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Cabo is Calling

Travel Feature

By Haley Shapley

Photos provided by The Resort at Pedregal

Come mid-winter, I’m always ready for a warm-weather getaway. Don’t get me wrong—I love skiing, snowshoeing, crisp air and drinking hot cider by a warm fire, but a brief respite under the sun’s rays fortifies me for the sometimes never-ending winter. (And considering there was full-blown snow in the first few days of November this year, we may be in for a long cold spell.)

This year’s destination of choice? Cabo San Lucas, where the Resort at Pedregal’s recently debuted program, Beyond the Beach: Baja Luxploration, promised a combination of luxury and adventure. Those just happen to be two of my favorite things, so I signed up for a few days of sun and sand on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that the Resort at Pedregal prides itself on the little details: cars that are WiFi-enabled, staff that knows your name, food preferences and restrictions accounted for at every exquisite meal. It’s this same level of service they bring to the Baja Luxploration program, which launched in January 2017 with half a dozen itineraries: snorkeling with sea lions and through living coral reefs, hiking in an oasis in the desert, and surfing epic waves among them.

I am not a sit-on-the-beach-and-read kind of person (although I would like to be), so I hit the ground running right away. After an evening of champagne tasting and dinner at the seaside El Farallon—where I happily noshed on flavorful ceviche, perfectly charred fish skewers, and, for the first time ever, chocolate clams—I rested up for the next day’s true bucket-list adventure: swimming with whale sharks.

On the way there, we learned a bit about these creatures, aka the biggest fish in the world. But even if the name and the size sound a bit scary, they’re really just big softies—40-foot, 20-ton softies—who swim with their mouths open, collecting plankton to eat. The lines on their bodies are like fingerprints, each one with a distinct pattern, and they travel solo, which makes them particularly difficult to track.

It often takes patience to find one, but fortunately, Captain Martin has plenty of experience. After a while, we came upon one of the gentle giants and quickly got into position on the side of the boat, snorkel masks on and flipper-clad feet hanging off the edge. I was the only one not wearing a wetsuit—“cold” in Mexico is nothing like cold in the Northwest, and I relished the opportunity to be somewhere in just a swimsuit when it was chilly back home.

As we splashed into the sea, I caught sight of the whale shark’s tail and began to swim alongside. But he wasn’t in the mood for company, quickly zooming off faster than my little legs could keep up with. Back in the boat, I found out some people hadn’t seen him at all—catching a glimpse underwater is more difficult than you might guess, given how fast they can change direction. We took turns in groups trying to swim with our newfound friends (we saw a few whale sharks that day), often laughing when people began furiously kicking in the complete opposite direction from their destination. I got in one great swim, finding myself right next to the middle of the whale shark, close enough to see those fingerprint-like lines we’d been briefed on. I have never felt so small.

The rest of the boat was content with their experience when we came across another whale shark (or perhaps the same one again—it’s difficult to know for sure). I decided I’d try for one more swim. This time, I found myself right next to the whale shark’s immense mouth, and he didn’t seem to mind my presence in the least—in fact, he turned toward me at one point and I had to react quickly not to run right into his gaping maw. We swam together, just he and I, for what felt like an eternity (but was probably only a minute). Under the water, it was peacefully silent in a way that felt meditative. We were just two creatures, floating along together, not particularly concerned about where we were going or when we would get there. It’s a moment I’m not sure I could forget if I tried.

When I finally said goodbye and broke the surface, my fellow adventure-goers said I looked exuberant. I carried that glow with me as we pulled onto a stretch of beach, where our guides then set up a next-level picnic lunch from the hotel chef under a canopy. This is where the “lux” part of “luxploration” comes in, and it didn’t disappoint.

The rest of my days were just as action-packed, filled with spa time, poolside lounging, paddleboarding during sunrise to the famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas, hitting the well-equipped gym for heavy deadlifts (because relaxing on vacation just isn’t in my DNA), and hiking through Baja Sierra, an almost unbelievable landscape. It’s perched right in the middle of dry, arid land, and yet is completely lush, bathed in vibrant greenery, hidden waterfalls, enticing swimming holes, and hot springs.

When I got off the plane, it was cold. But I only needed to think of the memories of my daily afternoon bowl of guacamole, the picture-perfect views from my patio, and that giant whale shark mouth coming straight toward me to keep me warm.

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