I lived in beautiful Loreto for a season; here is what you need to know if you’re planning a visit. If you still have questions, ask them in the comments below!
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About Loreto, Baja California Sur
Imagine a peaceful place by the ocean, where it’s safe to walk around at any time of day or night, where delicious, authentic food is abundant, everything is affordable, no one will bother you, there are plenty of activities if you want to be adventurous, and there are plenty of lounge chairs if you want to do nothing.
Every morning you can wake up to sunshine and warmth, you can speak English or Spanish and get by, you can watch the sunrise over the ocean and set over the mountains. You can get a dose of history, nature, culture, culinary delight, and small-town love, and you can be whoever you want to be, but most of all, you can be at peace.
This place exists, and it’s called Loreto.
Loreto Pueblo Mágico
It is a “Pueblo Mágico” (magic town), of which there are over 100 in Mexico, and the first time I went there, I could feel the magic. I have observed that some people feel it, they understand it, and they reflect it, while others miss it completely.
Loreto simply isn’t for everyone. It is the opposite of Cabo San Lucas. You won’t find any big fancy resorts in this town (there is one 25km south of town), or college students lining the beach drinking rum out of coconuts at 9 am.
What you will find is a laid-back, affordable, peaceful setting where you can explore history, culture, and adventure activities away from the chaos of super touristy spring break crowds.
It’s a family-friendly place, with local children, food carts, a bustling plaza, and fishermen coming in and out of the marina. Because of its location, it’s an ideal stopover on road trips down the Baja peninsula.
Loreto is nothing short of a quiet Mexican paradise by the sea, and I think it is the perfect place for a short escape or a lifetime of it. If you need to get away without giving up certain luxuries (like good food, WiFi, and proximity to a major airport), try Loreto.
Getting To and Around Loreto
Getting to Loreto can be very hit or miss. It does have an international airport (LTO) with direct flights to LAX and Calgary, but if you don’t get good connecting flights on your itinerary, it can be an overnight trip even from nearby Arizona. They don’t even have direct flights to Mexico City from Loreto. If you aren’t having good luck getting a good flight straight to Loreto, here are some alternative options:
Fly Calafia Airlines from San Diego/Tijuana
Calafia Airlines is a micro airline on the Baja peninsula, connecting a few of the regional airports, including Loreto and Tijuana. If you fly to San Diego, you can take an Uber to the Tijuana airport, walk across the sky bridge from the US, and go straight into customs as you enter. These flights are cheap when booked in advance and are a great, lesser-known option. They are only available on certain days of the week.
Fly to La Paz and take a bus
La Paz airport (LAP) is the next closest airport and you can take a bus from the center of La Paz to Loreto for about $40 and 5-6 hours. The buses run all day and night, you can buy a bus ticket from La Paz to Loreto online in advance here, or just show up at the station on the Malecón. When choosing the origin and destination online, choose La Paz Malecón to Loreto. There is only one route. It’s not cheaper to book in person.
This same bus originates in Cabo, so you can catch a bus from there as well, but be prepared to spend 9+ hours on the bus. (Yuck).
Hitch a Ride
If you are feeling adventurous, you can try hitchhiking, it’s pretty common in Baja. If you speak Spanish, you can check out the Facebook group Raites Loreto, or Raites La Paz, etc. and post in there soliciting a ride, but don’t do this if you aren’t comfortable with the region or the Spanish language, it’s not necessarily for tourists!
What to Do in Loreto
Here are some ideas of what you can do in Loreto:
SUPing and Kayaking
You can rent a SUP or kayak from Sea Kayak Baja Mexico and explore on your own or set up a tour with one of the many tour agencies in town.
Grays, Humpbacks, and the famous Blue whales can be spotted between January and April. There are many tour agencies who can take you.
Loreto is the very place where the Jesuits decided to land and begin their evangelism in the “new” American territory. The very oldest of the California Missions are found in Loreto and nearby San Javier. #historynerdsunite
Call Trudi at Saddling South and let her take you into the mountains to experience the ranchos and meet the people who still uphold centuries-old traditions and ways of life. Trudi hosts anything from a half-day to multi-day rides, so there is something for everyone.
The boat captains in Loreto all work together, sort of like a union, so you won’t get ripped off if you go to the marina and ask for a captain and boat to take you out for a day. You can opt to have them include lunch or not, just be sure to pay for your fishing license and national park entrance if you need one.
Similar to the boat captains, the taxi drivers all work together as well. In the center of town, you’ll see the taxi stand with a big sign with all the prices listed out. You can take a taxi anywhere nearby, even for an entire day if you wish, the prices are all fair! On that note, you can also rent a car right in downtown Loreto if you’d like to drive yourself.
I recommend Isla Coronado, a white sand, green water paradise just 20 minutes from downtown Loreto by boat. Ask any boat captain to take you, be sure to buy your national park entrance bracelet at the marina. You can also go to Loreto Bay Resort, or simply to the beach next to the marina.
Downtown Loreto is lined with artisan shops and handicraft markets. If you have a car, check out the big farmers market on Sundays until 1 pm in Miramar, a neighborhood just north and across the highway.
There are two golf courses just outside of Loreto, one at Loreto Bay and one at Villas del Palmar 25k south of town.
If you simply want to get on the water, head down to the marina and ask! There are always captains around ready to accommodate tourists who would like to go on an adventure.
Art Galleries and Shows
Loreto is bustling with artists, both local and ex-pat alike. There are several galleries downtown and more in Nopoló, the neighborhood surrounding Loreto Bay Resort.
This is my new favorite thing to do in Loreto! I went on a 7-day combo tour with ROW Adventures that included 3 days of whale watching in Magdalena Bay (Pacific side), and 3 days of kayak camping to Isla Carmen and Isla Danzante on the Loreto side. If you want to do an organized trip to Loreto, check out their adventurous options.
Where to Eat in Loreto
I have an entire post just about the countless delicious restaurants in Loreto, but I’ll break them down into “Best of Loreto” categories here (my own opinions of course!):
Best Craft Beer: El Zopilote
Best Coffee Shop: Sea Coffee
Best Breakfast: Los Mandiles – On the malecón, or Pan Que Pan – Just up the main street a couple of blocks, next to the yellow “Dulceria” candy store, or Pepegina’s – Right on the main plaza (colorful chairs, great people watching)
Best Dinner: Mi Loreto (Oaxacan cuisine – order the “Combinación Mexicana!) – Just west of the mission (great service, rich, authentic meals, cozy ambiance), you may need reservations if it’s busy season. I also love El Zopilote – they do more than just great beer.
Best Street Food: La Super Torta
Best Tacos: El Rey del Taco
Best Salad: Alma del Sur (NEW in 2020!) – you must try the comfort food here too. Wonderful staff, wonderful ambiance, even live music.
Best Adventure: La Picazón – 10km north on a dirt road, right on the ocean!
Best Place to Get Your Fresh Catch Cooked: La Palapa (and they serve Zopilote brews!)
Bonus category – Best Latte Art: Cafe Ole in the center of town – ask the guy there for an “oso!” (bear)
Recommended Hotels in Loreto
A boutique hotel in the center of town. Clean, quiet, private rooms with a brewery and restaurant under the same roof! See a complete review of Hotel 1697 here.
Rooms start at $40.
If you want higher-end, nice service, pool, hot tub, and as close to “beachfront” as you’re going to get in Loreto, Hotel La Misión is a good choice. They also have a great restaurant on the second floor.
Rooms start at $133.
Bring a group and get the nicest spot in town, right on the beach just south of the center. Access to a lap pool, beach, rooftop fire pit, hammock, bikes, and even a Jeep for in-town errands.
The owners are friendly people who spoil their guests, even if they aren’t home.
There are two options at this house: the 3-bedroom main house, or the 1-bedroom casita, just behind the main house.
An adventure in itself, Villa Linda Mar is located about 15 minutes north of town on the beach, along a dirt road on the way to the restaurant La Picazón. This property boasts four separate apartments, each with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a living room, and a rooftop. Access to pool, hot tub, outdoor bbq, and sea kayaks for guests. We took the kayaks 1km up the way to Picazón for lunch, I highly recommend doing this!
The owners are wonderful people and the property is beautiful. When it comes to details, they have left nothing out. It is an eco-resort, their electricity is provided by solar panels, they recycle the wastewater for the gardens, and they use eco-friendly products in the casitas, such as luxury bamboo sheets and towels. There is also WiFi, and cell phone reception reaches most places on the property.
The apartments or “casitas” start at $149 per night for two people. You must have a car to stay here. Two-night minimum.
Best Time to Go to Loreto
Whale watching season is February through April, which is also high season. The worst time to be in Loreto is summer, due to unbearable heat (the Mexican locals are magic, too, they love it), but other than that you can count on decent weather year round. Many expats spend 6-8 months in Loreto each year between October and April.
More Loreto Resources
Hair Salon/Spa: Loreto Garden Spa is a couple of miles north of the center on Calle Aurora. I got my haircut here, Ana studied cosmetology in the US. I’ve had massages here as well. At $25 out the door, the price can’t be beat.
Best Massage: Manuel at Hotel Posada Las Flores on the plaza, $40 massage, worth it!
Dog Adoptions: Yes, seriously. There are very few street dogs in Loreto because of the massive efforts to take care of them and find them forever homes, very often in the US. If you want to support these efforts (even from afar), hook up with the fine people at Animalandia.
Taxis in Loreto
These prices are from 2017 and have most likely changed, but taxi fares in Loreto are set rates, and this is around what you can expect to pay from the taxi stand in the center of town: