Nestled on the eastern side of the Baja peninsula in the shadow of the towering Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, the small town of Loreto – population 21,000 – overlooks the magnificent Gulf of California.
It is a place of unspoiled, deserted beaches, a gateway to a stretch of coastline that embodies the soul of Baja and was a favorite in years’ past of explorers and writers Ray Cannon, John Steinbeck, Zane Grey, and Earl Stanley Gardner, who all marveled in the long and rich history that they found while exploring this area.
The paved highway, Mex 1, extending over a thousand miles from the U.S. border to Baja’s tip, was completed in 1973 and the eager anglers and travelers, reading the descriptions of the unbelievable fishery and charm of Baja that Ray Cannon depicted in his newspaper columns and popular book, “The Sea of Cortez: Mexico’s Primitive Frontier” were drawn like a dorado to a lively sardina.
Old school Baja does still exist in Loreto. It is known for its slower-paced charm, its great fishing, gracious people, amazing food, and modern amenities.
Loreto continues to retain an authentic small-town feel by comparison to its larger neighbors to the south, La Paz and Los Cabos, and its visitors do not come for the ‘nightlife.’ It offers an International airport which is served daily from California, as well as from the International airport located in Tijuana just across the border, a one-hour and fifteen-minute flight from either airport.
There is also a bus depot and excellent tourism services, hotels up to five stars, bed and breakfast inns, restaurants, colorful markets, RV parks and campgrounds, car rentals, recreational services, and other developments.
This town exudes authentic Mexican charm that attracts people from all walks of life and countries from around the world to its exceptional hotels and slow-paced lifestyle.
Loreto sportfishing has survived the test of time. Known originally for its dorado summer season and winter yellowtail, it now offers a broad spectrum of trophy-sized roosterfish, jacks, cabrilla, pargo, and snapper from spring, summer, and fall inshore as well as around its Islands, and farther offshore, the larger billfish, yellowfin tuna, and dorado lurk.
At present, there are two golf courses. There is the Loreto Baja Golf Course, located in Loreto Bay, closest to downtown Loreto and the Loreto Airport. It is located between the Sierra de la Giganta mountains and the Baja desert with views of the Gulf of California.
And there is also the stunning golf course with the TPC rating, (Tournament Players Club — a golf course that is part of a prestigious network of golf courses around the world), the Danzante Bay golf course designed by Rees Jones, an 18-hole course created in Villas del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto. The 17th hole is perched on a high cliff, overlooking the Gulf of California.
Loreto and the surrounding area have many attractions for those intrigued by the history of the area that stretches back centuries. The Spanish town was built around the first successful mission in Baja California Sur.
Located in the center of the village, the Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concho Mission was founded on October 25, 1697, by the Jesuit priest, Juan María Salvatierra. This was the first successful mission to be established in California and is considered the Head and Mother of the Missions of Upper and Lower Baja California. Loreto was the most important town in Las Californias until 1829. It was in that year after a devastating hurricane, the administrative capital was moved to La Paz.
About an hour away is the San Javier Mission, which was founded by the Jesuits of the Roman Catholic Church in 1699.
The guided trip up the winding road through the Sierra de la Gigante Mountains and across the San Javier River is a fun trip by itself, especially in a couple of places. Arriving at the San Javier Mission and the little community there is like a step back in time. The mission church and school still survive and are in use today.
The Loreto area offers many secluded beaches, with panoramic views of the world-famous “Gulf of California” surrounded by the rugged, Baja desert that has attracted visitors and adventurers for centuries on its miles and miles of hiking trails.
Loreto Bay National Park (Parque Maritimo Nacional Bahia de Loreto), consists of five islands: Carmen, Catalina, Coronados, Danzante, and Montserrat. It is an 800 square mile marine preserve that enjoys the distinction of being the largest in Mexico.
The local ecology, landscape, climate, and proximity to the sea make this region a natural paradise for nature lovers. Fishing, kayaking, sailing, camping, surfing, horseback riding, nature walks, fabulous bird watching, cliff walks, sunset cruises, whale watching or sea lion watching are just some of the activities that can be enjoyed in the area.
Isla del Carmen and Isla Danzante are the two main islands, which also offer the option of camping overnight.
Plus, Loreto has paid more attention than any other Baja locale to the emerging eco-tourism and back-country sightseeing business, and here it’s easy to go snorkeling, diving, kayaking, bicycling, and golfing on its two unique world-class 18 hole golf courses, or to take a motor tour up into the mountains to visit surrounding, remote villages, and ranchos.
Another major attraction finished in 2018 is Marina Puerto Escondido a short distance south of town, a natural basin with only a small opening to the sea. On one side, it’s up against the 5,000-foot-high rock wall of the “Sierra de la Giganta.”
Marina Puerto Escondido now accommodates mega-yachts to over 200-feet, with power pedestals fitted with 50-amps, 100-amps, single or three-phase service with 480V outlets available for larger boats.
The marina also has a fuel station for vehicles and boats that take either or both gasoline and diesel, free pump-out at the fuel dock, and amenities such as concierge services, a rooftop pool, a supermarket, and a pizza restaurant.
Offering a gateway for visiting boaters to the central Gulf of California, with dramatic mountain backdrops, great ﬁshing, islands to explore, and an abundance of anchorages to discover, the region has long been a favorite of cruisers.
Loreto has continued to provide an extraordinary collection of Baja adventures for both the first time as well as the seasoned visitors and tourists who seek unusual experiences and adventures in a unique area of Baja, all the while being aware of the importance of protecting its environment and resources.
Just as it did for Ray Cannon, Loreto continues to open its arms in welcome to those who come to satisfy their Baja dreams while distancing themselves “far from the madding crowds” in the larger, tourist towns to the south. (Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) is Thomas Hardy‘s fourth novel)