Poligono 1, Fraccion D. Fraccionamiento Diamante, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur. Mexico
The Nobu Hotel concept from Japanese celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro hits Los Cabos, Mexico. This is the first destination in Latin America chosen by Nobu to bring top-class cuisine and the minimalist design of their current nine hotels across the border.
At the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, Cabo San Lucas is Mexico's second-largest tourist destination, after Cancun, known for its fishing, golf and fine weather. Local waters provide high-quality seafood (good enough to even import to Japan) and the shores along the Pacific coast never disappoint, presenting dramatic sunsets over golden sand and yearly visits of whales and their calves.
Nobu Hotel Los Cabos is one of the latest in a string of new luxury hotel openings on the Baja coast. This millionaire and celebrity magnet location was the obvious Latin American debut for celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, actor Robert De Niro and their colleagues. It is part of an ambitious expansion plan to have 20 hotels by 2020, including Chicago and Barcelona.
Minimalism will be your first impression when arriving at the hotel. But the lasting memories you'll take home will likely be related less to architecture and more to flavors from across the resort's four restaurants, from Mexican dining at Pacific to a farm-to-table concept in Malibu Farm. Nobu restaurant is the star of the show here, though. The beachfront Japanese fine dining restaurant comes with a Peruvian twist and a few Mexican influences, the menu also containing some of the signature dishes offered at the restaurant chain's 33 locations around the globe.
Located only four and a half miles away from Cabo San Lucas itself, Nobu Hotel is set among the dunes close to the Diamante complex, a golf course designed by Tiger Woods. Walking by a dark-tiled fountain, there's a sleek white lobby building with high ceilings and lots of brown teak. Huge glass doors looking out onto the Pacific Ocean and the rest of the property slide open to let a breeze into the hall.
Walking into the 200-room property's all-white interiors, you find large terraces with Japanese names. The centerpiece is an outdoor space called "Shiawase" (Happiness) used for weddings and events, ornamented with palm trees, biznaga cactus and elegant firepits enclosed by circular white seating areas.
There's also an herb garden, titled "Yakusoku" (Promise), where the chefs come to pick herbs and vegetables. Next to the growing lettuces and blossoming zucchini flowers, there's a massive chess set and a giant Jenga game for the kids (and adults, if they choose).
Framed by whitewashed buildings with panelling in dark chocolate and brown teak, there are four pools overlooking the ocean, including the dark, elegantly tiled Pacific pool and the brighter, bluer Cortez pool, as well as an infinity pool and the swim-up villas' pool.
The Junior suite we stayed in at Nobu Los Cabos is large and spacious, overlooking the ocean and the Cortez pool. It has comfortable outdoor furniture and a large terrace outside the window. The interiors are mostly cream-colored, decorated with a few boxy, Japanese-style lamps and a framed modern art print.
There is a 65-inch smart TV that you can watch from a comfy sofa and seating area, or from the double bed arranged with heavenly pillows. If you need to work or send emails, there's a large desk in one corner of the room. A Japanese tea set and coffee machine provide hot drinks for when you're checking through some of the cookbooks of Chef Nobu Matsuhisa left on the coffee table.
The bathroom has a wall decorated with rounded dark stones embedded in it, next to a rain shower and a big wooden bathtub. Twin sinks each have a side-to-side mirror. The bathroom's stocked with Nature Bisse products. After a bath or shower, a large, enclosed changing room is much appreciated.
Lunch and cocktails await at Pacific, an open-air, poolside restaurant. We start with Jalapeño Margaritas, deliciously unusual and thirst-calming, then order guacamole to share, which is plentiful and arrives in the traditional volcanic stone molcajete. Some restaurants struggle to make good typical Mexican food, even as simple as guacamole or tacos, but here that's clearly not the case. We also share black shrimp aguachile, cooked with lime juice, and mixed with mango, cucumber, and red onions.
After a walk on the windy beach, you can take a swim in the infinity pool, or drink a few more original cocktails at Playabar. "Smoke" is a good option, made with mezcal, Amaro, passion fruit, and pineapple. There are enough lounge beds and private cabins for people who want sun or shade. For a hotel that only opened in April, the common areas and pools are popular and busy, from couples to large groups holidaying together to wedding guests, all enjoying the helpful, friendly attitude of the waiters. The ambience is casual and laid back, but the attention is taken seriously. Stepping on the beachfront, it's hard to see another hotel, residence, bar, restaurant, or shop nearby: a good thing if you want that away-from-it-all feeling; a bad thing if you forgot your book or want to be in the heart of the Cabo action.
Breakfast is served each morning at Malibu Farm. Freshly brewed coffee and green juice are always a great start. Local, sustainable, and healthy seem to be key options here. I go for ABC tacos: three corn tortillas with scrambled eggs, avocado and bacon with tomatillo salsa.
There's a spa on the Nobu Los Cabos Hotel property. Before treatment in one of the 13 rooms, you can use the indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy areas, water circuit, experiential shower, cabana jacuzzi, and steam and sauna rooms. We went for an Esencia treatment, a complete body massage similar to the Swedish style. The pressure was firm, improving your circulation, relaxing the muscles and stimulating the lymphatic system. Although the personnel didn't speak much English, the treatment was wonderful, the therapist taking care to apply the right amount of pressure and extra time on areas where it was most needed.
A visit to Nobu Hotel wouldn't be complete without dining at the signature restaurant. There's teak from floor-to- ceiling, with the skeleton of a tree visible through the windows, adding to the view of the Pacific Ocean. Inside or outside, these are places to admire the intense pink and orange sunsets, maybe with a glass of Prosecco or a Carmenere.
"Irrashaimase!" (Welcome!) staff across the restaurant—from the chefs in the open kitchen to waiters and hostesses—shout loudly and firmly as we walk in through the doors. We start with a cup of warm sake and an entrée of edamame with spicy ponzu. It's followed by a salmon sashimi: thin slices of salmon arranged on a plate with a ginger and garlic touch, soaking in warmed sesame and olive oil. Weeks after leaving, this is a dish I crave now and then. Afterwards, a platter with fresh Tuna Nigiri and California Rolls are brought to the table, served with wasabi and soy sauce.
We continue with a spinach salad with dry miso, truffle oil and parmesan cheese, then soft Black Atlantic Cod with miso inside a lettuce leaf, eaten with the hands in just a few bites; it's small but full of flavor.
There is a festive ambience in the restaurant, right down to the shining cocktail bar at one end. After banana tobanyaki with caramel soy, pecans and Malaga ice-cream, we finish the evening off with a cocktail that's like a White Russian, but with sake instead of vodka, one final inventive taste to take away from our stay on the Pacific.
The Nobu Los Cabos Hotel arrives in one of the most competitive luxury vacation markets in the world, but with its Japanese flair and built-in brand awareness, it has plenty going on to help it stand out.
Total Number of Rooms: 200
Published rates: $362 to $617
Review by Andrea Moreno. Photos courtesy of Moreno and Graeme Green