It’s true – “all inclusive” is becoming a thing.
The AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Los Cabos is the fifth property to be introduced by Eduardo Vela Ruiz, owner, founder and president of Velas Resorts. Opened at the end of 2016, the property and its 304 suites are situated at the southern tip of the dramatic Baja Peninsula where the Sea of Cortez greets the North Pacific ocean, and where guests can soak up sprawling waterfront views and azure-kissed skies. In addition to natural worldly wonders, the cookie-cutter approach of inclusive resorts is eschewed in favor of their commitment to showcasing and collaborating with local artisans, to spotlight the indigenous art, fashion, cuisine and culture/heritage.
The resort is peppered with homegrown talents: for instance, the curvaceous, crescent moon design, including its dramatic, open-air zebra-striped corridor, was conceptualized and designed by Ricardo Elias, principal of Elias and Elias Architects, based in Guadalajara; there are also featured contemporary pieces from notable sculptors Alejandro Colunga, Sergio Bustamante, and Matthias Pliessnig; Mexican painters Amador Montes, Rosendo Pinacho, Francisco Huazo and their respective works can also be admired in the lobby.
To be sure, threads of culture and heritage are woven throughout the property. Another such example is the award-winning, 35,000 sq. ft. Se Spa, with unique treatments incorporating local ingredients such as blue agave, and zen-inducing Self-Discovery Workshops. Experience education on how Mandalas are an expressive symbol that honors spiritualism and ritual; or the meditative process of using local tropical bougainvillea flowers to create designs in water.
And for a bit of twinkle-time, there is also the Stargazing Experience – the area is considered by NASA as one of the top places to view the vast midnight-colored sky – for which NAI (National Association for Interpretation) representatives and local astronomy experts provide insights and knowledge about the stars, planets and constellations – rounded out by bonfire marshmallow roasts and a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne.
But it’s the culinary program which truly astonishes. Executive Chef Vincent Wallez asserts that “gourmet restaurant offerings at Grand Velas Los Cabos can compete with the finest free standing restaurants in world capitals in terms of quality of cuisine, presentation, service and décor.” And indeed, how many all-inclusives actually include a two-star Michelin chef? Here, Sidney Schutte’s avant-garde tasting menu at Cocina de Autor is not, it bears repeating, an expensive add-on – but all part of the experience.
Though Wallez asserts that there is room for extravagance and fun, offering a bit of the wild and wacky to complement the substance: “We offer that ‘wow’ factor – for instance with our $25K taco (the world’s most expensive, pictured above), an insect basket eating challenge, and tutored top-shelf flight tastings over at our Mezcal & Tequila bar, with our head mixologist Nestor Daniel Can Jones”.
At each of the five fine-dining restaurants, the respective chefs actually hail from the country whose cuisine they represent. And creative freedom affords them opportunities to devise and execute menu concepts that speak to their beloved food memories, personality and backgrounds.
For instance, Frida first lures you in with its lush decor, designed by Ezequiel Farca + Cristina Grappin (based in Mexico City). Exuding the glamour of the late 1940s, it flaunts artistic motifs that pay homage to the legendary artist and her work, as well as granite flooring, emerald tiles and touches of brass. Chef Roberto Rafael Sierra De La Cruz draws inspiration from his Mexican homeland, and presented in a contemporary manner: for instance, sublime black Aztec rabbit ribs over rice puréed with criollo ajo macho garlic, in a mole poblano bowl.
Over at Piaf, Larissa Garcia of Cassal Diseño Designs envisioned a space inspired by the legendary chanteuse herself. Harkening to mid-century France, the dining room is rich in plush velvets, Damasco marble and green onyx, with lofty ceilings opening up the space. You’ll be forgiven if you forget you’re in Mexico, while you indulge in Loire Valley chef Aurélien Legeay’s “pithiviers” of pigeon with porcini duxelle, heart of foie gras and Périgueux sauce. Mais oui, it’s creamy, decadent, and rich.
While it’s worth visiting Velas 10 for dry-aged steak and local seafood, Lucca for inspired Italian, Azul for Mexican staples and international fare and Cabrilla for ceviches and tostadas, the unofficial headliner of the bunch is Cocina de Autor. You’re first greeted with warm, autumnal tones (courtesy of Ernesto Vela of Ernesto Vela Arquitectos), with colors contrasting those of the surrounding oceanside, and evoking a sense of drama and performance.
And what a dinner and show it is – from smoked cocktails to white gloved service. The ever-changing tasting menu is influenced by Sidney Schuttle’s Dutch heritage and his travels abroad throughout Asia. The pièce de résistance here is the roasted langoustine – a bowl brimming with froth and monochrome white, with delicate sheets of wonton and cabbage draped over morsels of shellfish that are fortified with yuzu zeal. Seriously.
But the Grand Velas also affords guests opportunities to connect with artisans and tastemakers in Mexico, through experiences like their Wine Lovers Getaway Package – which puts you on a private jet to the bodega in Ensenada where Velas Resorts buys its Mexican wines.
Wallez elaborates, “Vintner Pedro Poncelis Jr. escorts guests on a Valle de Guadalupe wine adventure, visiting Monte Xanic, Viñas de Garza, and Casa de Piedra for private tastings – before heading to the Poncelis vineyard to make their own wine.” (Bonus perk: You get to take home a case.)
So, yes, this is the new generation of all-inclusive. And when they insist that you never have to actually leave the property, in this case, they can seriously back it up.