Beautiful, Loreto is like taking a step back in time. The cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings, and wide-open squares put you somewhere between the Old and New Worlds. The city, midway down the east coast of Baja California Sur is also blessed with a malecón (boardwalk) which meanders along the seaside and you’ll see locals jogging or taking a leisurely stroll.
And we haven’t even got to the ocean yet! Baja California is surrounded by one of the most biodiverse oceans in the world, and the islands dotted off the coast are protected from uncontrolled fishing and pollution, meaning there’s more chance of seeing the marine life in all its splendour!
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at 10 of the best things to do in Loreto.
1. Spot the world’s biggest mammal on a whale watching trip
Speaking of the world’s most biodiverse waters, you can witness something truly magical during January to April off the coast of Loreto. The world’s biggest living animal, the blue whale, passes through the waters of the Bahía de Loreto Parque Nacional to raise their young, as the waters are protected and rich in nutrients.
You have a couple of options if you want to get up close and personal with the whales, without disturbing them of course. You can take a tour, but these are crazy expensive so may prove out of reach for budget travellers - even though it’s hard to put a price tag on a proper bucket list experience!
The alternative is to head town to the port early in the morning (around 7 – 7.30am) and haggle directly with the captain of a panga (fishing boat). At the time of writing, the price is around $200 per boat – if you’re in a group that makes this much more affordable!
2. Scuba dive or snorkel in Bahía de Loreto Parque Nacional
If you want to see Loreto’s marine life but can’t make blue whale season, there’s plenty to make up for the initial disappointment of not seeing nature’s biggest and gentlest giant! As we’ve already mentioned, the waters off the coast of Loreto are some of the richest in life in the world, where you’ll be able to swim with sea lions, whale sharks, and tropical fish. The area is thought to be home to over 40% of the world’s marine mammal species. Jacques Cousteau even christened this place the Aquarium of the World!
There are more than 50 dive sites in the marine park, and reliable tour operators in the city offer morning, afternoon, and even night time dives for every level of diver. If you’re a little nervous about diving, snorkelling from the beautiful beaches in and around the marine park won’t give an experience quite as magical, but you’ll still see some tropical fish and marine plant life!
3. Learn about the history of Loreto and Baja California
Loreto was the first town in the whole of Baja California where the Jesuits settled and is one of the most historically important places on the entire peninsula. You can visit several of the missions and see the colonial architecture around you as a reminder of the times, but a great way to find out more about the missions is by visiting the Museo de las Misiones.
This small museum has plenty of artefacts which tell the fascinating yet sad story of how Loreto, and the whole of Baja California became the place that it is today.
4. Find your way to Misión San Francisco Javier
There are many missions in Baja California, but Loreto is lucky enough to boast one of the best-preserved untouched ones in the entire state. Surrounded by mountains and at the top of a windy road, there’s no public transport up here but you can still easily get there on your own. All it takes is a 35km taxi journey to the Misión San Francisco Javier off the main highway, where you’ll easily find a ride to take you to the mission itself.
There, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back to 300 years ago to the time when the Jesuits attempted to convert the indigenous Cochimi Indians. There’s even an olive tree from that time that is still going strong!
5. Stroll through the city’s historical and colonial centre
To really get to know Loreto, all you need to do is stroll through the cobbled streets of the colonial centre. In between the shops selling tacos and tortillas, you’ll also see centuries’ old churches, fascinating museums, and shops selling souvenirs and pottery all hidden away in the beautifully preserved buildings. Look out for sculptures of the Virgin of Loreto – the mother of the Missions!
When you’ve seen everything in the city, the seafront promenade, known by locals as the malecón is the perfect place to feel the sea air and sun beating down, as well as admiring the boardwalk’s marine life sculptures.
6. Meet the locals on Coronado Island
No, the locals on Coronado Island aren’t friendly Mexican fisherman, but instead cute and clumsy (at least on land) sea lions. Thanks to its azure blue waters and white sand beaches, Coronado Island is known as the ‘jewel of Loreto’ and it’s one of the most popular day trips from the city. It’s just a 25-minute boat ride out into the bay, meaning that even if you get sea sick it’s not out of the question.
There’s plenty to do on the island other than admire the sea lions – even just in wildlife terms. You’ll be able to spot seabirds, tropical fish, and depending on the time of year- whales. If you’re more about relaxing, you can sunbathe on the pristine beaches or paddle in the beautiful blue waters.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, try camping so that you won’t miss the awe-inspiring sunrise and sunset, before hiking up to the dormant Coronado Volcano for stunning views of the bay.
7. Challenge yourself with a hike in Sierra de la Giganta
Hiking up to the Coronado Volcano isn’t challenging enough for you? Well, how about this when you get back onto the mainland. More adventurous hikers will love the rugged mountains that provide jaw-dropping views of the ocean and the islands that dot the Bahía de Loreto, cacti covered landscapes, and plenty of opportunities to observe local birdlife.
There are a few things to be aware of if you want to tackle this though – the hiking routes in the park are poorly marked and it’s very easy to get lost in the intense desert heat. There’s also nowhere to get food or drinks so make sure you come prepared with plenty of snacks and water, oh and bring a paper map as you’ll not get cell phone service up here. It may sound like a lot of cons, but it’s a truly beautiful place.
If you really want to head out into the Sierra de la Giganta but are worried about any of the things above, you can easily find guide services in Loreto, so you don’t have to miss out on trekking through this desert wilderness!
8. Have a picnic on a pristine beach
If you do a tour, you’ll notice that several of them offer a picnic on a beach as one of the activities. It’s safe to say that this is something you shouldn’t miss! Feel the soft, white sand as you enjoy local cuisine before having a paddle in the turquoise waters. It’s a totally unforgettable experience that will also make your Instagram followers very jealous!
9. Try the delicious local cuisine
Baja California is the birthplace of the fish taco, but that’s not the only thing that will get your mouth watering in Loreto. The gastronomy you’ll find here is some of the best that you’ll find in the whole of Mexico, and in a country so famed for its cuisine that really is saying something!
There are several cute restaurants around town where you can sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere and the views of the town or sea. As well as fish tacos (best served with guacamole and pico de gallo), you definitely shouldn’t miss chocolate clams. Not a sweet treat as they may sound, but regular clams in chocolate brown shells, and a Loretan delicacy. Try them with lime, garlic, and herb – or if you want to be like a real local, butter, chipotle, and Monterey Jack cheese. Spicy!
10. Peoplewatch in the Plaza Salvatierra
After all of the tiring and busy exhausting activities above, you might be wondering when you can just relax and enjoy Loreto. Well, there’s no better way than just soaking up the sun in the main square – Plaza Salvatierra and whiling away the afternoon with a book or watching the world go by over a coffee or a glass of wine. The picturesque square always has something going on, from street performers to teenagers dancing to hip-hop routines, so you’re guaranteed not to be bored.
While you are in Loreto Mexico, check out the Villa del Palmar for a premium selection of the best beach resorts.
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.