Top Activities to Experience from Loreto, Baja
In September 2020, American Airlines announced new nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth and Phoenix to Loreto, Baja California, starting December 19, 2020, and continuing through early May 2021! Alaska Airlines has flown to Loreto for many years with a nonstop flight from Los Angeles and Westjet has a weekly nonstop flight from Calgary. Today, there are more options for flying to Loreto than ever before, making it easier than ever to reach the marvelous Municipality of Comondu, one of the five municipalities in Baja Sur. For those who want to experience the real Baja beyond Cabo, this is the place to go.
If you don’t know Loreto, you have a lot to look forward to! It’s sometimes described as a sleepy little fishing village on the Gulf of California. I would describe it as a vibrant town filled with history, friendly locals, an exciting culinary scene, and gateway to both the marine and scenic wonders of the Sea of Cortez as well as the dramatic mountains, the Sierra La Giganta, that rise abruptly to the sky, just to the west of Loreto.
Loreto has a storied fishing legacy and some years ago fishing was the main economic activity. Today, while fishing remains woven into the culture and is an integral part of the economy, Loreto is much more diversified. Tourism is particularly important to the town and in the past 20-30 years, many locals have invested in small tourism businesses. These include excursion companies, kayak companies, sport fishing outfits, restaurants, souvenir shops, and a strong local guide culture. Unlike some places in the world that are over-touristed and need a rest, Loreto needs tourists, now more than ever! So, take advantage of all the new flights to Loreto, and not only will you help support the local economy, but you will have a superb, relaxing, hassle-free vacation in a tranquil town surrounded by beautiful scenery.
There are so many things to see and do in Loreto, you can easily spend a week. While there are a couple of big resorts to the south of town about 25-35 minutes, we recommend you stay in the heart of Loreto where there are several boutique hotels and vacation rentals. Being in the town puts you in the heart of the action and importantly, you will meet the real people of Loreto and support truly local businesses.
One of the most popular activities in Loreto is sea kayaking. People come from around the world to sea kayak here because of the Loreto Bay National Park. This marine reserve is home to a number of islands where you can walk on quiet beaches with no one else, snorkel in transparent waters, and explore arroyos (dry river beds) filled with cactus, flowers, and much to discover. Kayak tours are led by talented bilingual guides and all the equipment you need is provided. There are one-day and two-day kayak tours, as well as longer three to nine-day expeditions. A superb option is a 3-day/2 night kayak trip that visits the islands of Danzante and Carmen. You can combine this with a few days in town for other activities.
To the west of Loreto is an impressive mountain range called the Sierra La Giganta. The mountains rise precipitously from the sea and not far from Loreto is the range’s highest point, Cerro de la Giganta at 3,858 feet (1,176 m). You can explore the mountains of Baja just south of Loreto on a hike to the celebrated, yet little known canyon locals refer to as Tabor Canyon. There is a wonderful story here about John Steinbeck who visited here in 1940, and a fascinating tour called A Hike through Steinbeck Canyon. While it is not a strenuous hike, it’s important that participants are comfortable hiking on uneven surfaces of loose rock and are agile enough to squeeze between boulders along the way.
Motor Boat Tours
If you want an easier way than kayaking to get out to one of the islands for a day, you might sign up for an adventure to Isla Coronado. A short ride from the Loreto harbor to Coronado Island whisks you into a world of wonder! Pristine white sand beaches, a playful sea lion colony, snorkeling among colorful fish, and an authentic Baja lunch prepared by your local guides is all part of the fun.
Whale watching is another must-do in Loreto if you are there during whale watching season. Generally, this is in February and March, and you have a couple of choices. One is to go out on a one-day blue whale tour from the Loreto harbor to see not only blue whales but maybe fin whales and sometimes other species. The biggest animals on earth, blue whales come to the Gulf of California every year to feed and raise their young.
For a more up-close whale watching experience, you can head to the Pacific Coast, just 2 ½ hours away to see gray whales. The season for whale watching here is mid-January to late March. The mother gray whales come to Magdalena Bay to give birth and nurse their calves. For reasons unknown, some of the mother whales bring their babies right up to the whale watching boats and if you’re lucky, you may even be able to touch one. You can go whale watching at Magdalena Bay for a one-day gray whale tour or spend one to three nights at a very comfortable whale watching camp with stand up canvas tents, cots, and delicious meals.
Loreto is well known among sport fishing enthusiasts. You can fish year-round and species found at all times include cabrilla (sea bass), yellowtail, amberjack, pinto bass, snappers, and more. In the summer months, migratory species arrive and fishing starts for blue marlin, striped marlin, roosterfish, sailfish, and dorado, among others. People typically go out for a day and return to Loreto to enjoy their accommodations and dinner in one of the many fine restaurants in town.
History buffs will enjoy a walking tour of downtown Loreto with a knowledgeable guide to illuminate the many intriguing stories of Loreto. With a long history of Spanish missionaries who founded the town and built Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó in 1697, there is much to learn. This is a two-hour walking tour of the town.
Hidden in the mountains west of Loreto are small villages and historic sites that beckon for exploration and discovery. One of these, which provides a complete change of scenery, is a short 45-minute drive climbing into the mountains to the west of Loreto. Our destination is the small village of San Javier. While the Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó was established in Loreto town, the Jesuits moved to San Javier in 1699 because of a lack of water at the original site. It’s a delightful place to spend a few hours. There are a few small art galleries and the Jesuit Mission itself is a beautiful building. Our exclusive San Javier tours also include a visit to a nearby ranch for lunch and a walk to some ancient cave paintings hidden in the mountains.
For those wanting to get deeper into the mountains, a 2-day Baja Mountain Missions & Village Oases tour includes a visit to San Javier, walking to a prehistoric cave art site, and an overnight in the remote, seldom-visited oasis town of San Miguel de Comondu. Stay in a small boutique hotel, taste local specialties, and tour the area with local guides. You will see places in Baja that few people see and experience the warmth and openness of the people of Baja.
Advantages of Booking Ahead
While it’s certainly possible to arrange things at the last minute, you will get a higher-quality experience if you plan ahead. That’s because the companies that do the best job and have the best guides are usually booked up ahead of time. Waiting for the last minute likely means you won’t get the best-organized trip or the best guides. So, for the best experience, make arrangements ahead of time. This also gives you time to ask questions and prepare for your Loreto vacation!