Monday, September 14, 2015

One Year Later - Returning to Cabo

Revisiting the scene, one year after Hurricane Odile (the most powerful hurricane on record to ever hit the Baja Peninsula) made landfall

The beautiful Hilton Los Cabos was our vacation destination-turned hurricane shelter and home for the days after the storm, as well as for the days leading up to our eventual evacuation out of Baja. What was supposed to be a quick girls' weekend away in Mexico ended up being an unforgettable experience in ways that we never could have originally imagined.  In my previous post (one year ago to be exact…) I documented the events of that trip and the state of devastation that Los Cabos was left in once the category four storm passed through. I also expressed my gratitude for the level of care that all of the Hilton Los Cabos team members so unselfishly exuded during that week of seemingly unreal circumstances. Today that level of gratitude and admiration for the Hilton staff is even stronger, as they have tirelessly endured a year of rebuilding not just the hotel, but their own homes and communities which were completely devastated. It is such an incredible feeling to be able to return one year later and see the hotel (and the rest of Cabo for that matter) rebuilt more beautifully than ever, and flowing with the spirit and energy of the people who have worked so hard to bring it all back to life.

After the hurricane, one of the other hotel guests created a Facebook page, "Hilton Los Cabos Hurricane Odile Survivors" so that we could all keep in touch with each other and the hotel once we arrived back home. Through this page, we've been able to pass the word along about the relief fund set up for the Hilton staff, see the progress of the hotel over the past year, and just basically keep in touch and share stories and photos. The staff and the guests of the Hilton have become like an extended family to us, and this type of experience doesn't just "stop" once you leave and go back home.  It permanently resonates with you, and this page was/is a way for us to stay connected despite our inability to physically stay in Cabo to help with the relief effort.

Here are some post-hurricane areas of note. For more detailed information, I've included some links at the end of the page:

  • Hurricane Odile left more than $1.3 billion USD in damage in its wake. It was the most powerful storm on record to ever hit Cabo San Lucas. There were 15 reported casualties.
  • There are 350 team members working at the Hilton Los Cabos. Of those 350, over 200 reported to have lost everything in the hurricane. It's needless to say that the rest of the population of Baja didn't fare so well either.
  • Through the Hilton Worldwide Responds Fund, over $500,000 was raised by hotel guests, Hilton team members around the world, and the public in order to help the Hilton Los Cabos team members start to rebuild their homes and communities. 
  • The Hilton committed to keeping every single team member on payroll after the disaster, despite the hotel's closure for the majority of the year. 
  • The hotel is officially re-opened, and absolutely gorgeous. It also has been rebuilt to easily withstand a category 5 hurricane. (What weather? ;)  ) 

I've started off by posting some before and after shots of the hotel. Before as in during and right after the storm hit, and after as in September 2015. All photos are mine and taken by me (unless, of course, I'm in the photo...)  If you're interested in seeing more detailed photos of the actual damage and chronological events of the storm, you can check out my previous post: 

Our first view,  the morning after the storm

Same view, one year later

Our hotel room, the majestic 2037

Room 2037 now (but I'm a little offended they took our decorative towels down. ;)  )

Inside our flooded room
Totally redesigned, with ombre curtains matching the Sea of Cortez.  And no flooding.  ;)

Sunrise view from our room, then and now

"La Vista," the main bar overlooking the infinity pool and Sea of Cortez. It has been redesigned using reclaimed furniture pieces from the hurricane damage. Amazing.

More highlights from my recent stay: 

Sunrise over the Sea of Cortez

Early morning pool view


The patio at Los Golondrinas, Downtown Cabo

Chef Mauricio's amazing kitchen creations

Perseverance, coated in marzipan, chocolate and sugary sweetness.  ;)   This hotel and all of its team members have been through an incredible amount of difficulty this year on the road to recovery.  Sure, any construction group could have just come in and rebuilt the structure and called it a day, but only the Los Cabos Hilton team could rebuild and infuse the hotel with the magic and energy that exists here today. You can feel it from the moment you set foot in the lobby.  It's electric.    

Just a few of my favorite people at the hotel:

Max, Executive Assistant Manager. This guy is Superman.  He was our fearless leader during the storm situation, and yet somehow managed to stay calm and collected throughout. From the way he handled the entire ordeal, you would have thought that he had been through this 50 times before. 

Isay, customer experience extraordinaire. One of the kindest people you will ever meet.

Jorge ("Of the Jungle") Poolside popsicles, ice cold towels, fresh fruit skewers, guacamole making class… He also never stops smiling. 

Hotel guests and team members celebrating the re-opening of the hotel and the one-year anniversary of Odile. We were treated to a feast by Executive Chef Mauricio, with some of the most amazing seafood dishes I have ever tried, fresh tamales, beef carpaccio… the list goes on and on and it was incredible.   I say it with all sincerity, that I have never had a better meal than this in Cabo San Lucas, and this is my 7th visit to Baja. It was a special night with a lot of very special people.

Until next time, Hilton Los Cabos. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. 

Additional references and information: