Along the eastern coast of the Baja Peninsula, set amongst giant cacti, rugged mountains, and shimmering blue water, lies the colorful beach town of Loreto, Mexico.
Located on the shore of the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez) with the Sierra de la Giganta mountains as its backdrop, it’s a well-established Mexican tourist resort and a popular winter destination for Americans and Canadians escaping the cold.
This travel guide covers the best things to do in Loreto (including off the beaten path tips and day trips), the best time to visit, where to stay, where to eat like a local, and more.
By the end of this article, you’ll have everything you need to make the most of your trip to Loreto, Mexico!
Looking for more things to do in Baja California? Check out these articles:
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Where is Loreto?
Loreto is a Mexican town of about 21,000 people, located in the state of Baja California Sur in northwestern Mexico. About 315 miles north of — and worlds away from — the mega resorts and nightlife in Los Cabos and 221 miles north of the state capital in La Paz.
Loreto, Mexico is one of only two towns in Baja California Sur (the other is Todos Santos) with the Pueblo Mágico, or Magical Town, title — a designation given by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism to communities offering exceptionally high historical, cultural, architectural, and gastronomic value.
Loreto, BCS Map
How to Get to Loreto, Baja California Sur
To get to Loreto, fly into the Loreto International Airport (LTO). There are direct flights to Loreto from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Dallas, and Calgary, Canada. The Loreto airport is about a 10 minute drive from the town center.
You do not absolutely need a car, but renting a car in Loreto, Mexico is the best way to explore the beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and nearby attractions. It’s also a good idea to rent a car if you’re staying in Loreto Bay in Nopoló, which is about a 15 minute drive outside of town.
Driving in Baja California Sur, Mexico is safe and many visitors (including us) opt to bring their own vehicles down for a Baja California road trip.
Is Loreto, Mexico Safe?
Loreto, Baja California Sur is considered safe to visit. It’s a tourist destination with friendly locals and many part-time foreign residents (snow birds).
Of course, you don’t want to think about everything that can go wrong, but accidents do happen, and getting Mexico travel insurance will help give you peace of mind during your vacation. Get A Quote >
We recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance for Mexico because it provides trip protection, coverage for 200+ adventure travel activities, emergency medical insurance and evacuation, gear protection, and much more.
Best Time to Visit Loreto, Baja California Sur
The weather in Loreto varies from cool — yet comfortable — in the winter to hot in the summer. The average daily temperature throughout the year varies from 58°F to 95°F.
High season in Loreto, Mexico is from January to March. Expect higher hotel rates, colder water temperatures (wear a wetsuit), and light winds in the afternoons.
The best time to visit Loreto to enjoy the beach is in October, when the water is warm enough to swim comfortably (around 80°F) and the average daily temperature is 81°F. For cooler water (around 70°F) and warm weather, visit Loreto in May.
Best Things to Do in Loreto, Mexico
From sipping palomas on the white sand beaches to horseback riding in the Baja desert to snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez, Loreto has something for everyone.
We lived in Loreto for over a month and put together this complete list of what to do in Loreto, including all the must-see attractions, popular Loreto day tours, and a few off the beaten path activities.
Loreto Mission and Museum
Founded in 1697 by Salvatierra, Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto (Mission of Our Lady of Loreto) was the first Spanish mission built in the Californias (what is now the U.S. state of California and the Baja Peninsula in Mexico).
The neighboring Museo de las Misiones Jesuitas (Jesuit Missions Museum) houses a religious art collection along with artifacts from the era of the Spanish missions.
Downtown Loreto Plaza
One of the best things to do is to spend a day in downtown Loreto, Mexico.
Plaza Juárez (also called Plaza Civica) is Loreto’s main square and the heart of town. It’s right next to the mission and surrounded by open-air restaurants and stores where you can grab lunch, shop for authentic Mexican handicrafts, take a peek at the murals inside Palacio Municipal (Town Hall), walk along the tree-covered Andador Salvatierra (Salvatierra Pedestrian Street).
If you’re there on a Saturday, stop by the farmer’s market in the plaza for local products like olives and flour tortillas.
The malecón is a paved walkway that runs along the shore next to downtown Loreto. It’s a popular place for gathering on the weekends or taking a morning walk to watch the sunrise over the Sea of Cortez.
There are public beaches on either end of the malecón, where you can take a dip in the water or continue your walk on the sand.
Loreto National Marine Park
Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto (Loreto Bay National Park) is a marine park just offshore from the town of Loreto, Mexico.
