A stunning new Rees Jones Design, Danzante Bay, is the newest Mexican must-play.
For anyone who yearns for the simple, yet sensational allure of what Cabo offered 25 years ago, book a trip to Loreto. More specifically for golfers, head straight for Danzante Bay Golf Club, the brand new Rees Jones championship-caliber design that abuts the seven-year-old Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa at the Islands of Loreto. Thanks to the wow factor that rocks the entire round, Danzante Bay is an immediate magnet for scenery lovers and course connoisseurs.
Before you boogie down to Baja, though, let’s get you oriented, because this destination is not intended for the multitudes. What’s fair to say, however, is that the sleepy fishing village of Loreto is finally waking up. Located 315 miles north of Los Cabos and 220 miles further up the eastern coast of Baja California Sur from the state capital of La Paz, Loreto boasts all the enticements of its neighbors to the south, with its desert/mountain-meetsthe-sea backdrops, endless sunshine, a dash of culture amid the arts scene and Colonial architecture (Mission Loreto dates to 1697) and myriad watersports. When it comes to fishing, you can look for a cheap fish finding device and use the right techniques to get a good catch.
What it’s missing is people, both residents and tourists. Only 15,000 permanent residents call Loreto home and visitors have been hamstrung by a lack of access. All of this is slowly changing. Yet, happily for the foreseeable future, Loreto’s laid-back, authentic charm won’t go away anytime soon. As Danzante Bay/Villa del Palmar developer Owen Perry likes to say, “Cabo is for the partiers. Loreto is for the folks who want to relax.”
RELAXED, BUT NOT BORED
Serious anglers have long revered Loreto for its deep sea treasures. Summertime sport fishing revolves around marlin and dorado, while in winter, yellowtail is king. Sailfish, seabass, snapper, tuna and rooster fish are among the other piscatorial denizens that attract the avid rod-and-reel crowd.
To be fair, however, it’s Danzante Bay and the Villa del Palmar Resort, 20 miles south of the Loreto airport, that nowadays compels your visit. The 4,500-acre property is home to a luxury hotel with 181 one-, two- or three-bedroom, residence-style villa units that opened in 2011. More condominium hotels and single-family residences are on tap for the future.
Onsite are three restaurants, five swimming pools distinctively designed to resemble sea turtle shells, the 39,000-square-foot Sabila Spa and two tennis courts. Easily accessible are miles of hiking trails, glass-bottom kayaks, diving, LED paddleboarding (so you can light up the sea at dusk), boat tours to the surrounding islands and, of course, sport fishing. A bonus is the esort’s complimentary shuttle service into town. You might be relaxed, but you’ll never be bored.
Guestrooms are spacious and loaded with conveniences. A complete working kitchen, laundry facilities, two full bathrooms, two large-screen TVs and glorious views of the Sea of Cortez provide everything you could need. Niceties such as locally made, artistically crafted candies highlight the turndown service.
The dining scene is equally stellar, from the Market Restaurant, with buffetstyle or a la carte items that be consumed indoors or al fresco, to the more formal Danzante Restaurant and Casa Mia, a casual Italian eatery that serves up pizza and snacks. Start with the tortilla soup and try the tampiquena (grilled skirt steak), chicken mole or the Veracruz-style sea bass and you can’t go wrong.
Still, the best local taste of all has to be Loreto’s signature dish, chocolate clams. Named for their color, not their taste, they’re easily in reach. “They’re good size, as far as clams go,” said Danzante Bay’s director of golf Danny Garcia. “Very meaty. You can walk right into the bay and grab them. I like them best with garlic and butter, maybe some cheese. Fry ‘em up and enjoy.”
Having said that, what’s most appetizing in Loreto is the new Rees Jones-designed Danzante Bay Golf Club that opened in December 2017. By now you may have seen photos of its signature par-3 17th, a 178-yard cliff-top thriller that peers over the Sea of Cortez amid rocks, sand, cacti and canyons. One glimpse and it’s understandable why Jones calls it, “the most spectacular natural hole I’ve ever designed.”
What elevates Danzante Bay, however, is that it’s hardly a one-hole wonder. In fact, two prevailing traits predominate: playability and scenery. Jones and senior designer Steve Weisser gull-winged most fairways to help keep errant shots from scampering into the desert. They built helpful slopes that direct the ball toward the green. They contoured greens and green surrounds to where recovery options and putting opportunities are compelling and manageable. And they carved out a variety of sensibly placed tee boxes where any golfer can have fun, including the sharpest sticks you know, who have 7,237 yards of challenge awaiting.
At day’s end, though, it’s the visuals that will dazzle. “I don’t know when I’ve ever seen mountains so close to the sea,” Jones said. “And I don’t know of a course with so many different environments: desert, cliffs, dunes, arroyos and canyons, all in a seaside setting. It’s one of a kind.”
The Kodak moments start at the 207-yard, par-3 third, an all-carry thriller (with an acceptable bailout short-left) and continues at the eighth, a strong par 4 of 475 yards that plays into the north wind off the sea. Sturdy, handsome holes dot the back nine, notably the 580- yard, par-5 12th, which skirts the resort in its journey to its namesake bay and the low-profile 191-yard, par-3 13th, its green practically jabbed into the beach. All this is benched into a backdrop of the imposing Sierra de la Giganta mountain range.
Loreto isn’t for the masses. Given what you get, however, with the Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa at the Islands of Loreto and its Danzante Bay Golf Club, this could be the hideaway of your dreams.