Staying in Loreto, Mexico: A Basic Guide for First Time Travelers
If you want an authentic Mexican experience in an idyllic location, look no further than Loreto in Baja California. The problem with many popular tourist destinations in Mexico today is that they’re simply too “American”. Cabo and Cancún have become so popular with ex-pats and tourists that they no longer give off that Mexican vibe.
You won’t be disappointed by Loreto. This historic town features breathtaking mountain, sea, and island vistas. It’s also a perfect destination for outdoor pursuits, such as golf, whale-watching, deep-sea fishing, hiking, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and snorkeling. Or you can just laze on the sandy beaches.
How you get there
Getting there is incredibly simple because Loreto boasts its very own international airport. Loreto International Airport is a small modern airport offering regular international flights to Los Angeles and Calgary as well as domestic services to Tijuana, Guaymas, Hermosillo, and La Paz. Flying is the quickest and easiest way to reach Loreto
Alternatively, RV and car drivers can reach Loreto by following Mexican Federal Highway 1 south all the way from the US-Mexican border near Tijuana. This means an epic 745-mile, 17-hour road trip if you set off from San Diego.
Where you can stay
There are many good-quality hotels and resorts around Loreto. Your main choice is whether you wish to stay in the town itself or in one of the resorts to the south near the tiny hamlets of Nopolo and Ligüí, which form part of the larger Loreto Municipality.
If you choose to stay in town at hotels such as the Hotel Santa Fe Loreto in the downtown area, you benefit from close proximity to Loreto’s cultural and historic attractions. The Hotel Sana Fe Loreto is within walking distance of the town’s major attractions.
The Hotel Santa Fe Loreto is also only a 10-minute drive from the airport and a 15-minute walk from the Malecón (boardwalk) with its many restaurants, coffee shops, and gift shops. The Malecón provides access to Loreto’s main beach where you see families playing in the sand or enjoying popular water sports. Staying in town provides you with easy access to all the stores and tourism-related businesses.
If you choose to stay in one of the resorts, such as Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa at the Islands of Loreto, you benefit from easier access to beaches that are also less crowded than those in town. The Villa del Palmar is a popular resort in Loreto and has won the World Travel Award 5 years running. It is situated on the picturesque Danzante Bay overlooking the Sea of Cortez and benefits from spectacular views of the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains.
The scenery around the resorts is more natural and the water clearer. You’re away from the tourist throngs and benefit from better conditions for water sports. Resorts such as Villa del Palmar Beach provide everything you need to enjoy a great beach holiday in Loreto.
What you can do
Loreto boasts a wide range of attractions and activities to suit everyone’s taste. As one of Mexico’s renowned Magical Towns, Loreto offers a great range of world-class outdoor activities and historic attractions.
Pack your favorite golf clubs for your vacation in Loreto. TPC Danzante Bay Golf Club at the Islands of Loreto was named Latin America’s Best Golf Course 2019 by the World Golf Awards. Its challenging 18-hole golf course was designed by Rees Jones and offers diverse canyon, beach, and cliff holes with truly challenging bunkers across the par-72 course.
The design and location of the TPC Danzante Bay course enable players to enjoy a wonderful game of golf while surrounded by panoramic views of the Islands of Loreto and the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains. The front 9 holes provide the most fabulous vistas while the back 9 ramps up the challenges with clifftop holes overlooking the Sea of Cortez.
The 17th hole has earned fame because of the breathtaking beauty of its unique position upon a clifftop promontory. The club is ideal for players of all abilities and offers excellent practice facilities, an on-site pro shop, and a welcoming clubhouse.
Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the “Aquarium of the World” because it is one of the most ecologically diverse seas in the world. In the water surrounding Loreto, there are 116 bird species, 600 fish species, and 30 species of marine mammal, such as dolphins, whales, and seals. The Bahía de Loreto National Park protects the 5 large uninhabited islands in Loreto Bay and the surrounding pristine marine ecosystem.
The diverse sea life combined with the underwater lava formations makes Loreto an excellent destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. Within the waters of the National Park, there are over 50 popular dive sites. So, gather your mask, flippers, and scuba computer so you can explore this famous marine environment safely.
Another way to explore the pristine waters around Loreto is to paddle a sea kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Paddleboards are great for exploring the hidden coves along the shore and having fun out on the water. Sea kayaks enable you to explore further afield so you can reach the 5 large islands and minor islets of the National Park.
Of course, it’s possible to charter a boat or take a tour to explore the beautiful Sea of Cortez. However, paddling is better for the environment and better for you. The exercise will help keep you super fit.
The impressive heights of the Sierra Giganta Mountains, sublime sea cliffs with natural arches, and deep canyons and arroyos (dry creeks) provide many fantastic hiking opportunities. AllTrails lists 5 moderately difficult trails, but there are many more routes through the wilderness you can follow with the help of a Loreto Trail Map or a local guide.
The 6-mile Villa del Palmar loop trail takes you into the foothills of the Sierra Giganta Mountains on a route with an elevation gain of 1,175 feet that enables you to observe the local wildlife. If you’re interested in hiking up a volcano, check out the 3-mile out-and-back Coronado Volcano trail. You’ll have to kayak 2 miles across the sea to the trailhead on Coronado Island and the climb ascends 925 feet, but it’s worth it for the views!
For an easy family hike, consider the 1.8-mile Rattlesnake Beach loop trail. The trail offers superb views of Danzante Island and the Sierra Giganta Mountains. Alternatively, just wander along the Malecón in Loreto for a pleasant beachside stroll.
Loreto holds a special place in the history of the Californias because it was the first successful settlement founded in the peninsular in 1697. The original settlement was a Jesuit mission neighboring a Monqui Native American rancheria. Although the local land proved unsuited to agriculture, Loreto became a base from which other missions spread out over the whole of California.
Over the years, the original mission was enlarged and strengthened. The wooden church was replaced by a stone structure completed in 1744 which still stands today in downtown Loreto. There you can visit the Museo de la Misiones to learn about the Jesuit missionaries and the rich history of the town.
The museum is housed inside one of the 18 buildings of the mission. Inside you’ll find 300 artifacts, including books, weapons, paintings, and sculptures from the 17th and 18th centuries. A Catechism printed in 1681 and Ecclesiastical Commentary printed in 1701 are amongst the most prized exhibits.
If you have time, also check out the Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó 24 miles west of Loreto. The stone church, completed in 1758, is considered to be the most beautiful of the mission churches in all the Californias.