Baja Distilled, Refined
|On a Mission: Loreto Bay in silhouette at sunset (image courtesy, Village at Loreto Bay)|
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 fourCabo San Lucas, Cancun, Ixtapo, Huatulcoat 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 sealifeDorado, yellowfish, and tuna among themthat 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.
Loretos most recent developers, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Loreto Bay Company, embraced the regions natural assets when they broke ground on building their luxury resort. Working with FONATUR, Mexicos official tourism agency, the Villages of Loreto Bay is North Americas 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 Bays 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.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication