LA PAZ, Mexico -- There are all sorts of golf vacations, but one of the most unique destinations you'll find anywhere is the CostaBaja Resort & Spa located on the Baja Peninsula and Sea of Cortez.
This boutique hotel resort offers it all, but presents in a subtle, elegant atmosphere. The 18-hole golf course at CostaBaja Golf Club, designed by Gary Player, is pristine; the hotel restaurants are well above average; the beach club offers pure relaxation, and the rooms are perfect for the couple looking for a secluded escape away from the beaten path.
Located a couple of hours or so north of Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, might be one of the most charming and safest cities in Mexico. And while the CostaBaja Resort is a destination all to itself -- especially with the restaurants and activities located within the resort's marina -- venturing into La Paz is an attractive option for visitors.
The star for golfers, however, is the CostaBaja Golf Club. Only a couple of years old, the course, with ocean views on almost every hole, has matured to near-perfect agronomic conditions. Paspalum tee to green, there are no bad lies unless you hit it into the desert. And the views from the greens and elevated tees -- especially the par-5 14th that features a drop of more than 200 feet from the tee -- are most memorable.
Best of all, CostaBaja Golf Club really is playable and enjoyable for players of all levels. Fairways are generous, and the six sets of tees -- ranging from less than 5,000 yards to more than 7,000 yards – provide a fair challenge for every skill level.
"This is a course where anybody can have fun," said Carl Rygg, director of golf at the Troon-managed facility. "Play it from the tips, though, and it's a pretty good test."
Golfers also will love the modern clubhouse, perched high above the resort, offering views of the marina and hotel below. An outside deck is perfect for an after-round cocktail.
CostaBaja Resort steps up
Once known as the Fiesta Inn, the owners of the CostaBaja Resort have taken great strides in recent months to up the level of service and cuisine. Two improvements jump out immediately -- the hiring of a new spa director and a new head chef.
General Manager Eduardo Herrera, who was hired in spring 2012, brought in chef Alejandro Villagomez, who spent nine years as the chef of one of the finest restaurants in Mexico City. Not only does Villagomez bring with him a true farm-to-table experience at Steinbeck's -- the resort's signature restaurant inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who penned one of his books on a visit to the area -- but also he was allowed to do something else that is somewhat unique. The menu changes almost daily to allow Villagomez to remain creative with his dishes, created from the abundance of fresh seafood and produce in the area.
Steinbeck's is just one of many options at the resort, which also include a couple of terrific venues at the marina, where you can find great Italian and seafood.
Spa also has a new feel
"We need to be different," Herrera said, "We needed to stand out. Our spa is one of the things that makes us special."
So Herrera brought Gloria Guerrero, who was the spa director at the Ceiba del Mar Beach & Spa Resort in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo on the Caribbean coast.
Inspired by the ancient healing wisdom, each signature treatment at Espiritu Spa at CostaBaja offers a uniquely sacred experience that rebalances the mind, body and spirit, Herrera said. Prior to each Espiritu experience, a sacred tree resin called copal is burned to clear the energy of the space and harmonize the body, mind and spirit.
"As a holistic healing spa, all products are carefully selected based on their purity and natural formulations," he said. "Our therapists are dedicated to creating your perfect experience, which is why your service includes custom-blended elixirs with aromatherapy and Bach flowers selected from our six signature healing blends."
Other attractions at CostaBaja Resort & Spa
While the dining and spa experience are unique at CostaBaja, they are hardly the only attractions.
The beach club offers outdoor dining and drinks as well as a large infinity pool, fitness center, table tennis, volleyball and tennis.
Guests, especially couples, will also enjoy the state-of-art rooms, which feature a clouded glass-enclosed shower. There is no furniture in the rooms; instead everything is built in for maximum use of space, giving it a modern, chic feel. For families and larger groups, the resort also rents out luxury condominium units throughout the property.
As far as activities are concerned, the list is almost endless and includes some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world, whale watching, world-class snorkeling and exploring the city of La Paz.
Or you could check out Espiritu Santo Island, just a few miles from CostaBaja. Surrounded by turquoise waters and red limestone, the island, which has been declared a World Heritage Fund site by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, is regarded as one the most stunning islands in all the Sea of Cortez.
CostaBaja Resort & Spa: The verdict
While the resort isn't the easiest to get to -- from many locations you have to fly through Mexico City or take a shuttle from Cabo -- it's worth it for the golf alone. Player-designed courses are always enjoyable and this one is exceptional, especially the conditioning. The staff, both at the hotel and golf course, is friendly and the ocean views are very memorable.
Dining is also exceptional at CostaBaja as is the quiet nature of the resort, which makes it perfect for romantic rekindling. Of course, if you're looking to play multiple courses, this might not be the best destination, but it's unlikely that you'll get tired of playing CostaBaja Golf Club multiple times.