Hit the Road: Doing everything or nothing at Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa

Hit the Road: Doing everything or nothing at Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa
All of the 181 rooms and suites at Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa in Baja have ocean views and kitchens. The Sierra de la Giganta mountain range provides a dramatic backdrop, and in the other direction, the hotel has a ringside seat on the Sea of Cortez. Jacques Cousteau, who spent time in the area, called it the “aquarium of the world” because of the 900 species of fish that inhabit the waters. Photo by Jerry Ondash

The great thing about Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa is that you can do everything or nothing.

During our five-day stay at the resort, which has a ringside seat on Baja’s east coast, we did a combination of both. Had I had more time, I would’ve done a bit more of the latter, but it’s difficult to resist taking advantage of all the activities.

Morning is a perfect time for yoga, and the beach is the perfect place.

During our stay, I joined a group led by Mayo Clinic-certified yoga instructor and therapy specialist Michelle Collins of Portland.

She tailored each pose for every level (I’m somewhere below beginner) and even when I couldn’t meet the challenge, it was nice to recline on the sand and let my mind drift out somewhere over the indigo Sea of Cortez.

Yoga instructor Michelle Collins and her husband, Glen Collins, a former Navy SEAL, lead a yoga class on the beach. They reside in Portland and come to Villa del Palmar several times a year during Wellness Week Retreats to conduct yoga classes.  Photo by Jerry Ondash

Yoga instructor Michelle Collins and her husband, Glen Collins, a former Navy SEAL, lead a yoga class on the beach. They reside in Portland and come to Villa del Palmar several times a year during Wellness Week Retreats to conduct yoga classes. Photo by Jerry Ondash

For those who want to actually get into the water, there is kayaking, paddle boarding, scuba diving and snorkeling, which we enjoyed one afternoon near one of the five Islands of Loreto.

The 900 species with which we swam are the reason Jacques Cousteau called this coastal wonderland the “aquarium of the world.” He helped designate this area a marine preserve, and swimming in it was a thrill and the best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced.

If you’re a foodie or have special dietary needs, you’ll find Villa del Palmar to be the Promise Land.

Three restaurants on the property serve mostly local and always-fresh-and-flavorful cuisine that includes native dishes; homemade tortillas made daily (no resemblance to those we buy on this side of the border); an array of ethnic foods (Italian night and Caribbean fare on the beach were hits); and fish cooked to perfection.

The area has two delectable specialties — chocolate clams (so named because of their color) and the mild, white parrot fish.

Executive Chef Alfonso Peregrina and his staff are happy to modify entrées to accommodate any dietary needs. They also provide a generous choice of gluten-free pastries, pastas and pizza every day.

Villa del Palmar offers five swimming pools, including one of salt water, an adults-only pool and one for children. Photo by Jerry Ondash

Villa del Palmar offers five swimming pools, including one of salt water, an adults-only pool and one for children. Photo by Jerry Ondash

I devoured the gluten-free croissants that tasted very close to the real thing.

If you’re feeling a bit decadent, the Sabila Spa is there with massages, facials, body scrubs, steam room, sauna, fresh aloe vera tubs, hot and cold Jacuzzis, a gym and daily fitness classes.

The spa’s 39,000 square feet means you’ll most often feel as though you are the only one there.

There also are tennis courts and a 7,400-yard Rees Jones golf course that will be ready for play by Nov. 1.

I’m not a drinker, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn the real facts about tequila.

Food and Beverage Director Oscar Torres, whose family has been making tequila for years, holds a one-hour class that includes tasting. He explains what makes the native drink good what makes it bad (even with my untrained palate, I could tell the difference in the quality); that the most expensive bottle of tequila is not necessarily the best bottle (“We clean the floors with Cuervo Gold,” he said); and how to properly taste and evaluate it. No, don’t do shots — at least not with the good stuff — and sip it slowly over an entire evening to avoid a hangover.

For more information on Villa del Palmar, special packages and off-season rates, visit villadelpalmarloreto.com or call (800) 790-4187.

E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at eondash@coastnewsgroup.com

Josue Halley (left) and Elim Cardenas present some of the breads and pastries made fresh every morning at the resort. On the left: a platter of gluten-free rolls. All three restaurants offer a generous selection of gluten free breads, pastas and pizza. Executive chef Alfonso Peregrina and his staff will alter any entrees on the menu to accommodate those with special dietary needs.  Photo by Jerry Ondash

Josue Halley (left) and Elim Cardenas present some of the breads and pastries made fresh every morning at the resort. On the left: a platter of gluten-free rolls. All three restaurants offer a generous selection of gluten free breads, pastas and pizza. Executive chef Alfonso Peregrina and his staff will alter any entrees on the menu to accommodate those with special dietary needs. Photo by Jerry Ondash

A vegan dish created within a bowl constructed of plantains is one example of the unique cuisine offered at all three restaurants at Villa del Palmar. Photo by Jerry Ondash

A vegan dish created within a bowl constructed of plantains is one example of the unique cuisine offered at all three restaurants at Villa del Palmar. Photo by Jerry Ondash

Villa del Palmar’s general manager Sixto Navarro explains some of the “green” features of the hotel, like this solar light, one of hundreds on the property. Also, the hotel derives all of its water from a desalination plant under the building. Photo by Jerry Ondash

Villa del Palmar’s general manager Sixto Navarro explains some of the “green” features of the hotel, like this solar light, one of hundreds on the property. Also, the hotel derives all of its water from a desalination plant under the building. Photo by Jerry Ondash

All of the 181 rooms and suites at Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa in Baja have ocean views and kitchens. The Sierra de la Giganta mountain range provides a dramatic backdrop, and in the other direction, the hotel has a ringside seat on the Sea of Cortez. Jacques Cousteau, who spent time in the area, called it the “aquarium of the world” because of the 900 species of fish that inhabit the waters. Photo by Jerry Ondash

All of the 181 rooms and suites at Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa in Baja have ocean views and kitchens. The Sierra de la Giganta mountain range provides a dramatic backdrop, and in the other direction, the hotel has a ringside seat on the Sea of Cortez. Jacques Cousteau, who spent time in the area, called it the “aquarium of the world” because of the 900 species of fish that inhabit the waters. Photo by Jerry Ondash

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