Last December I was invited to attend a Wellness Week event at the Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa at The Islands of Loreto, Mexico which was recently honored as Mexico and Central America’s Leading Resort. I’m interested in anything that combines wellness with a luxurious vacation but was also attracted by the resort’s location. I have been to Mexico many times but had never visited the part of the Baja Peninsula where the resort is located, about 350 miles north of Cabo San Lucas. I was also drawn by the fact that my visit would provide opportunities for viewing one of Baja’s few coastlines that remains unspoiled by commercial development.
The December day was cold and rainy when I flew out of SFO but the weather that greeted us in Mexico was sunny and beautiful. We landed at the small airport in Loreto, which is a historic fishing village a 45 minute shuttle ride north of the resort. The drive to our destination followed a scenic route between the beautiful blue waters of the immense Sea of Cortez on one side and the looming Sierra de la Giganta mountain range on the other. Brown sand dunes dotted by cacti and desert succulents stretched from the mountains to the sea.
The Villa del Palmar Loreto occupies an ideal location. For one thing, it is situated on the Sea of Cortez, which is relatively calm compared to the more turbulent Pacific on the other side of the peninsula. Even better, it is on the shores of Danzante Bay, which is a beautiful cove made especially picturesque by the presence of several desert islands. During my first moments on the property, I had a delicious sense of serenity and a feeling that I had left behind civilization’s clamor and stress.
The resort offers paddle-boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling. The waters of the bay include an extensive shallow area so perfect for viewing fish that you feel as though you are swimming in an open water aquarium. Boats will pull up to the beach and offer whale watching, snorkeling, and fishing excursions. I learned that during the summertime months, the region affords excellent marlin fishing. The resort also has five separate tropically landscaped pools for guests who prefer swimming in fresh water.
The crown jewel of the resort is the Rees Jones designed 18-hole TPC Danzante Bay golf course with contoured greens nestling into rolling hills and stunning fairways winding between soaring cliffs or above deep canyons. The par-3 No. 17, in particular, has earned a reputation as one of the world’s most gorgeous holes. It has been featured on the Golf Channel’s “Round Trip,” pictured in airline magazines, and referenced countless times on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook postings. Besides the breathtaking beauty of its design and location, Danzante Bay is notable as Mexico’s only Tournament Players Club (TPC) designated golf course.
“DURING MY FIRST MOMENTS ON THE PROPERTY, I HAD A DELICIOUS SENSE OF SERENITY AND A FEELING THAT I HAD LEFT BEHIND CIVILIZATION’S CLAMOR AND STRESS.”
For the benefit of non-golfers like myself, the course is surrounded by groomed footpaths that permit hikers to enjoy the natural beauties of the place without worrying about slicing the ball into some hillside or hooking it into the sea — both of which I would certainly do if I made the mistake of trying to play that course.
The Wellness Resolution Week program featured a celebrity chef, David Fuerte, who is co-founder and CEO of a company that provides a “Made for Chefs” networking resource for people in the food industry. Chef Fuerte was accompanied by two wellness instructors.
One of them, Beth Manos a celebrity coach, who specializes in yoga, meditation, and nutrition. The other, Rebecca Broxterman, is a fitness and nutrition coach to celebrities plus has a line of fitness bands designed to tone muscles as well as a fitness program that can be downloaded. The week included a schedule of fitness classes, yoga classes, nutrition-education sessions, healthy dinners, and demonstrations of healthy cooking techniques by Chef Fuerte. It included a fun class on how to make healthy cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks.
I appreciate healthy eating as long as the food is tasty, and I love densely nutritious meals. We were served light dishes, especially small and flavorsome salads prepared with fresh ingredients. Each day concluded with a remarkable dinner featuring dishes and entrées using seafood from recent Sea of Cortez fishing catches. All the dishes, including the desserts, were both nutritious and tasty. The portions were small but very satisfying.
The day officially began at 7:30 with a workout. The exercise was different each day — for example, circuit training one day, fit ball another, floor exercises on another day. We were either in the large fitness gym, or private fitness room, or outside on the fitness deck overlooking the ocean. Following breakfast, we could choose from a number of activities. The first day I chose to tour Loreto, which is a sleepy village with cobblestone streets and mostly foot traffic. Loreto’s history and charm has earned it a place on the list of Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos” (“Magic Towns”). I was charmed by church bells ringing as I strolled along the town square. We visited some colonial-period buildings, a museum, and the highlight was the Missión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, which we learned had been founded in 1697.
“EACH DAY CONCLUDED WITH A REMARKABLE DINNER FEATURING DISHES AND ENTRÉES USING SEAFOOD FROM RECENT SEA OF CORTEZ FISHING CATCHES.”
We did some shopping and toured the local “malecón,” or wharf area, that was base to a number of day cruises plus fishing and whale watching expeditions.
The streets were not crowded at all. I noticed there were just as many Americans as Mexicans, however no one was trying to sell us anything so the atmosphere was relaxed. Many of the stores and restaurants were beautifully decorated in bright Mexican colors.
The other days followed in an equally pleasant fashion. One especially memorable day included a trip to the 39,000 sq. ft. Sabila Spa and Wellness Center — a holistic retreat with a menu of treatments utilizing soothing ingredients from the plants and herbs native to the surrounding Baja region. A therapist led me on a nine-station hydrotherapy circuit beginning in a steam room and moving through a sauna, a cold plunge, a mild hot tub followed by a hot tub, a cold shower, an Epsom salt bath, and then a fresh aloe vera dip bath. The process concluded with an amazing treatment in a sprawling massage center. The experience was made especially enchanting by large windows that at every point looked out on serene and sometimes stunning vistas of surrounding mountains, seacoast, and islands.
Outside areas of the spa included firepits, tropical foliage, palm trees, a fitness area, a meditation area, and a large wooden deck protected by an immense wooden shade structure that provided a yoga or fitness-on-the-beach space.
On another day I took a cruise around the islands, stopping at a remote white sandy beach where I went snorkeling and saw a few mana rays, an eel, and innumerable schools of colored fish. I was surprised to learn about the abundance of whales and diverse types of sea life and wasn’t surprised to learn that Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the “aquarium of the world.”
‘I WAS SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT THE ABUNDANCE OF WHALES AND DIVERSE TYPES OF SEA LIFE AND WASN’T SURPRISED TO LEARN THAT JACQUES COUSTEAU CALLED THE SEA OF CORTEZ THE “AQUARIUM OF THE WORLD.” ’
Each evening concluded with a dinner show. One night was salsa dancing, which I really enjoyed, so when asked to join in, of course I did! At one point, some children got up on stage and gave a memorable exhibition of Zumba dancing. Another night featured a Mayan cultural show.
My Wellness Week program didn’t permit me many opportunities to sample the cuisine and service at the resort’s five dining areas that ranged from gourmet meals at Danzante Restaurant to burgers and crafted cocktails at the Clubhouse Restaurant and Bar. Each venue looked inviting and I wish I could have tried them all.
Good nutrition is a central theme of my life. Spending a week at a fabulous resort is my idea of a perfect vacation. Therefore, Villa del Palmar Loreto’s Wellness Week provided a wonderful “have my cake and eat it too” kind of experience. I came home relaxed, feeling fit, and didn’t gain one pound.