Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – “Explore Los Cabos”

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Arrival

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Westin Los Cabos Resort

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – “Explore Los Cabos”

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Departure

Since we listened to the timeshare pitch, our concierge gave us a coupon for just over 20% off any activity we wanted to participate in. After some investigation, we decided on the “Explore Los Cabos” package offered by Rancho Tours. Check it out for a full list of activities included.

There was a huge scheduling issue where our names were not present on the initial excursion, but with a great deal of effort on the behalf of our concierge, we were picked up by another group that was just about to start their event.

Sea of Cortez and The Arch

The tour itself began with a ride to the marina in Cabo San Lucas to take a ride on a glass-bottom boat. The fish were ridiculously friendly! I left my 18-55mm lens at the room, thinking the 27mm lens should work nicely for general shooting throughout the day.

Halfway through the boat ride, our captain let us know we were approaching The Arch. This is the southernmost point of the West coast, and where the Sea of Cortez joins with the Pacific Ocean. My girlfriend got a few really nice shots on her S8:

Blown Glass

The next stop in our excursion was a local glass blowing factory. We had the opportunity to watch a family make a fish-shaped vase in just over 15 minutes. The final step is to cool it down in a second oven, which takes roughly a day.

Tequila!

We had the opportunity to learn the basics of tequila distillation, as well as the history behind the alcohol. Be sure to only buy tequila made with 100% agave to minimize hangovers! Just as other alcohols are finished in barrels of various types, tequila is aged in charred (to remove older flavors) barrels to create reposado and añejo from blanco. Definitely picked some up to take home with me!

The Mission

After lunch at “El Herradero”, we about wandered downtown starting with the Mission itself. Though we saw various artistic venues after the Mission, there were signs asking we not take photographs. Gorgeous artwork, though!

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Westin Los Cabos Resort

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Arrival

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Westin Los Cabos Resort

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – “Explore Los Cabos”

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Departure

First, an apology: the lighting in many of these shots are terrible – but as we had been awake for roughly 20 hours I was far too lazy to retake them. The room itself was amazing; we were upgraded from a studio to a two-bedroom suite (a nice surprise!) and had a hot-tub on the balcony. Talk about relaxing!

The Room

Thankfully, my girlfriend managed to snag some shots in the morning.

The Property

Exploring the property took a fair amount of time given how spread out things were, but we were given a map which helped. The views were spectacular. Though a timeshare was not in my immediate future, I could definitely see myself coming back. Multiple pools, a small convenience store, and some excellent restaurant options makes this an excellent choice.

One of the restaurants on the property has a pool-side bar and will bring food to your lounge chair! I opted for the Acapulco style ceviche (with huge chunks of octopus, shrimp, and fish), while my girlfriend had the fried calamari. Thoroughly delicious.

Fried calamari
Acapulco style ceviche

El Ciruelo

For our last night in Cabo, we opted to have dinner at El Ciruelo – a restaurant at the top of a neighboring hill. Though technically part of the “Baja Point” property, it is becoming a part of the Westin resort in the very near future. Since the start of the incline is rather steep and it was already dark, we caught a ride in a golf-cart on both the way up and down. I won’t bore you with the details, and leave you to drool over our dinner. Enjoy!

Closing Thoughts

Though I didn’t take advantage of the timeshare offer, I can definitely see myself returning in the future. Between the weather, location, and the options for activities and dining, it’s a spectacular option for staying in Cabo.

Some miscellaneous shots while wandering with my camera:

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Departure

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Arrival

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Westin Los Cabos Resort

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – “Explore Los Cabos”

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Departure

Before we knew it, it was time for us to return home – vacations are never long enough! We had arranged for round-trip shuttle service between the airport and our hotel, so we were promptly picked up and deposited at the airport. Though our driver insisted that we needed to leave the hotel by 4:30 AM, we found that the airport counters and security are not open until 5:00 AM. Adding to the fun: most stores and restaurants are closed until 6 or later, depending on the store.

Our initial flight from SJD to MEX was fairly uneventful. We were once again on a regional jet operated by Aeromexico Connect, and we were asked to not use headphones until we reached 10,000 feet. Another interesting quirk: Aeromexico doesn’t serve alcohol before 11:00 AM local time, but all alcohol is complimentary after 11:00 AM.

While taxiing, my girlfriend was able to snap a few gorgeous shots of planes, including a Boeing 727 used by the Polícia Federal! We quite a few Dreamliners, as well as a plane with livery I couldn’t recognize in the least… it almost looks like a funky Alitalia color scheme. If you can figure out who’s flying this plane, let me know!

Aeromexico Salon Premier

Instead of the Heineken sponsored lounge that we visited during our first time through MEX, we opted to grab some caffeine and libations at one of the larger Salon Premier lounges.

This lounge is one of three that are located in the mezzanine – to reach it you have to either take the elevator or climb the stairs near security. The lounge itself was quite spacious with two circular bars that served alcohol as well as coffee and tea. There was plenty of seating available with easy access to power outlets. Tucked away in the furthest corner were coolers for self-serve beer, water, and juice as well as a few snacks.

MEX-ATL

Probably the most frustrating part of the return was the experience while waiting to board the flight from Mexico City to Atlanta. A Delta representative let us know that we would need to get freshly printed boarding passes from Delta (our Aeromexico boarding passes would not allow us to board). Getting new boarding passes took nearly 15 minutes even though there was nobody in line before me, simply because the gate agents were talking to each other instead of paying attention to passengers – thoroughly disappointing.

Once we had received our new boarding passes, we got to experience the new TSA security measures for US-bound flights. While I understand the premise of asking the same question multiple times to ensure that you get the same answer, I tend to find this works best when the question isn’t immediately repeated. For example, I was asked how long I had stayed in Mexico three times… one right after another.

The remaining of the boarding process was fairly uneventful, but shortly after approaching the runway, we were turning back to the gate. There it was: the dreaded maintenance delay. Thankfully, we had planned for a 3 hour layover in Atlanta, so we made it to our connection with 10 minutes to spare (sans dinner).

Finally on our way, we were given physical menus to select our lunches from. I opted for the arroz con pollo while my girlfriend opted for the pasta. The chicken was slightly drier than the flight to Mexico, but the rice (really a pearl couscous) was quite good. The charcuterie plate was probably my favorite part of the meal, though.

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Arrival

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Arrival

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Westin Los Cabos Resort

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – “Explore Los Cabos”

Westin Los Cabos Trip Report – Departure

The Offer

A few months ago, I received an invitation to visit Westin’s newly renovated resort property in Los Cabos. Given the price of the stay, I had a hard time saying no! I knew that this was going to be a timeshare pitch, given my experience at the Westin Lagunamar, so I had mentally prepared myself for the whole spiel prior to arrival.

The routing was a little wonky since the direct flight from Atlanta was not available on the days I was considering, so we had a second layover in Mexico City. Though I wasn’t able to fly on a Dreamliner as I had hoped, I was still able to give Aeromexico a shot.

The Club at ATL

With some time to kill upon arrival at Atlanta, we headed to Concourse F for our flight to Mexico City. Though there is a SkyClub, I opted instead to visit The Club (a member of PriorityPass). Unfortunately, since we were flying on a Sunday and it was before 12:30 PM we were not served any alcohol due to Georgia state law.

There were various cookies, chips, and breakfast items when I initially arrived, but they were in the process of setting out the lunch items.

ATL-MEX

Since the flight from Atlanta to Mexico City is a short three and a half hours, Delta opted for a 737. Unfortunately since it was using ground-based WiFi, it was only available while we were flying over the US.

Our Ride – B737

Upon boarding, we were offered orange juice, champagne, or mimosas as our pre-departure beverages. Since we were heading out on vacation, our choice was clear. 😉

Champagne!

Shortly after reaching cruising altitude, we were given our option for meals – chicken or vegetable lasagna. I wasn’t really feeling pasta, so I opted for the chicken. Expecting a single tray of food, I was quite surprised when we were given a multi-course meal instead!

Our lunch started with olive-oil crostini with what I think was  cheese and candied sweet potato. Also present was a Caesar salad and Tiramisu.

Once our appetizers were done, the small plates were cleared and replaced with our entree. The sweet potatoes with our entree weren’t nearly as sweet as those with our appetizer (thankfully!), and the chicken wasn’t as dry as most airline meals.

Mexico City

Since this was my first time visiting the Mexico City airport I planned for a longer layover than normal – just over five hours. While it might have been a little unnecessary, I prefer to err on the side of caution for international connections when Customs are involved. Thankfully, it went fairly smoothly and we had some time to explore.

MEX-SJD

Our last flight of the day was on an Embraer ERJ-190 operated by Aeromexico Connect. Though the first row had substantial legroom, which we were quite grateful for, the presence of oxygen tanks in the overhead bins meant that we had to stow our bags a few rows back. Something to keep in mind!

Excellent legroom… terrible storage
Second Row for Comparison

The only snack available for this short flight was a nut medley (cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds and so on).

Mixed Nuts

Overall, the flight was a smooth one. I was very surprised that we were asked to not have headphones on or use electronic equipment below 10,000 feet. I’m not sure if that is something that is unique to Aeromexico or Aeromexico Connect, but I can’t remember the last time I was asked to remove my headphones on a plane.

Revamped AmEx Hilton Offerings

The news has been making its way around the blogosphere this morning that American Express is going to be reworking their Hilton-branded credit cards. While a lot of these changes were not surprising, they are all most definitely welcome.

No Annual Fee

The no-fee card is finally free of foreign transaction fees! No other changes, but this has been long overdue.

Earning Structure
  • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases

Surpass → Ascend

While there was a $20 increase in annual fee ($75 to $95), you get a free Weekend Night after spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year. As with the no-fee card, this card had its foreign transaction fees removed. You also get 10 free Priority Pass visits. The Priority Pass perk isn’t too special since so many cards offer it, these days, but it isn’t bad to have. The earning rates don’t seem to have changed, so nothing new there, either.

Earning Structure
  • 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases

Business

In hindsight, I have no idea why this wasn’t offered before given the presence of both Delta and Starwood co-branded cards having both personal and business variants. As milestomemories points out, it might have been because Citi also had a contract with Hilton. This card is virtually identical to the Ascend card with the option of a second Weekend Night after spending $60,000 in a calendar year. There are some changes to the earning structure from the Ascend card, however, which should appeal to small businesses.

Earning Structure
  • 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service producers and U.S. purchases for shipping
  • 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on U.S. restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases

Aspire

This is the really interesting one… for an annual fee of $450, you get quite a few perks.

First off, you receive Diamond status as long as you hold the card. This is probably going to be the most appealing and most controversial perk offered by the card. While it definitely offsets the annual fee for frequent guests that can’t attain the status organically (or even occasional guests, for that matter), I can see it leading to frustrating more frequent travelers who attain the status by spending nights at hotels. I don’t know if Hilton will add a new top tier, similarly to what IHG did with Spire vs. Platinum, to offset this. We’ll have to wait and see on that…

Similar to the Business card, you receive a Weekend Night when you spend $60,000 a calendar year, but the first Weekend Night is complimentary instead of having a $15,000 price-tag associated with it.

As with other premium offerings, you receive quite a few credits:

  • $250 airline incidental fee statement credit (the way the Platinum card credit works)
  • $250 Hilton resort statement credit
  • $100 on property credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking the exclusive Aspire Card package

You also receive a Priority Pass membership on top of it all, and naturally there are no foreign transaction fees.

 

Earning Structure
  • 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on other purchases

Final Thoughts

I am really impressed with the Aspire offering, and while the airline incidental fee isn’t the easiest to use (if it is implemented the same as with the Platinum card), it does help make that $450 annual fee easier to swallow. As I already hold the Citi Prestige and AmEx Platinum, I am not sure I will pursue the Aspire, but it is very tempting… What about you?

A tip of the hat to Doctor of Credit, milestomemories, and pointswithacrew.