The oldest permanent settlement in Baja is Loreto, dating back to 1697 when the mission Nuestra Señora de Loreto was founded. The mission took 55 years to complete (a long time even by Baja standards) and is in use to this day. If you are driving the length of Baja, Loreto makes a great overnight stop or at least a charming place to fill up the gas tank, have a leisurely lunch, and maybe stretch your legs with a relaxing walk along Loreto’s pleasant Malecón.
Loreto had the distinction of being the capital of Baja for just over 130 years and was very prosperous during that time, as most capitals in México are. In 1829, a hurricane devastated Loreto and the city of La Paz then became the capital.
Loreto is gaining in popularity among suave Baja travelers as a quiet and peaceful destination. As this area slowly develops, the relaxed, kicked-back atmosphere remains and seems to actually be drawing tourists from other more lively resorts in southern Baja.
This Baja city has an international airport that seems to be in favor with the airlines one year and out of favor the next. Currently, Loreto is served only by Alaska Airlines™ from Los Angeles, three times a week.
Loreto has a few nice hotels along the waterfront and several motels as you enter the town. There are RV parks and campgrounds also. This is a good place to stock up on supplies as there are quite a few smaller stores and one larger supermarket. Either of Loreto’s two Pemex stations will be glad to fill up your tank.
The Loreto mission is a popular attraction and there is a small, but interesting museum next door. There is an 18-hole golf course where tee times are almost always available. Around the golf course, there are many empty houses and lots on deteriorating streets, all signs of a resort that is developing at a pace much slower than originally planned. A very nice tennis club, with nine courts, is located next to the golf course.
The Loreto Bay and the islands of Coronado, Del Carmen, Danzante, Montserrate, and Santa Catalina have been protected as a National Maritime Park since 2000. The park provides refuge for starfish, sea urchins, fan coral, mother-of-pearl, killer whales, blue whales, dolphins, and sea lions. The Sierra La Giganta mountain range, which is especially spectacular after the summer rains, makes for unlimited exploring whether by car, motorcycle, mountain bike, or any type of off-road vehicle.
This city has been a favorite destination for fishermen and divers alike for a long time. The nearby islands and the numerous nearby cliffs and coves make for some great fishing and diving. November through March is Yellowtail time in Loreto and the summer months bring with them substantial numbers of Dorado along with smaller numbers of Marlin and Sailfish. Bottom fishing off the islands and some nearby seamounts offer even more opportunities for the avid fishermen.
There is a sizable panga fleet that works out of a small marina and boats are usually available for fishing or excursions to the nearby islands. Sea kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking are also gaining popularity in and around this area in Baja.
The climate in Loreto, though generally mild, tends to produce some rather hot days in the summer, and in the winter there can be more than a few days of cold nor’easter winds that really bite. The tranquil pace of Loreto, along with the abundant fishing opportunities, incredible nearby islands, some renewed golfing opportunities, and abundance of high-quality local seafood, is beginning to make Loreto a very popular vacation spot for international tourists.
Picturesque Misión San Francisco Javier is located in the mountains, a one-hour drive, on a recently paved road from Loreto. This small settlement will give you a glimpse into what rural life in Baja was all about in the old days. The mission was completed in 1758 and is one of the best-preserved missions in all of México. The village of San Javier is quaint, tranquil, and is one of the best, easily accessible windows into “The Real Baja”. Tours to San Javier are available from this city. San Javier is well worth a visit!
Interested in some Loreto businesses?