BIENVENIDOS A BAJA
Relish great land and sea adventures while indulging in delectable food and drink.
WRITTEN BY AMANDA BURDEN
PHOTOS BY JACI GOODMAN
Tucked inside an ocean cove surrounded by the rugged, ruby-colored Sierra de la Giganta is a resort that welcomes you warmly. To me, Mexico is like the stunning cardon (the tallest cactus species in the world) that’s prevalent across the landscape here: regal, hearty, and beautiful. I’m deeply drawn to this country, its people, and its food.
Whether you prefer an active or relaxing vacation, Villa del Palmar at The Islands of Loreto offers it all. A leisurely stroll along the beach allows you to watch what our guide, Carlos, calls a Mexican airport: A large group of brown pelicans soars and dives for minnow just feet away. Hiking trails begin at the beach’s waving palm trees to flowering, pickleweed-covered sand dunes and wind up through native flora to the crest, which rewards you with magnificent views of the Sea of Cortez studded with rocky islands. Enjoy a game of golf on the challenging, 7,400-yard, Rees Jones-designed course meticulously built with great respect to the environment. Because of the resort’s presence in the Bay of Loreto National Park, during construction, each native plant was relocated.
Food enthusiasts will be extremely pleased with Villa del Palmar’s options, from fresh cocktails to healthy and tasty breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices. The fiery salsa drizzled over my vegetable omelet and beans, along with the Mexican coffee with thick cream, brought me to life each morning. The restaurants’ chefs even use herbs from the on-site garden that buzzes with honeybees.
The English-speaking staff is friendly and attentive to the mostly timeshare clients as well as hotel guests. All suites include kitchenettes and washing machines to offer comforts of home. Well-appointed, ocean-view suites are perfect for families, retirees, or newlyweds.
For some downtime, indulge in a massage, then stroll to the beach, slather on sunscreen, order a basil piña colada from the beach hut, settle onto a lounge chair, and watch frigate birds glide high overhead. For a bit more adventure, I highly recommend a boat tour. You might see several species of whales (mid-December to the end of March) and manta rays flying out of the shimmering indigo water, which explorer Jacques Cousteau dubbed the Aquarium of the World. We passed by the largest group of dolphins I’ve ever seen. They followed us for a long while, cresting, diving, and swerving through the wake. This area truly is a fisherman’s heaven; the sea is teeming with life.
The resort offers activities for every whim, including diving, kayaking, paddle boarding (featuring LED-lit night excursions), tennis, swimming pools, and (a short drive away from the main buildings) a discrete disco with a bar and dance club. There’s even entertainment offered six nights a week on a stage in front of the restaurants.
When it comes to food, the chefs at Villa del Palmar pride themselves on delicious fare at their three restaurants. And, what’s even better, we were invited to enjoy Celebrity Chef Week with Tregaye Fraser (winner of the 12th season of the Food Network’s Food Network Star, who made appearances on Cutthroat Kitchen and Guy’s Grocery Games) and Food Network star chef Penny Davidi (who appeared on Chopped and Chopped All-Stars, franchised Pizza Rustica, opened PUMP restaurant with Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump, and is a Sysco culinary specialist). The event included decadent meals and beverage tastings, including wines from the property’s Wine Spectator Award of Excellence list and a tequila class. Davidi’s five-course meal included peach-glazed, seared lobster tail on brioche toast over grilled peaches dusted with crushed and toasted pistachios, as well as a jicama and grapefruit salad on colorful radish slivers drizzled with Champagne vinaigrette. We even were treated to a cooking demo by Davidi’s mother, Haideh Zarnegin, who showed us how to make tah dig, Persian rice with a delicious, golden crust.
Davidi adores this part of Mexico and visits as often as she can.
“The mountains speak to me,” she says. “I’ve come here to finish my cookbook and write recipes. It’s very tranquil.”
Carve out time to visit this million-star resort because Villa del Palmar features a perfect combination of delicious food in a magical desert environment.
Amanda Burden is publisher and editor of edible Reno-Tahoe and publisher of edible Sacramento. She loves Baja and can’t wait to go back.
Book and travel before June 2018 and enjoy 50 percent off accommodations. Enter the code CHEFW17 under the category Promo/Corporate Code when booking. For details, visit Villadelpalmarloreto.com.
Basil (or mint) piña colada
(courtesy of Villa del Palmar. Serves 1)
2 ounces coconut cream
2 ounces Carnation evaporated milk
2 ounces mint liquor
1½ ounces dark rum
6 ounces pineapple juice
1 scoop ice
8 basil leaves (substitute mint for basil, depending on what is freshest in the kitchen)
Blend and enjoy.