This past week was the first time I have traveled outside the United States since COVID started.
If you’re like me, you are itching to go SOMEWHERE, and I had the opportunity to accompany 25 other travel advisors, at the invitation of Palace Resorts, to experience the LeBlanc Spa Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. All the time I lived in Mexico several years ago, I never had a chance to travel to Cabo, so I jumped at the chance!
My experience at the Nashville airport was very interesting. I know some of you reading this live here, and if you haven’t flown lately, you need to know that there are now two separate security areas, so you need to know if your airline is in the South Terminal (where Southwest is, concourses C & D) or North Terminal (where United is, Concourses A & B). The security area is very large and social distancing is quite easy. It wasn’t crowded at all, so that was nice.
United boards their flights from the back rows first, so those of us in first class boarded last. There was no meal or snack service on the first leg from Nashville to Houston, so luckily, I brought my own. I immediately took the 99% alcohol wipes (travel pack) I bought at Target and wiped down everything I might come in contact with: seatbelt, buckle, armrests, window shade, etc. In Houston, most venues were closed, especially retail. That was surprising, but eventually, I found a place to eat and wait out my layover. United handed out sanitizing wipes on the plane for my next flight (and both flights on my return last night), which I was glad for since I had packed my other wipes.
If you haven’t traveled to Mexico lately, you may be surprised by the protocols that are currently in place. While they still offer most forms on board, it is very helpful to fill these out prior to leaving home, print them, and take them with you. This will save a ton of time later, and avoid having to hang out in the airport with a bunch of people in close proximity to other people filling them out. In addition to the customs/immigration form, there is an added health questionnaire where you answer COVID-related questions.
Customs and immigration were pretty similar to before, except for one more stop turning in the health questionnaire. When our driver picked us up at the airport, he sanitized our luggage before putting it in the car. This is a common process, from what I hear. Upon check-in at the resort, we all had to walk across a mat to disinfect our shoes, and everywhere you go they are taking our temperature and squirting hand sanitizer. In the room, there is a care pack called Purely LeBlanc, containing a mask, hand sanitizer, and to sanitizing wipes. Every time you enter a restaurant or the spa, you get your temperature taken and a glop of sanitizer squirted into your hand.
The resort experience was really cool. LeBlanc is an adults-only luxury resort known for its service and friendly people. The first thing you’ll notice is that the hallways smell like cucumber mint. The resort has 369 rooms, the vast majority of which have an ocean view (the Mexican government won’t allow greater than 60% capacity right now, so it didn’t feel crowded at all), 7 restaurants and 6 bars, 4 pools with one infinity pool overlooking the ocean (and 2 swim-up bars). Cabanas are first come, first served (if you want one with a TV, it’s $290/day and includes a bottle of sparkling wine). If you’re a golfer, you’ll be happy to know that they teamed up with One & Only Palmilla down the road for golf privileges.
All room categories include the same amenities, a free beach bag, and a butler who takes care of any special requests such as restaurant and spa reservations, drawing a bubble bath, delivering aromatherapy and artisan soaps, and even packing and unpacking (not gonna lie – I was curious about this, so I had my butler pack my suitcase yesterday)!
OK, on to accommodations. The beds are cloud beds and very, very comfortable. I slept like a baby. Woke up to an amazing ocean view. Stunning! Pro tip: The Junior Suites are in the left corner of the tall building and have the best views. There is a gorgeous separate oceanfront villa called The Residence with 4 bedrooms, 18,000 square feet, with its own plunge pool. The Residence sleeps 8-12 people (perfect for couples and adult families traveling together) and goes for $20k/night. A resort chef will cook one lunch and one dinner in the full kitchen.
Due to COVID restrictions, there is a 20-person maximum right now for the gym, and reservations are required. Restaurants are at 50% capacity, but reservations are required only for dinner. The spa includes 25 different treatment rooms (largest in Los Cabos), and appointments are very limited due to COVID, so making a reservation ASAP is highly recommended– do the water journey (included in your stay) alone or before treatments (45 minutes to an hour). You migrate from the sauna to a cold room to a steam room, and then a warm pool, to HOT tub, and then dunk in a super cold pool. It was such an amazing experience (and surprisingly relaxing)!
The culinary travel expert in me was super geeked out over the choices of cuisine. The variety of choices allowed me to try a new place every night. Restaurants serve organic fruits/vegies, fresh local seafood from local fishermen. Blanc Café is a great place for coffee and a snack. Choices include shakes, coffee, pastries, amazing variety of macrons (my favorite flavor was passionfruit). Casual choices are Blanc Pizza, Blanc Ocean (an oceanfront café), and Blanc International. More formal choices include Blanc Asia, Blanc Italia, Mezza (a Lebanese restaurant, and Lumiere, a French restaurant with a 9-course chef’s dinner and wine pairing (all food and beverages are included in your stay, but this one costs $260). The food quality in most venues for breakfast was decent – not outstanding, but good. I didn’t have lunch on property, so I can’t speak to that, but I have to say, Blanc Italia was my absolute favorite meal during my stay – the food was exceptional and our waiter was a comedian. Lumiere was a close runner-up.
If you’re looking for a place to hold a destination wedding, this is a great place for that! The terrace on the 5th floor is expansive and has the perfect arch as a backdrop. Twice, we saw fireworks on the beach! A complimentary honeymoon package includes a preview trip to check out the resorts to help the bride and groom decide whether to choose LeBlanc (including a 2-night stay, free room upgrade, welcome amenity, site inspection, mini bridal showroom, lunch w/wedding cake tasting and 25-minute back massage. If they choose LeBlanc for their wedding, their airfare will be credited toward wedding extras.
Originally, I didn’t think I would need much cash because we were staying at an all-inclusive, but I’m always of the belief that too much is better than not enough, so I brought the leftover pesos from my last trip plus about $200-250 in dollars. We took a lot of taxis due to the site inspections we did (most didn’t accept credit cards), and what I brought wasn’t nearly enough. I even had to go to the ATM at the last resort (Nobu) to get back to LeBlanc. Most of the taxi rides cost anywhere from $22-60, even though none were much longer than 30 minutes!
Well, all good things must come to an end, and what I saw when returning to the San Jose del Cabo airport was a huge shock. While BNA and IAH’s airports were relatively empty on the way down, and even Cabo’s airport on arrival was largely the same way, on the way back was anything but. Social distancing notices were posted all over, but it was largely ignored. If you’re uncomfortable being around a lot of people, this would not be the place for you. It is a good idea to get there earlier than you think you’ll need to due to the sheer volume of people trying to get checked in and luggage checked, and if you try to go up the escalator to security without filling out a health form, the security guy will give you one and you’ll have to go to a designated area to fill it out. They are only letting 45 people into the VIP lounge, so there is a line you have to wait in until someone leaves before they’ll let anyone else in, so we decided to have lunch at the restaurant. I always knew airport food was a bit pricey, but this airport takes the cake! Fish tacos and a small margarita should not cost $35!
I hope you enjoyed this inside look of my Mexican adventure! Next week, I’ll go into more detail on the other luxury resorts I toured (all family-friendly, as opposed to adults-only, and not all-inclusive) and what I thought of each one. Until then, have a great week!
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