by Erika Kotite
When a discussion of the best Mexican seaside resorts for families comes up, most immediately think of Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel or Acapulco. While all of these destinations offer fantastic experiences for families, there is another part of Mexico well worthy of notice: Los Cabos.
This southernmost tip of Baja California boasts an impressive roster of resorts and is easily reached via several airlines including Alaskan, Continental, Delta and United. Known just 20 short years ago as a sleepy oasis with an eclectic smattering of hotels, Los Cabos now boasts at least a dozen resorts along the Corridor (an 18-mile stretch of Highway 1 between San Jose del Cabos and Cabo San Lucas), nestled close along the shores of the Sea of Cortez.
The Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Golf & Spa Resort in particular is getting very serious about child’s play and hopes to entice parents and children with an attractive list of amenities, services and events. A brand new indoor/outdoor kids’ club promises a long list of activities, anchored by a water park-style pool with a bridge and mushroom waterfall. In the meantime, four pools, two golf courses, white-sand beach and nearby activities at Cabo San Lucas keep the options interesting.
Built of rosy stucco and Spanish tiles, the imposing structure resembles a sprawling Colonial hacienda. The combination of charming architecture and stunning ocean vistas has made the Sheraton famous as the ideal location for destination weddings (the hotel was built in 1999). As our van drove down the elegant curved road leading past lavishly landscaped condos and villas, we paused to admire the resort’s soaring central tower with its intricate arched central window.
This property is unmistakably nuptials-worthy from every angle. Visions of a marble-floored lobby and meeting areas, a central courtyard with views to the sea, and many pocket areas of grass and shaded patios no doubt grace many a wedding photo album. Can this romantic place offer the same level of attraction for an energetic family of five?
The answer is yes!
Our Editor Loves
- Four pools including a children's pool
- Oversized terraces with double-rod towel drying racks
- Lots of activities including water sports, golfing, treasure hunts and movies
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Like any self-respecting hacienda of old, the Sheraton offers something for all its guests -- both wide-open party spaces and cozy nooks set apart from the beach and pool crowd. The hotel's 270 guestrooms are clustered together in two-story "villas," with additional rooms on three floors in the main building. In 2015, the guestrooms and suites received improvements and updates, including new furnishings and updated bathrooms.
Your choice of rooms includes oceanfront rooms, oceanview rooms or garden-view rooms, which look out onto clusters of gardens containing plants from 24 different countries. In the background are views of the fascinating Cabo del Sol Desert Course, an 18-hole golf course that incorporates naturally occurring features such as river washes, dunes and desert foliage.
You'll pay a premium, of course, for rooms with an ocean view. Yet the garden wing of the hotel is actually a very nice respite for guests who crave a more peaceful holiday. Families with very small children will enjoy the partially shaded pool with its zero entry and sea animals depicted in mosaic tiles on the pool floor. We chose an oceanfront room with an easy walk to the pool, spa, beach and restaurants. A large terrace had great views of the pools and beach.
Deluxe rooms at the Sheraton are well-sized, containing one king-size or two queen beds with very comfortable "Sweet Sleeper" mattresses, generous drawers for clothing, and a small seating area. We lamented the lack of a desk, as we parents wanted to sneak a look at our laptops every once in awhile. The hotel is currently undergoing a room renovation, to be completed in April 2012. Updates will include sofas as well as dark wood accents, and more Spanish style details such as terracotta paint on some of the walls.
Rooms with two queen beds will work for families with two to three young children, although you won't have much room for gathering. Families with older children will want to book two adjoining rooms (there are 49 adjoining rooms, some with three) or one of the hotel's suites. A master suite accommodates two adults and two children comfortably, with the possibility of putting a third child in a crib or sleeping in with the parents. Suites include a small kitchen, a complimentary bottle of wine, and special meal deals for children.
The oceanside of the hotel is definitely where the action is. Even in the lull before the storm -- the weeks right after Thanksgiving -- guests filled the cushy lounge chairs around the pool and La Sirena Snack Bar, the casual poolside bar and eatery.
Horrible vacation. Infinity pool is ice cold. Have asked 2 times to warm it up. Have come for years and will never come again. They don’t care anymore about their guests comfort. Will never come again. Marriott now owns them so maybe they are saving money but there were only about 10 people able to brave the icy pool. Done with Sheraton!
My wife and I travel, a lot. It takes quite a bit to “WOW” us. This place
Is doing just that. When we arrived check in was very easy. We were upgraded to a better room as SPG members. What a view! We left our door cracked a little at night to hear the waves crashing. So awesome!
The service is just unbelievable. The Mexican people here work very hard and did a fantastic job keeping our room clean, answering questions, waiting on us by the pool. We really liked it because you feel like you’re in Mexico. A lot of the contemporary places being built don’t have that same Mexican feel.
Try this place, I’m sure you’ll love it.
A large, brand-new Kids Club is near the entrance of the Hacienda del Mar. Indoors, up to 30 kids can enjoy flat-screen TVs with video game systems; craft tables for making pinatas, clay art, masks, jewelry and picture frames; Spanish lessons; Loteria (Mexican bingo) with prizes; and face painting. Outside is a beach play and a large kids-only pool with a mushroom waterfall in the center, accommodating up to 30 additional children.
There are lots of opportunities for water sports including scuba diving, snorkeling, boating and fishing. La Princesa Sailing Cruises are super affordable. For a reasonable fee, you can enjoy a leisurely sail on a Catamaran up to Bahia Santa Maria. There you can snorkel (equipment included in your fee), enjoy drinks and snacks, and return by 3:30 p.m. to Cabo San Lucas harbor. The whole family will enjoy a ride aboard The Buccaneer Queen, a restored pirate ship that truly looks the part. Afternoon snorkeling, whale watching (in season) and evening pirate adventures are available.
