Amazing things I’ve seen and done in Loreto Baja California Sur
Dear Carrie, thanks for reaching out! Loreto is not a place I thought I’d visit and when I did, I really didn’t expect to like it! Lots of Americans go to Loreto for an all-inclusive stay – it’s quite popular due to its close proximity to the USA.
From the USA, flying to Loreto is expensive but what I always tell readers is to fly through Tijuana and get a direct one hour flight for less than $100 USD. I hope you and your friend will enjoy Loreto and if you ever have any more questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via Instagram, @psimonmyway.
Loreto may not be on your list of places to visit in Baja California Sur but it should be as it is one of the least touristic towns in the peninsula. I find the Mexican culture in Loreto still well-preserved and I met a lot of locals here who gave me insights about this city. I feel like a lot of Mexican beach towns are slowly losing their charm because of excessive tourism but Loreto remains of those that still remain very Mexican.
When I was doing my research for the trip, I thought it’s all going to be fancy and all-inclusive but with the help of the local guides that I met, I was able to see the different side of Loreto apart from the ‘fancy.’
Here are the best things to do in Loreto Baja California Sur. I am still editing the other pictures and videos but I will update this as I go. I hope you’ll consider visiting Loreto – I promise you’ll love it!
Is Loreto Mexico open for tourism?
Mexico is open for tourism and Loreto is currently accepting American tourists. Because of its close proximity to the United States, Loreto is an American’s favorite. Mexico does not require a negative COVID test upon entry (for now). You just need to fill out a health declaration form upon arrival. To know more about the COVID situation in Mexico, click here.
#1: Visit the San Javier Mission
San Javier mission was a Spanish Mission founded in Loreto in 1699 and was closed in 1817. It’s less than an hour’s drive to get here from downtown Loreto and you will pass vast deserts (which is also part of the tour if you choose to book it with a local guide). Upon arrival in Loreto, cobblestone streets, ancient architecture, and beautiful mountain views.
I don’t really do a lot of religious tours but I liked how well-preserved San Javier Mission is – there are only less than 500 inhabitants so expect ‘travel back in time’ experience. I feel like you need to have the right guide when doing this tour and my local recommendation is Jordan (you can book below), a Mexican-American who’s been living in Loreto for more than a decade.
This is not all about religion or how the Jesuits came to Loreto but there are also big olive gardens at the back, run and maintained by the local community.
#2: Eat machaca, a Baja California Sur favorite
After the San Javier Mission tour, you can go to a local restaurant in the San Javier community and try machaca, one of the best dishes in Baja California Sur. Machaca’s common meat is beef or pork. Ingredients vary, depending on who’s making it but it usually consists of onions, peppers, tomatoes, and chilies. The meat is usually dried/rehydrated and rolled like a burrito. Some people use skirt steak and is usually slow-cooked.
I live in the central part of Mexico and machaca is not very common in my area. It was a strange concept to me. What I love about eating in Loreto is that there are lots of things I have not tried before and most of these northern cuisines are very traditional dishes of Mexico. If you travel for food, add machaca to your growing list of what to eat in Mexico!
#3: Cruise the Sea of Cortez on a catamaran
In the beginning, I was a little discouraged about the limited things to do in Loreto but this Catamaran cruise made up for all of it! The Sea of Cortez is really impressive – I loved how its waters is so different from where I live in Mexico. Loreto is a very family-friendly destination so I’d recommend this one for families traveling with kids and people traveling in big groups.
This tour took 4 hours on-board a 35-foot fully-equipped catamaran. Meals and drinks are also included in this tour (alcoholic beverages, too!). I was really surprised to really like this activity because boats and I are not very good friends. I often get dizzy and seasick. But the sea of Cortez is very calm so if you get easily seasick like me, you don’t have to worry about that when you do this tour. I really felt okay during the tour (except that I might have overdone the eating).
#4: Learn the clams tradition with Doña Carmen
Casa Carmen was my favorite culinary experience in Loreto where I had the chance to see how the traditional clams are made! Clams are Baja California’s seafood candy. They literally have it everywhere and it seems to be the newest tourist attraction in Baja Sur. Doña Carmen, the local lady who owns this restaurant is very generous with the recipe too.
There are certainly many ways on how they make clams in this area but the one at Casa Carmen’s was baked in a brick oven. First, the clams were buried in stones then the oven is filled with romerillo, a native plant in Baja Sur. Then the romerillo is lit with fire to give flavour to the clams. This was way different than the hundreds of clams I tried in Loreto so you definitely need to visit Doña Carmen!
#5: Visit Coronado Island, a favorite in Loreto Baja California Sur
Isla Coronado (Coronado Island) is one of the must-do in these things to do in Loreto list. Go on a day trip for a picnic by the beach (the sand is really amazing!), explore cliffs, lagoons, and caves, snorkeling, diving, kayaking – Coronado Island has it all! The turquoise waters of this island will give you a great peek at the rich marine life. Diving is highly recommended but if you are not a certified diver, you can snorkel here for hours without getting tired. The water visibility is outstanding!
If you’re lucky and you come in the right season, you will get a chance to see a marine turtle sanctuary. Each year, the female turtles love to lay their eggs in Coronado Island but I am not sure what time of the year is this. I was not able to see it but the guide showed me some pictures. The tour includes snorkeling gears, light lunch, and refreshments (alcoholic beverages included). This is a great activity for families and groups of friends. Children are welcome, too!
#6: Visit Mulege, an oasis town in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur
Just a two-hour drive from Loreto, Mulege is the only oasis town in Baja California Sur. The drive was really beautiful as you can see the best of the desserts and oceans in the peninsula. You can make shortstops on the beaches in between this route (like Playa Coyote).
Mulege is a quiet town as it’s not very popular yet but there are lots of interesting locals here who can show you the deeply-rooted Mulege traditions (missions, food). There are also lots of short hikes where you can see the whole town. Baja California Sur’s land is dry and the Mulegé river valley irrigation has supported agriculture in the area and strengthens the economy of the peninsula.
#7: Hike to see the Canipole cave paintings
This 45-minute easy hike for all levels (more of a walk, really) will take you to one of the most beautiful views in Loreto. It’s better to hire a local guide for this tour – the San Francisco Mountain range has lots of history and culture that you’d like to know from a local.
These cave paintings date hundreds of years before the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries that inhabited Loreto. Historians have collected accurate readings of the cave paintings so if you are interested in history, better be on this tour!
#8: Rock climb Pilón Lolita Mountain
Pilón de Lolita got its name because it looks like a piloncillo candy because in a certain place in space, that peak has the shape of a piloncillo candy (small, truncated cones). Urban legends state that Lolita is a woman who came down from this mountain every day to feed the poor who were journeying towards the Mission of San Javier.
The beginning of this climb is in Rancho Las Parras, a family-owned cattle ranch. The summit is 3,330 ft with an elevation of 1,880 ft. Some of the paths are exceedingly steep but it’s only difficult through it because of the loose dirt and rock boulders. Falling rocks are pretty common so be careful when you do this hike. I really feel that this is only for experienced hikers but you should ask your guide about hike requirements before joining a tour.
#9: Hike Tabor Canyon
Located in the Sierra de La Giganta, Tabor Canyon is one of the best outdoor activities in Loreto. The landscapes, flora, and fauna are incredible. The hike is moderate to difficult as soon parts of the hike require effort. You need to wear proper hiking shoes in Tabor.
The hike duration is 3 hours and the guide will tell you everything that you need to know (including lots of urban legends and folklore). There are beautiful waterfalls by the mountainside so make sure to bring swimming clothes, too! Expect spectacular ocean views of Puerto Escondido (an elevation over 1000 feet). This is also a great sunset spot but it could be a really hot hike depending on the season.
#10: Dive in the sea of Cortez
The sea of Cortez is one of the best diving spots in the Baja California Sur peninsula. Rays, schools of fish, nudibranchs, and turtles are the common sea creatures in this area. There are over 40 dive sites in 3 islands within 1-hour distance from Loreto’s city center. You can easily find diving centers all over Loreto but you need to have (at least) an open water certification.
This is also a great place to take your PADI certification course. Prices start at $650 USD per person (4 days of certification) but before the actual lessons in the water, you need to do some home study/online learning. There is also a 1-day diver course (introduction to scuba diving) that starts at $150 USD per person. You can chat with Jordan via Whatsapp for more information. He really is a great guide and is very knowledgeable about Loreto.