While overseeing development of three Villa Group resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Owen Perry stumbled upon Loreto during a Baja weekend getaway. The company’s owner was smitten right off the bat.
“My wife and I really enjoyed the old town feel,” says Perry. “The water and the islands were just amazing. When we found secluded Danzante Bay, we realized this would be a great place for our clients to experience. And that was the genesis of creating Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto.”
After a 25-minute ride from Loreto International Airport (LTO), arriving at the resort is akin to discovering an oasis. Gazing from the large terrace off the reception area, it’s obvious why Perry was so inspired by the Sea of Cortez setting. The view is downright intoxicating, sweeping from the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains backdrop toward five islands that seem to float on azure water.
The design makes certain guests never forget where they are. All 181 air-conditioned deluxe studios, and 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom suites are decked out with large private balconies for soaking in the dramatic scenery. Elegantly furnished, suites are all about comfort with a living room, dining area, full kitchen, washer/dryer and whirlpool tub. Deluxe Suites are outfitted with kitchenettes.
Villa Group prides itself on clever touches like room access from a tiny device embedded in each guests’ wristband. Complimentary wireless Internet access throughout common areas keeps everyone connected. When its time to chill, guests find five turtle-themed pools, the 39,000-sq.ft. Sabilla Spa & Wellness Center, and shaded loungers on the beach.
While it doesn’t cater to the reveler mindset, the vibe is anything but dull. Days spice up with bartending classes, Spanish lessons, beach volleyball and aquaerobics. No doubt the hottest ticket is the tequila-fueled margarita race where thirsty competitors pedal a stationary bike with blender attached to see who can mix up the iconic concoction fastest.
And Thursday through Saturday, a 2-minute shuttle ride takes guests to Danzante Nightclub that’s perched on a hillside with 360-degree views of the mountains and sea.
The private cove setting seduces guests to plug into nature by strolling the wide beach, kayaking and eco-exploring along a trio of well-marked hiking trails.
“Whether hiking solo or guided, it offers a connection to the incredible natural surroundings with the amazing views over the Islands of Loreto at the end,” says activities manager Carlos Velasco. This feast for the eyes perspective also sheds light on just how masterfully the resort is designed to blend in with its Baja desert setting.
chocolate beyond dessert
In typical Villa Group fashion, cuisine dazzles as well. Beyond its fine dining fare, Danzante Restaurant presents an impressive wine list and cigar selection. This is where guests swoon over executive chef Roberto Cardazzo’s spin on coveted chocolate clams that earn their moniker for the dark shell color. Not only does the Italian-trained culinary wizard kayak out on the bay to dive for these delicacies, but he also whips them up with sinful touches like Parmesan, butter and brandy.
On the casual front, poolside Casa Mio preps brick-oven pizzas and Mexican specialties, while The Market Restaurant serves both buffet and a la carte options. Guests can also cook meals and snacks in their suite with provisions from onsite Palmita Market or order room service around the clock.
in the works
Perry notes that the resort is a work in progress. A Rees Jones-designed golf course breaks ground this summer, with the first nine holes slated to open in fall 2014. “We’re also bringing in two Apex zodiac-type boats for whale season tours and island tours, especially to Danzante Island,” says Perry.
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Bay of Loreto has been protected as a National Marine Park since June 2000. With low traffic compared to other Mexico underwater havens, this one tips the scale with nearly 1,000 species of reef-dwelling and migratory fish—with humpback and blue whales a bonus from February through April.
To better accommodate divers, Villa Group has introduced an expanded slate of resort-operated scuba programs that includes PADI certification. “With the Sea of Cortez literally at our doorstep, divers of all levels can experience what Jacque Cousteau referred to as ‘The Aquarium of the World,’” says Don Weintraub, the resort’s director of sales and marketing. “Or if it’s your first diving experience, we’re the only PADI resort in Loreto where you can earn certification.”
The quiet fishing village of Loreto has yet to garner A-List uproar. And that’s much of the appeal. “The town, swimmable beaches and activities are all without crowds or other distractions,” says Perry. “Many of our clients ventured to Cabo when it was a small town and had a small town feel. Now, they’re coming to Loreto because of that same feel.”
The resort schedules complimentary shuttle service for the 40-minute ride into town, where vendors along Paseo Salvatierra are pleasantly laid back rather than aggressive. Oozing with history that reflects Baja’s oldest permanent settlement, the street is also home to the Mission of Our Lady of Loreto that was founded in 1697.
Considered the “Mother” of Baja California missions, this was the starting point from where Jesuit monks set out to evangelize the new American territory. The structure still retains original relics including a baroque altarpiece, oil paintings and the image of the Virgin of Our Lady of Loreto.
At the end of the cobblestone road lies Loreto’s malecon and harbor with fishing charters for the bay’s abundant dorado, marlin and sailfish. Chef Cardazzo encourages guests to bring their fresh catches back to the resort to enjoy for dinner.
Recommend that your clients have you book their activities before they arrive through Wild Loreto, the resort’s onsite operator. Options include charters, tours to San Javier Mission, canyon hikes, kayak treks and island eco-tours.
We go for the latter aboard a panga boat to Coronado Island, where captain Sergio motors us up-close to gawk at the blue-footed booby as sea lions and dolphins put on a show. Afterwards, we hit a talcum white sand beach for snorkeling and tasty Mexican feast with libations.
“To me, when compared to other destinations, your heart rate drops in Loreto,” says Dan Ritter, vacations product manager
at Alaska Airlines. “The pace slows way down and you can breath easier. Other destinations are great in Mexico, but Loreto is peaceful.”
packages & rates
In conjunction with Alaska Airlines, Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto has launched a series of 3- and 4-night air-inclusive packages priced from $836 dbl nightly in a Deluxe Studio. Most are available through Dec. 31, 2013.
From Aug. 20 to Dec. 19, rack rates are $152 nightly for Deluxe Suites (three adults or two adults/two children); $268 for 1-bedroom suites (up to four); $421 for 2-bedroom suites (up to eight); and $776 for 3-bedroom suites (up to 10).
Food plans are available for an additional $89 pp daily. Other European Plan rates start at $99 nightly.
Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto is located 25 minutes from Loreto International Airport (LTO). Two-hour nonstop flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) are operated by Alaska Airlines and Aeromexico. The resort will help arrange outside shuttle service for guests preferring to skip car rental.