Before the Mexican government began developing the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas and neighboring San José del Cabo were simple fishing villages with a few thousand residents between them.
Completion of the Benito Juarez Transpeninsular Highway in 1973, and a major expansion of the region’s international airport in 1986, meant Los Cabos would never be the same. Nearly four million passengers annually pass through the airport on the way to the major resorts on Los Cabos’ Corredor Turístico.
The same phenomenon could soon occur 315 miles north of Los Cabos on the eastern coast of the Baja peninsula in the delightful town of Loreto.
Founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1697, Loreto boasts a current population of around 15,000, and it looks set to rise rapidly as the town seeks to match the economic success of Los Cabos as well as Cancun, Ixtapa-Zihuatenejo and Huatulco—all of which the country’s tourism ministry, FONATUR (Fondo Nacional de Fomento al Turismo) identified in the 1970s as areas for potential growth.
For whatever reason, Loreto didn’t grow at nearly the same rate as the others, but renewed focus from FONATUR is beginning to have a significant impact.
The area’s first major tourism development, the Inn at Loreto Bay (now known as Loreto Bay Golf Resort & Spa), opened in 2002. The Villages at Loreto Bay, a massive residential community with a planned 5,000 homes began construction soon after and is expected to be completed in 2020 assuming, of course, another economic downturn doesn’t derail it like the last one did.
Loreto Bay was the site of the area’s first golf course. Developed by FONATUR, designed by Mexico City-based landscape architects Mario Schjetnan and Pedro Guereca, and opened in 1991, it was purchased in 2006 by the Loreto Bay Golf Club, which hired Denver resident David Duval to complete a major renovation.
Other developers became interested, and in 2008 Owen Perry, owner of the Villa Group, began work on the 1,600-acre Villa Del Palmar Loreto on a beautiful horseshoe bay about 20 miles south of Loreto International Airport. The first hotel, with 181 one-, two-, and three-bedrooms villas, opened in 2011, but six more condo hotels and 253 residences are part of the master plan which also includes a Rees Jones-designed golf course.
Perry says he chose Jones after playing his original Santaluz Club and renovated Torrey Pines South in San Diego. “I just liked both courses a lot,” says Perry. “And I was aware of Rees’s reputation and standing in the industry, so thought he was the ideal man for the job.”
Perry made the initial move in 2008, and Jones first saw the site in 2009. “I was just blown away,” Jones remembers. “It’s such a beautiful and pristine setting that it makes you want to explore. It’s one of the most diverse properties anywhere, and our goal was to create a playable and interesting golf experience that showcases what an amazing place this is.”
More Photos of Danzante Bay
Only 11 holes of the Danzante Bay golf course are currently open, but demand for golf from hotel guests was such that management decided to open them up in February of this year. The green fee is $75 for nine of the holes, and $125 for 18 (play seven of the 11 holes twice).
The remaining seven holes are being cleared and built in a canyon directly south of the hotel that features some fairly rugged terrain and plenty of natural features. “The existing vegetation is being marked and transplanted right now,” says Jones. “These seven holes are anticipated to be open at this time next year.”
When complete, the course will possess areas of desert terrain, holes that wind up into the Sierra de Giganta mountains, and others that come close to the gorgeous Sea of Cortez. Undoubtedly, the most talked about hole will be the incredible par 3 17th that looks out east over the Sea of Cortez toward the jagged Isla Monserrate.
“I’ve built a lot of spectacular holes in my career in some of the most beautiful locations,” says Jones. “The 17th ranks among the most memorable holes anywhere in the world.”
With snorkeling in the warm waters of the Loreto Bay National Marine Park, deep sea fishing, numerous other activities, and a Rees Jones original layout, Villa Del Palmar and Danzante Bay will definitely help put Loreto on the map.
Rack rate for rooms is $339 during low season, and $429 in high season.
Packages available at villadelpalmarloreto.com/en/packages
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