Baja Distilled, Refined

A new green village vacation hotspot being constructed on the fringes of the Sea of Cortez carves out a niche attraction for the active- and eco-minded traveler.
By Danielle DiGiacomo
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On a Mission: Loreto Bay in silhouette at sunset (image courtesy, Village at Loreto Bay)
How Sustainable Development Is Done
In a society where much of the production is geographically divorced from where the actual products are consumed, it’s far too easy to overlook the effects of that consumption. Loreto reverses this trend by concentrating economic, social, and ecological sustainability as development continues on their south-of-the-border paradise. The Arizona-based company behind Loreto Bay has initiated programs for sustainable job creation, fair wage allocation, pollution control, and education. Organic vegetables irrigated by the Sea of Cortez are produced at the nearby agricultural center; a hospital combining western, Chinese, and holistic medicine is under construction; a nature preserve has been set aside; adobe-style houses are being built with energy-efficient Earth Blocks and recycled styrofoam walls; and a nonprofit foundation, which receives 1% of the property’s gross revenue, has been established to foster educational improvement, affordable housing, universal healthcare, and other social programs. For more information, visit www.loretobayfoundation.org
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Baja, Mexico. Favored vacation spot of drunken frat boys, college girls “gone wild," and overfed tourists sipping watermelon-sized margaritas out of neon swirly straws. Or so I thought. My previous trip to Baja was a three-day affair, a little dip into the top of the peninsula on a u-shaped road trip across the States with my college boyfriend. I remember roadside taco stands, camping along a cliff, and a hotel bar where U.S. expats wore white suits and a jukebox played the Eagles.

Loreto Bay, located 700 miles south of San Diego, is an antidote to this sort of tired, hedonistic version of Mexico. Nestled where the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains sweeps down to meet the turquoise expanse of the Sea of Cortez, Loreto encompasses multiple ecosystems, among them an oasis, estuary, beach, and mountains. Between Los Cabos and La Paz, the southern tip of the peninsula, it also has the distinction of being the oldest inhabited town in Baja; in 1697 Juan Maria de Salvatierra, an Italian Jesuit, discovered Loreto on a colonial outing.

One of five areas designated for “development" (a word that, for the socially conscious, has come to mean exactly the opposite) by the Mexican government, Loreto is the least known and most unspoiled. Of the other four—Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Ixtapo, Huatulco—at least the former two have become so bloated by the tourist industry that much of the original habitat and history has been swallowed by high-rise hotels, overpriced restaurants, and sunburned hordes.

Not so with Loreto. This swath of pristine beaches, ancient caves, harbors, and coves in central Baja merge into the perfect headquarters for the active, outdoor-loving sojourner. The sea is richly populated with sealife—Dorado, yellowfish, and tuna among them—that make Loreto a sport-fishing hot spot. Within the Loreto National Marine Park, part of the World Heritage-listed Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California, these aquatic creatures cohabitate with blue whales, dolphins, and over 800 other species, a number endangered. On land, a 5,000-acre nature preserve, stretching across the Sonoran Desert through the Giganta Mountains, allows visitors to bike, walk, or ride horses within a flourishing sanctum. From hiking, mountain biking and golfing to whale watching, sea kayaking, and tennis (or even the delicate act of nursing a poolside margarita), Loreto provides.

Loreto’s most recent developers, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Loreto Bay Company, embraced the region’s natural assets when they broke ground on building their luxury resort. Working with FONATUR, Mexico’s official tourism agency, the Villages of Loreto Bay is North America’s largest sustainable resort in the works. The goal is establish an organic, respectful relationship to the land and people, cultivating the wealth of natural resources. Case in point: Loreto Bay’s unique golf course. The 100-acre, 18-hole landscaped marvel sits within a 165-acre park interlaced with walking trails and orchards. Designed by David Duval, the course is built on brackish grass irrigated by salt water, which does not tax the supply of drinking water.

Within the next 15 years, 6,000 homes, some of which will be shared living/working spaces, are planned. One community, Aqua Viva, will be a Venice-by-way-of-Baja village, with residences resting upon a network of estuaries and canals bursting with local plants and trees. The hub of the village is envisaged as a state-of-the-art “Beach Club," a seaside compound with a full health club, movie theatre, rooftop dining, library, and a plethora of water in various formations, from flowing waterfalls to swimmable grottos.


Published: 29 Mar 2007 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Loreto

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#1
La Mision Loreto
$197
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#2
Villa del Palmar at The Islands of Loreto
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#3
Hacienda Suites Loreto
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#4
Hotel Oasis

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