New Hotel Is Waaaay Out There

Hotel San Cristobal offers a relaxing, unplugged experience
BY: LACEY STORER

Many Los Cabos resorts describe themselves as an oasis, although not all live up to it. But just outside of Todos Santos, at Punto Lobos beach, the Hotel San Cristobal offers guests a beautiful, serene getaway that’s every bit what you’d expect from an oasis.

Hotel San Cristobal is a 32-room boutique hotel brought to us by the Bunkhouse Group, a hospitality company based in Austin, Texas. Bunkhouse’s properties focus on design, music, and authentic community driven experiences, and these can all be seen throughout the hotel, particularly the latter.

newhotel.JPGThere are yoga classes and sunrise gong ceremonies held under the second story rooftop palapa. There’s the library, with a fireplace and old timey 78 RPM records with matching turntable. (Right now there are more records than books; they’re still on their way from Austin). And in the open-air fireplace area by the pool, guests can cozy up to a fire every night. The hotel encourages the guests to unplug, so while there is Wi-Fi available, there are no TVs in any of the rooms. Yes, there are phones.

Having such a small number of rooms gives the hotel a very intimate feeling. Meghan Hughes, the hotel’s general manager, says it almost feels like a summer camp for adults, as everyone ends up making friends with each other and eating together and going on excursions together. In fact, she says, one out every four or five guests enjoys their time at Hotel San Cristobal so much that they extend their stay by a couple nights. Well, that’s what she says, and who would lie to the press?

So, how much are they paying for those extra nights? Right now, in low season, rooms range from $185 to $330 USD per night. And it’s important to note that this is NOT an all-inclusive resort, even though it’s towards the outskirts of civilized life as we know it.  Any meals or drinks you get from the hotel’s pool bar or Benno restaurant (which touts “Baja Mediterranean” cuisine”) are extra. Not cheap, but manageable, for most of us.

So you live here and don’t need a hotel? And say you don’t want to snuggle up to thousands of strangers on Medano Beach? The bar, and all three of the restaurants is open to the public. (For $25 you can even get a pool pass.)

When it first opened, the hotel welcomed children of all ages, but they got so much feedback, even from guests with children, that this wasn’t what the guests wanted. In response, the hotel raised the child age limit to 12. This still allows families to stay there without the mayhem of crying, screaming rug rats (patio rats?) screwing up the vibe for the other guests. (And we are totally on board with that. Nothing ruins a vacation like having to deal with kids that aren’t yours. Come to think of it, even having to deal with kids that are yours isn’t always fun.)

The hotel, which just opened in April, has already received the attention of several big-name publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Vogue Magazine and Conde Nast Traveler; this because of the well-oiled machine of public relations out of a New York agency.

This isn’t a story of overnight success. It took five years for Hotel San Cristobal to get to this point. Progress on the hotel was stopped several times because of public demonstrations over the hotel “stealing” the beach from the fishermen. If you have never seen a beach stolen, you are in for a treat with this story.

Actually, the beach was stolen by a combination of Hurricane Odile’s visit and the time of the year. Beaches come and beaches go; culprits include storms and wind, tide, and wave action, but the timing of this beach bug-out was too juicy to pass up by those who don’t want the very large housing development of Tres Santos built. They blamed the caper of the missing beach on the hotel and the housing development.

At that time, the Pacific Ocean did come right up to the stone breakwater built to keep the hotel safe from erosion. Today it’s hard to believe the beach was ever that narrow, because the sand is back. And it is at least 200 yards wide. You nearly have to squint to see to the ocean! And nowadays there’s room enough for the men who, for generations, have been fishing from the beach, and for the hotel also. It’s amazing how, when resources are not scarce, everyone can suddenly get along. Well, it also helps that lead instigator of the unrest, John Moreno, is in jail in La Paz. But that’s another story for another time.

 “The fishermen and us are good,” Meghan says. The hotel buys fish from the guys every day, with the chef walking down to the beach every afternoon at 2 when the fisherman come back with their catch. He often has a gaggle of guests trailing after him. They want to see all the fish and takes pictures of the fisherman bringing in their haul. More interesting is how the boats jam on the speed 30 feet out, cresting through the surf to come thundering down onto the beach.

Perhaps to insure the tranquility of the two factions, the hotel employs many family members of the fisherman. “We created 53 local jobs,” Meghan says. “I’d say, in a town of 4,000, that’s pretty good.”

And that’s not the only way the hotel is working to support the community, which is a big part of Bunkhouse’s company ethos. They work with one of the community organizations, and they partnered with Nike to donate sneakers for the local kids.

The hotel also has a kind of unofficial animal adoption program where they work with local animal shelter Pescy Dogs. They bring in dogs, parading them by unsuspecting guests who might be cajoled into adopting. The hotel works with a local vet to get the dog’s health certificates done up so they can go back to the States with the guests. Meghan tells us so far they have found homes for seven critters.

The hotel, along with Jazamango, the restaurant that sits up on the hill in Todos Santos,  just about four miles away at the other end of the property, is the first phase of the Tres Santos development, which is going nowhere. When we ask why the lack of progress, we are told they are “reconceptualizing,” which we take to mean they’ve realized their old sales strategy wasn’t working, so now they’ve got to figure out some new angle to move those residences.

Their old strategy was having a few overage hippies in Birkenstocks extolling the virtues of sustainable living. Turns out building 5,000 new Gringo homes in a town of 4,000 Mexicans wasn’t considered sustainable, especially when the developers were caught stealing water from the town. Desalinization is sustainable, taking water with no meter in place is not. Who knew? Apparently not Black Creek, the embattled developer.

But, regardless of how much Tres Santos ultimately does or doesn’t build or sell, Hotel San Cristobal has already established itself as a place where tourists and locals alike can have fun, relax and get away from it all.

If you want to go for a pool day or for drinks and dinner, the hotel is only a couple of miles outside of Todos Santos, not far after the highway splits into a Y to go to Todos Santos or La Paz. There are plans to get highway signs and a billboard to alert visitors when they’re getting close, but for now be on the lookout for the stone and steel pillar that has the (barely visible) Tres Santos name on it. There’s also a temporary Hotel San Cristobal banner flapping between two palm trees, but by the time you see that, you’ve already whizzed past the dirt road. No biggie, just continue on the paved road a little further and turn around at the El Faro entrance.

And if you’re interested in booking a stay, you can make reservations online at www.sancristobalbaja.com.