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Luxury in a Rustic Paradise: Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto

Luxury in a Rustic Paradise: Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto

Islands of Loreto

When El Gringo visited Loreto on the coast of the Sea of Cortez in Baja California Sur in 2006, I was told by old Baja hands that the fishing village was “…like Los Cabos 20 years ago”, unspoiled by large-scale development and happily lacking in flashy U.S. brands, stores, fast food chains and anything involving Sammy Hagar. In short, a place where one could still experience “Old Mexico” in a natural, rustic and beautiful setting. Although Loreto was slated for development by FONATUR (Mexico’s tourism development agency) along with Los Cabos, Cancun, Ixtapa and Huatulco in the 1980s, a number of issues (including sustainability in an arid desert environment) kept Loreto – a small, historically-significant town of 15,000 – lagging.

Loreto’s History, Natural Beauty and Development

Loreto was founded by Jesuit missionaries as the first Spanish settlement in Baja California, serving as its capital from 1697 to 1777. One of the first of the Las Californias missions, the Mision Nuestra Señora de Loreto is still used for church services and visitation. The mission’s cloister houses a museum with exhibits demonstrating Loreto’s rich Spanish and pre-Hispanic history.

Islands of Loreto

One of the first missions of the Californias, Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó.

When the capital moved to Monterey in 1777, Loreto settled into quiet complacency as a small fishing village and hasn’t changed much since. In the 1960s, American and Canadian fisherman began to come south on underdeveloped roadways to experience the bounty the Sea of Cortez had to offer. The town developed a few modest hotels and restaurants to cater to these rugged adventurers, some of which still remain and serve the same market today.

The beautiful and vast Loreto Bay National Marine Park off Loreto’s coast has been granted national protection and UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The town itself has received the status of Pueblo Magico for it’s authenticity and place in Baja history (one of three government-designated towns in Baja, including Tecate and Todos Santos).

Islands of Loreto

The view of the Sea of Cortez from a fossilized sea cave on Isla Carmen.

In the mid-2000s, Loreto began to build upon its promise of a resort-based destination when a Canadian firm began developing Loreto Bay in Nopolo, just south of town. With the recession and Mexican tourism decline later in the decade, the project stalled and was taken over by the Mexican government. Carlos Slim has since taken over ownership, and his involvement in this and other developments in Baja is auspicious to investors and Baja enthusiasts alike.

The Villa del Palmar at The Islands of Loreto: An Eco-Friendly Resort

In 2011, the 181 room Villa del Palmar at The Islands of Loreto opened just south of Loreto Bay. Operated by The Villa Group, the resort is nestled in the foothills of the majestic Sierra Giganta range to the west, with Danzante Bay and it’s clear view of the islands to the east. Although the master plan is set upon 4,447 acres, the resort is adamant in keeping much of the property open so as not to disturb the bay, surrounding landscape and various species of animals that live on or near the property. The open space and views give an overall impression of rustic luxury within a majestic, natural setting.

Islands of Loreto

The view of the resort from the hiking trail atop the bay ridge.

Additionally, The Villa Group implemented a variety of “green” systems to keep the area pristine and the resort sustainable. This includes a saltwater desalination plant, a grey water recycling program, use of solar energy to harness the region’s annual 300 days of sunshine, recycling and the use of their own chiles, produce and herbs from the chef’s onsite garden.

Islands of Loreto

The Lobby at the Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto.

El Gringo rolled into the Villa del Palmar at The Islands of Loreto earlier this month as part of a press tour to help bring exposure to the resort and Loreto as a destination. After a quick, direct flight from Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines, we were greeted by friendly staff and whisked from the airport to the resort in a comfy shuttle bus. As part of the plan to grow Loreto’s tourism, the government is diligently at work expanding the two lane Carretera Transpeninsular south of town into a four lane expressway to make access to the resort (and presumably future resorts) easy, quick and smooth.

Dining at the Villa del Palmar at The Islands of Loreto

The night of our arrival, we were treated to a six course tasting menu at Danzante Restaurant, the resort’s fine dining option. The resort offers two other restaurants; The Market Restaurant, an open-air space right on the bay, and Casa Mia, which features delicious pizzas made in their display wood-fired oven.

Islands of Loreto

The Danzante Restaurant offers fine dining in an indoor or outdoor setting.

We were introduced to Venetian-born Executive Chef Roberto Cardazzo, who was overseeing our feast. When the first course of a chocolate clam shooter, sea bass pate and pulpo tartare arrived, El Gringo knew he was in for a treat. Each of our consecutive courses were equally fresh and amazing. Unlike a couple of other all-inclusive resorts I’ve visited (which served…GAH…frozen food for the masses), The Villa del Palmar at The Islands of Loreto sources its seafood from local fishermen.

