I truly want to go back to Villa Del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto. I knew that on the second day of my visit. This special place envelopes guests in an environment of hospitality, luxurious service, and natural beauty. Our winter visit to Baja was relaxing as soon as we stepped off our Alaska Airlines flight to go through customs and immigration in the small, modern airport at Loreto. The efficient process brought us to the comfortable, airy lobby where we settled into the cushy seating to await our transportation to the resort.
Where the Desert Meets the Sea of Cortez
The relaxation continued as we were driven to the resort less than an hour from the airport. The otherworldly jagged peaks were dotted with Cardon Cacti, the world’s largest cactus, even larger than the Arizona Saguaros. As we rode, we caught glimpses of the turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez. This was my first visit to the area and I was impressed with the natural beauty and lack of high-rise hotels, villages, and cars on the road to the resort.
Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto
Our destination was Baja Mexico’s first “Trip Advisor Million-Star Resort,” Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto. The gated luxury property is flanked by the rugged Sierra de La Giganta Mountains and the Sea of Cortez on a sprawling stretch of desert with quiet bayside beaches and mountain vistas.
Golf at Villa del Palmar
While the desert has its own beauty, this modern full-service resort and spa with the adjacent TPC Danzante Bay 18-hole golf course have been carefully designed to fit into and enhance the natural habitat.
The resort is a true oasis where the desert meets the sea with swaying coconut palms, beautiful lawns, and colorful flowers. The brightly colored birds and hummingbirds appreciated the landscaping, too! The resort has five swimming pools (including adults only pools) and a natural beach where you can snorkel, kayak, SUP, or catch a boat for a day trip through the Islands of Loreto, an area that is a Marine National Park and a World Heritage Site.
And the beach is not the only natural attraction. TPC Danzante Bay literally rolls over the hills and washes of the rugged desert. Golfers have thrilling views of the Sea of Cortez, especially at the course’s famous 17th hole. You can also go on an ATV tour of the desert, take a hike from the resort up to a place where you can look out over Danzante Bay, and go for a bike ride around the property.
Sabila Spa at Villa Del Palmar
Named one of Mexico’s Best Spas by SpaFinder, Sabila Spa offers an extraordinary spa experience in a 39,000-square-foot facility within the resort. The spa menu is inspired by the soothing plant and herb extracts native to the Baja California area. A complete fitness center is adjacent to the spa. You also have access to therapeutic tubs in a variety of temperatures, a sauna, and a steam room. These soaking experiences are made even more pleasurable by floor to ceiling windows overlooking the mountains and golf course.
There is no end to activities for adults and families. And, furry family members are welcome, too!
Traditional Mexican Hospitality
Not all visitors to Mexico have the opportunity to experience the warm hospitality that is typical of authentic Mexican culture. At Villa del Palmar Loreto this hospitality begins when you arrive. One by one, our group was greeted with a special drink and we all had our hands washed ceremoniously in scented water poured into a beautiful pottery basin.
We quickly noticed that the staff truly cared about answering our questions and meeting our needs. Even the smallest request was met with a smile and fulfilled with a flourish. Returning guests and time-share owners explained that this was an integral part of the Villa del Palmar experience and one that often brought them to tears as they packed to go home.
The service at Villa Del Palmar was impeccable whether at the fine dining restaurant or at the sports equipment stand on the beach. You could drift off to sleep in a hammock soothed by the sea air but you were never far from someone who would gladly bring you another margarita or cold bottled water.
Children were welcomed to dance on stage with the Mexican folkloric troupe and learned Spanish at the Kid's Club.
Accommodations at Villa Del Palmar Loreto
You can easily settle in and feel at home. Families appreciate the multi-bedroom suites. Even a “standard” suite is appointed with a king bed, a queen sofa bed, two full bathrooms, a large living area, fully equipped kitchen, and an oversized terrace with views of the Sea of Cortez. And the luxury goes on up to the expansive Ambassador Suite and Royal Penthouse.
As I entered my tastefully furnished suite by using the chip on my resort wristband, I first saw a box with a personal welcome note and sweets on the table, and my name spelled out in small colored rocks on my bed. Fluffy towels were stacked on the in-room jetted tub. On the bedside table was a hand-painted frame with my photograph. Everything is done to make guests feel as if this is their Mexican home.
