Legendary marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau called Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, “the world’s aquarium.” The beautiful Pacific Coast body of water that shimmers 50 shades of blue is located in Loreto Bay National Marine Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Guest contributor, Nancy D. Brown, explored the area on a sponsored trip with Islands of Loreto and ROW Seakayak Adventures. She’s here to tell us why this amazing destination is an ideal place to check off some bucket list travel experiences.
How to visit Loreto Bay National Marine Park
My eye caught a glimpse of something shooting below the water’s surface like a long, dark, torpedo. As I moved closer to the bow of the rubber boat my alarm turned from concern to delight. Bottlenose dolphins were playing in the wake of our boat as we cut through ribbons of aqua blue water in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.
I’ve had the luxury of visiting this gem of a location by kayak and by land. Loreto is the closest city to Loreto Bay National Marine Park. It makes the perfect headquarters for exploring the islands of Loreto Bay.
Exploring Loreto, Baja California Sur by land
If you are interested in a girlfriend getaway, a golfing trip or a spa wellness retreat, you’ll want to visit Villa del Palmar Loreto (VDPL), an all-inclusive resort located 45 minutes outside of Loreto.
The resort offers a shuttle service so you can be car-free if you arrive by airplane. Security is not an issue in the sleepy fishing village of Loreto, where everyone speaks English, however, there is gated security at the resort entrance.
On my visit, I choose to focus on healthy eating and enjoying the plethora of outdoor activities. On arrival, I was welcomed with a hand washing ritual and the specialty of the house “Loreto Night” cocktail (or alcohol free option.)
What I loved about my stay was that VDPL adjusts to your needs and wants. Gluten-free or vegan-focused meals—no problem. Love seafood, hate beans and rice— no problem. Of course, if you are traveling with a meat and potatoes kind of guy—no problem. You get the idea.
Boomer Travel Tip
We highly recommend joining a medical evacuation program before leaving on an active international trip. Start your Medjet membership here.
Relax or Recharge at Villa del Palmar Loreto
I started my day with a morning hike around the property, which is studded with cactus, breathtaking Sea of Cortez views and backs up to the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range. I followed this with a meditation class and a visit to Sabila Spa.
The state-of-the-art spa has over 75 treatments, so you’ll find something to make you happy, from a golf ball massage to a fresh aloe vera soak in the tub after a dip in the ice cold plunge pool.
Day two had me up early to explore the Sea of Cortez from boat. We chartered a craft from Danzante Tours (the hotel concierge will hook you up) for a four hour tour of Danzante and Carmen Islands. It was here that we were greeted by bottlenose dolphins.
We also spotted flying manta rays breaking water and the shy blue footed boobies were nesting on a nearby rock formation. That evening I tried my hand (or feet) at stand up paddling or SUP.
Villa del Palmar Loreto is one of the few places where you may SUP at night due to the LED lights on the board. It’s part of the active travel fun in Baja California!
I’m not a golfer, but I did manage to get to the 17th hole of this Rees Jones designed golf course. This view reminds me of California’s famed Pebble Beach, only this course looks over the Sea of Cortez instead of the Pacific Ocean.
What I love about the resort is the choices; all-inclusive dining or a la carte, you decide. Traveling with multi-generations? Make use of the kitchen in the suite. There’s also a kid’s club if you have grandchildren along.
Kayaking tour of Loreto Bay National Marine Park
One of my bucket list trips was Row Sea Kayak Adventures 3×3 Combo Tour. This 8-day Loreto Islands all-inclusive trip included kayaking in Loreto Bay National Marine Park, for 3 days, in addition to a 3 day Pacific gray whale tour in Magdalena Bay.
While this particular adventure is only available from January to March (when the whales give birth to their babies) I can’t recommend this trip enough. It is truly magical and worth the advance planning required!
Least you worry that you are not an experienced kayaker, fear not! The Row Adventure guides will take care of you and then some.
I hadn’t slept in a tent for quite some time, but with the proper equipment, supplied by Row Adventures, I slept like a baby after a day of paddling and snorkeling. Be prepared to be wowed by a million stars, as there is no light pollution on Danzante Island.
Don’t get me started on the food. What this small, efficient crew can do with a cast iron skillet and Dutch oven is amazing. They put my cooking skills to shame.
After three days of kayaking, you’ll return to overnight in the town of Loreto. Our stay was at the lovely La Mision Hotel, across the street from Loreto Bay, but your hotel may vary. Make time to visit Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto, the first mission and capital of the Californias.
Magdalena Bay Whale Watching
After a shuttle ride to Lopez Mateos Marina, you’ll head out with one of the local boat captains on a panga to see mother whales and their babies. Some of the brochures show visitors petting the whales as they swim up to the boats, but our marine biologist guide suggested that it is better to look with your eyes—and the whales really do swim close to the boats, so you’ll get amazing pictures.
We slept in canvas tents for three nights on Magdalena Island, learning about the behaviors of the whales in the evening, and watching them spy hop from our beach or during our twice daily boat excursion. Between whale watching excursions you’ll have plenty of time to kick back and enjoy a cerveza with chips and guacamole and local fresh caught fish.
Now that I’ve piqued your interest in a trip to Baja California Sur, go sign yourself up for a conversational Spanish class so you’ll know how to ask for “mas cerveza, por favor.” Hasta luego, my friend.
Disclosure: Nancy Brown was a guest of Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto and ROW Sea Kayak Adventures for purposes of review. All opinions are her own.