By Elina Fuhrman

Hoteliers in Los Cabos, on the Baja Peninsula’s Golden Corridor, keep upping the ante when it comes to hotel design. Every year, it seems a newcomer creates the buzz only to give room to another modern masterpiece to enter. 

Los Cabos is an unusual destination, it’s a story of two places: the new and chic Cabo San Lucas, and the historic 18th century San Jose del Cabo. Together, it’s the rare alchemy of the desert and the sea, old world and Instagram world, authenticity and pampering. 

Ultimately, it’s a popular playground for the rich and famous, and well-to-do wellness devotees who are looking for tranquility, full-service spas and don’t want to skimp on amenities.  In the last five years. Cabo has emerged as a design destination with world-class resorts, imagined by well-known architects like Olson Kundig of the Seattle Space Needle, who draw inspiration from the sea, the desert landscape and the rich Mexican heritage.

On a recent trip, we marveled at three exceptional properties, all part of the Marriott International luxury portfolio, celebrating the distinct nature and individuality of the area, and offering unique nuanced experiences set amidst bold contemporary design and unmatched service.

These stunning architectural hotels help make Los Cabos the hottest south-of-the-border destination.

ZADUN, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is Cabo’s most talked-about opening, tucked away amidst gently sloping dunes (hence the name inspired by the Spanish word “dunas”), along the dramatic coastline of San Jose del Cabo, with the sweeping views of the Sea of Cortez. 

It’s all about quiet sophistication here: life-affirming, rarefied experiences that come with blissful comfort thrown in. True to its name, Zadun is all about transformation and enchantment. The indoor-outdoor desert-meets-the-sea vibe is relaxed and understated, yet ultra luxurious and architecturally impressive.  

All 115 rooms and suites are actually full-blown homes, with patios, plunge pools and terraces separated from the bedrooms only by sliding glass doors. Inside, earthy hues that echo the dessert and the sea create a truly unique private retreat. Spa-like bathrooms with a deep soaking tub and indoor-outdoor shower, cashmere robe, incense and even your own attendant known as tosoani or dream catcher, are here to create magic and fulfill your every whim.  The décor is rich yet simple, artisanal yet sophisticated, drawing from the surrounding nature and creating a feeling of calm without any pretense. 

You feel the love in every one of Zadun’s three restaurants: to Mexican cuisine, its indigenous spices, traditional cooking, the modern twists and mostly, the caring hands of the chefs and their staff that prepare lip-smacking delicious and innovative dishes. The casual El Barrio pays homage to a Mexican market, with street-inspired casual food, colors, flavors and options that are impossible to resist; Humo, a moody dinner restaurant, serves steak and seafood and is adjacent to the Candil agave bar, where it’s not easy to choose from hundreds of tequila labels and other highbrow, aged and rare agave spirits.

The standout is Equis, a beachside ceviche bistro, helmed by Jeffrey Rodriguez, a 24-year-old wunder-chef from Peru. Every dish Rodriguez touches is a breath of fresh air; he artfully mixes and matches Mexican ingredients, his native Peruvian influences with Mediterranean and Thai flavors. The freshly caught seafood and the confident simplicity of its preparation as just as impressive as the swoon-worthy cocktail list.

When you want to take a break from indulging in food, tequila or beach, Spa Alkemia is your secluded refuge in a garden setting. An alchemy of luxurious oils, indigenous botanicals, desert clay and ancient rituals awaken your senses, restore vitality and melt away any tension. Gazing at the stars at night or watching the birds at sunset are other special moments that inspire you to surrender, feel and transform.

Zadun is the newest Ritz Carlton Reserve, the fourth in a collection of exotic one-of-a-kind sanctuaries in the most exquisite locations, known for deeply personal experiences.

SOLAZ, a Luxury Collection Resort

You can’t help but think that Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort, was conceived as a piece of art.  The year-old property has been turning heads since it debut in 2018 and is said to be a love letter to the region. Everything at this nature-driven resort is so strikingly beautiful that you want to Instagram each moment. 

Mexican visual artist Cesar Lopez Negrete traveled around Baja to gather inspiration for the art he created specifically for the resort. Lines are cleverly blurred between the indoors and outdoors here; yet modern sculptures and lush dry jungle don’t compete for attention, they peacefully coexist creating an haven of quiet but edgy modern luxury.

When you are not marveling at the resort’s sleek architecture, or its seamless flow with the dessert landscape, you will most likely be deciding whether to enjoy solitude at the plunge pool and the hammock in your own room, or mingle at one of this seaside sanctuary’s five pools.

There’s plenty more to do at the 34-acre masterpiece of a resort in the heart of Baja Sur, including a museum of indigenous natural and human history and a 10,000-square foot spa. Four restaurants serve innovative Baja cuisine and libations; but Misaki, one of Mexico’s hottest restaurants from restaurateur Edo López, serving fusion Mexican-Japanese cuisine is the standout.

JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa

Another architectural masterpiece, JW Marriott Los Cabos is a heaven for luxury lovers who appreciate modern design, fine cuisine and crave a bit of formality.  Separated from the sea by a 35-foot-tall dune, the smooth concrete and stucco resort frames the surroundings and creates an oasis with unparalleled views.  Every space you move through here, you see water; the architecture literally emphasizes both its power and stillness. Designed by Seattle’s Olson Kundig, JW Marriott is all about clean lines, dusty shades, picture-perfect spaces that simultaneously spark imagination and promote peace of mind. 

The 299-sanctuary-like guest rooms were inspired by the stillness of the surroundings, but without lack of amenities, of course. Blending in with the nature, they are purposeful and vast with custom furnishings, art, contemporary silhouettes, and a few pops of color that reference modern Mexico. Every one of these rooms has a huge balcony overlooking the sea. If the size of the resort seems intimidating, there’s an option: The Griffin Club.  The intimate 45-room boutique hotel within the hotel has its own sprawling azure pool, beach access, lounge and a screening room. 

Café des Artistes in residence serves up French twists on classic Mexican dishes, and is helmed by Chef Thierry Blouet, who spent years perfecting the concept. But it’s the Jasha Spa that you’ll fall in love with most, especially its modern take on the traditional Temazcal ritual, a Mexican sweat lodge. The ancient Aztec ceremony is believed to promote healing and wellbeing, and is said to be a powerful tool in facing your fears. The 21,000-square-foot major standout also features therapeutic vitality pools, a botanical garden, an indoor pool and private Jacuzzis, and a menu of dreamy treatments. The long infinity pool has the best view in the house, creating a visual connection to the ocean beyond.