For snowbirds wishing escape to a warmer climate, I can think of no better place than Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto. Especially now – since the hotel is building clientele, package deals abound. For example, rooms were recently available for $119 per person per night including airfare from LAX plus taxes and a service charge, four-night minimum.
A deal’s a deal but if the destination doesn’t cut it, it’s no bargain. After spending four days at Villa del Palmar, I can assure you that you will be getting the real deal. I am not alone in thinking this; in 2011 the New York Times named Loreto one of its top forty-one places to visit, a place with the potential to become one of Mexico’s top luxury resorts with the opening of Villa del Palmar.
Here are my top ten reasons for wanting to return to Villa del Palmar:
1. First and foremost, Villa del Palmar has picked a drop dead gorgeous location. From my balcony I saw nothing but the Sea of Cortez with the mountainous Islands of Loreto framing it; landside, the stark and stony desert surrounds the hotel. During my stay, a bluer than blue sky completed the vision. The hotel’s architecture wisely suits its terrain with complementary colors and a quasi-Mediterranean feel.
2. Villa del Palmar continued to distinguish itself once we reached the room. While not all suites are as spacious as ours, they are all furnished in similar fashion and layout. My traveling companion, Daniel, and I each had bedroom suites flanking the living room and kitchen complete with our own en suite bathrooms. Our balcony allowed access from all three areas and was almost as large as the interior, filled with tables and cozy chairs.
One other really cool thing that I thought would be annoying but wasn’t – the hotel puts a plastic bracelet on each guest’s wrist upon check-in, similar to those hospitals and some clubs use. Within the hour I forgot I was wearing the bracelet, something I did not expect. The bracelets have a magnetized strip that serves as a room key. One less thing to worry about leaving in the room.
3. I might not be so eager to return to Villa del Palmar were it not for the wonderful staff. Everyone – General Manager to maid – went out of their way to accommodate Daniel and me. GM Sixto Navarro and Sales Manager Antonio Duran Baca, two gentlemen of the old school, are rightly proud of Villa del Palmar, the newest in a chain of VDP resorts. I will forever be grateful for Antonio’s efforts to arrange for Daniel to scuba dive even though uncooperative ocean currents thwarted his efforts. While every one of the wait staff in the dining room was attentive and courteous, I want to give special praise to Gualberto, Luciano and Yolanda who greeted us by name by our third meal. Gualberto memorized my very particular drink order after hearing it only once.
4. Normally I eschew any sort of group activities when I vacation, but the sweetness and enthusiasm of the staff at Villa del Palmar convinced me to partake in several things I otherwise might not have. Daniel and I threw ourselves into the tequila drinking game, each of us getting the chance to wear a three foot wide sombrero. Likewise, we clapped loudly during the floor-show on Mexican Night as two dance teams displayed the variety of dance styles and costumes from various regions. We might have attended Movie night the following evening had we not taken extra long naps. During the day, Villa del Palmar schedules all manner of activities from water aerobics to bingo to salsa dancing and cooking classes as well as kayaking lessons and nature hikes. Though I did not see many children, the hotel has a special area where parents can drop their kids for some kid friendly activities.
5. The Villa del Palmar offers a full line of spa treatments at its Sabila Spa. It’s big, luxuriously appointed and, that most important of attributes, clean. I had an all-out wonderful Swedish massage that cleared out knots in my shoulders years in the making. The spa allows those with appointments for treatments to stay as long as they want in the relaxation area where they offer more different kinds of immersion pools and steam rooms than I have ever seen in one spot. Two thumbs up.
6. Scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, sailing – the hotel offers all of these water-based sports either on site or in Loreto. There are trails for hiking around the hotel, and visitors wanting to explore the islands can arrange for tours. Villa del Palmar also offers regular shuttle service into Loreto for those wanting to explore on their own.
7. Alaska Airlines offers a direct flight from Los Angeles International to the brand spanking new and modern Loreto Airport. Five hours after I left my home in Hollywood I walked into my room at the Villa del Palmar. Can’t beat that for a quick getaway. Since the hotel is about ten miles from the airport, Villa del Palmar offers pick up and delivery service.
8. I ate too well and too often while staying at Villa del Palmar. The hotel offers a variety of meal plan options; Daniel and I wore plastic bracelets that make clear our meal plan and ate most meals in the Market Restaurant. This casual buffet-style dining spot offered both American and Mexican cuisine with mega-variety.
What I did not expect to find at a Mexican resort was a Venetian chef. Executive chef Roberto Cardazzo prepared a special meal for Daniel and me one evening that I will long remember. This area is famous for the tastiness of its “chocolate” clams; Chef Roberto caught the clams he served us, broiling them in butter and brandy topped with melted parmesan cheese. These clams surrounded sea bass pate. I felt criminal leaving some on my plate in anticipation of the main course. First, however, Chef Roberto allowed us to cleanse our palates with a flute of sgrappino, an Italian cocktail of Prosecco, vodka and lemon ice. (Must try this at home some time.) We next feasted on gnoccetti gratinati, gnocchi with calamari, clams, sea bass, shrimp asparagus and mushrooms in a béchamel sauce topped with melted parmesan. Yes, rich, yes, criminal that I could not eat it all. I was in a food fog by the time dessert came. Chef Roberto will prepare this meal or another of your choosing specially for your group either in the restaurant or in one of the outdoor dining areas.
As of this writing Villa del Palmar has opened the upscale El Danzante, a steak and wine restaurant just being completed during my stay.
9. Do not come to Villa del Palmar to party; try one of their other locations if your idea of fun is dancing the night away. This hotel allows patrons to sink into that most wonderful of luxuries – quiet. I went to sleep each night to the sound of cresting waves and rustling palm fronds.
10. I think it always bears mentioning when a hotel goes out of its way to be eco-friendly. Luxury doesn’t have to be environmentally damaging.
When you vacation at Villa del Palmar, you get the chance to perfect the gentle art of doing nothing. I took a wonderfully meaningful trip to San Javier and the town of Loreto, but what stuck with me was the immeasurable benefit I got from relaxing by the pool or reading on the balcony looking at the sea and the Islands of Loreto. I could do as little or as much as I wanted each day, and I returned to LA relaxed and refreshed as I haven’t been in years.