You’ve probably heard about Cabo San Lucas. It’s the famous “party spot” at the very southern tip of the Baja California Sur peninsula. This popular tourist beach destination is surrounded by both the pacific ocean and the Sea of Cortez/Gulf of California on either side, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
While Cabo is world-famous, not many tourists have caught on to Loreto, yet. Loreto is a sleepy little fishing village and quaint beach town on the sea of Cortez.
Jacques Cousteau famously called this area of the gulf “the world’s aquarium” due to its amazing bio-diversity, sea life, and crystal clear waters. Sea mammals including every type of whale can be seen fairly easily in some spots, even with the naked eye.
Flights to Loreto are quick and easy. It only takes a one-hour direct flight via American airlines from Phoenix to get there. I often travel to San Diego and found the flights to Loreto to be much easier. Customs is fast and light, and you walk right off and collect your bag hassle-free. The flight is a great opportunity to see the many islands that surround the Loreto area and offers a fantastic view of the mountainous desert landscape. Aside from its beautiful landscape, Loreto is known for fishing, golf, scubadiving, and wildlife sight-seeing.
I believe Loreto is a hidden gem and a great, safe alternate destination for tourists who want to skip the crowded, over-priced city of Cabo in favor of vacationing in a little-known beach town that’s just as beautiful, if not more so.
What It’s Like to Vacation in Loreto, BCS, Mexico
Day 1: Arrive, Relax, and Make Plans
Saturday afternoon arrival into Loreto from Phoenix, Arizona…
Debarking on the runaway always makes me feel like I’m in an exotic destination but the airport is clean and appears to be very new. The location of the airport is very convenient as it’s about 5 minutes into town from the airport.
The first day is always a relaxing one for me. I mostly take this time to get my bearings and decide where I am going to work out the following morning. When I’ve gone to Loreto in the past, I typically choose to work out at the Apollo gym which I’m told is now closed as a result of Covid. Instead, I picked a nice little gym in town and paid 40 pesos for the week which is around $2.00 US dollars.
Loreto Mexico weather is typically cool to mild with the temperature reaching the 80s and 90s in the summer. Because of the beautiful weather and the layout of the town, Loreto is best explored via bicycle in my opinion. It’s fun to go down by the boardwalk, or “malecón” as it’s called in Mexico. It’s also neat to ride through the beautiful tree-sheltered road into the town center.
The town center has two marking achievements: its mission and municipal buildings. The plaza offers a ton in the way of restaurants and shops.
Day 2: Kayaking, Snorkeling, and Local Restaurants
Rise and shine! On day 2, I hop on my bike and I’m ready to explore the town.
First, I stop to use the heavy bag and then off to the gym for a quick workout.
After that, I stop for a quick breakfast at a place called Luz on the corner near the kayak and bike rental area. Suzanna’s kayaks and bike rental offers both items of note as well as American guides that know the area well.
We load up the vehicles and head out for a day of kayaking! We start at El Juncalito beach where we will paddle to Cchwenque island.
After arriving at the island it’s time for a snorkel where it quickly becomes apparent why people speak of the animal life here! On the paddle out, a pod of dolphins can be seen playing in the distance, and birds of every size and type are in the sky or floating on the clear, calm sea. My underwater footage does not do justice to the clarity and amount of sea life that can be seen just off the island.
A couple of hours later, we are loaded back up and heading back to town. Tonight we will enjoy a dinner of fresh-caught bacon-wrapped shrimp at the lighthouse poised over the harbor followed by a stroll to the city center.
Day 3: San Javier Mission and Nature Preserve Trip
On the third day, I hit the gym, got some breakfast, and then hit the road!
The San Javier mission was built in 1744 and is the destination of a yearly pilgrimage. It’s a little less than an hour’s drive through some pretty hilly terrain. Halfway up the san Javier road is a great spot to stop and look out over the mountain range to the sea. While we were stopped here, a group of friendly donkeys stopped to say hello.
We drove 20 minutes more to arrive at the mission, a quaint little town and a neat little mission are the result of the hour trek.
There is also a nature preserve of sorts with an old olive tree you can donate a couple of pesos to see. San Javier is a cool place and worth a visit if you’re interested in visiting historical or religious sites. However, if you’re only in town for a couple of days and old churches aren’t your thing, you might not be missing out on much if you decide to skip this trip.
We stopped to eat our pre-packed sandwiches before heading back on the road, down the mountain, and into Loreto. For dinner that night, we ate at the village center right adjacent to the mission. The fajitas I had were adequate and the atmosphere of the outdoor patio was enjoyable.
Day 4: Boat Trip to Lobo Point and Isla Coronado Beach
After gym and breakfast, we’re off to play!
Loreto is not known for its beautiful sandy beaches but it does have some. Today we hired a boat and left from the harbor to see the best beach in the area.
On the way out, we caught the sight of whales breaching. If you want to visit a destination for whale watching, it’s almost guaranteed that you will see at least one here. I have never taken a trip to Loreto without seeing whales. The boats are only allowed to get so close and there are many of them, but you do get some pretty good views of the whales.
The next stop on the itinerary is what looks like an island covered with sea lions or as they say in Spanish, “Lobo Marino” or “Lobo del mar” which means “wolves of the sea”.
A bunch of them can be seen sunbathing out on the rocks. This area is referred to by the caption as “Lobo Point”.
When we pull up, I am thrown a mask and a wetsuit and asked if I want to swim with them. This is not my first adventure swimming with sea lions as I’ve done it in Peru as well. However, when I was in Peru I was told it was the only place in the world you could do it safely because they are not territorial when mating. I received no such advice here. Although, the guide did get nervous at one point and ordered us back in the boat. There may have been a shark sighting. Aside from this little scare, the sea lions were fun and curious. I was surprised by the fact that they even seem to want to show off jumping in the air for the boats motoring by.
After our swim, we arrived on the sandy beach and docked the boat for lunch and swimming. Isla Coronado is the name of this beach. This is the nicest and sandiest beach I’ve seen in the Loreto area and I would recommend this day’s adventure to anyone visiting the area. Between the whales, Lobos Point, and the beautiful white sand beach, it was well worth the day.
Dinner in the plaza at the El Zopilote Brewing Co. and one of the best Chile Relleno I’ve ever had. It’s a slightly different take on the dish but I really enjoyed it.
After El Zopilote, it’s time to get ready to come back home to the states.
Return Trip to the US From Loreto Mexico (in 2022)
Covid tests are currently required 24-hours in advance before your flight. There are plenty of places to get them around town and they cost under $80. Make sure to check in with American air in advance and they walk you through downloading the Verifly app.
I use this app every time I am in Loreto Mexico now. The app has you upload the test documents so you can more easily show proof of negative test results. To make it even easier, do this in advance of flight day as the app takes a bit of time to approve the document.
Key Takeaways From My Trip to Loreto, Baja California, Mexico
When you think of Mexico, a couple of things usually come to mind. Usually, those are picturesque Mexico resorts with sandy beaches, margarita bars, and whistle-blowing shot girls.
Loreto is not that kind of place. If you are looking for a party town with sandy beaches you will be disappointed.
However, if you like to get more of a true Mexico feel or if you’re interested in fishing, wildlife, and sight-seeing, this is a great spot to see. There are many beautiful places to stay if you vacation in Loreto. However, because of the small fishing village feel, Loreto Mexico resorts are few but there are several to choose from in the area depending on your lodging preferences.
In Phoenix, we can drive a couple of hours and be on the Sea of Cortez via rocky point (Puerto Penasco). As for me? I would choose to jump the hour flight to Loreto over Rocky Point any day.
See video for a 4 day in Loreto montage