Loreto Mexico is a great vacation for anyone who enjoys a quaint and traditional Mexican town. This under-the-radar seaside town is perfect for fishermen, kayakers, whale watching, and snorkeling. The Loreto National Marine Park which is the Sea of Cortez and its islands are a UNESCO World Heritage site. To top it off, the town of Loreto is quite safe and a popular ex-pat location for Americans and Canadians.
This travel guide to Loreto Mexico shares my favorite things to do, the best places to visit, the best restaurants, and my hotel recommendations.
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Loreto Mexico Travel Guide: 16 Great Reasons to Visit
The Baja peninsula is full of awesome destinations and natural beauty, and Loreto Mexico is no exception. This small, clean, sustainable coastal city in the Gulf of California is a great spot for a Mexico vacation. If you’re looking for a traditional Mexican spot with crystalline blue waters, awesome adventures, historical landmarks, and delicious food, Loreto definitely has you covered!
Loreto Baja California Sur Mexico Vacation
Loreto is a unique destination in Mexico. Located in the southwestern part of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, in the state of Southern Baja, this beautiful gem is nestled in a special spot where the desert, mountains and sea join together to create one of the most fantastic landscapes. Bathed by the Gulf of California, known locally as the Sea of Cortez, Loreto also harbors the perfect communion of history and nature.
Loreto is known for being first in several things. This small city was the first capital of Baja California, and also the place where the first mission in the Californias was established in 1697, named Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó. It is also the location of the 1st olive tree on the continent; it was planted more than 300 years ago at the San Javier mission.
Where is Loreto Mexico?
The above Loreto Mexico map shows its lovely location on the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez, Spanish Golfo de California, or Mar de Cortés). Loreto is located on the Baja California Peninsula in the state of Baja California Sur.
17 Things to do in Loreto Mexico
Loreto is a small town that offers great adventures, historical landmarks and breathtaking vistas. It is also a favorite for fishing aficionados, kayakers, whale watchers, history buffs and anyone looking to relax on a beautiful beach while enjoying delicious food and drinks.
1. Visit Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto (Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó)
Built in 1697 to get a complete idea of Loreto’s essence and history. This was the first permanent Catholic mission in the area from where the Jesuits parted to different areas of the peninsula to convince natives to become Christian and then teach them to help build churches.
Today, the mission preserves the city’s history. Its Baroque-style church features the belltower, the historic altar and the original image of the Señora de Loreto painting. Next door to the mission you’ll find the museum, where you can learn more about local history and the way missionaries were integrated into Californians and their lifestyle.
2. Take a Fishing Trip at Bahía de Loreto National Park
Fishermen have been coming to Loreto for decades just to fish. In fact, Loreto Mexico fishing is a bucket list item for many who love deep sea fishing.
The Loreto National Marine Park is a fantastic area comprising five islands and the surrounding sea, which is bubbling with marine life. Located in the Sea of Cortez, it covers an area of 500,000 acres, including its five rocky islands of Coronado, Carmen, Danzante, Montserrat, and Catalina. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, the park is heaven for fishing in designated areas.
The best fishing months in Loreto Mexico depend on what you’re hoping to catch. Two of the most common fish in the Sea of Cortez are snapper and seabass and can be caught year-round in the deeper water.
Marlin and sailfish are the two most exciting and challenging fish to catch in Loreto. They are considered summer and fall fishing along with Grouper, dorado, and tuna.
Winter and spring fishing with find yellowtail, roosterfish, Pacific sierra, and grouper.
3. Take a Whale Watching Trip
You can spot humpback, orca, blue, and gray whales in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
It’s the Blue Whales that are most popular and Loreto is the only place in the world to see the largest mammals in the world. Its tongue can reach the size of an elephant and its heart is as big as a car!
If you’re lucky, you might even get to see them swimming with their babies, because this is where they come to give birth! This magical experience takes place only during the winter months of February and the first half of March. There are plenty of tours in the area that will take you to watch this natural marvel.
4. Tour Coronado Island
Coronado Island is home to great snorkel spots, white sand beaches, and crystal clear water.
Isla Coronado is the closest of the five islands that make up the Loreto Bay National Marine Park (Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto). Visiting the island is very popular. It is actually an ancient inactive volcano, which has eroded over the centuries, resulting in a rugged coastline.
