Loreto, Mexico, is a hidden gem on the Baja Peninsula, with an authentic charm and dazzling landscape. Situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California, the climate is perfect for fishing, boating, surfing, and diving, making the destination an adventurer and thrill-seeker’s dream. The first capital of the Californias, it offers a rich tapestry of Old Mission traditions and a wealth of Mexican culture. It’s where you can discover tranquility and the ambiance of a sleepy fishing village the way Mexico used to be.
One of the designated Pueblo Magicos (Magic Towns), it has a rich cultural heritage featuring many accessible historical landmarks and museums dating back to the 17th century — inviting you to slow down, commune with nature, and relax. Wander the cobblestone streets surrounded by local cuisine, arts and crafts, and colonial architecture.
I was a guest of Visit Baja California Sur, but all opinions are my own.
Things To Do In Loreto
1. Visit Downtown
Downtown Loreto is tiny, it’s walkable and feels very safe. Most buildings are single-story tiendas (shops) and restaurants serving locals and visitors. I loved the colorful paper Picado strung above the cobblestone street leading to the waterfront.
The Mission of Our Lady of Loreto is the most notable of the many things to enjoy downtown. Founded in 1697 by the Jesuits, it is the first mission created by Father Junipero Serra and is still a working church. The connecting museum teaches about the missionaries who helped develop the town in the 1700s.
Most of the shopping can be found along Salvatierra Street, with incredible arts and crafts. The area is well known for ironwood carvings and I got the cutest red embroidered dress for my new granddaughter. There is a farmers market held in the arroyo to the north of downtown on Sunday.
2. Sunrise Walk On The Malecon
The Malecon stretches over a mile along the waterfront. Dog walkers and joggers were already on the esplanade when I arrived early the first morning. The sun rose slowly over the bay, illuminating the fishing boats bobbing in it, preparing to head out for their daily catch. In the evening, couples and families stroll in the cool air while children ride on bicycles and eat ice cream.
3. San Javier Mission
San Javier Mission is one of the best-preserved missions founded by the Jesuits in the colonization of California. As the crow flies, San Javier Mission is about sixteen miles from Loreto, through the colossal Sierra de la Giganta Mountains and picturesque canyons.
Built around 1699, the mission was abandoned because of a threatened Native American revolt, then later re-established. In 1710 it was moved a little over a mile south to its present location, which offered a dependable water source from a spring. Still, by 1817, the San Javier Mission was deserted. Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History restored and maintained the church.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the olive tree at the end of a small hike down a hill just behind the mission. Tour the church, visit the museum, and stroll the ancient orchards.
4. Catamaran In Loreto Bay
Just 30 minutes drive from Loreto, Marina Puerto Escondido is the place to head for a relaxing day of catamaran sailing. We met the Bel Gato crew and enjoyed a fantastic day navigating the sparkling and serene Bay of Loreto.
After sailing away from the marina and toward the aquamarine open waters, we dropped anchor in a secluded beach cove, watching myriads of colorful fish swim below us in the crystal-clear water. We enjoyed hybrid paddle boards, snorkeling, and hunting for shells along the shore. After a delicious lunch aboard, I had a prime spot on the deck when we spotted humpback whales breaching in the distance. We were a little early in the season for the blue whales, which was another reason to come back.
5. Desert Hike In Las Parras Canyon
A fun excursion was a guided hike through the Las Parras Canyon in the nearby foothills of the La Giganta mountains. The terrain is a picturesque high desert landscape. Starting in the Arroyo, the canyon was dotted with Cardon Cacti up and down the slopes. Palm trees lined a surprising oasis near the river.” Jesuit explorers found this oasis, calling the area the “Canyon of the Vines” for all the wild grapevines they found.
We scrambled around boulders, jumped over rippling streams and gurgling spring waters, and stopped to admire the desert vistas on rocky outcrops. Our guide taught us about the plants that had medicinal properties and how to steer clear of the long, red-colored spines projecting from the small “Cats Claws” Cactus.
Pro Tip: Plan your hike at the end of the day and admire the setting sun over the Sierra La Giganta mountains, the majestic Cardon Cacti standing sentinel watch, stretching to the sky.
Best Restaurants In Loreto
From family-oriented casual eateries to fine dining, and small taco stands, you’ll find a little of everything in this tiny Mexican town. The climate is perfect for outdoor dining. Most restaurants in the area are open for breakfast and lunch, and all are open for dinner. The hard part is which one to choose!
Claudia’s Restaurant was a welcome sight when we arrived downtown. We spied the wooden sign boasting the best margaritas in town and that sign turned out to be true! The small café with outdoor tables facing the square was dog-friendly and laid-back; no one was hurrying to leave. The guacamole, chips, and salsa were fresh and tasty.
Mi Loreto has one of the best grilled seafood cuisines that fuses authentic Mexican food with the freshest Sea of Cortez fish caught by local fishermen. Located in front of the Mission de Nuestra Señora de Loreto, our outdoor table had a perfect view. Moles are a specialty and there are several types to choose from. I had the mixed plate, which was a little bit of everything. Though my eyes proved to be bigger than my stomach, my favorite on the plate was the sizzling beef fajitas rolled in homemade flour tortillas. Still, I had a little room saved for a creamy traditional Mexican flan.
Looking for an authentic Mexican breakfast with ambiance? Orlando’s Restaurant is for you. The food is made to order and the staff is attentive. The colorful décor, handblown glassware, and festive patio seating set the mood.
Huevos rancheros with fried eggs and corn tortillas, topped with salsa, were accompanied by frijoles (beans), avocado slices, and rice. I had Jilly’s Chilis — a favorite on the menu. The pepper was prepared perfectly and swam in a flavorful red chili sauce, topped with scrambled eggs.
The Zopilote Brewing Company
Zopilote Brewing Company is a craft brewery and restaurant with a wide variety of everyday items on the menu. I enjoyed a blood orange ale with a delicious orange aroma and flavor. I also enjoyed the fish tacos, which were crunchy outside; the white flesh was tender and flaky. My colleagues shared a mozzarella pizza enhanced with a spicy tomato sauce.
Del Carmen Restaurant
Located in Hotel Oasis, this restaurant’s location couldn’t be better. The waterfront on the southern end of Malecon is a perfect refuge for a quiet evening. Outdoor seating under large trees was strung with fairy lights and the ambiance was magical. An extensive buffet featured local seafood; the chocolate clams are their specialty on the Baja peninsula. Prepared by digging a hole in the sand, the clams are carefully arranged in it and then buried. The cooks light a fire of dry sticks on top and the clams are steamed in their juices while the heat from the fire cooks the clams.
Best Hotels In Loreto
Visitors can enjoy a peaceful retreat with many small boutique hotels. Our small group split up to experience three different properties.
Hotel La Mision
Centrally located, Hotel La Mision provides an upscale hotel experience with fabulous views of the Bay of Loreto, a courtyard pool, and delicious dining. Set along the Malecon, guests can stroll and take in the spectacular sunsets or walk in the fresh morning air.
In the center of town, Hotel 1697 has an authentic feel, only minutes away from the town’s attractions. With only eight guest rooms, it has a central pool and a communal outdoor kitchen.
Posada Del Cortes
Posada del Cortes is conveniently located in Loreto’s Historical Center, surrounded by restaurants, coffee shops, and shopping. The Colonial Hotel includes a terrace and a garden, and breakfast is served in the central courtyard. The seven guest rooms are comfortable with a charming atmosphere.
One of the best reasons to travel to Loreto, Mexico, is its warm hospitality. It’s the perfect destination for a long weekend getaway, with direct flights from Los Angeles and Phoenix.
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