Islands of Loreto

Danzante Restaurant serves up fresh seafood that’s locally sourced.

Islands of Loreto

A healthy and beautifully-plated breakfast at the Villa del Palmar at The Islands of Loreto.

So Much To Do. So Little To Do

The great thing about both Loreto and the Villa del Palmar at The Islands of Loreto is that the emphasis is both on activities, or the option to do nothing at all. At the resort, you can choose to hike a moderate trail, ending in an amazing view of Islas Danzante and Carmen as well as smaller “islotes” (small islands) across the bay. Or you can use one of their stand up paddle boards or glass-bottom kayaks to explore the clear waters from the resort’s beach. Or, you can do nothing at all and just lounge around one of five pools enjoying a fruity drink. Or take an afternoon nap on one of the hammocks lining the edge of the property by the bay.

Islands of Loreto

Take a swinging seaside snooze in one of the Villa del Palmar’s hammocks.

El Gringo and his fellow journalistas were treated to a 3 hour tour of the bay on one of the resort’s two brand new Apex boats. This trip is available to all guests of the resort, and I highly recommend it. We launched on Isla Carmen for lunch, enjoying a snorkel and swim in the impossibly turquoise waters around the island. On our way back, we encountered a playful pod of dolphins, spotted a blue whale spouting, and caught a glimpse of a humpback whale (who eluded our attempts to get a closer vantage point).

Islands of Loreto

Rolling onto Isla Carmen in the resort’s new Apex boat.

Islands of Loreto

A blue whale spouts in the Sea of Cortez outside Loreto.

The Sabila Spa at the Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto offers a variety of treatments…more than I’ve seen on any spa menu in the past. El Gringo received a nice relaxing massage, then spent time in the hydrotherapy room taking a steam and dips in several pools and tubs. I was diligently but not overbearingly tended to by the spa staff, who brought water and clean towels at just the right time.

Islands of Loreto

Villa del Palmar’s Sabila Spa is modern, well-equipped and very relaxing.

As far as nightlife at the resort, there’s a small family-friendly disco on the edge of the property, as well as theme nights at the resort such as the “Mexican Party”. El Gringo was expecting the typical “Taco Bell” style buffet and show (as one of the staff and I joked), but was pleasantly surprised to find a variety of Mexican cuisine and entertainment on-hand. A team of talented performers demonstrated folkloric dances from Michoacan, Sonora, Veracruz and other regions of Mexico in authentic costumes. The tequila was flowing, the entertainment was top notch and the buffet was muy delicioso!

Islands of Loreto

Performers from the Mexican Party at the Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto

Trips to Town, Tours and Special Requests

The resort also has a free shuttle service to town so that guests can explore historic Loreto. They can also assist in arranging tours and fishing trips, and are eager to help grant special requests. As testament, at the first night’s dinner, I commented to one of the Executive Staff that the local chocolate clams were a favorite delicacy of El Gringo’s. Two days later, the resort had arranged for three of us to go digging for these tasty bivalves with Rolfe, one of the resort staff.

Islands of Loreto

Rolfe from the resort shows off our clam catch before we duly devour them!

We snorkeled out into Danzante Bay where Rolfe gave us a quick lesson in clam digging. Look for two holes about an inch apart from each other in the sand under the clear water. Then dive down and shovel with your hands like a madman until you strike clam. Using this technique, El Gringo snagged five of the tasty critters. We added these to the 30 or so Rolfe had found and we swam back to the beach where he shucked the clams and we devoured them with lime and salsa. A crowd of resort guests gathered and partook of our catch as well, happily slurping clams and sipping Pacificos on a perfect, sunny 80 degree day. This was the BEST lunch El Gringo has ever had, and a great way to end our visit to the resort.

Islands of Loreto

Freshly dug chocolate clams from the Sea of Cortez.

Islands of Loreto

Shucked, cleaned and ready to devour. Chocolate clams from the Sea of Cortez.

 

 
Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from  Tijuana  to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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Have a Baja Moment! Stay at a Romantic Vacation Rental in Loreto Bay

Have a Baja Moment! Stay at a Romantic Vacation Rental in Loreto Bay

Vacation Rental in Loreto

Looking for a romantic getaway? Visit Loreto and get seduced by the history and charm of this magical Baja town. Image: Casa 465

Loreto was the first Spanish settlement in the Baja Peninsula. Once billed as the “Capital of the Californias,” today Loreto is a lovely town with well-preserved 18th and 19th century buildings, quiet cobblestone streets, museums, art galleries and a friendly population of close to 15,000 residents.

In Loreto, the crystalline waters of the Sea of Cortez bathe sandy beaches and inhabited islands while the impressive mountains of Sierra de la Giganta overlook the bay. Surrounded by this spectacular landscape, the sleepy town offers a unique combination of historic relevance, natural beauty and local flavor that has resulted in its recognition by the Mexican Tourism Board as one of Baja’s three Pueblo Magicos (Magical Towns).

Vacation Rental in Loreto

Loreto is one of only three towns in Baja to be designated as a Pueblo Magico.

The Loreto area doesn’t lack for excitement and adventure either. Visitors can choose from a wide variety of water-based activities such as diving, kayaking, snorkeling, sportfishing and whale watching, or opt for more relaxing pursuits, like a soothing walk on a secluded beach at sunset. The desert and mountains nearby also provide excellent activities options – hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking- and a visit to see some of the peninsula’s famous cave paintings can be an unforgettable experience.

And when it comes to accommodations, Loreto has something to suit every budget.

Vacation Rental in Loreto

El Tibruon Casitas’ charming accommodations are located in the heart of downtown Loreto.

For instance, it’s hard beat the convenience and affordability of El Tiburon Casitas. This charming hotel boasts a perfect location on a quiet street in downtown Loreto, and it is within easy walking distance of the historic district and the malecon (marina boardwalk).

El Tiburon Casitas features four little houses built around a central patio. The hotel reflects the laid-back style of the town, and is decorated with vibrant colors and Mexican arts and crafts. All units are fully furnished and have a kitchen, private bathroom and well-lighted spaces. Other room amenities include air-conditioning, ceiling fans, fresh linens and towels, as well as daily maid service.

Vacation Rental in Loreto

Traditional Mexican furnishings are hallmarks at El Tiburon Casitas.

Another great feature of the hotel are its outdoor spaces. The secluded courtyard has a huge palapa, a clear pool, and a grill where you can prepare delicious meals for your loved one. Did I mention that the ocean views are spectacular?

Stay at El Tiburon Casitas and stroll around town, plan a picnic on a nearby beach, or have a romantic dinner in one of the many fine restaurants downtown. The hotel’s amiable staff, convenient location and affordable rates makes it an outstanding option for budget-conscious travelers to Loreto.

Vacation Rental in Loreto

Casa 465 offers romance as well as convenient access to the Loreto Bay Golf  Resort and Spa.

Are luxury and privacy your top priorities? If so, Casa 465 is a great choice. Located in Loreto Bay, an upscale community a few minutes south of town, this vacation rental showcases spacious accommodations, with enough comfortable furnishings and modern amenities to guarantee a worry-free getaway.

Casa 465 includes a fully appointed kitchen, living and dining room areas. The bedroom has a king size bed and a magnificent en-suite bathroom with shower and sunken bathtub. There is also a beautiful terrace perfect for al fresco dining and sunset cocktail hours.

Vacation Rental in Loreto

The terraces at Casa 465 are perfect for al fresco dining and sunset cocktails.

This luxurious vacation rental is located next to the community pool, and is walking distance from the Loreto Bay Golf Resort & Spa, with its world-class amenities. In Casa 465 you get the privacy of a home with the services of an upscale hotel: from spa and beauty treatments to a championship-level golf course.

 
Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from  Tijuana  to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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Loreto Hosts First Annual Chocolate Clam Festival

Loreto Hosts First Annual Chocolate Clam Festival.

Perhaps best known as California’s first capital, Loreto is also famed for its almejas chocolatas (chocolate clams), and last Saturday, June 1st,  was the perfect time to sample them. The Restaurant Association of Loreto (CANIRAC),  in conjunction with the state tourism department, hosted the historic town’s inaugural Festival of the Chocolate Clam, and it was awesome!

We arrived in the early evening to find the Marina transformed with beautifully decorated food booths, all serving special dishes that highlighted clams. Each restaurant prepared clams in many different ways:  chile rellenos stuffed with clams, clams on the half shell with butter, wine and cheese, clams in escabeche, plus many more. While we sampled all the delicious offerings, we were also enjoying the entertainment, which consisted of mariachis and traditional folkloric dancers, as well as the gorgeous seaside backdrop, with the sun setting over the islands of Loreto and sinking into the Sea of Cortez.

Later in the evening, we were treated to a dramatic demonstration of Almejas Tatamadas, the way locals traditionally prepared clams hundreds of years ago. First they were covered with sand, and then piled high with a brush that was lit and burned for about 40 minutes, perfectly steaming the clams.

We’re already looking forward to the next Festival of the Chocolate Clam, scheduled for the first week in June, 2014!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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Living the Loreto Experience: How to Have a Baja Moment!

Living the Loreto Experience with tour operator Vive Loreto:  How to Have a Baja Moment!

by Ashley Curtin

Vive Loreto is a tour operator in the magical town of Loreto.  Photo by Julian Gruening.

Vive Loreto is a tour operator in the magical town of Loreto. Photo by Julian Gruening.

While hiking in the La Giganta Mountains, diving among the colonies of sea lions in the Sea of Cortez or discovering the Mexican culture inside San Javier Mission, Have a Baja Moment! with Vive Loreto.  If you are seeking a way to live the Loreto experience, this mutli-faceted tour operator has a complete spectrum of activities.  Looking for adventure?  Want to learn about the history of Loreto?  Thinking about diving or discovering the islands that are scattered in the sparkling waters of the Sea of Cortez?   Vive Loreto has an array of activities that are easily doable while visiting the Magic Town of Loreto.  No matter age, skill level or niche, Vive Loreto will tailor an adventure just for you.

islands of loreto2

The Loreto experience wouldn’t be complete without a romantic sunset.

Land Excursions

Canyons, waterfalls and breathtaking lookouts are just a few of the natural wonders found on a one of Vive Loreto’s guided hikes. While on foot, travelers will trek through the La Giganta Mountains and discover a preserved ecosystem and natural water pools. Or to discover the islands of Coronado or Danzante, travelers have the option of an island hike.

 

Hiking the region around Loreto offers interesting copper-colored terrain framed by sapphire sea.  Photo by Ashley Curtin.

Hiking the region around Loreto offers interesting copper-colored terrain framed by sapphire sea. Photo by Ashley Curtin.

 

Another way to explore the countryside is on an ATV or mountain bike. There are different trails and tracks to follow—even the famous competitive ones used during the Baja 1000—to provide any skill level driver or bikers a memorable experience. Or travelers can hop on a mule and ride through the mountains and tour the local surroundings of Loreto the traditional way.

 

Sea Adventures

Snorkel, swim or relax on the beach of one of Loreto’s islands for the day. Vive Loreto offers travelers a boat ride on an open panga or a 21’ cabin cruiser to the uninhibited islands, the best options to for a peaceful and relaxing getaway. It is there travelers can also take advantage of all the fun sea activities and enjoy lunch while looking out at the Sea of Cortez.

 

An open panga boat is a great way to experience Mother Nature.

An open panga boat is a great way to experience Mother Nature.

World-renowned fishing off the coast of Loreto is also a very popular activity among travelers and locals alike. Vive Loreto has options to satisfy both beginner and expert fisher-people.

Whale watching, depending on the time of year, is an amazing and unforgettable experience also facilitated by Vive Loreto. There are two different tours. One almost always offers travelers the chance to touch grey whales in Magdalena Bay in the Pacific Ocean; the other allows people to simply marvel at the blue whales, with the possibility of dolphin sightings, in the Sea of Cortez.

 

The Loreto experience happens on land and under the sea!

The Loreto experience happens on land and under the sea! Photo by Julian Guening.

The qualified and licensed dive team at Vive Loreto allows any level experienced diver a fascinating view of under water. Filled with a multitude of colorful fish, rays and massive coral reefs, the Sea of Cortez offers the most beautiful sea life spotting. For travelers who are looking to learn how to dive, PADI courses, including referrals and refreshers, are also offered at Vive Loreto.

 

Cultural Experiences

Rich history marks its territory in Loreto.  Vive Loreto has many cultural tours to teach travelers about Mexican traditions, starting with the charming downtown. Loreto is the oldest town in Baja and Vive Loreto offers travelers a unique cultural experience starting with the sampling of Mexican cuisine native to the area.  Paired with the culinary experience are excursions to historic missions and distant ranches that are original to the Loreto region. There is nothing like learning about the indigenous peoples, exploring cave art and walking through churches on the San Javier Mission tour or the ranch tour.

 

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Vive Loreto’s tailored tours provide travelers with an unforgettable discovery of all things natural and incredible. Their expertise allows travelers to experience the magical culture, see the magnificent sea life and take part in the ultimate adventures that wait in Loreto.

There are lots of great places to stay in and around Loreto, including the intimate and beautiful La Damiana Inn which is centrally located and rich with history, or El Tiburon Casitas, which are fully furnished and near the marina.  And dining?  Loreto is as delicious as it is charming!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411.

 

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Live it Up In Loreto: Have a Baja Moment! in California’s First Capital

Live it Up in Loreto:  Have a Baja Moment at California’s First Capital

Loreto was not only the first capital of Baja California (and Alta California, for that matter, although gringos just call it California), but the first Spanish settlement on the entirety of the Baja Peninsula.  A sleepy seaside town located about 220 miles north of La Paz, Loreto enjoys a privileged position between the Sea of Cortez and the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range. It was founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1697, but these days it’s best known as a tourist destination — and heaven for lovers of outdoor adventure and water sports like fishing, diving, sailing, and kayaking.

Situated between the Sea of Cortez and the Sierra de la Gigante mountain range, Loreto is known for its beautiful settings.

Situated between the Sea of Cortez and the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, Loreto is known for its beautiful settings.

Much of the current interest in Loreto centers upon five large uninhabited islands off the coast: Coronado, Danzante, Carmen, Montserrat, and Santa Catalina. These ruggedly beautiful  islands are situated in the Loreto Bay National Marine Park (they’ve also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site), a fish rich environment perfect for snorkeling, diving and whale watching. This marine park is one of the best places in the world to view blue whales (February and March are the best months), and a premier destination for kayak enthusiasts.

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How to live it up in Loreto? Sea Kayak Adventures offers scenic tours of the uninhabited islands off the coast.

Sea Kayak Adventures is one of the few companies licensed to give tours in Loreto Bay National Marine Park, and they offer all-inclusive packages that include food, lodging, and of course spectacular kayak trips around the islands, from Coronado’s sea lion colony to Danzante’s romantic Honeymoon Cove. Sea Kayak Adventures specializes in small group tours, and has an excellent guide to guest ration. Better yet, all of their guides are also marine biologists. This comes in handy when you’re exploring such an abundant wildlife environment, paddling next to dolphins, manta rays, whale sharks, and over 900 species of colorful fish.

Villa del Palmar at Loreto Resort & Spa

Villa del Palmar’s Islands at Loreto Resort & Spa is one of the area’s premier lodgings.

One of the area’s newest lodgings is Villa del Palmar’s Islands at Loreto Resort & Spa, which opened in March of 2011. The property is actually located just up the coast from Loreto at Ensenada Blanca, about a half hour drive from the airport, with 181 suites overlooking Isla Danzante and the glittering blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. In addition to the luxe accommodations and quintet of swimming pools, there are a number of fine dining restaurants offering local delicacies like almejas (chocolate clams), as well as a cigar bar and onsite convenience store.

Villa del Palmar offers serene settings, first-class dining, and plenty of outdoor activities options.

Villa del Palmar offers serene settings, first-class dining, and plenty of outdoor activities options.

The resort is located within the boundaries of the Loreto Bay National Marine Park, and offers outdoor activities options like osprey and whale watching hikes. Guests may relax at the Sabile Spa and Wellness Center, or work up a sweat on one of the two tennis courts. A golf course is currently in development, and is expected to open in 2014. Until then, you can fill your leisure time with margaritas by the pool, or take an afternoon drive to see the aboriginal cave paintings located at nearby Cuevas Pintas. These evocative renderings date back well over a thousand years, and suggest Loreto has always been one of Baja’s most popular travel destinations.

 

When was your last “Baja Moment?” Let us know, at Baja.com.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com

Photos courtesy of Sea Kayak Adventures and Villa del Palmar.

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Have A Baja Moment at Tabor Canyon: Hiking the Mountains of Loreto.

Discover Loreto’s natural playground in the mountains of La Giganta and Have a Baja Moment, hiking the various terrain types and discovering a variety of wildlife living within the region.

by Ashley Curtin 

 

 

Climbing over boulders, wading through pools of water and scaling steep mountainsides in Tabor Canyon is the most popular hike among adventurous travelers visiting Loreto. The impressive natural features of the canyon preserve an ecosystem boasting green vegetation, blue palm, natural water pools and sheltered large trees, all home to the canyon. As hikers approach higher elevations in the mountains La Giganta, beautiful views of the Sea of Cortez across from Puerto Escondido are clearly visible. 

Hikers can Have a Baja Moment in Tabor Canyon.

While Tabor Canyon, located 15 minutes south of Loreto Bay, is a moderate to advanced hike, it is best that a guide accompany hikers of all levels. The hike is about a three-mile distance along various geo-terrains at a climbing elevation of 1,000 feet. With tour groups such as Wild Loreto, the hike takes about three hours with a stop along the way to re-hydrate, snacking on healthy foods.

 

The first part of Tabor Canyon includes hiking along a trail, but as the hike progresses, it becomes more challenging with steeper climbs and an overall less defined route. As waterfalls from mountainsides and natural swimming pools entice swimmers, hikers become one with nature. The natural aspects of the hike are not only breathtaking, but also rejuvenating and invigorating, all at the same time.

 

Within the mountains of La Giganta lie the flora and fauna of Baja. The Tabor Canyon hike reveals indigenous plants and wildlife that inhabit the desert of Loreto. Bird watching is another common and rewarding practice on this hike. There are various species of birds perched in trees or swooping up the mountains surrounding hikers. Various reptiles — some which are rare — hide within their natural habitat and, given the opportunity, might cross path with hikers. It makes for an unforgettable experience.

 

The rugged mountains of Loreto offer travelers a way to seek out adventure with various trekking opportunities. From large, clear hiking paths to less traveled trails, Loreto is a place for hikers of all levels to discover the wilderness.

 

Here are a few tips when hiking Tabor Canyon:

  •  Travel with a guide
  • Pack lots of water
  • Wear proper clothes (long pants, proper hiking boots and a hat to block the sun)
  • Apply sunscreen
  • Start hiking early in the morning
  • Hike with a partner
  • Bring a camera
Check out the video Vimeo below to find out more about how you can Have a Baja Moment in Loreto!

LORETO Adventure Tourism 2013 from Visit Baja Sur on Vimeo.

Want to find our where to stay when visiting lovely Loreto?  

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 

 

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Have a Baja Moment: 5 Places to Eat in Loreto

Have a Baja Moment:  5 Places to Eat in Loreto that Serve Up Baja Freshness

By Ashley Curtin

Fresh, local and seasonal:  three of the regular attributes of  the cuisine of Loreto. Located on the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Loreto’s fresh seafood is the main feature on many restaurant menus. Grilled fillets of sea bass, prepared chocolate clams and homemade ceviche are just a few of the staple dishes of Loreto. And to enjoy the area’s authentic cuisine, here are five acclaimed restaurants serving Loreto’s favorites dishes.

Mita Gourmet

A top tier restaurant located on the Plaza in the center of Loreto, Mita Gourmet is serving creative dishes to visitors and locals alike. The restaurant is known for its personalized service, attentive wait staff and exceptional food quality. When patrons are ordering, the chef personally approaches the guests’ tables to add his culinary suggestions before preparing the dish.  From shrimp wrapped in bacon to a fish fillet stuffed with seafood and various cuts of steak, the menu boasts an array of flavors. With both inside and outside seating, the atmosphere is casual, colorful, intimate and entertaining; live music entertains guests on a nightly basis. Mita Gourmet’s prices are on the high side, but the restaurant’s superior standards and gourmet food makes it a place worth dining.

Location:  Davis Street In front of Plaza Juarez, Loreto, BCS 23880

 

La Palapa

 

Designed to resemble an oversized palapa—a thatched roof hut on the beach that provides protection from the sun—the fun atmosphere and fresh food make La Palapa a favorite restaurant among visitors who visit Loreto. The restaurant specializes in the preparation of seafood and other traditional Mexican dishes, such as chile relleno. Fresh fillets of sea bass are prepared to perfection, while a fun culinary experience at La Palapa is the Cesar Salad made table-side. A Mariachi band also frequents tables to entertain guests, but be prepared to pay a price for each song they perform. Situated on the beach, La Palapa boasts a laid-back atmosphere. It serves freshly made margaritas (a local favorite), and homemade chips and salsa to enjoy while waiting for the meal. La Palapa’s low prices in exchange for beautiful beach views makes this restaurant a crowd favorite.

Location: Prolongacion Hidalgo Half a block away from the water
Loreto, BCS 23880

Conchó

A simple restaurant with no frills makes Conchó’s popular among the local foodies. The casual atmosphere, where plastic tables and chairs line the restaurant, is a fun way to spend an afternoon and fill up on seafood caught daily. Known for serving the freshest chocolate clams in Loreto, Conchó’s guests can choose from various preparations—grilled, raw, stuffed or broiled with melted cheese. But certain preparations can take some extra time so guests should expect to wait. And the wait is well worth the freshness. Conchó’s menu is not only easy on the wallet, but the restaurant provides guests a memorable dining experience when visiting Loreto.

Location:  Calle Madero with Carrillo, Downtown Loreto

 

The Market

Located within the Villa del Palmar Resort on the edge of the Sea of Cortez, The Market serves a delicious buffet complete with American favorites and authentic Mexican staples during breakfast, lunch and dinner. For guests looking for a serious entrée, the menu is composed of seafood and meat dishes highlighting the fresh and flavorful cuisine of Loreto. The Market is also known for its homemade bread—sweet rolls are made daily on site and served at each meal. The open dining area both inside and out offers guests a place to relax, with views of the pool and tropical landscape. The restaurant also has lounge areas for guests to relax on couches, and over-sized chairs perfect for enjoying a drink or a small bite to eat. With top-notch service and beautiful views of the Islands of Loreto, The Market is an exquisite dining experience.

Address:  Carretera Transpeninsular km 84 Ensenada Blanca, Loreto,Baja California Sur, Z.C.23880

 

Giggling Dolphin Restaurant and Boat Bar

 

The once-boat-turned-bar-and-truck is now a grill!  Remnants of this eatery’s colorful history are scattered about this restaurant, and have become famous fixtures that have visitors flocking to the Giggling Dolphin Restaurant and Boat Bar in Benito Juarez. The main dining area is inside the open-sided restaurant under a thatched-roof and provides its guests a bright and airy dining experience. Known for its fresh seafood, the fish tacos are the most popular choice on the menu. The guacamole served with homemade chips is also a local favorite. To experience the fun atmosphere, sit at the boat bar and enjoy a hand-crafted margarita on the rocks or blend it yourself by peddling a stationary bike. The staff is very friendly and attentive and service is fast. The fairly priced menu at the Giggling Dolphin Restaurant maintains high quality and consistency, while the lively, colorful decor makes this a place to dine at while visiting Loreto.

Location:  Benito Juarez, Loreto,Baja California Sur, Z.C.23880

Whether looking for a restaurant downtown or along the coast of the Sea of Cortez, Loreto has a variety of options for visitors. And no matter the atmosphere,  visitors are sure to Have a Baja Moment eating the freshest seafood and tastiest Mexican dishes while in Loreto.

Want to find our where to stay, when visiting lovely Loreto?  

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 

 

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A Hide-Away in Baja’s Paradise: Las Cabañas de Loreto

A Hide-away in Baja’s Paradise:  Las Cabañas de Loreto

On the Baja Peninsula, nestled between the towering mountain range of the Sierra La Giganta and the beautiful azure Sea of Cortez, is the tranquil, historic town of Loreto. Just fifty paces from the sea, you will discover Las Cabañas de Loreto, the perfect place to stay to relax and explore this area. The cabañas are within easy walking distance to harbor, beach, restaurants and to shopping.

Las Cabañas de Loreto are a hide-away in Baja's Paradise

Loreto is full of history and is considered the oldest permanent settlement in Baja. In 1697, Spanish padres founded the Mission Nuestra Senora de Loreto, the first mission in the chain of 17 that stretched to Sonoma, California. Loreto remained the capital of Baja California for 132 years, until 1829 when a hurricane devastated the city, and the capital was then moved to La Paz. Loreto has a beautiful Malecon, sea-front boardwalk, that invites you to stroll or rest in one of the benches facing the Sea of Cortez. It also has one of the most quaint town squares in all of Baja, and is the center for people to gather for music, poetry reading and other civic activities. The islands off of our shore have been designated and UNESCO world heritage site.

Loreto is truly a paradise. Photo provided by Las Cabanas de Loreto.

And there, smack in one of Mexico’s most lovely regions, is Las Cabañas de Loreto…a hide-away in Baja’s paradise.  The cabaña studios are behind the main house and face an inner courtyard. The studios have air conditioning, wi-fi access, kitchenettes equipped with microwaves, coffee makers and small refrigerators. The property has a pool, hot tub, guest laundry, outdoor sink area, BBQ and hammocks, available for you to use.

Loreto is one of the most picturesque towns in Baja, and can be easily reached via Mexico Hwy 1 (750 miles from San Diego) or by a 90 minute direct flight from Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines.  Loreto has many activities to choose from; fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, golf, tennis, whale watching, excursions to historic missions, or just watching the pelicans fly over the water.

Want a hide-away in Baja’s paradise?  Find out more about Las Cabañas de Loreto at http://www.lascabanasdeloreto.com/Loreto/ or on Baja.com!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 

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The Arts in Loreto: Lizette Inzunza is Doing What She Loves

By Jeannine Perez

The Arts in Loreto:  Lizette Unzuna is Doing What She Loves

We all see our worlds differently…each through his own unique lens of culture, beliefs and experiences. I recently interviewed Lizette Inzunza, a quiet, very talented woman who helps us see the worldviews of others through art.

“Juntos” by Lizette Inzunza

 

Lizette Inzunza is Directora of Social, Civic, and Cultural programs in Loreto. We gather on our Plaza for dances, gymnastics, music, holiday fiestas, food, and fun. The Arts become our answer to difficult times felt around the world and also here.

Exhibits in two rooms of our Municipal change each month; there have been more than 20 exhibits since our mayor’s election. No two exhibits are alike, ranging from abstracts escaping their frames to a seventeen year old boy’s intricate drawings, professional paintings done in vivid Mexican colors, and water colors by retired Americans who can still live in luxury. We shudder over violent Revolution paintings and smile over nature drawings done by school children. The ribbon-cutting ceremony, viewing of exhibits and simple refreshments are anticipated and well-attended. Strong art and the voices of people from contrasting backgrounds and cultures become windows allowing us to view the world through the eyes and passions of others.

Lizette has lived in Loreto since 1988, raising her son (also an artist), teaching classes, volunteering, and always, painting, painting, painting. She tells me she’s always loved art, but never dreamed it could become her career. On a science track, with chemistry her major, art was a hobby while doing something else “important.” However, each book margin and notebook was crowded with doodles and drawings. At graduation, ready to begin her science career, her teacher praised her art talent and said many available careers are open to talented artists. Lizette scoffed, but the next day, he brought her a list of art careers.

That teacher changed her life.

Lizette smiles, noting that she still struggles, while most of her classmates are now doctors or in science careers. However, she’s doing what she most loves to do….art.

"Entrega Absoluta" by Lizette Inzunza

At that time Lizette’s favorite subjects seemed to be landscapes and still-lifes, particularly those with chilies  She still enjoys painting them, but says her favorite subjects now are strong, capable women, and also she loves pangas (Mexican fishing boats), because, she says, pangas have souls and feelings, and she captures that as easily as the emotions in the women she paints. Some paintings of mermaids or angels, contrast darkness with light, and she did a series on the Mexican Revolution, and we felt the dangers and losses of that period.

I asked about her own favorite painting and which was hardest to paint. She said her favorite was of three angels (again, darkness vs. light). The hardest was begun several months after suffering a violent attack near the border, when she feared she might die. She didn’t cry and decided to paint the attack and her feelings, but began to cry, couldn’t stop, and couldn’t finish that painting. I remarked that perhaps it was complete, allowing her release of tears.

“Yo Elijo” by Lizette Inzunza: The Arts in Loreto thrive with her passion

My last question was about future ambitions and hopes. Lizette longs to travel, see and experience new things, while keeping her base in Loreto. Wherever she goes, Lizette will take along her gentle patience, sharing talents and visions, and always will impact the lives of others. Lizinsol@hotmail.com

 

Want to learn more about Loreto, its people and arts?  Find out where to stay and what to do in Loreto!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.

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Loreto’s Eco-Alianza: Ecology in Action

By Jeannine Perez

The attractive little blue and white building at Centro Paseo Miguel Hildago #67 houses an organization founded four years ago, when several people decided that there was a greater need for community involvement  through an organization that would encourage working together to conserve the natural resources and beauty of the desert, mountains, and sea around Loreto. This beginning came during a time of much local development, and a group of individuals were concerned about the impact of that development on the environment and fragile ecosystem of this area.  And so, Eco-Alianza was created.

The organization has initiated a number of activities and programs since its inception. It is involved with water quality and waste management projects, Earth Day activities, education for all ages, formation of Pescadors de Alianza (fishermen who are collecting data from the sea and sharing their expertise), outreach activities for families and young people, and research that empowers these young, their families, local fishermen, and others in the community to be heard by those who have the power to make and enforce environmental laws.

Edna and Gaby, who run the two-room office and give the children’s workshops, are beautiful young women with lots of energy and enthusiasm for their work. This enthusiasm is contagious.

I recently sat in on one of their workshops.  In it, boys and girls identified marine birds, learned about the animals’  habits, had contests, went on field trips, and ended by creating surprisingly professional paper mache birds from plastic bottles and lots of glue, paper, and paint (and much patient instruction).

Here’s what Edna and Gaby had to say about their workshops and the organization:

What ages are the children at your workshop, what is the cost to attend, and can you tell us about your most popular workshops?

Our youth education workshops are geared toward children 9-12 years old. The workshops are free, with materials and employee salaries covered by donations.  All of the workshops have been wildly popular for the children. The favorites are probably the camping programs “Camping Without Leaving a Trace” and also the one on “Sea Mammals.” It is hard for me to believe that many children who have lived here all of their lives have never before been in a boat, on an island, or seen dolphins or sea lions.  The cost of a boat trip to Coronado is too much for many families’ budgets.

What are the greatest needs if Eco Alianzia? Can you tell us about some of your upcoming project? 

We are always in need of funding for more environmental programs. Future plans include forming a club for young people who have formerly been in classes, with the idea of maintaining continuity and then growing our own mentors/helpers for future programs. We also plan to create an online magazine, hopefully with a new page for each of the four seasons, with the goal of giving a voice to the people of Loreto (including our  young people).  This program would become a forum to air views and write about  many issues: problems, current research, solutions to problems, dates for planned activities, and it would give everyone a chance to participate and speak. We also hope that it could help instill a sense of pride in all the natural beauty we have here.

What is the hardest thing you do? ( I had my own idea of that, having stayed to help clean up after the workshops busy with pasting and painting birds, but they did not mention clean-ups. )

The waste management concerns and programs are currently the hardest to deal with, because  Eco-Alianza has been embroiled in setting up the necessary groundwork, which takes time, and does not quickly show the progress made.

We ended our conversation with enthusiastic hugs and promises and Edna summed it all up when she said that “for our young people, this is so important.  You cannot love what you do not know.” The education program has already touched the lives of many young people (and their families, who are often included), and I sense a growing awareness of pride and sense of ownership of the beauty here in Loreto.

For more information on the organization and its activities, visit the Eco-Alianza Facebook Page, or contact them at 52 (613) 135-1900.

Have you experienced an Eco-Alianza workshop or event? Share your comments with us!

 

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