There are quite a few wonderful things to do in Loreto that you won’t want to miss on a trip out to this incredible town.
Whether you are new to the Baja Peninsula as a visitor or you’re a seasoned veteran of this beautiful place, you’ll find plenty in Loreto to keep you entertained.
It has everything that makes most of us fall in love with Baja: great beaches, incredible hiking, top-class fishing, day trips to small towns or remote islands, and incredible Mexican food.
Loreto Mexico History
The Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto was founded in 1697 thanks to the nearby freshwater that they discovered. Loreto was the very first colonial settlement of the Spanish on the Baja California Peninsula and from its founding until 1777, Loreto was the capital of Las Californias.
The mission changed hands a few times over the century. In 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from Loreto and it was handed over to the Franciscans. Shortly after that, in 1769, the Franciscans were ousted from Loreto to make way for the Dominican Order.
It was at this time, with the Dominican Order in charge, that expeditions began north of Loreto to build missions all the way up into Alta California (present-day California, USA).
Where is Loreto Baja California Sur?
Loreto sits mostly on its own on the east coast of the Baja California Peninsula. The beaches face the Gulf of California, meaning that the water is calm and clear, and warm for most of the year.
If you plan on driving from top to tip, it’s a great place to stop to split up the journey between Guerrero Negro and La Paz.
If you are thinking that you’ll be able to do a huge road trip through Baja California Sur and add Loreto onto it, then it’s good to know that it’s a solid four-hour drive from La Paz.
The road from La Paz to Loreto is mostly straight and monotonous (it’s part of one of the longest straight roads in the world in fact!). One part winds through the Sierra la Gigante mountains before opening up to the Gulf of California where you’ll drive north along the coast until you reach Loreto’s downtown area.
Flights to Loreto Mexico
If you just want to visit Loreto Mexico, you can fly directly into and out of the international airport here.
It’s very small and you will likely have to make a connecting flight in order to get here, but flights to Loreto Mexico are more than possible.
It is called the Loreto International Airport and the airport code is LTO.
You can fly to directly to Loreto Mexico from these international hubs:
- Calgary, Canada
- San Francisco, California
- Los Angeles, California
- Phoenix, Arizona,
- Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
Additionally, you can connect within Mexico from La Paz, Tijuana, Culiacan, and Hermosillo.
Renting a Car in Loreto
Once you arrive in Loreto, your best option is to rent a car. There are very few public transportation options available, and many of the things to see and do in Loreto are best reached with your own wheels.
Mex Rent a Car is the best local rental car company in this area of Baja California Sur. Their prices always include the required third-party insurance, so there are no surprise fees when you arrive to pick up your car.
If you find it’s cheaper to fly into La Paz, just know that you’ll have to add on the four-to-five-hour drive north. It’s a very easy road between the two and is regularly maintained and heavily trafficked, but you will want to give yourself plenty of daylight to get between the two. Driving at night isn’t advised because there aren’t any street lights and cows tend to wander into the roads after dusk.
Where to Stay in Loreto Baja California Sur
There are some great hotels and several nice Airbnb in Loreto Mexico.
When compared to other popular hubs in Baja California Sur like Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos, Loreto is still under the radar. This means that the prices tend to be lower than in these other places, but that quality can also be a bit lower.
That being said, there are some serious luxury destinations here as well as some boutique hotel options that won’t break the bank.
- Hotel Loreto Bay Golf Resort & Spa: The best and most luxurious hotel in Loreto, the Resort & Spa are located outside of town. It’s a true destination vacation and you’ll likely spend most of your time on the beach here, taking boat trips to the island from here, and enjoying the spa or golf course. They can also organize tours into town or to nearby pueblos magicos if you want to explore more. Rooms start at $140 USD per night. Book a stay at the Golf Resort & Spa here.
- Hotel 1697: It doesn’t get more central than this hotel, which is located right in the main plaza of Loreto. It’s also home to a local brewery and restaurant that makes delicious pizzas. Hotel 1697 is a pretty standard hotel in Baja; it has a courtyard in the center with a pool and the rooms all look into the courtyard. They serve up a cooked breakfast each morning which is included in your room rate. Rooms start at $80 USD per night. Book a stay at Hotel 1697 here.
