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Las Ventanas al Paraiso: The Windows to Paradise

Joel ZuckermanBy Joel Zuckerman,

LOS CABOS, Mexico -- This is a golf story, but not really. It's a tale about an addicted player, a vagabond golfer who traipses about the globe looking for the best the game has to offer, but for a brief moment in time lost the craving to play.

The story begins on a hotel balcony, featuring a spot on view of a fabulous oceanside par 3, in the middle of a championship track, which is smack in the center of one of the world's preeminent golf destinations. But the fanatical golfer temporarily loses his desire to clout the ball and chase it through the meadow. The reason comes down to two enchanted words: Las Ventanas.

The full name of this incomparable hotel hints at the magic contained within: Las Ventanas al Paraiso; literally translated as the Windows to Paradise. It was the opportunity to revel in the ultra-luxurious surroundings here that tempered the golf fever that would normally rage amidst such a world class locale. Las Ventanas is the apex of lodging in Los Cabos, Mexico, on the sun soaked southern tip of the Baja Peninsula.

This is a golf destination that has roared to the forefront of the discriminating player's consciousness in the past decade. It features half a dozen phenomenal courses created by names like Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Fazio and Trent Jones. The weather is almost always perfect, with minimal rain and temperatures rarely cresting out of the 80s.

Course conditions are uniformly excellent, service beyond reproach, yet the would-be golfer made his way from one stunning venue to the next with a sense of reluctance. How does one do verbal justice to a sanctuary like Las Ventanas, recently touted in the New York Times as one of the most expensive hotels in the western hemisphere? Town & Country Magazine calls it "the most romantic resort in the Americas." Luxury Travel chimes in with "this crown jewel of the Baja is a dazzling vision of chalk white adobe walls, shady verandas and mirror-like infinity pools."

Both quotes do partial justice to this 61-suite oasis, but flowery descriptions cannot take the place of hard facts. Take these nuggets under consideration, as the once-and-future golfer had the unmitigated thrill of experiencing them all firsthand.

-- A private two-person Jacuzzi on the balcony, featuring unencumbered views of the sparkling Sea of Cortez just a few hundred yards hence.

-- A professional grade telescope next to the Jacuzzi, the better to observe a glittering nighttime sky.

-- A wrought-iron spiral staircase that leads from the balcony to a private sundeck above, complete with dual chaise lounges.

-- Turndown service that features an aromatherapy menu, so the hotel suite is appropriately scented at evening's end.

-- In lieu of typical tiny plastic hotel bottles with shampoo and conditioner, here new containers of hair care and skin products are dispensed from decanters complete with glass stoppers.

-- The largest, cleanest, hottest steam room one can imagine in the hotel's award-winning spa. A solicitous attendant is close at hand, using tongs to offer ice cold water and chilled towels from a silver tray.

-- A spa menu so eclectic and all encompassing that within the 12 pages of services offered guests can choose from exotic fare like a Thalasso Underwater Massage and Wrap or a Javanese Lulur Royal Ritual.

-- A room service menu that includes a separate page featuring take-away trays for "private aircraft only."

By now most perceptive readers will have come to the conclusion that Las Ventanas is not for the light of wallet. It's quite true; a weekend here in high season with the requisite pampering, a spa treatment or two and meals, each of which is a culinary tour de force, is easily a missed mortgage payment in the making. This Eden-by-the-sea has a loyal following among the rich and famous, and the clientele includes names like Tiger Woods, Jennifer Lopez and Sean Penn, to pull a particularly high powered trio out of the air.

Lest the reader get the impression Las Ventanas is too ritzy, or "Ritz-y," as the case may be, let the momentarily mellow golfer who resided there all too briefly set things straight. There's not a hint of grandiosity or pretentiousness to be found. No gaudy, overdone lobby, (in fact there is no lobby) no supercilious front desk personnel. (In fact there is no front desk to speak of.)

The service is attentive, but not obsequious. No employee demands to help, or craves eye contact, or pummels the visitor into submission with an endless barrage of salutations and forced greetings at all hours of the day or evening.

The reception area is a simple open-air pavilion with a couple of handsome wooden desks. The entire resort is pretty much open air, befitting a location with a climate approaching nirvana. But make no mistake, the service is flawless when needed.

Case in point: The reformed golfer found himself with a broken watch. Most folks are happy to disregard the clock while residing in such rapture, but duty called, a tee time was looming, and so was a flight back to the real word shortly thereafter. With a simple request, a bellman took the ruined timepiece to town, found an adequate replacement in a local jewelry store, and presented it post haste while opening the taxi door for a flabbergasted golfer just returned from an afternoon on the links. Try that trick at your local Westin, Hilton or Ritz.

If one is inclined to leave the premises for golf, Las Ventanas has a preferred arrangement with Querencia. This superb Tom Fazio design is the only private club in Los Cabos, but allows limited outside play for the time being. No course in the area is further from the sea, but no game in town offers 400 feet of elevation change, or the endless series of green undulations that are seen here.

Each hole is gorgeous, but defined and delineated by frightening barranca; deep gullies filled with boulders, vegetation and sand. It's a golf experience both frightening and exhilarating. There aren't too many compelling reasons to tear oneself away from Las Ventanas for five hours, but a round at Querencia is a good a reason as any. Just hustle back after holing out on the 18th as quickly as possible. Great as it is, there are at least 100 courses as fine as this one. But the hotel? This is a site that's simply one-of-a kind. Las Ventanas al ParaĆ­so Address: KM 19.5 Carretera Transpeninsular San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur 23400, Mexico Phone: 52.624.144.0300 or 888-767-3966 Website: www.lasventanas.com

Joel Zuckerman is based in Savannah, Georgia and Park City, Utah. He is the author of five books, and his golf and travel stories have appeared in more than 100 publications around the world, including Sports Illustrated, Golfweek, Travel+Leisure Golf, Continental and Golf International.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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