Villa del Palmar perfect base for Baja adventures
All my life I’ve read stories about billfishing in the Sea of Cortez, but for an Arkansas boy, Baja, Calif., might as well have been the moon.
So when I was invited to join a media group as a guest at Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto in Baja Sur, Mexico, I eagerly accepted.
The first highlight occurred shortly after taking off from Los Angeles International Airport, when we flew low over Catalina Island. That’s a legendary place where Jim Hendricks of Long Beach, Calif. — a staff writer for Sport Fishing magazine and others — pursues white sea bass.
Hendricks, who might be related (his family originates from north Louisiana, mine from south Arkansas), showed me phone photos of his catches with Catalina’s cliffs in the background.
Altitude flattens a landscape, but it can’t soften the shimmering blaze of the desert heat. Endless miles of uninhabited shoreline mesmerized me. Goodness, how much fun could a fellow have exploring that coast with a Hobie, a tent and a month’s worth of water?
The groundscape was a citadel of towering sandstone walls that glow different hues as the day progresses. Their beauty is intoxicating.
Villa del Palmar Resort is luxurious, but unpretentious. The workmanship is exquisite in all details, from the quality and fit of the flooring to the union of walls and ceilings to the construction of the door and window frames.
My two-room, fully-furnished suite was scrupulously clean, with a queen bed, hot tub, two big-screen TVs, a fully-equipped kitchenette, refrigerator/freezer, two lavatories with walk-in showers,
and washer and dryer. A vast balcony offered a beautiful view of Danzante Bay.
On my bedspread, an arrangement of blue and red stones spelled “Welcome Mr. Lowber,” which is my middle name. A similar message in chocolate drizzle adorned a small plate of tortes.
Several restaurants are on the premises, from a relaxed poolside cabana grill to a fine eatery where at least semiformal attire is appropriate. All of them served worldclass, five-star fare.
There is also a full-service spa with hot tubs, eucalyptus steam room, aromatherapy and massages.
A well-stocked store is also on site where you can buy snacks, drinks and souvenirs.
The currency exchange rate last week was about 17 pesos per dollar, but that’s often negotiable.
The resort’s most prominent feature is Danzante Bay Golf Club, a challenging layout designed by Rees Jones. The signature 17th hole is the stuff of postcards. It’s a par 3 over a deep ravine that ends abruptly at a sheer cliff that drops to the sea.
Danny Garcia, the club pro, said, “You should come here in November when the whales are here. There are also manta rays and marlin. It’s like a giant aquarium out there.”
Garcia, who played a round with Jim Hendricks, Brandon Hendricks, Sid Dobrin and myself, was affronted that desert bighorn sheep left tracks in his sand traps. Desert bighorns are common here, as attested to by Allyn Ladd of Camden, who bagged one near Loreto in his pursuit of all North American big game species with a bow.
Paul Moreno, chief operating officer of the Villa Group, said that Loreto is what Cabo San Lucas was 30 years ago. As at Cabo, fishing is the main attraction to Loreto.
Moreno said he is proud of Villa del Palmar’s family appeal. Families with children were present, and activities such as nightly dance parties keep young people entertained.
Moreno mentioned Mexico’s lawless reputation and acknowledged that Baja is under the highest risk travel advisory.
“If you look for trouble, you will find it,” Moreno said, “but you will not find it here.”
Gary Graham and Greg Niemann, veteran Southern California writers, have traveled extensively in Baja California since the 1960s, mostly by car and motorcycle. Niemann’s new book Baja Legends is an excellent primer. They’ve seen every nook and fold in the peninsula, and they echoed Moreno’s sentiments.
I met a retired San Diego couple that were sailing the coast. Upon learning I’m from Arkansas, I was asked, “What do you think of the Clintons?” The tone suggested strong admiration for the Clintons.
I got the same question en route to Los Angeles from the wife of a Southern Baptist pastor from North Carolina. Her tone suggested disdain for the Clintons.
My answer to both was, “It’s pretty darned cool to have a president come from your hometown.”
They both agreed wholeheartedly.