Paradise on the Sea
by Kent White
Where was once there was a small fishing town occasionally gone wild with spring breakers now exists a faster paced city with over 5,000 condos and vacation homes, restaurants and nightclubs. There are almost 60 projects in some stage of development in the Peñasco area, and this trend will certainly continue. It is this element that has some investors looking farther south for that piece of paradise along the pristine beaches that brought so many of us to what many call Arizona’s beach.
There are several communities south of Puerto Peñasco that are worthy of attention. Most of these developments will show great returns for those who do their homework. From the Mayan Palace to Desemboque; Puerto Lobos and on to Puerto Libertad, potential investors travel in search of their dreams. Many variables weigh in the decision-making equation as to which property is best for whom. For those that like the tranquil solitude there is a lot to see farther down the coast.
A community that is arguably leading the pack is Santo Tomas. Though all the communities mentioned above will likely develop in the future, Santo Tomas is happening now.
Santo Tomás is a unique beachfront community located about an hour south of Puerto Peñasco along the route of the new coastal highway. Santo Tomás provides all of the comforts of modern day living while assuring a peaceful and secluded setting away from the pressures of some other tourist venues.
Las Dunas the first phase of Santo Tomás, is a dramatic combination of 3,360 acres of beautiful Sonoran desert, with 2½ miles of the most pristine swimmer friendly beaches found in the state of Sonora. This beautiful setting is located on the edge of a fertile agricultural area where olives, citrus fruit, grapes & most of the country's asparagus are grown. In fact much of the produce consumed in the US is grown right there in Sonora.
The original land that was named Santo Tomas was purchased by the Crewse-Reyna family in 1960. This tract, which consisted of 1500 hectares (approximately 3600 acres), was available for purchase from the federal government by virtue of a land grant given to Francisco Reyna Sotelo, patriarch of the Reyna clan who had participated successfully in the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900’s. The land rights were transferred to his daughter, Paulina Reyna Crewse and her husband, Otho (Bob) Crewse, and they were exercised by them in 1960 to acquire the parcel described above.
During the 1960's, Bob Crewse developed the land as a cattle ranch until his death in 1969. By 1971, Paulina had divested herself of the cattle and started the tourist development of the site which today bears the name Las Dunas. A restaurant, grocery store and a few rental cabins were the key amenities in this small "resort" which primarily served campers from Caborca and the surrounding region. After several years of operation, Santo Tomas as a business went dormant in 1980. Although it didn't become a successful enterprise during this period, it did develop a bit of a following and a reputation because of its natural beauty and seclusion.
Over the next 16 years, development of the site remained at a standstill, although plans were in the works to develop it to its true potential. In 1996, Paulina and Bob's children, together with a few partners, began the efforts that today have startied to bear fruit as Las Dunas de Santo Tomas and Santo Tomas in general. This group formed a Mexican landholding corporation which today holds fee simple title to the property with no liens or encumbrances.
Today there are about 25 homes with many more in the planning stage in section one. More than two-thirds of the121 custom building lots in the first 2 phases have been purchased. The average size is 11,384 sq. ft., the smallest is 9,600 sq. ft. Section two consists of 9 oversized beachfront lots ranging from 14,000 to 15,000 sq. ft., and 11 hilltop estate lots which range from 16,000 to 28,000 sq. ft. Section two was just made available for purchase, and believe it or not the beachfront lots can be purchased for about $350,000. This is a big difference to the pricing in Puerto Penasco which are double in most cases for beachfront in most any community. This is really special since the lots in Santo Tomas have underground electricity, drinkable water, and clean title or banktrust available on every lot. This fact cannot be said about any lot in the Puerto Peñasco community or anywhere else for hundreds of miles.
The Estrella Las Dunas Condominium project on the north end of Las Dunas is now under construction at Santo Tomas. In the area of the old beach club, this attractive, secluded low-rise complex is taking shape on the most pristine beaches the Sea of Cortez has to offer. There are just a couple of units left in phase one, and likely phase two will not begin construction for another year.
Featuring 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units, each Estrella Condos includes a private patio or balcony facing the sea. Numerous amenities will be integrated into the condo area. These amenities will include a resort-sized pool, heated spa, outdoor barbeque facilities, outdoor bar and an amphitheater/beachclub facility for events. The adjoining Fitness/Recreation Center will offer several fully equipped exercise areas together with specialized areas for spa services. The lounge in the Center will provide a place to play games, have a drink, a bite to eat or simply relax while enjoying the spectacular views of the Sea of Cortez.
Located just one hour south of Rocky Point, Santo Tomas is the absolute getaway from the crowds. With a wide variety of lots priced from below $30,000 and the Estrella Condos available from just over $200,000 the Santo Tomas experience is worth taking a look at. Water and electric utilities provided to the front line of each lot are included in the lot price.