In our busy, noisy, and hectic modern world, taking regular getaways via relaxing trips, holidays or vacations is much needed for proper health and wellbeing. Although we should always pay attention to essentials like proper nourishment, sleep, movement and fresh air, on a periodic basis we will greatly benefit from extended and focused self-care breaks. However in order to be effective, our getaway needs to have the right elements that support our health and wellbeing on all levels of our being: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Otherwise a vacation may actually add more stress and harm, which defeats its purpose and health-supporting potential.
When thinking of your next vacation, it is therefore beneficial to approach it in a holistic manner, just as you would your health and wellbeing. Whether you want to relax, have some fun, engage in some healing or enjoy some new experiences, it is valuable to consider a destination and accommodations that will provide lots of healthy options for all aspects of your being. Some essential elements to consider will include having access to healthy foods and drinks, comfortable and peaceful accommodations, plenty of natural surroundings and fresh air, as well as movement. There should also be a good balance between positive opportunities for active interactions and meditative stillness.
Of course, it is not always easy to find such a getaway, which would meet all of our basic holistic criteria. As you probably well know yourself, most entertainment and travel choices in our society are unfortunately not aligned with our health and wellbeing, as they focus on overindulging, unhealthy foods and drinks, and superficial or materialistic activities. In this review, it is therefore my pleasure to share with you one possible vacation idea, which can provide all the important holistic elements for a great vacation that fully nurtures your health and wellbeing.
An Invitation to a Holistic Holiday
In the spring of 2016, I was invited to attend a press trip to the Villa del Palmar Loreto to experience their facility and wellness program offerings. The Villa del Palmar Loreto is a 5-star, award-winning, luxury destination resort on the Sea of Cortez, off the eastern coast of the Baja peninsula. It is situated about 250 miles north of Los Cabos, and tucked away on Danzante Bay, overlooking some of the islands of Loreto. It is the first and only resort to occupy one of the Gulf of California’s last virgin coastlines, in an area that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second largest National Marine Park.
In light of full disclosure, although the main expenses were covered for me as part of this trip, the press trip was departing from the LAX airport in Los Angeles, California, which meant that I also covered my own expenses to get from Toronto to LA. I decided to invest in this experience as I felt it would be worth it to learn first hand about this resort and its holistic holiday options for optimal self-care. In the past, I have given up on most all-inclusive resorts, as their quality and commitment to health, especially from a broader perspective, simply isn’t there. However, the Villa del Palmar Loreto indicated otherwise, and I was open and curious to seeing what was possible, and sharing about it with you to help you make smart travel choices that have your health and wellbeing in mind.
A Holistic Experience with a Wellness Program
A short and comfortable 2 hour flight connects LAX and Loreto. Our press group was picked up at the airport and transported via a mini bus to the resort, which is roughly 45 minutes south of the airport. The drive to the resort was very comfortable and scenic. What sets this location apart from so many other resorts, and will no doubt be a highlight for many, is its secluded and remote location. There are no other resorts around, or towns, or vendors, which provides for a very quiet, private, safe and idyllic setting. One can fully relax and immerse themselves into the beauty of the property and surroundings. However, the town of Loreto is just north of the airport, so about 45 minutes away, for those who would like to explore more of the urban areas or pick up any needed supplies. In total, I had the pleasure of spending about 3 days at the Villa del Palmar Loreto from April 14 until April 17.
Our group had a specific and varied itinerary, which allowed us to experience a bit of most of what the resort has to offer. We arrived at the resort in the afternoon and were greeted with a very warm welcome, introduced to some of the staff, given a hand washing ritual, and had a smooth check-in process. Our main host and guide for the duration of the trip was Claudine Riemer, director of the resort’s Sabila Spa and Wellness Center. We were then ushered to experience our first meal, a lunch at The Market restaurant, which provided for great first impressions with the food. (I will share more specifically about the food below.) In the late afternoon, we had the pleasure of experiencing a dance meditation. Unfortunately the resort’s resident Shaman who normally leads the spiritual activities and holistic treatments was unavailable during our trip, but our group had returning guest and Ayurveda expert Lissa Coffey lead the meditation and wellness talk components. In the evening we took part in the resort’s famous beach party, which includes dinner and entertainment on the beach.
The next morning, we woke before sunrise to experience a guided hike into the desert and Sierra de la Giganta mountains that surround the property. It was one of the many highlights for me of this trip. The dry, yet diverse and uniquely crafted landscape of the Baja peninsula provides for a wonderful experience of nature’s majesty and beauty. Our guide, Carlos, was highly skilled at knowing the local flora and fauna, and teaching us about the area, including the basics of desert survival skills.
We returned for breakfast and then enjoyed a tour of the resort and facilities. What was most impressive for me during the tour was to learn about the implementation of various health, environmental and quality controls that were in place at this resort. For example, the restaurants have color-coded knives to prevent cross-contamination between foods, especially of plant and animal origin. There is also a strict protocol for cleanliness of staff and equipment on all levels, to ensure the highest quality and safety, and minimize the potential for any food-borne illness. The resort runs on solar power and is very much dedicated to environmental sustainability. And to top it all off, it has an impressive water filtration system that desalinizes the water for the resort, providing for safe drinking and washing water throughout the resort. Villa del Palmar also has a strong commitment to the wellbeing of their staff, and even provides continuing education, including English classes. It also promotes a philosophy of respect and humble service between employees and towards guests.
After the tour we embarked on a boat excursion to explore Danzante Bay, Sea of Cortez and islands of Loreto.
This was another big highlight and most wonderful experience. The tour operator guide, Juanito, was very personable and professional, and had excellent knowledge of the area and wildlife. My eyes feasted on the incredible carvings of nature as was evident in the unique shapes and sizes of the islands. There were caves and caverns along the edges, including various plant and animal life that decorated the islands. The waters of the bay and sea are clear and pristine and varied between sapphire blues and turquoise greens. As part of this boat tour, we had the chance to do some snorkeling along the reefs, which provided for the sighting of numerous tropical fish. We also enjoyed a “picnic-like” lunch on one of the several secluded beaches.
In the afternoon we had the option of experiencing paddle board (SUP) yoga. Although the usually calm waters of the bay were a little choppy that afternoon, given my passion for yoga I was thrilled to try this experience, even if it meant having the board be anchored. The yoga instructor, Hector, provided clear instructions and a positive experience. In the evening, we attended a formal dinner as a group on the outdoor patio of the Danzante Fine Dining restaurant.
On Saturday April 16, we began the day with a gentle yoga stretch and meditation, followed by breakfast. We then had the remainder of the morning to experience Sabila Spa, including the large selection of hydrotherapy treatments and a Swedish massage. Following lunch, we had a wellness talk and then a Janzu water massage demonstration. That afternoon provided for a little alone time, during which I enjoyed some swimming in one of the pools. In the evening, we enjoyed a Mexican themed dinner and show on The Market restaurant patio. The resort also has a discotheque nearby that provides an opportunity for some music and dancing, which guests can get to within minutes via a resort shuttle, and that we also had the chance to experience.
Our final day came and I woke before sunrise to take in some more of this beautiful space and surroundings. I decided to take a walk on the beach to the edge of the bay (about 20 minutes one way), greet the rising sun, and do some meditating on the edge of the dunes. Our final group activity was a farewell breakfast, and then it was time to check-out and take our transport to the airport, and flight(s) back to our subsequent destinations.
The resort is about 5 years old, and everything feels very fresh and new. There are currently about 180 rooms with lots more future development in the works. All the rooms feature views of the bay and guests can choose from deluxe studio suites with kitchenettes, or 1, 2 and 3 bedroom suites with full kitchens. There are also specialty penthouse suites available. I had the pleasure of experiencing a 1 bedroom suite, which was extremely spacious and could easily accommodate a family. It had 2 full bathrooms, and a Jacuzzi in the bedroom, a dining and living area, a washer/dryer, and very large and spacious balcony with plenty of comfortable seating. Cleanliness was impeccable and the evening turndown service was the best I’ve experienced to date. It was very consistent in its attention to detail and guest comfort.
The resort’s overall ambiance is very elegant, with a good blend of simplicity, practicality and comfort. The layout is easy to get around, and the resort feels just right—not too big, and not too small. The front desk, concierge, and dining staff always appeared available. The staff are very friendly and there is an abundance of smiles to go around. As noted in the resort tour, it definitely appears that staff feel supported and in turn translate this to how they work and interact with guests. Wi-fi is available widely throughout the resort, and works quite well for basic needs in most areas. Rooms seem to be a hit or miss, as I had a great signal in my room, where as others had very poor signal in other rooms. Ultimately, it is possible to connect for personal or professional needs as may be required, but for a true holiday, it is in our best interest to detach and disconnect from the online world while away at a place like this.
The resort features 3 restaurants and in-room dining options. Each of the restaurants have ample seating and reflect the resort’s elegant and comfortable ambiance. Although Villa del Palmar Loreto is definitely poised to provide a holistic holiday, optimally healthy eating is not a given, but something the guest must initiate or be responsible for themselves. The freshness, variety and quality of the food was definitely above average, but as expected, the resort still predominantly caters to an animal-centric diet, with mostly meat, seafood, egg and dairy meals. The good news is that vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options and modifications are very much available.
Most of our group’s meals were set, however I also got to experience the buffet for one breakfast and dinner, and also had two opportunities to order on my own from the restaurant menus. Given my fully whole-food, plant-based, vegan diet I was curious to see how the accommodations would go and must say that I was quite impressed. Whether from the set meals, menu, or buffet, my vegan meals had an emphasis on whole and healthy foods, included a good variety and beautiful presentation. It was possible for example to get a gluten-free and oil-free pasta dish with lots of vegetables. It is also possible to get a thin-crust vegan pizza with lots of veggies, albeit made with white flour. For the most part though, it is easy to avoid refined carbohydrates and refined sugars at this resort, which are still all too prevalent in the food service industry.
So while there is still some room for improvement from a health perspective, the resort also offers a healthy menu as part of their Wellness program package, which I assume reflects the meals that our group was given. Not to be missed is the morning green juice and freshly made guacamole, which were two of my favorite treats at this resort. Overall, I was very happy with the food and could definitely recommend this resort as a veg-friendly option. It was clear that the staff were well informed of what this means and how to provide adequate meals for it, which is both highly desirable and essential for a holistic holiday.
The Wellness Center is a 39,000 square foot facility and includes Sabila Spa, a fitness center, salon, medical section, presentation rooms, convenience store, and roof-top tennis courts. It is by far one of the most impressive parts of this resort and speaks volumes about the holistic component and dedication to wellbeing that sets this property apart from most other such resorts. Sabila Spa is not just a spa, but nothing short of a healing center, given its many hot and cold hydrotherapy options and healing treatment options. It is beautifully appointed, extremely spacious and impeccably clean. There is also a juicing option for guests as well, to experience freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juices for enhanced healing, nourishing, cleansing, and detoxification.
Activities & Excursions
As part of the turn-down service, there was always a print-out left with the next day’s itinerary of activities. Although our group did not partake in these, given that we had our own itinerary, it was evident that there was an abundance of activities for all ages, needs and desires, some that were included in the resort stay and some, like excursions, that consisted of an extra cost. So there is ample opportunity to stay physically, socially and mentally active. Between various water sports like kayaking or paddle boarding, and land activities like hiking, biking or golfing, and range of pool-side activities, there is truly something for everyone.
For those wishing to go more within, the resort and natural surroundings offer lots of spaces and opportunity for silence, stillness, contemplation and meditation. There are numerous private seating areas, including loungers, hammocks and even secluded chairs along the edge of one of the mountain sides. The private beach and tucked-in dunes offer ample space for barefoot walks, solitude and favorable meditation spots. The resort also has the El Santuario, which is a collection of yurts located away from the resort, off the beach, that offer further space for a connection with our spiritual dimension, soul searching or quieting of the mind.
Overall, my stay and experience at the Villa del Palmar Loreto was fantastic. As part of a true holistic getaway, I so much enjoyed the remote, laid-back and serene surroundings, which cultivated a sense of stillness, relaxation and rejuvenation. In addition, the dominant presence of nature all around, especially the majestic Sierra de la Giganta mountains that surround the resort, added an extra special element of wellbeing. In this secluded Baja gem, one can truly disconnect and have the noisy, hectic and busy world melt away. Then, it is just up to us to commit ourselves and focus on our personal journey of balancing, healing and wellbeing by taking advantage of all the health-promoting features of this resort and area.
There were many opportunities to see that this resort truly pays attention to even the finest of details and aims to go above and beyond guest comfort, wellbeing and satisfaction. Given that this was a short press trip, there are of course some limitations for providing a most comprehensive review, and I can only hope that the experience I got was an accurate reflection of what guests can experience on a regular basis at the Villa del Palmar Loreto. Ultimately, whether one is seeking some re-balancing or rejuvenating on a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual level, this resort can offer so much for each and every one of these dimensions of our being, making it a truly holistic holiday.
Here is my video capturing views some views and providing a summary of my experience:
You can visit my Facebook album for more photos of the Villa del Palmar Loreto.
To learn more about the resort, visit the Villa del Palmar website.