Insiders Guide to Loreto, Baja
Loreto is a historically rich small town on the beautiful Baja California coast. Located on the Sea of Cortez side, Loreto is backed by the rolling mountains of Sierra de la Giganta, and crystal clear lagoons known for snorkeling, swimming, and whale sightings. Anthropologists believe that Loreto may have been the first inhabited and civilized town on the peninsula as it was home to the first Spanish colonial settlement.
You can discover the natural wonder of Loreto by kayaking through remote islands, pristine beaches, and hiking through the unique desert landscape along the coast that follows the Gulf of California inlet.
Loreto was found at the site of a freshwater spring by Jesuit missionaries back in 1679. The Jesuit missionaries were expelled in 1767 and control of the coastal town was transferred to the Franciscans. Eventually, they were ordered to hand over their control of the Baja California missions to the Dominican order. The Franciscans left to accompany Gaspar de Portola’’s expedition to establish a new mission in what would become Alta California; what we know as the U.S. state of California today. The mission fully departed Loreto in 1769.
Until Baja split off from Alta California, Loreto served as the capital of Las Californias, but in 1768 the capitol was moved to Monterey. Originally, the two provinces were governed as one but later, Loreto did gain some leadership back as it became the headquarters of modern day Baja California.
Things to do in Loreto:
Explore the Mission District
In the heart of Loreto lies the 17th century church that was founded by the Jesuit missionary Juan de Maria Salvatierra named the Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto. This church was considered the mother of missions in Baja California and served as the place where Jesuits met to set out to evangelize the surrounding territory. Today, stone built Baroque walls run through Loreto’s main square and serve as a unique backdrop for vendors selling local souvenirs and handcrafted goods. Nearby the main square is also the Museo de las Misiones, a popular museum showcasing the rich and vast history of Loreto.
Kayak Around Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto
Loreto is home to more than 2,000 square kilometers of pristine marine ecosystems along the Sea of Cortez that is protected by the Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto. The local national park safekeeps sea cliffs, submarine canyons, wide sandy beaches, and inhabited remote islands scattered throughout the Sea of Cortez near Loreto. This stretch of water forms part of the Gulf of California’s UNESCO listing and is idyllically explored by multi-day kayaking trips.
Spot Migrating Whales
The warm water lagoons surrounding Loreto are world renowned sights for whale watching. You can find gray whales, orcas, sperm whales, and even humpback whales. The gray whales usually start arriving in January to breed and give birth. Baja California is the gray whale's winter stop on their annual migration. They stay in Baja for a few months before migrating back up north to feed for the summer months. Join us on one of our many whale watching experiences!
Admire the Prehistoric Cave Paintings
Canyons and cliffs along the coast all throughout Baja are home to numerous cave paintings from almost 1,500 years ago. These historic paintings can be easily accessed and viewed along short walking trails. Many of the paintings show human-like figures interacting with animals. These may not be as well known and popularized as the cave paintings throughout Europe, but be sure not to miss this opportunity. These cave paintings are remarkable and beyond impressive in scale and size.
With yellowtail, dorado, sailfish, wahoo, and marlin, Loreto makes for quite the extraordinary fishing destination. The winter months are the best time to fish for yellowtail around rocky shores, while dorado and marlin are more abundant in the summer months, although you still may come across them in the winter. Snapper and sea bass are also found all year round. With many of our sea kayaking trips operating in the winter months, adding on a day of fishing is a great way to spend your time in Loreto.
Snorkel or Dive at Islas Coronados
Islas Coronados is an archipelago of four islands that are known for their wildlife. Located in the Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto, the mixture of tropical influences and temperate conditions lend itself well to hosting a variety of species in the archipelago. Incredible coral walls provide an outstanding snorkel, swim, and dive environment. Here, you can also expect to see California Sea Lions, seals basking on rock shores, cormorants, brown booby birds, and storm petrels. A visit to Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto is a must if you're in town.
Visit the Loreto Farmers Market
Every Sunday in Loreto you can find local vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, and home goods at the weekly farmers market. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet locals and sample local food to the area. You can expect to experience the many smells and sounds of Loreto here while trying freshly made tamales, tortillas, drinks, and other unique ready-to-eat treats.
Where to Eat
With comfy couches, and free WiFi, Sea Coffee acts as a great place to relax and catch up on some work while traveling. They offer unique baked goods such as cookies and cake, which they serve alongside artfully handcrafted coffee beverages.
El Corazón Café
A great place to stop for a cup of coffee if you are looking to try local Mexican coffee. This joint is often hustling ad bustling with local life and authentic to Loreto culture. They also have fresh baked goods and acts as a very popular meeting spot amongst the local community.
El Rey Del Taco
Here you’ll find the most authentic tacos in all of Loreto. This is a true Spanish speaking restaurant and serves absolutely delicious food for an incredible price. Bring your Spanish pocket guide to order and enjoy your meal with the locals! You'll find some of the best tacos in town along with the friendliest locals around.
1697 Restaurant and El Zopilote Brewing Company
A microbrewery tucked away in the heart of main square in Loreto. Grab a beer and some Mexican inspired cuisine, or enjoy something more familiar like burgers or pizza. This place has it all!
This joint is a go to if you’re in the mood for seafood. They serve up seafood unique to Baja in creative and delicious ways. The restaurant overlooks the water and surrounding islands, making it a great restaurant to enjoy dinner while you watch the sunset. Enjoy margaritas and a sea breeze, cheers!
Pan Que Pan Bakery
With a fantastic outdoor courtyard, this bakery is one of the best casual spots to stop for brunch. They do American style breakfast with sourdough bread. They make great smoothies and freshly baked pastries daily.