Mexico has many sides, each more distinct than the last. This is a country of rich history
and culture, fascinating archeological sites, white sand beaches, and dense jungle, of
cosmopolitan cities filled with renowned restaurants helmed by world-class chefs. But if it’s
a side of Mexico blissfully free of the crowds that descend on the mainstream hotspots that piques your interest, put the small town of Loreto on your travel radar.
Experience a truly authentic, undiscovered side of Mexico
Loreto is the unspoiled side of Mexico; tranquil, authentic, with a wide range of appeal, just waiting to be discovered. It’s no wonder that many who plan to visit for a day or two end up lingering.
Scenically situated between the soaring Sierra de la Giganta mountains and Sea of Cortez on the east coast of the Baja California peninsula, Loreto offers an enticing blend of sea, sand and desert, along with a laundry list of natural attractions and watersports opportunities.
A small town big on charm
Loreto may be small, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in laid-back charm.
Exploring the cobblestone streets of the downtown area on foot is the best way to get
to know this picture-perfect town; strolling by shops selling traditional handicrafts, art galleries, street-side cafes and taco stands.
In the evenings, you might catch sight of a roving mariachi band or two. Make your way to the Malecon (waterfront promenade) for a scenic walk along the water, a popular spot for people watching or to catch the sunset. Stop for a fish taco or some fresh ceviche while you wander.
In addition, Loreto has been awarded the Pueblo Magico (Magic Town) designation by Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism for its rich history, authentic local culture, and natural beauty
both on land and at sea.
Hospitality with heart
The charm of Loreto extends to the accommodations it offers. Instead of high-rise hotels and sprawling resorts common in much of Mexico, visitors have their pick of family-run hotels and stylish haciendas such as Posada del Cortes, La Mision Loreto, Bugambilia Suites and Villas Santo Niño.
For anyone who might be in search of somewhere to stay with a wider array of facilities, there are some good options. For example, Loreto Bay Golf Resort & Spa, Villa del Palmar Resort & Spa and Hotel Santa Fe by Villa Group are all under 200 rooms and maintain a relaxed intimacy, while still offering modern amenities in an upscale setting.
Nature at its best
While there might be a lot to keep you busy in town when it comes to Loreto, much of the destination’s draw is all about nature.
Whether you want to spread out on a pristine beach, do some hiking or mountain biking, see some local wildlife, dive and snorkel, or get out on the water via kayak or paddleboard, Loreto is the place to do it.
A quick 25-minute boat ride from Loreto is Coronados Island, home to beautiful white sand beaches, a resident sea lion colony and even flocks of rare Blue-Footed Boobies.
Between beach-hopping and wildlife viewing, visitors can also hike inland to see (and snap photos of ) the island’s unique lava rock formations.
Jacques Cousteau famously referred to the waters of Loreto as the “aquarium of the world” and it’s not hard to see why. A visit to Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto (Bay of Loreto National Park), declared a protected area by the federal government in 1996, means the chance to snorkel through crystalline waters spotting tropical fish, dolphins and colourful coral. Or test your balance kite-surfing or on a stand-up paddleboard to explore the calm waters minus a mask and fins.
Depending on when you visit, blue whales make the waters of Loreto their home between January and mid-March. Licensed whale watching boats are readily available to take visitors out to see the gentle giants, where you may also spot dolphins, orcas and
Experienced hikers will want to test out the trails of the nearby Sierra de la Giganta mountain range (also ideal for mountain biking and climbing). Since not all trails are properly marked, it’s a good idea to book a guided trek or bike ride with one of the numerous tour operators in the area.
A step back in time
Loreto is a town steeped in history. Look no further than the fact this was the first Spanish settlement on the Baja California Peninsula (founded in 1697) and the first capital of California.
Loreto is the site of the first permanent mission in the Californias, Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto Concho, completed in 1744 and well worth a visit for the peek into the past it provides.
Museo de las Misiones is another worthy stop for history buffs and houses a detailed
collection of religious art, historic documents, tools, and crafts, which tell the story of the settlement of the Baja Peninsula.
Or, head just north of Loreto to see the unique cave paintings of Canipole (also known as La Pinguica) dating back to prehistoric times and designated for special protection by UNESCO.
Loreto’s small size might lead you to believe culinary offerings are limited. Not so. Foodies will have no trouble sating their appetites in Loreto.
From rustic taco joints to fine dining establishments, there are dining options aplenty to suit every craving and budget. Take your pick of everything from perfectly crispy fish tacos to home baked bread and pastries. Fresh-caught seafood is especially abundant here and something you’ll see on many menus.
And you can’t leave Loreto without trying the famous chocolata clams, named for the colour of their shells and hard to find anywhere else. These are prepared in a variety of ways (leave time to taste a few) and you can find them on most menus around town.