LOS CABOS, Mexico - Golfers know "check-in" and "pleasurable" are words rarely used in the same sentence. OK, maybe never. A hotel check-in can be efficient, speedy and problem-free - sadly a rarity in itself these days. But actually enjoyable?
Unless you're in Amsterdam and you've visited one of those "coffee shops" first or you're just a weird John Mark Karr-like dude who loves fake plants, no one sees hanging in the lobby, getting your room, as fun.
Only the Westin Resort & Spa Los Cabos challenges those truths. It's not just that this is unlike any other lobby you've ever seen before: It's in the open air, with a tall roof overhead, but no walls on all sides - and it's pink. It's not even the free fruity-but-not-too-fruity alcoholic drink placed in your hand.
OK, it's a little bit that - what hotel in America is encouraging its guests to have a drink at 11 a.m.? A free cocktail, no less. But this is more of a sense of relaxation brought about by a staff that just exudes don't-worry charm.
Even when you realize you left a bag in the backseat of the car service's SUV, Francisco, the bell captain, is so calm and certain in tracking it down that any of that usual stateside worry evaporates before it can even materialize.
This is where the Westin Los Cabos sticks out from the horde of resorts in this corridor of golf, fishing and good times.
Westin in general - and this hotel in particular - has spent a lot of money on making sure the lobby has just the right pleasing smell. And the guy in charge of this olfactory campaign on site is nice enough.
The rooms themselves are more than comfortable, with ocean views befitting the $400 standard room high season winter rates. And the unique look of Westin Los Cabos extends far beyond the lobby. The guests rooms are set up in big opposite wings, modeling the tourist-attraction arch in Cabo San Lucas, complete with the great view of the almost cartoon blue Sea of Cortez and its lapping waves in the opening. Only these buildings in the arch are pink, too.
But it's the people you're likely to remember most from a Westin Los Cabos stay.
Francisco helped out so much - from hailing taxis that wouldn't overcharge, to offering advice on local spots, to tracking down drink recipes that a gringo could understand (those welcome drinks are good), to just being a generally happy spirit - that by the end of the week, I considered sending him a Christmas card. I sometimes forget to send my mom and dad a Christmas card.
Characters abound at the Westin Los Cabos. Most chain hotels seem to possess a staff of near robots, capable of only repeating a few rote lines. Not here. You're never going to mistake Shawn Capadouca, the personal trainer at the resort's state-of-the-art Reebox gym, for a robot.
Capadouca is a Vancouver native who came to Cabo for a two-week vacation 13 years ago and ended up going back home after one week, to pick up his possessions and drive back, never to return home to live again.
This guy's been here since before Costco moved in.
"We get 342 days of complete sunshine a year," Capadouca said.
You're probably going to want to enjoy that sunshine at a pool or the beach. Westin Los Cabos has seven sprawling pools and they're almost all right along or overlooking the big beach that's at the base of that arch design. The swim-up pool bar offers an especially arresting visual - a view that makes you feel like you're eye-to-eye with the ocean.
The banter comes easy here too with the bartender engaging guests and encouraging new friends. Yes, sometimes a bartender can be a great wingman.
A sunshine sprawl
George Bush Sr. stayed here during his presidency and it's easy to see why the Secret Service endorsed this place. Westin Los Cabos is a world all of its own. Spend any time here and you will not believe there are only 243 rooms.
This place is mammoth. On a really hot day just the walk from the room wings to the separated lobby building can be a long hike. Start wandering the grounds - the seven full restaurants, including two in the un-Westin-owned but connected timeshare section, the complete nine-hole putting course right on the beach, the remolded plush pampering spa - and you can lose a day before you know it.
Just make sure part of that day includes a meal at Arrecifes - a seafood restaurant with a German chef that's right over the rocks on the ocean. The connected On The Rocks bar even has its own telescope for star gazing. The manager at Arrecifes is also liable to know everyone in your party's name by the end of the night.
It's Westin Los Cabos. The people can even outshine the top gourmet food.
The average age of guests in this resort is between 35 and 45. The atmosphere is much more refined than some of the spring break hangouts you can find. It fits that Westin Los Cabos is closer to the more authentic Mexican town of San Jose del Cabo than the touristy party town of Cabo San Lucas (the two towns are separated by 19 miles of straight road).
Los Cabos golf
Cabo's top golf courses - from the seaside wonder of Jack Nicklaus' famous Cabo del Sol Ocean Course to Robert Trent Jones II's dauntingly picturesque Cabo Real - are found all along the corridor, making Westin Resort's golf location just fine.
"We're happy to be closer to San Jose," said Brian Quinn, Westin Los Cabos' director of sales and marketing. "It gives our guests a more unique experience, what many of them are looking for."
Just don't expect everyone in town to treat you like they do at Westin Los Cabos. It's a friendly enough town. But this resort could out friendly June Cleaver's home.