Nearly all species of sea turtles are on the threatened or endangered species list and the Los Cabos municipal government has sponsored a turtle recovery program to help thousands of turtles hatch and find their way to the sea safely. Protected nesting sites are located at the Sheraton as well as the Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos. We were fortunate enough to arrive at the tail end of the season and witnessed trained staff carefully gathering brand new Olive Ridley turtles (about three-inches long) in a box and deposit them near the surf's edge. A large group of onlookers shouted encouragement to the baby turtles as they slowly scuttled into the water. (The turtles must do it themselves or will not find their way back to lay their eggs.)
The Town of Cabo San Lucas
The glitzier sister to neighboring San Jose del Cabos, the town of Cabo San Lucas is a favorite hangout during college spring break, with its abundance of bars and nightlife. Families might choose to pass on the designer shops at Puerto Paraiso Mall and Luxury Avenue. Instead, lunch at Misiones de Kino, a small, charming restaurant a bit off the beaten path that serves authentic Mexican food. Then explore the marina, swim in the gentle waters of Medano Beach or reserve a horseback trail ride through nearby desert and beaches with Cuadra San Francisco. For dinner, try Maro's Shrimp House, with its excellently prepared and reasonably priced lobster and shrimp dishes.
Golf and Special Packages
The resort's Ultimate Golf Vacation includes unlimited golf at Cabo del Sol Golf Courses (Ocean and Desert) for two guests; deluxe accommodations featuring the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed and a whirlpool tub; transfers between the hotel and golf course; daily buffet breakfast for two at Tomates Restaurant; and a late 4 p.m. check out based on availability. A minimum three-night stay is required.
Inquire about additional special packages at the time of reservations and check with the concierge at the resort who can secure discounts for guests. The Sheraton also has a relationship with the Grupo Questro courses (Cabo Real, Club Campestre, and El Dorado).
The Sheraton Hacienda del Mar has four dining options including two Five-Diamond award-winning restaurants. Two of them have kids' menus and the others have options that are likely to please parents and children alike.
Tomatoes was our go-to place for breakfast, although it's open for lunch and dinner too. Cooked-to-order omelets, hot French toast, plenty of fresh fruit and a smoothie station are some of the highlights from either an a la carte or buffet breakfast menu. Dinner selections include filet mignon in a wine reduction and salmon in puff pastry; kids will enjoy make-your-own pizzas and chicken linguine.
Girasoles de la Hacienda also offers casual dining all day long, from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mexican cuisine is served, but breakfast has all the classics like pancakes, eggs, toast and more. Parents will surely enjoy the margaritas in the afternoon or evening.
Our favorite spot, though, was La Sirena Snack Bar. Casual enough to wear your bathing suit, the lively spot is open-air with a fun thatched roof -- and much more than a snack bar. We were in heaven nibbling on a generous heaping of ceviche, and the nachos were top notch. Plenty of cold beer, handmade margaritas and Los Cabos famous tequila selections are available as well.
At De Cortez Grill & Restaurant you'll find classic poultry, steak and seafood dishes. Some of the entrees, such as the sweet-caramelized duck breast with lychee nuts, nectarines and fried vegetables, are appealing to kids. Pitahayas is an impressive modern space (be sure and look up at the dazzling thatched ceiling) located on its own bluff to the west of the hotel. While watching the waves crash, we ate a delicately steamed fish filet with macadamia nut sauce and a dry-rubbed beef with shitake-garlic sauce. This is definitely a "special occasion" place with exquisite dishes at very high prices; leave the kids at the club or with a sitter for this one. If you do take them, small plates such as stir-fried pork tacos or coconut shrimp with ginger-passion fruit sauce are good choices.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
With the all-inclusive package, kids are 50 percent off the adult price. The Sheraton Family Package includes free meals for kids with the purchase of each adult meal at Tomates and La Sirena restaurants.
The Virreyes Suite
If you plan a trip with another couple or extended family, book the Virreyes Suite. This granddaddy of rooms is pricey but has three to four bedrooms, a wraparound balcony and large dining and living area; it can sleep as many as 12 people.
The Art of Smart Timing
Where are we? Cabo San Lucas is located within Mountain Zone Time. Known as the place "where the desert meets the sea," the Los Cabos region has a dry, arid climate and very little rainfall. In high season temperatures are between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (October through April); in low season they run 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (May through September). Water temperatures average 72 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year, reaching up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime.
Getting There and Around
For the newcomer to Baja California, it's surprisingly difficult to sort through all the names. Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, Los Cabos -- which one is right? Here are the answers: The municipality is called Los Cabos, which includes the cities San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Cabo San Lucas is often referred to simply as "Cabo."
The official high season in Los Cabos is October through May, and the best time to go is the week of Thanksgiving or the first few weeks of December (considered "low" high season); rates are good and crowds are thinner, which means you will always snag a beach chair and get very attentive service.
The best way to get to Los Cabos is by plane. Los Cabos Airport is 8-miles north of San Jose del Cabo and 29-miles northeast of Cabo San Lucas. Airlines serving Baja California include Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Frontier and Mexicana. Be sure and arrange van transportation to the hotel in advance (less expensive than a taxi).
For Mom and Dad
The resort's Cactus Spa and Fitness center offers a full array of services and packages with couples in mind. We spent a serene couple of hours enjoying a facial and a massage in side-by-side rooms, followed by a relaxing soak in the hot tubs located in a semi-outdoor courtyard.
Plan at least one night of dinner for two at Pitahayas, which in addition to offering a spectacular menu also features live music most evenings. Take advantage of the hotel's golf packages while the kids check out the brand new club with its water park-style pool.