There is hiking with two trails to explore. The north side consists of steep cliffs and fantastic lava formations, while the south side has lovely sandy beaches perfect for swimming, amazing snorkeling, or just chilling on the sand.
The quirky thing about Coronado is that cacti and palm trees cohabit in the same place, which is not something you get to see most of the time. It’s also home to an array of marine mammals and tropical birds. A day on the island is filled with bird watching, picnicking on the beach, and snorkeling among tropical fish galore.
5. See Dolphins Play & Sea Lions Sun Bathe
There are many tours that offer dolphin watching tours. Many of these tours include visiting a sea lion colony and stops to snorkel. You can also combine a trip to Isla Coronado with dolphin watching and snorkeling at a few spots.
The trip will take around 5-6 hours. The tour I took was with Wild Loreto and highly recommend them!
6. Snorkel or Scuba Dive
This protected natural area is one of Mexico’s biggest treasures, where the rich biodiversity is protected. Needless to say, it is also heaven for explorers who flock here for deep diving and snorkeling. The park is located in the Sea of Cortez, dubbed “The world’s aquarium” by Jacques Costeau, covering an area of 500,000 acres, including its five rocky islands of Coronado, Carmen, Danzante, Montserrat and Catalina.
Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the aquarium of the world.
it was dubbed “The world’s aquarium” by Jacques Costeau,
7. Play Golf
Loreto is also a haven for golfers. TPC Danzante Bay is an 18-hole golf course located at Villa del Palmar Loreto and designed by Rees Jones. The course includes valleys, arroyos, dunes, and foothills. It also has some of the most spectacular views of the Sea of Cortez. It has been nominated as the best golf course in Mexico and best new course in Latin America.
Loreto Bay Golf Resort is another great choice for golf. Their golf course is considered one of the most challenging in all of Mexico. It is an 18 hole, par 72 surrounded by beautiful landscapes. It was renovated by the champion of the British Open 2001, David Duval.
The best months for playing golf in Loreto are November through April.
8. Bird Watch
Sure, Loreto is known for its diverse marine life, but there is also a myriad of bird species that call the bay their home, and several locals are willing to give you a tour to get to know them.
9. Enjoy Water Sports
One of the most popular activities in Loreto is kayaking. Experienced kayakers come here from all parts of the world, as well as newbies who want to experience this sport in a gorgeous setting. Standup paddleboard, surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, catamaran and anything to do in the water is amazing!
10. Visit A Top Spa in Mexico: Sabila Spa
Sabila Spa at Villa del Palmar is not your average spa. The spa has been nominated for Mexico’s Best Resort Spa by the World Spa Awards year after year.
With all spa treatments, you can enjoy a 10 step aqua therapy process. The steps involve spending five to seven minutes at ten different stations including a hot Jacuzzi, a dry sauna, a cold plunge, steam room, warm Jacuzzi, cold plunge, pressure shower, aloe bath, and Epsom salt bath. It is a great way to extend your spa experience and feel an extra level of pampering and relaxation.
11. Shop at the Farmer’s Market in Town
Every Saturday, an amazing thing happens. Farmers, artisans, vendors, and cooks will set up tents and open shop. Here, you will find everything from fresh produce to clothes and paintings. The “tianguis” or ‘mercado”, as it is known locally, is also a fantastic place to grab a delicious and inexpensive meal.
12. Explore the Sierra de la Giganta Mountain Range
About 9 miles from Loreto, the Sierra Giganta towers over the area. This is a great spot for hiking and mountain biking, but you can also hire a mule tour to explore the area!
13. Discover Prehistoric Cave Paintings
Inside the Sierra Giganta, the rocky mountain range that seems to hug Loreto, you can find some caves with amazing cave paintings that are more than 10,000 years old, depicting human figures as well as some reptiles and birds.
14. Visit San Javier Mission
Mission San Javier sits in the hills above Loreto. This is the best-preserved of the Jesuit mission churches and one of the oldest ones in California. Construction of the Church of San Francisco Javier began in 1744 and was finished in 1759. It has been preserved in its original shape today, with no remodeling whatsoever.
The small town that surrounds the mission is still home to 200 people, who mostly work the fields of grapes and olives that grow on some of the oldest trees in the Americas. In fact, the first olive tree planted in the American continent more than 300 years ago has its home here.
