A Trip to The Islands of Loreto Changed My Entire Perception of Mexico
Mexico has never been a top pick travel destination for me, but all that changed after a trip to Villa Del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto on the country’s Baja Peninsula off the Sea of Cortez. During a three-night wellness focused vacation in beautiful environs (inside and out), I saw a side of Mexico I didn’t know existed. What I had experienced in the past was an all-inclusive resort, and not the modern kind with multiple restaurants and celebrity chefs, but the variety from a few decades ago that involved three buffet meals a day, constant cocktails and a rowdy party vibe. Not really my kind of travel as I prefer to stay active, feel healthy and partake in fun excursions during the day. So when Villa Del Palmar delivered this, as well as a striking landscape of mountains, sea and islands, I was pleasantly surprised. And from the moment I checked in, I felt a sense of calm.
I generally only use my hotel room as a home base, but here, it was a different story. I stayed in a one-bedroom suite, which had a balcony that was bigger than my living room at home and looked out on the sparkling Sea of Cortez, the resort’s beautiful landscaped grounds and several pools and hot tubs. My room also had a full size kitchen, living room, comfy king sized bed and a Jacuzzi that was best put to use with the fresh aloe grown on resort grounds delivered to my room.
After getting settled in and enjoying the pools, I made my way to the Beach Party, hosted by the resort. Dinner was served in a buffet style, but I was excited to find plenty of healthy food options to enjoy among new friends. Employees of the resort made sure we had a fun night with a series of games, some for kids and some for adults. My favorite part was the dancing that came with the conga line and limbo, where I realized I am not as flexible as I used to be! (Good thing yoga was in the plans in the days ahead).
Once it was dark, myself and a few other guests headed out on stand up paddleboards rigged with LED lights that illuminated a path ahead and also around us so we could see marine life- everything from tropical fish to jelly fish- that provided serious motivation to not fall! After about an hour, we turned back towards the resort, following two guides who came out with us. We were guided back by the paper lanterns set up for the beach party that were shining like colorful spotlights on the water. We could still hear the music from the party at sea but quickly realized trying to dance along could easily lead to a crash and splash.
After a restful nights sleep, I woke up early the next morning to go on a guided group hike with Carlos before the sun would make it too hot to enjoy. There are 15 miles of hiking trails to choose from, all of which take off just steps from the resort. What’s cool about going with a guide, however, is all you can learn about the local ecology. Along the way, we saw a jack rabbit and the nest of a flycatcher- a type of bird that can also be spotted in the Galapagos. Carlos stopped to rub his hands on the leaves of an elephant tree, which gets its name from the swollen truck that stores water and resembles an elephant’s leg, and prompted us to do the same. The result is the scent of pine needles strangely. Carlos also pointed out a cactus that was taller than all of us. It is called the Cardon or elephant cactus, is native to the area and is the tallest cactus species in the world.
Following the 90-minute hike, I enjoyed a breakfast of delicious fresh fruit, before heading on a group boat tour towards Dazante Island, which was definitely an epic Mexico experience. Along the way we spotted some of the many birds of the Baja, including blue footed boobies and frigates, which also reminded me of my trip to the Galapagos. Other favorite sights included seeing pelicans dive into the water, beaks first, to try and catch fish, a sea lion rolling around in the waves and even flying manta rays. But best of all, was spotting a pod of bootlenosed dolphins who didn’t shy away as our panga boat approached to get a closer look. The biggest laugh came after our boat driver and guide drove in a circle creating a wake right behind us that the dolphins swam in for full circles at a time. I could have easily stayed all day but we also had snorkeling ahead at Isle de Carmen. Our group was quick to jump in the teal water to see tropical fish and my favorite, the puffer fish, a species that defends itself by inflating themselves into a ball and sticking their spines out like needles.
We lunched on Honeymoon Island, where we were the only people around, before heading back to the resort for a few hours of well deserved rest. With a second wind, I decided to try my balance with paddleboard yoga. I loved the challenge that came trying to stay in poses with the rock of the waves. We practiced traditional yoga poses like sun salutations and the warrior sequence.
After a day filled with activity, I was ready to enjoy a quiet dinner at one of the resorts three restaurants, Dazante, a steak and seafood spot. I couldn’t think of a better place to enjoy a dinner of fresh fish and glass of wine than from the restaurants patio, which offers an incredible spot to watch the sun dip behind the mountains.
The following day, I decided to focus more on the wellness activities the resort offers. To kick it off, I walked along the coastline towards a yurt for a yoga and meditation class. Mats were set up in a circle against windows that bring in natural light and an open door for a cool breeze. After about 30 minutes of yoga our instructor guided us through a calming meditation where I felt myself fully relax and my running mind turn off its constant buzz. I was able to focus in on the sound of wind gently flapping across the cloth on the yurt and birds singing back and forth to each other. When cued to open our eyes, I found myself wishing for a longer meditation but know more relaxation at Sabila Spa is ahead.
I decided on a stress relief massage, which allowed me to melt into the table for the next hour. I may not have wanted meditation to end, but even more so I could have lay on that massage table for the entire day. After finally peeling myself off the bed, I headed to the wet areas for hydrotherapy. Here, guests rotate through pools with varying temperatures of warm, hot and cool. There is also a steam room and sauna to help sooth inflamed muscles and boost the immune system.
Afterwards, I was starving, so I headed to Casa Mia for a vegetarian pizza and salad topped with fresh guacamole and colorful peppers. I loved the ambiance at this restaurant, which featured an open kitchen atmosphere and an al fresco poolside set up with views of colorful flowers and palm trees. Refueled and feeling the need for some exercise, I checked out the fitness center post lunch for a fit ball class, which designs exercises around inflatable exercise balls. At home, I feel like I get stuck in the same exercise routines, which is why I loved this class. Our instructor guided us through many low impact exercises that were new to me- and I definitely felt it the next day- especially in my abs after a killer circuit of exercise like abs roll outs and jackknives.
To wrap up my weekend away, I went to the resorts Mexican Fiesta where dancers on stage entertained us during a traditional Mexican dinner. Mid-bite, one of the performers pulled me and some other guests toward the stage for dancing, which was the perfect way to end the trip before departing back to Colorado, which came with a clearer mind and noticeably less stress. Sometimes all you need is a mix of adventure and relaxation.