When you make it to the old—I mean fabulous—age of fifty, it is time to party. And by party, I mean jet off to the most beautiful beach in Mexico, eat, sunbathe, eat more, and hit the spa…with my husband of twenty-two years at my side and my three kids safe at home in Austin, Texas.
I’ve always been an adventurous traveler. So when I booked a stay at the luxurious Esperanza Auberge, the only private beach resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, I wondered if I would miss the rough-and-tumble thrill of navigating an unfamiliar country, figuring out where to eat that evening (sometimes scoring an exhilarating win…and sometimes staring at my husband glumly as we realized we’ve chosen a tourist trap for dinner, or worse). I’ve backpacked from Austin, Texas to Los Mochis, Mexico; taken a ferry to Baja; and stayed at hostels all the way back up the peninsula. Would luxury feel…boring?
The short answer is: oh, no, no, no. Within hours of arriving at Esperanza, after entering our glorious casita filled with flowers and fresh fruits and vegetables (with sour-sweet Tajin dipping salts), I was lingering outside the real estate office, wishing I could buy a villa and live at Esperanza forever.
Los Cabos, Mexico is the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula, which boasts over 350 days of sunshine a year. Esperanza is part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, located within the private enclave of Punta Ballena in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Overlooking the Sea of Cortez, the resort offers seventeen acres of lush—even breathtaking—landscaping. My husband spent hours wandering the property, taking note of flora, fauna, and birds.
Tucked between two scenic bluffs, the fifty-nine casitas and luxury suites cascade down a gentle hill affording spectacular ocean views from every room. Resort amenities include two adults-only pools, two family pools, cabanas, private beaches, an award-winning spa, yoga studio, fitness center, and spectacular 180-degree vistas of sky and sea. The resort style is “barefoot elegance,” which I plan to adopt as my new, personal style.
Baja Lab Kitchen
I chose Esperanza for my fiftieth birthday feasts mainly because of the Baja Lab Kitchen Culinary Series. Hosted at Esperanza’s sister resort, Chileno Bay, Baja Lab Kitchen is a curated series of top guest chef collaborations. including some of Mexico and Latin America’s most lauded talents. A play on gastronomic experimentation, the experience is billed as “an unprecedented encounter between the world’s most extraordinary culinary minds to interpret Baja’s bounty through a global and creative lens.”
Upcoming dinners include a BBQ dinner on the beach with Dante Ferrero on July 3, and a dinner with Daniela Soto-Ines (named the world’s best female chef in 2019 by World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards) on December 3 and 4, with additional chefs to be announced.
To prepare for my gastronomic extravaganza, I ordered Central, a gorgeous cookbook featuring the cuisine of Peruvian chef Virgilio Martínez. Central currently holds the No. 4 ranking on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Martínez writes about his life, recipes, and his dreams (now realized) of elevating Peru’s culinary culture and extraordinary biodiversity.
I later asked Esperanza Executive Chef Alex Palacios what chef inspired him, and he recommended a gorgeous hardcover called The Soul of Baja by his friend, Javier Plascencia.
Even looking through these books makes me hungry, so let’s get to my five epic meals…
Five Incredible Meals at Esperanza Auberge
ONE: THE FULL MOON DINNER EXPERIENCE
On the eve of the full moon every month, Esperanza Auberge hosts private dinners on the sand or perched at a table in the pool. I was up for removing my shoes and sashaying through the water to dinner, but my husband wanted to hit the beach. Watching waves crashing against rocks is sublime. As the sun set and the moon rose, we were served incredible treats crafted by resort chef Alex Palacios, like pork chops with passionfruit, sesame, and thyme and a vegan dish that was my favorite of the meal: broccolini with a pumpkin-seed mole sauce that was not only out of this world (pardon the “moon” pun) but unexpected, and I adore surprises.
TWO: COCINA DEL MAR
Esperanza’s signature restaurant is an architectural marvel, situated on the top of striking cliffs. The romantic ambiance—created by dramatic lighting and crashing waves below—is the perfect setting for chef-created dishes featuring local ingredients like salt-crusted totoaba with Mexican pepper leaf mojo, plantain puree, and red miso butter.
THREE: LA PALAPA
There were whales leaping from the sea as we sat down for the best quesadilla I’ve ever tasted, a quesadilla with shrimp that was so filling, we followed it not with entrees but with hot churros and chocolate sauce. Churros and whales at sunset? Perfection.
FOUR: COOKING WITH CHEF ALEX
We were able to meet Chef Alexis Palacios, who is hilarious and brilliant. Our cooking class came with aprons monogrammed with our names and featured fresh vegetable salsas, tuna, and local oysters with perfect sauces. I never thought mashing spices in a molcajete bowl could be so fun!
We took a quick shuttle to Chileno Bay (where we’d enjoyed a private snorkel tour earlier in our trip) to experience the brand-new Yaya restaurant. Both a Spanish and Greek term of endearment for grandmother, “Yaya” is helmed by Chef Eliana Godinez, who highlights live-fire cooking traditions passed down by female elders from around the world. Organic ingredients sourced from local farms are the essence of the Mediterranean-inspired menu. We went nuts over the labneh bread with cucumbers and a dessert of strawberries and lemongrass crème.
In Yaya’s sophisticated but somehow cozy space, I was filled with happiness. Maybe the key to my fifties was astonishing food, the smell of ocean waves, and taking a moment to talk with my favorite person, my husband, not about kid schedules and To-Do lists…but about sea creatures, wood-fired pizza, and starlight.