If you happen to visit on October 25th, you can take part in the patron’s festivities, which are very important at San Javier.
15. Watch the Sunrise
Loreto has some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets I have seen anywhere. They can be quite spectacular and are worth an early wake up!
16. Watch a Sunset at the Loreto Malecon
Like most seaside towns and cities in Mexico, Loreto has a charming ‘malecon” or boardwalk where you can walk while admiring the spectacularly turquoise blue ocean views, sit on a bench to watch splendid sunsets, or just simply enjoy being there. Loreto’s Malecon also has some cool sculptures depicting ocean creatures, rock formations, a lighthouse and several viewpoints.
17. Shop and Soak Up Local Vibe
Visit the Downtown Main Plaza in Loreto. The town of Loreto is picturesque with the main plaza and surrounding streets that are quite pretty and charming. You’ll get a chance to admire the colonial buildings and, of course, several restaurants and local shops.
Fun Facts about Loreto Baja California Sur
- Loreto was the first capital city of the Californias.
- The first olive tree in the Americas was planted in Loreto.
- More than 260 of the 400 marine species that inhabit the California Gulf can be found in Loreto.
- Loreto has a population of approximately 21,000, of which 12,000 live in the city and 9,000 live in the mountains and nearby fishing cities.
- Loreto was the first place where a Christian mission was successfully established, after a few failed attempts in other parts of the peninsula. As such, it is also the first Spanish town in the area.
- Francisco Javier is the patron saint of Loreto.
- The first mission in the Californias was established in Loreto.
- A total of eight missions were built in Baja California, and the original missionary road from Loreto; the Camino Real – still exists.
- Bahía de Loreto National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
What to Eat in Loreto
One of the best things about any trip to Mexico is the food! Loreto is famous for its fresh seafood and splendid drinks. There are also a few specialties in Loreto that you must try during your visit.
Chocolate clams with mustard are typical in the area, as fresh as you can get and really tasty. If possible go to a hotel or restaurant that cooks the clams in the sand. It’s quite interesting to see the whole process!
I highly recommend the Ceviche, a delicious fish cocktail. If you’re in the mood for fish tacos, El Rey del Taco is the absolute place to go. Their tacos are battered and fried and simply scrumptious.
For refreshments, don’t miss on trying a hibiscus mojito at Villa del Palmar. The special flavor of hibiscus added to the traditional mojito is simply delightful.
Ice cream and popsicles at La Michoacana are great refreshments too.
Last but not least, do try out the local Talega coffee. You’ll surely want to take some home with you.
Best Breakfasts in Loreto
A great option for breakfast in Loreto is Cafe Ole, especially if you only have one day to visit. Cafe Ole opens early in the morning, so it is great for grabbing an early coffee and breakfast before setting out to explore. I like it because it is located in downtown Loreto, so getting there gives you the chance to visit the quaint streets and main plaza in one go. Famous for their awesome French toast, they have an interesting variety of breakfast options and fresh juices.
Orlando’s is a very popular spot for visitors and locals alike. Dishes and juices are well-served and tasty.
If you want to get straight to the point and have some great tacos or traditional Mexican food for breakfast, like many Mexicans love to do, Cesar’s taco stand is a good choice. This family-run restaurant offers delicious food and warm-hearted attention.
Best Lunches in Loreto
Fresh seafood is available by the tons in Baja, and Loreto is no exception. Whether you want a leisure seafood meal or want to grab some quick fish tacos before taking a tour, Loreto has plenty of spots waiting for you. Favorite musts to try out are chocolate clams with mustard, ceviche – a scrumptious fresh fish cocktail – Talega coffee (locally grown), and hibiscus mojitos served at Villa del Palmar.
Buena Vida is awesome for fresh ceviche, aguachile – spicy shrimp with cucumbers, avocado onion and hot peppers – and excellent fish tacos.
El Rey del Taco is the most famous Loreto Mexico restaurant for its good Baja-style fish taco that is lightly battered and fried.
Best Restaurants in Loreto for Dinner
Because Loreto sits right on the coast of the Gulf of California, its restaurants focus mainly on seafood and ceviches. If you’re not into fish, worry not, as there are delicious food alternatives available in town, too.
