Sitting off the eastern coast of the Baja peninsula is a hidden jewel in Loreto called the Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa. Upon seconds of arrival, I went from feeling like I was in the middle of nowhere to knowing I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Greeted with kind smiles and quenching strawberry lemonade, we would soon kick off our Wellness Week experience through a special hand washing ritual—signifying all of our stress and bad juju would be left outside the hotel doors.
Checking in was surprisingly simple since we had emailed all of our information and food preferences prior. I always recommend doing this, btw. Help the hotel help you! We were given magical bracelets to wear for the entirety of our stay. No room keys to lose here (or to get deactivated from being held too close to your cell phone). Just this little waterproof accessory that would never fail to let you in your room.
I had a One Bedroom Suite. It was 1,300 square feet of total comfort! With a king-size bed in the bedroom and a pullout queen-size sofa in the living room, it could have slept four easily. Not to mention a huge private balcony overlooking eyefuls of the Sea of Cortez, fully functioning kitchen, two bathrooms, two TVs, and (big drum roll!) a washer/dryer. The appliances put my little Los Angeles apartment to shame. Charming touches such as welcome truffles and your name in colorful pebbles on the master bed represent the warmth of the culture—as well as the resort staff.
The first night, we enjoyed surf & turf skewers under the stars amongst the fire pits with island breezes. There are three restaurants on the almost 4,500-acre property—all of which provide room service and can accommodate gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and even kosher diners, if notified in advance.
Menus aren’t taken lightly here. Each meal is prepared like a work of art and presented with all the care of a gallery curator.
I’ll leave the dining details to the food critics and foodie writers, but I will say that everything I ingested (and it was a lot!) was delectable. Truth be told, they had me with the morning mocktails and breakfast rolls. Ehh, who am I kidding… it was probably the welcome truffles.
On our first full day, we took a leisurely hike with Carlos—who knows more about the Loreto land and all its nuances than I know about my own name. Like why we should bow down to certain cacti (showing respect to their 150+ years) or how you can rid yourself of B.O. by taking a “smoke shower” with certain tree flowers and a campfire.
Next stop: Morning yoga on the beach with Michelle Collins – a spirited, soulful yogi flown in from Portland. We would see her a few more times on the trip. She told me to forgive my Achilles for the Tendinosis it’s brought me this year and to offer it patience. I said I’d try. And I actually thought about it during our culminating meditation—An extraordinary experience where you become one with the sand, while sounds of the rippling tide play just a few feet away. Namaste.
After my first ever multi-course breakfast, we embarked on a boating excursion. Fun doesn’t even begin to describe it! We went all around the Coronado, Danzante and Del Carmen Islands, saw incredibly untouched rock formations and land that looked as if it had never been walked upon. Then there was the water. It looked unreal, as if we were floating on glass. My NARS compact is less transparent!
A few of us jumped out and snorkeled for an hour among sparkly blue fish (probably not their actual name), huge red starfish, and schools of local sea life. An indescribable reminder of the glorious world beyond the waves.
Jacques Cousteau wasn’t wrong when he called this, “The Aquarium of the World.”
After a little island lunch and selfie-indulgence, we returned to Villa del Palmar—where I immersed myself in the best hotel Jacuzzi ever! No joke. At least 50 people could relax in this Spanish-tiled refuge. And this is just one of the five different pools onsite.
Skipped yoga and hit the gym this morning. Through wall-to-wall windows, the view from the cardio machines will be absolutely palatial once the 7,400-yard golf course is finished, around late fall 2015. The acclaimed Rees Jones is designing it. Until then, it looks out onto mountains and sand dunes, which still receive “really pretty” marks in my book compared to most gym views.
Following my workout, I met up with the others for a breakfast feast of vibrant fruit sculptures, egg white omelets and award-worthy breads. Even gluten-free chocolate croissants. Clearly I’m not losing weight I’m this trip.
Later, on a fascinating (for real!) walking tour of the property, we saw their incredible Desalination Plant—where at least 100,000 gallons of water are purified every day just for the resort. Truly a luxury. Nope, no Charlotte-drinks-the-water-in-Mexico scenes at this resort!
I’ve been looking forward to this. The Sábila Spa is a 39,000 square-foot oasis of pampering and tranquility named after the aloe plant. Like the resort itself, the spa’s unpretentious décor pays homage to the land it sits upon. Soothing greens, airy open spaces and ample seating allow guests to customize their personal space.
Beyond the grand doors of the spa entrance sits the gym, nail salon and fresh Juicery. One floor up is where the separate men’s and women’s wet rooms are located (multiple Jacuzzis, steam room, sauna, individual Aloe Vera and Epsom salt tubs, plunge pools, et al), relaxation areas, lockers, showers and treatment rooms. Finally, on the third floor is a rooftop tennis court.
Circling back to the second floor, the spacious sauna and steam rooms are probably among the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced. Equally inviting are the different earthy scents you’ll breathe in from room to room. I recall an invigorating lemongrass and minty eucalyptus in the wet rooms, followed by warm cinnamon and orange essences during my Swedish massage.
Do not miss out on a spa treatment appointment. The therapists here put in more training hours than in most U.S. destinations—and it shows. Sábila Spa will surely become known as one of Mexico’s top (if not the top) spas in the near future.
Next I grabbed a kayak and set sail for the open water. Such a meditative and beautiful experience on this calm tide. Even when I capsized pushing off some rocks… it still was all good!
Note to those who have sweet skin: Plan ahead and bring your bug spray. Caladryl will only save you so much.
After a morning hike and yet another glorious breakfast, we ventured into the city of Loreto. We saw the historical mission, were treated to a local delicacy (Chocolate Clams, named after their brown shells), and did some shopping to support the local merchants.
Then we headed back for an evening beach party barbeque where we enjoyed some fire dancers, created a conga line of our own, and sipped signature coconut milk cocktails with rum, finely chopped apples and nuts on ice.
Traveling in our group was a vegan, two gluten-free eaters, a vegetarian, and two almost-anything-goes foodies. The chefs had their work cut out for them, but they rose to the challenge every single day. And every night. From specialty beverages to breakfast breads to evening entrées—everyone was served perfectly (and artfully!) to their diet specificities.
Little details just like this all around Villa del Palmar are indicative of the pride that the staff takes in their work. Chocolate-dipped macaroons or tiny cookies left in hand-tied cellophane at turndown service. Hand towels charmingly tied into a little animal shape. A signature “green drink” you’ll come to crave every morning, and miss once you get home. This list goes on.
It’s funny how a place you’ve never heard of — beyond roads where goats graze and over strange unpaved hills — can become just the place you learn to exhale. Or: maybe that’s just Wellness in Loreto.
Either way, I will be back.