- Rosarito Hotel: This is my personal favorite hotel in Loreto Mexico. It’s a cute boutique hotel with only about 20 rooms. All of the rooms face the courtyard where there is a pool and lounge chairs to relax on, and where breakfast is served each morning. You can watch a video review of my experience at Rosarito Hotel here. The front desk staff are fantastic and helpful. Rooms start at $110 per night. Book a stay at Rosarito Hotel here.
- Loreto80: This is an Airbnb in Loreto Mexico that you won’t want to miss. If you prefer apartments to hotel rooms, these studios and one-bedroom places in the center of town are absolutely fantastic. Most range from $45-55 USD per night. The hosts are great and the apartments are clean, well-decorated, and come with everything you need to self-cater during your trip to Loreto. Book a stay at Loreto80 here.
What to Do in Loreto Mexico
1. Walk along the Malecon
One of the first things you’ll want to do when you arrive in town will be to walk along the malecón or boardwalk. This short promenade runs right along the waterfront and has benches to sit on, a colorful Loreto sign to take a picture in front of, and a nice flat surface to jog or walk along.
Along the malecón, there are a few hotels and restaurants where you can stop in for a drink or some food. It’s the more touristy area of town so prices reflect that, but the views can’t be beaten.
2. Take a Boat Trip to the Islands
There are three very different islands off of Loreto: Isla Coronado, Isla Carmen, and Isla Danzante.
If you’ve never been to Loreto before, the main island that most people visit on their first trip is Isla Coronado. It’s one of the smaller islands, it is packed with marine life, and it’s close enough to Loreto to be an easy half-day trip out on a boat.
Kiki is my favorite local guide. He runs fantastic tours from the marina out to any of the islands. You can contact him directly on Whatsapp: +52 613 137 2375.
Watch: Amazing Island in Loreto!
A trip to Isla Coronado includes seeing dolphins, visiting a sea lion colony, exploring the different bays and volcanic rock formations, and three hours at one of the white sand beaches where they will give you snorkeling equipment to explore the sea life on your own. Some tours include a packed lunch while others, like Kiki’s, simply provide you with a cooler and some ice and you can bring your own. It costs $50 USD per person.
The other islands are known for different things. During whale-watching season, you will likely head south towards Isla Danzante where the blue whales tend to congregate. Here you’ll also see dolphins and sometimes sea turtles. Isla Carmen is the largest of all three islands and has more than a dozen little coves and white sand beaches to explore.
If you want more adventure activities around the islands, book a tour with Sea Kayak Adventures (seakayakadventures.com). They have multi-day kayaking tours around the islands which include camping at some of the beaches and exploring tons of different coves.
3. Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó & Mission Museum
The main church in Loreto is the start of the Camino Real, or the King’s Highway. This is where the path to all of the missions that were created north of here and south of here started and was a huge part of the trade route for the Spanish as well as safe havens for the soldiers as they eventually made their way through the peninsula.
The Spanish Jesuit, Juan María de Salvatierra, arrived from Sonora to Loreto on October 19, 1697. He and nine other men erected the first chapel here on the land that the native people called Conchó (it is believed that this meant a “watering hole”). On October 25, they proceeded to have a ritual ceremony in which they carried the Virgin of Our Lady of Loreto proclaiming this land now a Spanish territory.
You can explore both the outside and inside of the church. There are daily services still held here, which you can freely attend (they are of course, in Spanish). Next door to the church (to the left of the main doors) is the entrance to the Mission Museum.
The Mission Museum is small and only takes about 20-30 minutes to walk through if you read all of the information. It explores not only the history of the Loreto Mission but all of the missions in both Baja and Alta Californias. It talks about the troubles that the Jesuits encountered, the wars that were waged with the native people, and has photos of what some of the missions look like today. It costs 50 Pesos or roughly $2.50 USD to enter.
4. Sport Fishing
Fishing is a hugely popular activity in Loreto and for many, one of the big draws to this part of Baja California Sur. For about $100 USD you can hire a boat and driver for a few hours and get taken out to areas where you’ll have the opportunity to catch yellowtail, marlin, mahi-mahi, sailfish, and wahoo.
Pretty much any tour company that offers boat trips offers fishing trips. The most affordable option is to head to the marina area and start talking to the fisherman by the entrance to the marina. They have their own boats, their own equipment, and will take you out for about $50 USD per person, everything included.
To ensure you get a great guide in English, you can send a message to Kiki (Enrique) on Whatsapp using this number: +52 613 137 2375.
There are some absolutely incredible hikes to do around Loreto. If you are going to be in Loreto for more than just a couple of days and you plan to do several hikes, the best thing to do is to purchase a copy of the guidebook Hiking Loreto.
It is the absolute best resource for hikes in and around Loreto. It includes detailed trail descriptions and helpful information about how to get to each trailhead.
If you simply want to dip your toes in some of the hiking while you’re visiting, book a hiking trip with Loreto Sea and Land Tours (toursloreto.com). They have several different trail options and very experienced guides. They will also take you to the trailheads, which for the most part, can be hard to reach unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The third option is to head to the most popular hike in the area, the Tabor Canyon Trail. The road here isn’t paved, but it’s flat enough to get to and if you start to feel like your car won’t make it, you can park up along the road and walk to the trailhead, since the road between the highway and the trailhead is actually quite short. It’s not a long or particularly strenuous hike, but it requires rock scrambling at the start and end so you will want to be comfortable with that and have the right shoes on for this hike.
Find the trail on the AllTrails App (you’ll also find many other local trails on this app). For a small fee, you can download the map onto your phone and use it as you hike along the canyon.
6. Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó
Visiting this mission church is without a doubt one of the most popular things to do in Loreto. You may hear some tour guides or locals referring to it simply as San Javier.
It’s located about 30 minutes away from Loreto and easy to get to on a paved but windy road into the mountains. This mission became incredibly important after the Jesuits founded Loreto because they realized that there wasn’t enough fresh water in Loreto to sustain life. They couldn’t water their crops and they feared they wouldn’t survive in Loreto. So shortly after building up the town by the sea, several men headed inland in search of more freshwater.
Just around the corner from the present-day San Javier, is an oasis, and a large one at that. It was here in this small town, where the very first olive trees were planted in all of North America. You can still visit this old tree which is behind the church along a little dirt path. You pay a small fee to explore the orchard and see the irrigation that the Jesuits built (and which has since been modernized).
There is plenty of free parking and a few small restaurants around town if you get hungry, but nothing to rave about. It’s best to visit after you’ve had a hearty breakfast or good seafood lunch back in Loreto.
There is a small museum attached to the church which asks for a 20 Peso donation ($1 USD) for entry. Most of the information is in Spanish, but it has a few of the old relics of the church as well as some of the clothing that the Dominicans wore when they were using the church a couple of hundred years ago.
Loreto Mexico is on the coast. Of course, one of the best things to do in Loreto is going to the beach!
The beaches in Loreto perhaps aren’t the most spectacular in the peninsula, but the views are incredible, and due to how calm the waters are, it’s great for paddleboarding and kayaking.
The best beaches are a boat ride away along with the islands where you get beautiful white sand and stunning turquoise waters.
However, these beaches are easily accessible by car and great for a day of sun and sand.
- Playa la Negrita: This is the main beach in the downtown area of Loreto. You can walk here from pretty much any downtown hotel and you don’t even need to bring an umbrella because the beach is full of beautiful palapas to sit under and enjoy some shade.
- Playa Nopolo: This beach is located inside a condominium complex. Simply tell them you are going to the beach and you can head towards the water and park your car. All of the walkways from the parking lot will lead you to the beach where you can sit under one of the palapas if they’re available. It’s a popular beach to snorkel off of and is one of the nearest to downtown Loreto.
- Playa Juncalito: Slightly further south than Nopolo is Juncalito. Playa Juncalito is very quiet and great for bringing your own kayaks or paddleboards. If you want to get away from the tourists and sit on a nearly deserted beach, this is great option.
- Playa Ligüi: The furthest south, this little town and beach has a few houses, one tiny shop which seems never to be open, and a small patch of sand where you can see Isla Danzante and swim in the calm waters.
Traveling More of Baja?
I recently published a guide book all about Baja California Sur. It covers the best things to do, see and eat in Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, La Paz, Loreto, Mulege, and all of the beautiful spots in between!
You can get a digital copy of the book here which includes lifetime access to FREE updates of the book whenever I update it (about once every 18 months). Or you can get a hard copy of the book to take with you on your trip here.