Ski & Sea Spring Break

I just got back from Spring Break #1. My daughter is now on a different school schedule than my sons – her spring break was a bit earlier than theirs, and a bit longer. We decided to take the opportunity for some fun mother-daughter bonding in Aspen and Cabo San Lucas. It was the perfect combination of mountains and beach.

First, we went to Aspen for some spring skiing. Morgan had to miss our annual President’s Weekend ski trip this year, so I made it up to her with three days on the slopes. We had plenty of snow (it snowed 7 inches one night) and also some fog – it’s a springtime phenomenon, which I’d never experienced before. Because it was just the two of us, we stayed at the Viceroy rather than renting a house. It was fantastic, very chic, accommodating and service-oriented, and would be perfect for couples as well as families. The hotel is right at the base of the slopes – the ski rental facility is on the third floor (how easy is that!) and at the end of the day, there’s a valet waiting next to the outdoor firepit to take your skis or snowboard. For such a short trip, and with such a great setup, there’s no need to bring your equipment with you. I tried the fatter parabolic skis, for the powder, and thought they were great.

We didn’t do much shopping but did get to some of our favorite restaurants, Matsuhisa, Wild Fig, and 8K at the Viceroy.

Then, it was time for the beach. I love that we were able to go directly from San Francisco to San Jose del Cabo (Virgin and Alaska both offer direct flights). The airport is 45 minutes from Cabo San Lucas, but most of the resorts are quite a bit closer to town. We stayed at the Capella Pedregal, just 6 minutes by taxi from downtown. To get there, you pass through a tunnel (lit with chandeliers!) so it feels like it’s on its own island. Taxis here are very important for getting around, and the city has them incredibly well organized under one taxi company, with the same color vans and uniformed drivers. The restaurants all have someone with a walkie-talkie to call for your ride, so travel is seamless, safe, and efficient to and from the hotel – no need to walk around.

As for our hotel, it was stunning. Capella Pedregal is the newest resort on the Pacific side of the cape, and the furthest up. Although none of the beaches in Mexico are private, Capella is far enough from the other resorts that it felt private. The waves were big and mesmerizing to watch. The Sea of Cortez side of the cape is calmer, and offers all kinds of activities like snorkeling, jet skiing, sailing, and whale watching. Sport fishing is big here too, on both sides of the cape.

Capella can arrange a whole range of other activities, including horseback riding, cultural tours, and ATV rides on the dunes (though that can be a little risky). We didn’t do much but relax, however. The resort has three pools, including one with a swim-up bar that was very popular in the afternoons, and a private salt-water pool at the spa. The spa itself is fabulous, one of the best I’ve ever experienced – the Capella group started in Germany and Austria, where they know a bit about spas. Of the Capella’s family of properties, four of the hotels have the Auriga spa.

The service was impeccable, with wonderful attention to detail. Every morning, they set up breakfast in the room while we were still sleeping – you just tell them what time to bring it in when you check into the hotel. It was so lovely waking up to fresh fruit, amazing coffee and delicious yogurt. In the afternoon, when you come in from the pool, there are cold beers, chips and guacamole waiting for you. The details extend throughout the property, in little things like the blown-glass ornaments hanging in the trees, bright pops of color against the starkly beautiful gardens of cacti and sea grass.

Like the Viceroy, Capella Pedregal is private and sophisticated enough for couples, but also great for families. Along with the rooms and suites, there are free-standing two to five bedroom villas, right on the beach. The kitchens are beautifully equipped (not that we used ours – the restaurants are too good), the architecture is all sandy colors and graceful curves, echoing the surrounding desert, and everything from the fabrics to the fixtures is thoughtfully designed and top quality. It all looks brand new – the resort has only been open 18 months – and feels very exotic. The open-air lobby, palm-tree-lined pools, and exquisite décor made me think of La Mamounia in Morocco.

Besides Capella, there are two other resorts in the area I’d recommend. Las Ventanas, on the Sea of Cortez about 20 minutes from downtown, is very private, elegant, and luxurious, good for romantic getaways. Esperanza, also on the Sea of Cortez, four miles from town, is a lush tropical oasis. Like Capella, it offers villas and private residences.

As for restaurants, Capella suggested several and they were all excellent. I think the best was Nick San, a Japanese restaurant (the seafood here is unbelievable!). Capella’s gorgeous cliff-side restaurant, El Farallon, is also focused on seafood – you make your selection from an array of fresh fish as you enter. And I had amazing mussels at Doc’s Wine Bar, a fabulous Italian restaurant started two years ago by a gentleman from Verona.

We also went to a number of legendary places serving traditional (but delicious) Mexican food. La Golondrina and Edith’s both have large, covered outdoor courtyards. The Office, right on the beach, is fun and very popular, attracting every type of diner. Bar Esquina, in the Hotel Bahia, is more fashionable – they treated us like royalty. The executive chef here is Andrew Masciangelo, who worked at Nobu and Le Cirque.

Towards the end of the week, we were ready for a night on the town. My daughter brought a friend with her to Cabo (a sure-fire way to get a teenager interested in a family trip). After dinner one night, we all went to the Pink Kitty, one of the dance clubs in town. I think the only reason they let the girls in was because I was with them. The other dance club is Mandala, where the crowds go later in the evening. For a more typical party scene, the favorite destination is Squid Roe. But I have to say, nights here are pretty calm and quiet overall.

We didn’t do a lot of shopping (believe it or not, my 16-year-old isn’t much of a shopper) but we did visit the upscale mall in town, Puerto Paraíso, which is open until 10pm. One side is duty free and carries all the major luxury brands. The other side, where we did our shopping, is very fashionable, offering quality local brands, very chic things you don’t see in the states. It reminded me of shopping in Sao Paulo. The girls bought swimsuits, and I found some great lucha libre wrestling masks (perfect gifts for my sons).

The weather was great – sunny and warm but not too hot. The best time to visit Cabo is over Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the wind drops, but it’s beautiful any time of year except mid-summer, when it can be uncomfortably hot. It made a wonderful Spring Break destination for us, and would be ideal for a 4-day girls getaway (my twin sister joined us for a couple of days, which was fun). With the sports fishing and dance clubs, it would be a great guys’ trip too.

Now that I’ve had my female-bonding trip with Morgan, it’s time for Spring Break #2. Terry, the boys and I are off for a week in Peru.