Sheraton Hacienda del Mar's courtyard entrance makes it seem like you could walk right over the side into the ocean. (Chris Baldwin/Golf Advisor) This is a pool at Sheraton Hacienda del Mar. Palm tree included. (Chris Baldwin/Golf Advisor) Life so revolves around the pool scene at Sheraton Hacienda del Mar that there are pool concierges. (Chris Baldwin/Golf Advisor) From the street, Sheraton Hacienda del Mar looks more like a residence complex than a big sprawling resort. (Chris Baldwin/Golf Advisor)

Cabo wow: Ocean-side Sheraton Hacienda del Mar resort dispels the traveling blues

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - Stepping out of the SUV that met you at the airport, you're in the usual jet-smushed, patience-tried travel mode. The only thing on your mind is getting that room key and getting to kick off your smelly shoes. A green alien popping out of the bushes wouldn't be able to detour you.

ET! What's up?! Now could you step aside so I can check in?

That's how resolutely determined you are.

Then you see the ocean. Or rather, you step into a courtyard that seems to drop straight into the ocean - all you'd have to do is go to the edge and walk right off into the blue stuff.

And this blue is blue. Forget anything you've seen at the Jersey Shore or the Santa Monica pier. This ocean is so perfectly azure it almost looks fake, like something James Cameron created in a special- effects lab.

That can't be real. But it is.

You've arrived at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Resort & Spa in the Los Cabos golf resort corridor.

Time in actual premises: 27 seconds. Level of remaining travel fatigue/frustration: Zero.

For the rest of your stay, every time you go to the entranceway to hail a cab, catch a shuttle, walk to dinner - heck, to buy a tube of toothpaste at the gift shop - you'll find yourself sidetracking the few steps into that courtyard to stare. Hacienda del Mar's entrance literally stops you in your vacation tracks.

"It elevates the brand," says Mourad Essafi, the hotel's sales and marketing director.

That's an understatement (perhaps the first by a marketer in the history of marketing). Sure, you'll never mistake this Sheraton for the ones stateside that always seem to be stuck out near the airport. But the Hacienda del Mar goes well beyond that.

You see wives calling over their frazzled checking-in husbands to come and take a look. Suddenly the Indy 500 race to the room is off, replaced stop, stare and smile.

There's a reason someone wrote a book about the architecture at this resort.

The open-air ocean-ledge entranceway is an optical illusion. of course. Oh, the ocean's really that blue. But walking right up to the ledge shows that there's a level right below with a string of restaurants and pools, a level below that with more pools, and a beach between you and the actual surf.

Thankfully, the rest of Sheraton Hacienda del Mar is real, and almost as striking.

"I thought it'd be nice," Los Angeles vacationer Cheri Blake said, sunning herself while reading a book provided by the pool concierge. "But I didn't think it'd be this nice, you know?"

You know. You're a travel writer. A healthy dubiousness is a big part of the profession (well, for some of us, anyway). Still, it's hard not to think to yourself, "This is one cool place to hang out."

High-class, low-key

It takes a while to put your (very relaxed) finger on what makes Sheraton Hacienda del Mar work so well.

It's not the open-air bar with more than 100 varieties of tequila to test your stomach against, though that's interesting.

It's not the fact that Hacienda del Mar's sushi sports bar (you read right) showed the Dallas Mavericks-Phoenix Suns playoff series, though, when you learn another big-name Cabo resort's "sports bar" doesn't have TNT, that's nearly priceless.

It's not the ease with which you can get from your room to the pool or one of the five main restaurants on-site, or the spa that's set for a major expansion and already has Mexican masseuses with the most amazing golfer's-back-soothing fingers ever.

It's not even those pool concierges who will make you dinner reservations so you don't ever have to lift your tanned head.

"A lot of golfers like it because they can see the course from their rooms," Hacienda del Mar sales coordinator Martina Fahrmann offers helpfully.

Sheraton Hacienda del Mar (average room rate about $350 in winter high season) might be the most golfer convenient resort in all of Cabo. Jack Nicklaus' Cabo del Sol Ocean Course - the best course in a region of great courses - and Tom Weiskopf's newer Desert Course are a five-minute ride away.

But it's more than that.

The setup of smaller guest buildings - none taller than four stories - sprayed around the main ocean walk makes for a neat atmosphere. (Three nights in a resort and not one elevator ride!) The rooms have balconies and the open feel of a Spanish place. Open the shutters over the deep Jacuzzi tub and you can open and see out all the way to the balcony window.

There's an outdoor wedding chapel over the ocean, a small church - weddings are so big here they had to hire a separate wedding concierge - and a big convention center for companies on a retreat.

Yet on many nights the resort is as quiet as a librarians' convention. Sheraton Hacienda del Mar doesn't transform into party central when the sun sets (unless you happen to book during a spring-break rush). Those who want party-town nightlife take the 15-minute ride into Cabo San Lucas.

As I bought a few snacks around 10:30 p.m. one night, the woman at the shop counter smiled and knowingly asked, "Going to San Lucas?" A shake of the head produced a puzzled look. There's nothing to do at Sheraton Hacienda del Mar after the dinner hour.

Except perhaps enjoy your lowered pulse.

Sep 04, 2006

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Chris Baldwin


Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.