There are many sides to Los Cabos, the beachside playground on the end of the Baja Peninsula in the north west of Mexico. In Cabo San Lucas, hoards of Americans come to party in sombreros, drink shots of tequila and get sunburnt. Over in sedate San Jose del Cabo, locals appreciate the region's rich history amid a proliferation of blue chip resorts popping up on the sparkling shoreline (both the Four Seasons and Aman are in the midst of construction). Between the two towns is the ultra-exclusive enclave of Palmilla, home to the captivating One&Only Palmilla resort, Los Cabos' original and arguably best luxury destination.
Entering through tall, forbidding gates, guests sweep down a winding driveway thick with lush gardens, to be greeted by a fleet of groomed staff underneath the property's original tower. The pristine, white-washed walls and terracotta trimmed pavilions were first built in 1956 by Don Abelardo Rodriguez, son of the then-President of Mexico, as a private hideaway for his Hollywood mates, including John Wayne and Lucille Ball. Over the decades the resort has expanded into the 173-room resort it is today, without dropping its celebrity clientele. George Clooney is a regular, John Travolta had his 50th here, and closer to home, TV host Karl Stefanovic hosted his much-publicised wedding at the historic private chapel perched on the resort's highest point. If nothing else, he has good taste in resorts.
It's a wildly romantic maze of a place, with a rambling collection of cobblestone paths winding around a rocky slice of the peninsula where red desert meets cobalt blue waters. You'll see views of the Sea of Cortez through the vibrant greenery amid the year-long sunshine, and perhaps wander down for a dip at the private beach – one of the only swimming beaches in Los Cabos – or plunge into the two enormous swimming pools. There's an adults-only pool entwined around a swim-up bar, surrounded by sun lounges and attentive pool attendants, or a vast horizon pool with thundering jacuzzi designed especially for families.
Despite its size, the resort feels intimate, hushed and dizzyingly privileged. It's not hard to completely miss other guests as you roam the property, passing staff who clutch their hands to their hearts and bow as you pass by – a charming, if slightly obsequious touch. The rooms are as sleek as you would expect: multi-roomed villas with enormous beds, glorious linen, terraces and balconies, spectacular bathrooms artfully tiled in vivid, Spanish-style colours. They range in size (and price) from entry-level Ocean Front rooms to the top shelf Villa One, a four bedroom extravaganza where nothing is off limits. You'll be issued with your own 24-hour butler, who you'll need to tip, though there's a free "unpacking service" and complimentary welcome shots of fine tequila, among many other top-tier flourishes.
Guests really don't need to leave the compound: there's a steakhouse, Seared, fronted by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, as well as three more casual indoor/outdoor restaurants serving Mexican-tinged cuisine. This may be home to the freshest, most delicious taco you've ever eaten: crunchy local fish with slaw and fiery mayo in a soft tortilla, perfect for smashing with a frozen margarita. There are plenty of activities aside from lounging around pinching yourself, including a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, gym, tennis court and ritzy spa. If you do want to explore, it's best to book a driver (we used the excellent Epic Group for all transfers) to show you the sights, including humpback whale watching or kayaking past the famed Arch of Cabo San Lucas, through to more extreme adventures such as ziplining (a series of rather terrifying flying foxes) over the nearby canyons with Wild Canyon Adventures.
Yet being a guest at One&Only Palmilla is an experience you'll want to savour. It's like being a citizen of a rarefied utopia, where nothing is too much trouble, and your relaxation is the only thing that matters.
The writer was a guest of Los Cabos Tourism and One&Only Palmilla.