and huge terrace on the water. The rates start at $8,000 a night in low season for Villa Cortez, but you do get a staff of 12—including two chefs—. There are four bedrooms and spectacular baths, some with a brass telescope for whale watching or stargazing. There's a full office with leather floors and all the needed gadgets to make some day trades to finance the room tab. A private theater that had an investment of a million dollars in soundproofing has 1,500 movies queued up, with a screen that's as wide as the room itself. You also get a private exercise room and massage room in the complex.

To sum up the experience at One & Only Palmilla, I can only say this resort is decadent luxury at its best, from the personal butler service to sumptuous cuisine to pampering spa treatments. For a full–service resort with all the trimmings, this is a hard one to top.

Web Address: www.oneandonlyresorts.com
Total Number of Rooms: 173
Published rates: $450 to $12,000

Review Diana Rowe, photos and updates by Timothy Scott.

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