Having helped plan resorts for splashy chains, such as the Four Seasons, Starwood, and Intrawest, Canadian hotelier Stu Waddell recently went renegade and decided to invent his own hotel. An adventurous, can-do sort, he bought an urban apartment building in the colonial seaside town of San José del Cabos, in Baja California Sur, Mexico (20 minutes from the Los Cabos International Airport), recruited a local team of carpenters, and got to work.
Geared to young travelers looking for "a pared down, do-it-yourself atmosphere," Stu's just-finished hotel, the Drift San José, aims to offer a new middle ground between boutique resort and high-end hostel: think the Ace minus the mob scene and high prices. We're ready to book our flights—and to replicate some of Stu's improvised designs in our own rooms.
Above: No two rooms at the Drift are exactly alike; each is $75 a night, including taxes. On arrival, guests can see what's available and choose their quarters. Photographs by Stu Waddell shot with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 digital SLR camera. Small in size, enormous in performance.
Above: Located in a remodeled apartment building with its own palm grove, the hotel is a 25 minute walk to the beach (via historic downtown San José or a bird sanctuary), and owner Stu himself is on site to point you in the right directions.
Above: Each of the hotel's eight rooms has a queen-sized bed set on an improvised platform. "The concept is based on what I think a true young traveler hotel should be," explains Stu. "It's meant to be basic, just the essentials." But not just any basics—to create the right atmosphere, Stu removed all of the building's tile and aluminum and replaced them with "more real and rustic materials, such as concrete, steel, and wood."
Above: All of the rooms are open plan and most have cast concrete bathtubs with overhead rainwater showers. "The design is meant to be urban, like an industrial loft, but at the same time respect the ranch culture of Baja," says Stu.
Above: Farm-style industrial—exposed piping and brass spigots.
Above: Some rooms have their own hammocks and punching bags. Stu replaced all of the doors with large sliding glass windows.
Above: An idea to recreate a home—a desk made from a plank of wood and a stool. Stu found the hotel's vintage desk lamps and wrestling posters at the Lagunilla Market in Mexico City.
Above: Another design worth replicating: a sculptural wall-hung closet built from welded steel.
Above: Like the bathtubs, in-room sinks are made of cast concrete, and, Stu points out, can be filled with ice and used as beer coolers. Their design, he says, "mimics the water tanks and cattle troughs of Baja's ranch lands."
Above: A Mexican indoor-outdoor chair with striped serape.
Above: All of the rooms open onto the central courtyard designed as a place for guests to meet. A communal guest kitchen is in the works.
Above: To further promote social interaction, there's a homemade fire pit.
Above: The beach is one of the San Jose's enticements—as is surfing, snorkeling, and fishing. The historic cobblestoned town itself has a plaza with a cathedral and a lively restaurant and gallery scene. For more details, go to Drift San Jose; reservations are booked via AirBnb.
Location of Drift San Jose Hotel: