I had never heard of Loreto, Mexico, until earlier this year, when I was looking to rebook a planned vacation to one of my favorite Nuevo Vallarta resorts, Villa del Palmar Flamingos.
In the process, I came across one of the hotelier's newer properties, on the more arid Baja peninsula, north of Cabo San Lucas on the eastern side of the peninsula on the Sea of Cortes.
Given that the Villa del Palmar Islands of Loreto was among the company's newest resorts, I figured we couldn't go wrong. And we didn't: It turned out to be the perfect place for an off-season summer girls' (meaning women of a certain age) getaway.
The resort seemed almost empty and offered stunning views of surrounding mountains and the islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortes. It provided a relaxing but luxurious setting for us to catch up; read; do some kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing; and, of course, eat and drink entirely too much.
The landscape reminded me a lot of my home in New Mexico. In fact, the nearby mountain range could easily be mistaken for Albuquerque's towering Sandia Mountains if they were dumped right into a beautiful blue sea.
Like the Nuevo Vallarta property, the resort is a hybrid of sorts, offering what I consider the best of both worlds from a timeshare complex and an upper-upscale or luxury, all-inclusive resort. It is quite small compared to many all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, with just 181 oceanview suites, although the resort is being expanded, and a golf course and residences are under construction.
One- and two-bedroom accommodations at the property feature large living and dining areas with pullout couches.
Most of the rooms are spacious efficiencies and one- and two-bedroom condos. All the rooms have fully stocked kitchens and oceanview balconies. The one- and two-bedrooms have huge bedrooms with jetted tubs and large living and dining areas with pullout couches. Although the complex is timeshare, rooms are also sold by the night, with rates ranging from $225 up to $5,000 for the four-bedroom Penthouse.
And like the other Villa del Palmar properties, the all-inclusive package is optional. During past trips to the Nuevo Vallarta property, my husband and I had declined that option but realized on checkout that our final restaurant and bar tabs came out to about the same price we would have paid for the package.
On this trip, the initial thought was to decline, since the condos have large, fully equipped kitchens. But after a 25- to 30-minute drive from the airport, heading in the opposite direction of town, my friend and I realized that affordable, convenient grocery shopping probably wouldn't be an option.
The resort has everything one needs — five pools, a spa, gym, three restaurants and a small sundries shop — but truly is set down on a beautiful cove in the middle of nowhere. So for just under $100 a day, we signed up and never worried again about what we were ordering. The package also includes use of kayaks and paddleboards in the protected bay.
While the remote location might be a bit off-putting for younger travelers or families with preteen and teenage kids, it was perfect for us. The pools were almost empty, and there were plenty of umbrellas and chairs on the sandy beach.
One afternoon, we met another group of women in their 50s and formed a band of five of sorts, who all agreed that it was well worth it to travel here in the hot, humid summer when we could have the resort almost to ourselves rather than be here when the pools would be full and reservations would be required in the restaurant.
The resort offered views of surrounding mountains and the islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortes. Photo Credit: Jeri Clausing
One of the best things was the lack of pressure to buy a timeshare. Unlike many Mexican resorts and their surrounding towns, there were no aggressive salespeople at the airport, or in town, waiting to bombard us with freebies in exchange for attending what they always say will be just a 90-minute sales presentation.
They did ask when we checked in if we would like to attend the presentation. We politely declined, and that was that. No trying to change our mind, no annoying follow-up phone calls, just a continuation of the laid-back atmosphere that embodies the entire resort.
One of our new friends did take the tour, which she said stuck to its promised 90 minutes. In exchange, she got some discounts, which we used for a deep-sea fishing charter with just the five of us.
The one thing we missed out on was the historical town of Loreto, which was the first Spanish settlement on the Baja peninsula. We did go to town one hot morning but took a wrong turn while looking for its famous mission. And by the time we found an air-conditioned cafe, we were so overheated we decided to have a drink and catch a cab back to the resort. Other than that, the only thing I missed out on was a few unnecessary souvenirs. But I'll be back, hopefully before too much else is developed in this little slice of paradise.