Rancho Pescadero began as one woman’s dream almost three decades ago. Today, it’s a driving force behind powerful environmental and community projects in the fast-growing Baja region on Mexico’s Pacific coast.
In the mid 1990’s, Lisa Harper spent nearly a year camping out on a secluded beach in the small fishing village of El Pescadero, taking a break between acting as CEO for companies like Gymboree, Hot Topic and Torrid. Her not-so-secret spot was located just outside Todos Santos, where she discovered a two-mile-long empty beach, amazing wildlife, great surf, and a laidback way of life. In 1997, she purchased a parcel of beachfront land where local farmers had been growing poblano chili peppers for generations, knowing the property needed to be revived and its natural beauty highlighted. With a pioneering mindset to build responsibly, Harper planted hundreds of palms and neem trees and installed necessary infrastructure while sketching the initial design for a 12-room hotel on graph paper. She opened the hotel in 2009, employing locals, most of whom had never worked in hospitality, teaching them the basics of hotel operations and encouraging them to bring their personalities to the experience. It was the beginning of Rancho Pescadero – born of the spectacular wealth of nature on the unspoiled Baja coastline.
“In the beginning, it was just about creating stable employment opportunities that allowed locals who had never worked in hospitality a chance to work their way up the ranks, and to improve their living situations and overall quality of life,” said Harper. “My experience has taught me that people are most engaged when they are encouraged to be their authentic selves while giving them access to great education and a place to hone their skills.”
With an absolute commitment to responsible development garnered from her decades as a resident of the community, Harper and her team are gearing up to unveil a ground-up transformation of Rancho Pescadero more than two decades after the property’s original opening. While the hotel’s sincere, humanistic approach remains the same, its amenities and experiences are being reimagined to immerse travelers in the region’s culture and inspire them to rethink the way they travel. As the Rancho team embarks on the most extensive project Todos Santos has ever seen, their mission is to ensure a standard-setting, responsible approach to the environment while improving the quality of life for residents and employees. The result is a model for regenerative tourism that will be revolutionary for luxury travel in Baja and one that Harper hopes will encourage other developers to take a responsible approach to tourism.
Spanning 30 acres with nine gardens designed to represent Baja’s vast array of ethnobotanical offerings, Rancho Pescadero will offer 103 luxury guest rooms including oceanfront villas and suites with outdoor showers, plunge pools and private roof decks and multiple culinary concepts that include a sprawling beachfront pool and restaurant that rivals those found in destinations from Mykonos to Marbella. Central to Harper’s vision is a dedication to wellbeing. In addition to a farm and orchard where guests can source their own ingredients for meals and spa treatments, a 25,000 square foot wellbeing complex will feature an apothecary rooted in the power of nature and the wisdom of plants, a Pilates studio, two yoga shalas and an extensive array of programming designed to foster personal enrichment, from meditation and sound healing to gardening, cooking, crafting and more. The new hotel is set to debut in late summer.
Sparing no attention to detail, the guest experience at Rancho Pescadero is designed to be relaxed and intuitive. From the moment travelers arrive, Harper believes they ‘cross over.’ An unmarked entry serves as a portal to a Narnia-like, otherworldly escape. In lieu of a traditional check-in desk, guests are greeted by towering living alters and friendly hosts who guide them through the property’s grounds, which have been mindfully designed, inspired by the biosphere of Baja, to gradually transition from desert to dunes. Two diverging paths upon entry — one sand and one brick — will allow travelers to choose their journey, whether that means taking off their shoes and feeling the bare earth on their feet or stopping along the way to roam the gardens, slice their own artisanal soap, and visit the farm. Or simply unwind in their suites, al fresco on private patios, devouring treats like Harper’s famous breakfast baskets - a mainstay amenity from the original hotel. With a philosophy centered around the art of living well, Rancho Pescadero’s programs encourage guests to experience Baja naturally and authentically, while teaching them that the solution to wellness and environmental responsibility is never one-size-fits-all. With additional design details, programming, and experiences to be announced soon, the focus for now remains on the hotel’s commitment to regenerate the local area.
Harper isn’t an environmental expert, but her many years in Baja and knowledge of its residents, culture, environmental and socioeconomic challenges, has allowed her to be a vehicle for change. Her community efforts include building a local pre-school and homes for Rancho Pescadero’s 300+ employees. The first phase of this project will provide housing for all employees who want it, and the second phase will create affordable housing and resources for the broader community. In response to a lack of local continued education, Harper will break ground this year on a technical school for the community where residents will learn marketable trades and skill sets for a variety of different industries.
Harper’s team is meticulously reforesting all plants moved during construction, reusing construction materials from the original property, and sourcing locally for the hotel’s materials, furnishings and artwork. More than 50% of the acreage is made up of indigenous plants and 90% of its food and beverage is sourced from within 50 miles of the hotel, including produce from El Pescadero and fresh fish from nearby Punta Lobos. Not to mention, goats, chickens and other livestock, which are raised onsite and part of the hotel’s ethnobotanical culinary concept. The property will also have wastewater treatment and gray water recycling, desalination, and solar energy. Converting to a fully sustainable power grid and launching a water bottling plant on property are in Harper’s short-term plans.
“First and foremost, Rancho Pescadero is a community investment,” remarks Harper. “From an environmental responsibility standpoint, we’re building the project to be as self-sufficient as possible. I always believe that if I provide a great product that’s done responsibly, we’re going to win in the end. Our goal with Rancho is simply to do the right thing and trust the outcome to speak for itself, and hopefully show other properties that they can do it as well.”
About Rancho Pescadero
Just an hour north of Cabo near the artist's enclave of Todos Santos, Rancho Pescadero is a destination for those looking to immerse themselves in the nature, rich culture and beauty of Mexico's Baja region. A playground of 30 beachfront acres located beneath the soaring peaks of the Sierra Laguna mountains, Rancho Pescadero is a restorative retreat where nature, wellness, and sustainably sourced cuisine reign supreme and travelers are guided through a journey of personal enrichment designed to restore their mind, body and spirit. Amenities include 103 luxury suites and oceanfront villas with curated spaces designed to inspire a mix of indoor and outdoor living; nine lush gardens; an ethnobotanical culinary concept that includes a farm and Huerta; an outdoor wellness center complete with a full-service spa, apothecary, and wide array of fitness and yoga/meditation offerings; and multiple dining concepts that include a sprawling oceanfront restaurant. While the guest experience leaves nothing to be desired, Rancho Pescadero's sincere and soulful approach — a genuine interest in the wellbeing of its people and local community, is what set the hotel apart and creates a memorable legacy for the small fishing village of El Pescadero.