Highlighted by a three-tiered, 450-foot pool flowing to the ocean, Chileno Bay Resort & Residences boast waves of amenities and activities.
An inlet on the Sea of Cortez 11 miles north of the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Chileno Bay got its name from the Chilean pirates who during the 16th and 17th centuries used the cove’s calm, concealed waters to lay in wait for gold-laden Spanish galleons en route from the Philippines to Acapulco.
Hundreds of years later, Chileno Bay remains a treasured spot. Protected by a natural reef, it features one of the few swimmable areas along the Tourist Corridor, the 18-mile stretch of Highway 1 connecting the cobblestoned quaintness of San José del Cabo in the north to the more commercial Cabo San Lucas in the south.
In stark contrast to most of the Corridor’s rocky shoreline and roaring surf, Chileno’s lapping tides and alabaster sand made it the ideal site to build one of the peninsula’s first resorts; the Hotel Cabo San Lucas opened on the northern edge of the bay in 1961, welcoming John Wayne, among others, via a dirt airstrip known as El Tule.
Chileno Bay already ranks ninth among Mexico’s top 10 courses
While the next 40 years saw Los Cabos explode as a sport-fishing, golf, resort and second-home destination, Chileno Bay remained largely immune. That changed in 2004 after the Hotel Cabo San Lucas closed.
Heeding developers, the Mexican government moved the “Chileno” stretch of the highway inland to create more beachfront real estate. The old hotel would eventually become the centerpiece of the Chileno Bay & Ocean Club, a private real estate development covering 1,200 acres of natural desert and two miles of coastline. Plans called for two Tom Fazio golf courses west of Highway 1.
But after the 2008 recession, a reorganized Chileno Bay Club emerged. The first—and, for now, only—golf course, originally planned to open 2009, debuted with nine holes in late 2012 and nine more 18 months later. Aspen-based Bald Mountain Development currently owns and operates the venture.
In 2013, another Colorado real estate investment and development firm, Englewood’s SV Capital Partners, purchased 22 beachfront acres within the Chileno Bay development. With a proven track record of creating international boutique resorts such as Esperanza—the five-star private beach resort and residence club in the Punta Ballena development south of Chileno Bay—SV brought its successful formula to bear on this project. It’s a total game-changer.
The resort’s ceviches will come in many flavors.
Originally called VieVage Los Cabos, the Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, like Esperanza, features both real estate and a hotel—albeit on a smaller scale and informed by a more active lifestyle. A hardhat tour reveals construction rapidly proceeding on many of the 32 full-ownership three- and four-bedroom turnkey villas, each with its own water feature and 12 of which have presold at prices starting at $2 million. None exceed three stories in height. A porte-cochère also welcomes guests to a boutique hotel with 29 exquisite rooms located in three separate buildings close to the 7,500-square-foot spa, the restaurants and shops. Rooms will run $400-$1,000 per night.
As with Esperanza, Chileno Bay Resort & Residences will be operated by the luxury Auberge Resorts Collection, whose properties also include Napa’s Auberge du Soleil and Calistoga Ranch. More than just a sister property to Esperanza, Chileno Bay Resort & Residences “brings together contemporary themes of design, community and wellness in a fresh, active and social environment,” according to the company.
Or, as Mark Cooley, managing partner of SV Capital, says: “Most Auberge properties—most high-end resorts—are geared more for couples. Chileno Bay Resort & Residences address the need to have more family-oriented, high-end lifestyle experiences. I don’t want to portray it as Disneyland; it’ll be a five-star experience with active daily programming for people who have teenaged kids and younger.”
To that end, Chileno Bay Resort & Residences will create a unique experience worthy of its singular and spectacular setting. Following the natural arroyo linking the property to Chileno Bay, a three-tiered, 138-meter-long zero-edge pool will flow through the center of the resort. Carved into a granite bluff along the shore, the grotto-like H2O Cave serves as the launching point for paddleboarders, snorkelers, kayakers, jet-skiers, scuba divers and deep-sea fishermen. And, of course, there’ll be myriad beachfront activities and swimming in the tranquil bahía.
Those gentle waves provide the soundtrack—and many of the menu items—at Ocean Edge, which will boast La Plancha (flat-pan)-style dishes and a “cesushi” bar where traditional ceviches meet Japanese sushi influences. There’ll also be a Surf Bar for grab-and-go tacos and cervezas; a kids’ club with myriad activities; a fitness and movement studio; a private theater showing complimentary movies all day and night; and access to the hiking and mountain biking trails of Chileno Bay Club.
“It’s such a premier spot,” Chileno Bay Resort & Residences’s Director of Golf and Hospitality Marko Hardin says as we take in his employer’s construction site from the golf course. “I call it the tenderloin of Chileno Bay.” (And no, he isn’t referring to the ‘hood in San Francisco.)
Chileno Bay Golf Club
And of Course…
Chileno Bay Resort & Residences owners and guests can book tee times at Chileno Bay Golf Club—and the course alone may prompt you to join. Even the wooden tees are cool. Have you ever seen a club’s logo—in this case a seahorse—appear in the little scoop that supports the ball?
Salt-tolerant paspalum blankets the tees, fairways and greens, but not the rough—because there isn’t any, just desert and waste areas. Chileno Bay plays a sea-level 7,260 yards from the tips, and the grass grabs, so pick your tee accordingly (the 6,652-yard Gold/Blue combo is a good compromise.) What you lose in roll you can make up for in green-sticking approaches and putts to the back of the hole. It’s not a true links course, but the bay breezes factor in, as do delightfully quirky bounces and angles.
Every hole rewards you with at least a glimpse of the Santa Maria Mountain and the Sea of Cortez but only one body of water appears on the course: Lake Chileno, an irrigation pond of blue desalinated water, runs along the entire left side of the 441-yard second and 510-yard 15th.
Fazio follows back-to-back par-5s on six and seven with a 270-yard par-4 eighth that would be drivable if it didn’t play into the wind off the beautiful Sea of Cortez framing the elevated green in a true postcard moment—one made more so by the plume of spray from a gray whale in the distance.
Hardin’s local knowledge saved me at least four shots on the front. A Colorado native by way of Arizona, he’s making a smooth transition from surfer to golfer, advising how to ride the waves and ripples of Fazio’s layout.
Many of those undulations appear on the 10th green—a two-tiered rollercoaster that’s 57 yards deep and as skinny as a narrow-gauge rail. “Depending on the pin placement, it’s a two- to three-club difference on your second shot,” Hardin advises. A par somehow results, followed by a birdie on the short (255-yard) par-4 11th.
Chileno Bay’s back nine is more exposed than its front, making the 200-yard carry off the 12th tee quite formidable. More challenges lurk on the sneaky long 13th and 14th, and the split fairway and puny green on 16. Then there’s the distractingly scenic 133-yard 17th: From the elevated tees, the flag shrinks against the vast azure expanse of sea and sky. This all-carry, all-or-nothing hole is “Mike Shanahan’s favorite,” Hardin says.
Chileno Bay’s 481-yard par-4 18th also comes with a water view, and its clubhouse espies Chileno Bay Resort & Residences taking shape in the distance. Looking past the cranes and CATs, I can envision the Glazier Le Architect-designed buildings, their earth, plant and sea tones in harmony with their surroundings as they welcome families and couples to a paradise worthy of the golden shore it occupies.
Jon Rizzi is the editor of Colorado AvidGolfer.
For more information: chilenobayresidences.com; 800-916-1290.
Every development should have a “sister” resort like Esperanza, the über-luxe Auberge Resort five miles south of Chileno Bay developed and operated by the same team behind VieVage. For three days and two nights, my wife and I reveled in an unparalleled level of cosseting. We basked in the one of Esperanza’s brilliantly appointed private Residences, soaking in the private outdoor hot tub and cooling off in our own infinity-edge pool. Seated outdoors at a table perched above the beach at Cocina Del Mar, listening to the surf pound the bluffs below us, we each savored three mouthwatering courses highlighted by impossibly fresh red snapper and wahoo. The knowing hands at Esperanza’s luxury spa delivered stress-melting bliss, as did the hibiscus margaritas we enjoyed with ceviche afterwards. If you need to see, touch and feel something before you buy it, Esperanza more than previews the level of service VieVage will deliver.—J.R.