Black Bird is a cute breakfast outdoor cafe and small hipster bar; depending on the time you visit. In the mornings you’ll find delicious freshly-brewed coffee and freshly-baked muffins, along with traditional breakfast dishes. Come evening, you’ll be welcomed with live music, tapas, cheese boards, margaritas, and local craft beer.
El Zopilote is a local brewery where the specialty is good-sized, thin-crust scrumptious wood-fire pizza and a great variety of beer crafted on-site.
Loreto Mexico Hotels
There are multiple lodging options in Loreto for all budget ranges. Here are my recommendations:
Budget Hotels in Loreto
Oasis Hotel. This is the traditional hotel in town. Built with local materials by the current owner’s parents in 1962. The hotel is on the beach, pet-friendly and has spacious air-conditioned rooms as well as a salt-water pool. It is famous for hosting two dinner theme nights a week. Wednesday is Italian food and Saturday is the clam bake on the beach.
Casas Loreto hostel is popular with backpackers.
Angra Hotel is another good low-budget lodging option, providing good-sized clean rooms and breakfast.
Moderate Hotel Options in Loreto
Hotel Santa Fe. Located in downtown Loreto, Hotel Santa Fe offers great value with 116 comfortable rooms, a climatized pool and a jacuzzi to relax at the end of an adventurous day. Family suites are available and a small grocery shop inside hotel.
Tripui is another favorite. It has a small pool, air conditioning and wi-fi.
Boutique Hotels in Loreto
Posada de Cortes. Small boutique hotel built in traditional Mexican style in downtown Loreto. Comfortable suites with amenities – tv, coffee maker, mini-bar, toaster and a roof terrace which is great for relaxing. Rates start at $80 per night with taxes.
Hotel La Mision Loreto. This is a high-end boutique hotel that features ocean and mountain view rooms. It also boasts the best Wi-fi in the area, an Italian chef, and the only Starbucks in town. Thursday there’s live music.
This luxury resort with spacious rooms. Most rooms have a patio or balcony and view of either the golf course or Sea of Cortez. The resort has an awesome pool with a swim-up bar, a sports bar, beach, and free one-hour rental for bikes, kayaks and more.
Their golf course is a 18 hole, par 72 surrounded by beautiful landscapes and renovated by the champion of the British Open 2001, David Duval.
Rooms have a small fridge, safe, TV, coffee maker, alarm clock, robes, and slippers.
This hotel is All-Inclusive Luxury. They have a turndown service, a fabulous spa with 9 step water treatment that is simply divine. The resort is located on the beach, has three restaurants and 20,000 square feet of turtle-shaped pools.
Read my full review of Villa del Palmar in Loreto and learn why Villa del Palmar Loreto on the Islands of Loreto is a perfect choice if you want an upscale, all-inclusive resort experience. The hotel is located in a private cove with unbelievable views, amazing food and is great for families as well as couples.
Loreto Mexico Weather
The hot season in Loreto is June through September. The average daily high temperature during these months is above 90°F.
The hottest month of the year in Loreto is August, with an average high of 95°F and low of 83°F.
The cool season in Loreto is December through February. The average daily high temperature during these months is below 77°F.
The coldest month of the year in Loreto is January, with an average low of 58°F and high of 73°F.
The rainy season in Loreto is August and September.
Best Time to Visit Loreto Mexico
The best time to visit Loreto is October; when temperatures start dropping to the low 80s and the weather is not as humid as during the summer. While October is ideal, November is also beautiful.
The best times to avoid crowds are the months of April and September, but if you’re looking to see blue whales, the only time to do that is during the month of February and the first half of March.
They are the only months where the Blue Whale can be seen but keep in mind that there is less visibility in the water during these months because there is more plankton.
Flights to Loreto:
Loreto is the only magic town in Mexico that has an international airport, so getting there is no problem. You can fly in from San Diego, Tijuana, Los Angeles, Calgary, or connect from almost anywhere through Los Cabos to the Loreto Mexico airport.
The Loreto International Airport has several direct flights with Volaris and Alaska Airlines.
I also have a full review of Volaris that shares their routes and amazing low fares!
Getting to Loreto by Car
If you are on a Baja road trip, it’s about 4 hours from La Paz to Loreto. It’s about 5 hours from Todos Santos to Loreto and about 6 hours from Cabo San Lucas to Loreto.
Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.