The national park is home to five islands (Coronado, Carmen, Danzante, Monserrat, and Catalina) and a variety of wildlife, including multiple species of whales, whale sharks, dolphins, sea lions, tropical fish, and birds.
Taking a boat tour to Isla Coronado (Coronado Island) or Isla del Carmen is the most popular way to explore the Loreto National Marine Park.
This boat tour to Coronado Island includes a boat ride to the island, snorkeling (gear included), lunch, and drinks.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in Loreto
Described by the legendary diver, Jacques Cousteau, as the “world’s aquarium,” the Sea of Cortez is teeming with a diversity of wildlife. Snorkeling or scuba diving is an incredible way to experience the under water paradise off Loreto’s shores.
This Loreto Bay sailing and snorkeling tour includes sailing on a catamaran, open bar, lunch, and snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez. Or you can book a dive with Dolphin Dive Baja.
Blue Whale Watching
Blue whales are the largest known animals to ever roam the east. They are endangered, but from February to March, you can take a blue whale watching tour with Loreto Blue Whales to see these gentle giants.
If it’s not blue whale season, hire a panga at the marina to see the other whale species off the coast of Loreto, including fin, humpback, and orca.
There are countless beautiful playas (beaches) to relax on along Baja California Sur’s coast. The beaches listed below are all just a short walk from downtown Loreto.
Playa La Darsena: Free palapas line this small beach boarding the marina’s northern side
Playa La Negrita: Long, sandy beach on Loreto’s northern shore
Playa Oasis: A sandy beach that juts into the sand next to the estuary at the southern end of the malecón.
Beaches that are driving distance from downtown Loreto include La Salinita, Nopoló, Juncalito, El Quemado, Ensenada Blanca, and the beaches on the islands.
San Javier Mission
San Javier is a tiny, picturesque village in the Sierra de la Giganta mountains, about an hour’s drive from Loreto. Its cobblestone streets, mountain views, fruit orchards, and centuries-old Spanish mission, make San Javier a must-do day trip from Loreto.
San Javier Mission’s full name in Spanish is a long one: Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó. The word viggé comes from the indigenous Cochimí people’s name for the area, meaning “elevated land that dominates the valley”. The San Javier Mission was built by Spanish Jesuits in 1759 and is considered to be one of the best preserved Spanish missions.
This day tour from Loreto to San Javier includes transportation, a guided tour of the town and its mission, and lunch at an authentic Mexican restaurant.
Sierra de la Giganta Rock Art
There are amazing pre-hispanic rock paintings scattered throughout the Baja Peninsula. In fact, the Sierra de la Giganta mountains near Loreto are home to several sites, with the most well-known being Cuevas Pintas and La Pinguica.
This guided rock painting tour includes transportation from Loreto, lunch and refreshments, and a hike through the Sierra de la Gigantic to see the Canipole rock art.
Birdwatching at Las Garzas Estuary
Estero Las Garzas, or Herons Estuary, is a great spot for a quick birdwatching session in Loreto without having to go too far.
It’s at the southern end of the malecón and only about a 15-minute walk from the downtown plaza. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse at a blue-footed booby bird.
Kayaking and Paddle Boarding in Loreto Bay
Kayaking and paddle boarding in Loreto is an excellent way to enjoy a peaceful and quiet moment on the water. The wind usually picks up in the afternoon during the winter, so the best time to enjoy kayaking or SUP is in the mornings. There are many places to rent kayaks and SUPs for the day in Loreto and at the large marina south of town, Puerto Escondido.
For the ultimate kayaking adventure, book a guided multiple day kayaking and camping tour of the Loreto islands with Paddling South or Sea Kayak Baja Mexico.
Tabor Canyon Hiking Trail
With waterfalls, arroyos (creeks), boulders, and both mountain and sea views, it’s no surprise that the Cañon del Tabor (Tabor Canyon) hiking trail is the most well-known hike near Loreto.
The Tabor Canyon hiking trail and other popular hikes in the area are mapped out on AllTrails.
You can hike on your own or you can book this hiking tour of Tabor Canyon which includes transportation from Loreto, water and snacks, and a 3-hour guided hike through the canyon to spectacular views of the sea, along with information on the local flora and fauna.
Loreto Horseback Riding
Step back in time and spend a day exploring the Baja desert by horseback.
This Loreto horseback riding tour includes transportation, snacks and refreshments, and a 2+ hours guided horseback riding trip with information on the history, flora, and fauna of the region.
Bahia Concepcion Beaches
Some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Baja can be found in Bahia Concepcion (Conception Bay).
Book a low-priced rental a car and do the 2-hour scenic drive to enjoy these off the beaten path playas.
