Loreto, Mexico Is an Off-the-Beaten-Path Paradise

Snorkeling, sport fishing, and world-class golf are draws at this sleepy spot.
Window Rock at Loreto Bay National Marine Park has perfect conditions for scuba divers. Photograph by Melinda Fulmer

Cabo San Lucas gets most of the attention in southern Baja; but for travelers looking for an off-the-beaten-path paradise, it’s hard to beat Loreto, on the peninsula’s east coast. The islands surrounding Loreto and the turquoise blue waters of the Sea of Cortez are perfect for exploring on a kayak, sailboat, or with a wetsuit and snorkel. But for many, the real draw here is golf, and Villa del Palmar’s award-winning Danzante Bay, the only Tournament Players Club course in Mexico.

Spectacular Views

Many of Loreto’s international visitors stay at the beachfront Villa del Palmar, an all-inclusive resort set on more than 4,000 acres with stunning views of the golf course, Loreto Bay, and the surrounding Sierra de la Giganta mountains. The resort’s suites range from a standard 645-square-foot room with a kitchenette ($247) to a premium three-bedroom suite of 2,625 square feet with a terrace, living room, dining room, and private bathrooms for each bedroom ($1,107). Guests have access to a calm swimming beach, five outdoor pools, boating and fishing excursions, a collection of restaurants, and a 39,000-square-foot luxury spa for indulging in a massage after a day on the beach. There’s also a shuttle to and from the airport, located 25 miles north.  

Tip from a Local

“Asadero Super Burro is as local and beloved a restaurant as you get in Loreto. (The family restaurant with food cooked over a wood-fired grill) is super casual and inexpensive but delicious.”

—Sandra Felix, Loreto resident

Exploring Downtown

For those who want to soak up more of Loreto’s local culture and dining, there are comfortable boutique hotels between Loreto’s downtown and the Malecon (boardwalk by the sea). The highly rated La Mision Hotel ($200 and up) overlooks a wide sweep of the beach and is within walking distance of shops, the Mission Loreto, and excellent dining, including its own fine dining restaurant, Los Olivos. The Hotel Posada de Las Flores ($200), a charming rose-colored hacienda hotel with a rooftop pool, sits right on the plaza. 

Protected Paradise 

Just south of the city is Loreto Bay National Park, almost 800 miles of clear blue water and five craggy islands—Danzante, Carmen, Coronado, Montserrat, and Santa Catalina—with shorelines perfect for snorkeling plus underwater caves and rock formations that lure scuba divers. Jacques Cousteau once called this area “The Aquarium of the World” for its abundant tropical fish and other wildlife such as rays, sea turtles, and whales. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005. Catamaran tours and private charters to explore the park can be booked in town. The number of catamaran and other tour operators allowed to enter the park is limited, and Jet Skis are banned, so Loreto Bay’s waters are peaceful and uncrowded.

Charred chocolate clams are the signature dish in the Loreto area. Photograph Courtesy of Zapwater

Great Fishing, Great Seafood

After exploring Loreto’s waters, indulge in the local catch of yellowtail and mahi-mahi found on most menus. Palapa San Telmo, a mom-and-pop place off Highway 1, is known for its ceviche and piled-high shrimp tacos. Or try the region’s signature dish, almejas tatemadas (charred chocolate clams) at the Del Carmen restaurant at Hotel Oasis on the bay in Loreto. Chocolate clams are native to this area, and you will find them cooked many ways in Loreto, but having them clam-bake-style by the water is a real treat.

A Taste of Home

Craving a little American fare? El Zopilate Brewing Company, a patio restaurant on downtown’s main plaza, has great crispy pizza and burgers, along with house-made ales, stouts, IPAs, and live outdoor music. For tropical romantic atmosphere indoors, Domingo’s Place steakhouse in downtown Loreto delivers, along with some of the best surf and turf around. Prices at most of Loreto’s restaurants are affordable to moderate, even for lavish seafood feasts. 

See olive groves on the property of the San Javier Mission. Photograph Courtesy of Zapwater

Living History

One of the best bets to get a sense of Loreto’s missionary past is touring the beautifully preserved San Javier Mission, tucked away in the local mountains. Built by the Jesuits in its current location in 1710, it still holds services today. Moved up in the mountains to be close to a natural spring, its dams and aqueducts nourish several farms, including the first olive groves in the Americas. Once you’re finished touring the church, walk along the path behind it to see some of these ancient olive trees and pick up one of the tasty guava tarts sold just outside the building.


Mark Your Calendar

Throughout March: Whale watching is in full swing this time of year, with blue whale sightings in the Bay of Loreto, and gray whales in the San Ignacio Lagoon, Puerto Lopez Mateo, and Magdalena Bay. toursloreto.com