This Beloved Hawaii Resort Got a Lush $300 Million Makeover. Here’s a Look Inside.

Welcome to Checking In, a new review series in which our editors and contributors rate the best new (and revamped) luxury hotels based on a rigorous—and occasionally tongue in cheek—10-point system: Each question answered “yes” gets one point. Will room service bring you caviar? Does your suite have its own butler? Does the bathroom have a bidet? Find out below.

Zadún, a Ritz Carlton Reserve, San José del Cabo, Mexico

There are pools aplenty at the Ritz’s rival to Aman.

What’s the deal?
The 113-room, 20-acre property opened in late 2019, the fourth of the now-five strong Reserve chain and quickly became the hottest high-end hideaway on the peninsula. And no wonder, as the Reserve properties are Marriott’s shameless attempt to rival Aman, the most luxurious hotels in its portfolio. Each site is distinctive in design and emphasis, and golf is a major draw at Zadún, a name inspired by the Spanish word for the dunes it’s tucked amid, dunas; it sits between two courses, one each designed by Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman.

The best room?
The $15,000-per-night, five-bedroom, 10,010-square-foot Grand Reserve villa is the Reserve’s retort to a penthouse suite, set apart to the east of the property and entirely self-contained, including a workout studio and pool. Among the standard rooms, the best of them are those closest to the Barrio restaurant, which is the core of the resort. Ask for one of those if you’d rather avoid trundling round on golf carts and walk everywhere instead.

The Rundown

The Grand Reserve villa spreads out over 10,010 square feet.

Greeted by name at check-in?
Yes. Though, of course, the gatekeeper had tipped off the welcome team.

Welcome drink ready and waiting when you arrived? (Bonus point if it wasn’t just fruit juice.)
Yes and yes. There wasn’t just a welcome drink, but a welcome bar plus barkeep, who offered a non-alcoholic hibiscus-flavored quencher—spiked with tequila and mezcal by choice. I opted for a shot of Patron Silver.

Private butler in the room?
Yes. Technically, not a butler, but a tosoani—that’s Dream Watcher in the local Nahuatl language. And not one of them, but rather two: Mara and Edgar, who tag-teamed the entire time during the stay and were more attentive than Jeeves on his best day, asking when turndown and maid service should be scheduled unprompted. Standout gesture: a book, left open to a certain page, was closed and a hotel-branded bookmark slipped in as a marker.

Sheet thread count 300 or higher? Yes. The 380-count Frette linens are crisp and white. The rest of the room is refreshingly colorful, heavy on intense blue accents. No bland, blond wood here.

The indoor-outdoor bathrooms are Baja big.

Heated floor in the bathroom or a bidet? Or both?
No. The huge outdoor shower was a bonus, though.

Are the toiletries full-sized?
Yes. Generous to a fault: full-sized bottles of the in-house brand, Alkemia, named after the enormous, 30,000-square-foot spa on-site. The experience there stood out for several unexpected thoughtful touches, whether a glass of Champagne to close out the experience or the attendant spin-drying my damp bathing suit while I was massaged.

Private pool for the room’s exclusive use?
Yes, all but the rooms with two queen beds have plunge pools with ocean views. There are two larger pools for all guests: the adults-only wet space, though, is a little cramped, so better to stick with the welcome-all pool just off the main restaurant and book a cabana for privacy. There are umbrellas on the beach in front of the property, but don’t come expecting a dip in the ocean, though; the water here’s too choppy for swimming.

Worth spending Friday night in the lobby bar?
Yes. And I did—or, rather, spent it by the fire pit outside Candil, its landmark drinking den, housed in a geometric metal sheath like a glowing lantern. The drinks menu focuses on agave spirits of every ilk, from tequila and mezcal to sotol and raicilla.

Caviar on the room service menu?
Yes. There’s no à la carte menu—nothing so workaday—but you can summon a saucer or two of caviar via your tosoani any time.

Would you buy the hotel if you could?
Yes. And since there are residences on-site, it’s easy to own a piece of the property. Kudos, too, for allowing a true sense of place, often lacking in high-touch, high-end hotel. The vibrantly colored Barrio restaurant, with custom crockery and placemats from local indie Mexican brands, was a joyous jolt, and the blue-accented rooms were brighter and more welcoming than the dark wood-dominated decor that’s often now a default.

The Verdict:

Zadún is a reminder that all Cabos aren’t created equal—just a short drive from the soulless San Lucas, San José del Cabo is a charming counterpoint, with a far greater sense of place. This resort echoes its locale, refreshingly liberated from much of the corporate formatting that constrains even five-star hotels, with everything from its architecture to on-site activities nodding to this corner of Mexico.

The Rate:

Standard doubles start from $1,499.

Score: 10

What Our Score Means:

1-3: Fire your travel agent if they suggest you stay here.
4-6: Solid if you’re in a pinch—but only if you’re in a pinch.
7-8: Very good. We’d stay here again and recommend it without qualms.
9-10: Forget booking a week. When can we move in permanently?

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