Have lunch on the sand at Playa Santispac, see the unique sand spit at Playa El Requeson, or relax under a palapa at Playa El Coyote.
More Loreto Tours and Activities:
Where to Stay in Loreto
Hotel La Mision: The most upscale hotel in downtown Loreto, located right across the street from the malecón. Rooms have balconies overlooking the Sea of Cortez and the hotel has a swimming pool, 3 restaurants, and a spa. About a 5-minute walk from the plaza.
Hotel Oasis: This Loreto classic is right on Playa Oasis. The rooms are a little dated, but you just can’t beat the location! The rooms have pool or beach views and the hotel has a private lounging area on the sand, swimming pool, and pool bar. Located about a 10-minute walk from the plaza.
Hotel 1697 Loreto: Located right on the plaza, the rooms face an interior courtyard and breakfast is included.
If you’re looking for all-inclusive resort vibes with secluded beaches and plenty of onsite amenities, check out Villas del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto or Loreto Bay Golf Resort & Spa at Baja. Both are beachfront with spas and golf courses, but they’re located a short drive south of Loreto.
Loreto, Mexico has many vacation rentals to choose from, including some beachfront homes walking distance from the plaza.
There’s another popular vacation rental area outside of town, about 8.5 miles south, called Loreto Bay. It’s a private residential community with its own pools, restaurants, cafe, and wine bar on the shores of Playa Nopoló.
We recommend booking a vacation rental with VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) over Airbnb because they focus on quality over quantity, screen their hosts to prevent fraud, and have 24/7 customer service.
Villas del Santo Niño: Studio and 1-3 bedroom vacation rentals with fridge, microwave, and coffee maker (the apartments have full kitchens) in a peaceful garden setting. Located on the pedestrian walkway, about a block and a half away from the water.
Sukasa Bungalows: Mexican-style casitas located across the street from the waterfront and the malecón with a 24-hour front desk. All bungalows include wifi, air conditioning, microwave, fridge, coffee machine, some rooms come with full kitchen.
Loreto makes for the perfect stop if you’re driving and camping down Baja because, unlike most cities, you can camp right in town.
Romanita RV Park: A small, basic campground and RV park with large palapas, water and electricity hookups, and bathrooms. The best thing about it is its location in the heart of town, along the pedestrian walkway, about a block and a half away from the sea.
Where to Eat and Drink: Loreto Restaurants
The regional dishes in Baja California Sur rely heavily on seafood, but also on beef and dairy due to its proximity Sonora — the state across the Gulf of California known for its cattle production. Unlike southern Mexico, where corn tortillas are the norm, tortillas de harina (wheat flour tortillas) reign supreme in northern Mexico.
Loreto’s specialities include almejas chocolatas (chocolate clams) and papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes).
There are many popular tourist restaurants in Loreto, like Pan Que Pan and Mi Loreto. But here are some of the spots where Loretanos (Loreto locals) eat.
Restaurants in Loreto
El Rey del Taco: Typical taquería with fish and carne asada tacos, except these tacos are extra-large. Closes around 2 pm.
Dory Luz: Serves delicious homemade Mexican dishes, like quekas, sopes, and tacos de guisados, in a garden setting. Plenty of options for vegetarians. Closes around 3 pm.
Gorditas GordiBuenas: This is one of our favorite finds, but it’s only open in the evenings (around 7 pm). Gorditas are fried, puffed up tortillas (these are a mix of wheat and corn flour) that are cut open and stuffed with your choice of fillings (including vegetarian). These gorditas are handmade, fresh-fried, and served with spicy salsa. Definitely some of the best we’ve tried!
Asadero Super Burro: Loretanos and tourists alike flock to this popular restaurant known for its homemade flour tortillas, giant burritos, volcanes, and papas rellenas. Meals are served with a giant tray of toppings. Don’t miss it!
Augie’s: For sea views, cheap drinks and free chocolata clams during happy hour, visit this expat watering hole on the malecón
El Zopilote Brewing Company: Enjoy a locally-brewed IPA in the Loreto plaza, while listening to live music and people-watching
Final Thoughts on Loreto, Mexico
Whether it’s scuba diving in the Sea of Cortez or shopping for Mexican silver on the Andador, Loreto has something for everyone.
Loreto’s unique location between the Sea of Cortez and the Sierra de la Giganta, and its centuries of history and culture, provide this charming colonial town with an endless variety of things to do and see.
Loreto, Mexico is a must-visit destination in Baja California Sur with natural beauty, cultural riches, outdoor adventures, and delicious cuisine.
Have you been to Loreto? Let us know in the comments below.
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