The full-sized kitchen was stocked with glassware, dishes, and cooking equipment. A neighbor told me they had been cooking in since their very successful deep sea fishing trip.
Experiencing Chef Week
Villa Del Palmar keeps you as busy as you want to be and they often host special events. Much of our activities centered around the resort’s special Chef Week.
While Villa Del Palmar's talented executive chef, Gerardo Garcia Martinez, has an impressive resume, the resort invited two outside celebrity chefs to visit, teach, cook, and interact with the guests. The two invited chefs kept us entertained and thrilled our palates.
Visiting Chef Manouschka Guerrier is a former model who has become one of Hollywood’s premier celebrity chefs. She brought Haitian-influenced cuisine to the resort guests featuring local seafood.
But she also brought her personality, warmth, and sense of adventure. Guerrier was a popular person to visit with poolside. She also masterminded an elegant 5-course dinner at Danzante, the resort's fine-dining restaurant.
Equally vibrant and creative, Chef Keith “Culinerdy” Breedlove is known for his gourmet food truck, Culinerdy Cruzer. Breedlove and the Cruzer are renowned for their incredible burgers and flash-fried Brussels sprouts, both of which we got to enjoy while there. Breedlove was previously executive chef at several Hilton Hotels, executive chef and cookbook contributor for Nordstrom’s Café Bistro, and a corporate executive chef for two of Guy Fieri’s eateries. But with that impressive resume, don’t think for a moment that he is anything but down to earth and full of fun, whether it’s serving up barbecue at the resort's beach party and clambake or dancing with guests at “The Yurt,” Villa del Palmar’s after-hours disco club.
Making Mexican Memories
There’s plenty going on at the resort, golf course, and spa to fill your days but I was pleased to be able to take two day-trips organized by Villa Del Palmar Loreto. Both experiences left me with an appreciation of how special and unspoiled the entire area is.
Cruising Through the Islands of Loreto
It wasn't quite the whale-watching season, but we still were in awe of what we saw on our small-boat cruise through the Islands. The adventure started as we jumped small waves and waded out to the boat anchored just off the beach.
Our expert skipper and naturalist took us through and up to many of the islands and beaches in the Bay of Loreto National Marine Park and the Sea of Cortez.
Our group explored beaches, hiked a bit, snorkeled with the colorful fish, photographed the birds, and marveled at the cactus-studded islands. At famous Honeymoon Beach, we stopped for a box lunch and then traveled quickly across the waves to dock at Puerto Escondido Marina surrounded by sleek, million-dollar yachts.
Exploring Historic Loreto
The resort offers a free shuttle into Loreto where you can walk around the historic Plaza, visit the museum full of mission history, and stop awhile to reflect in the beautiful Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó. The church was founded as part of the mission in 1697 by the Jesuit missionary Juan Maria de Salvatierra. In a side chapel, you can see the original statue of Our Lady of Loreto that Salvatierra brought from Italy.
Shops, great little restaurants, and a few boutique hotels surround the plaza and run along the nearby Malecón (seaside promenade). The colors are vibrant, the people friendly and, if you visit the outdoor restaurant, Mi Loreto, the guacamole, authentic Mexican cuisine, and margaritas are to die for.
When You Go to Villa Del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto
Loreto International Airport (LTO) is accessible from Los Angeles (LAX) via a two-hour flight on Alaska Airlines; from Tijuana (TIJ), San Jose del Cabos (SJD), and Guadalajara (GDL) on Calafia Airlines; and Calgary, Alberta, Canada (YYC) on WestJet Airlines.
The resort is located 20 miles south of Loreto in Baja California Norte and four hours north of La Paz, capital of Baja California Sur.
Guests can select an all-inclusive experience or just room and breakfast. The food is excellent, varied, and ample and so the all-inclusive option is popular. Time-shares are sold and soon there will be golf-course homes for sale at Villa Del Palmar Loreto. For more inspiration on visiting Mexico, see these Mexico articles by Wander writers.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary meals, accommodations, and tours for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.