When I first started working for Alaska Airlines I checked into their (fairly limited) International routes. One that caught my eye was Loreto, Mexico – a small town in Baja California that I had never heard of before. A quick Google search of things to do in Loreto, Mexico showed me that it offered a variety of outdoor activities, a small, walkable town center and while it seemed you could let your hair down there, it looked like the opposite of party central Cabo.
Then, the pandemic happened and well, the next two years I didn’t travel much at all. However, at the end of 2021 Alaska started a direct route from SFO to Loreto and I decided to take my fully vaccinated and boosted self on my very first solo trip in over a year.
Let me tell you, Loreto is everything I wanted it to be. It was small enough to feel relaxed but still had plenty of things to explore. The food was phenomenal, it was budget friendly, and the people who live there are incredibly kind and welcoming.
For those reasons, and the one’s I’ll share below, you should definitely add Loreto to your Mexico bucket list.
Where is Loreto, Mexico
Loreto is located on the Gulf side of Baja California. I didn’t know this until I was in Loreto, but road trips around Baja are incredibly popular and it’s a roughly 4 hour drive north of La Paz.
Just off the coast of Loreto is the Loreto Bay National Park which consists of 5 uninhabited islands and teems with sea life below the calm waters of the Sea of Cortez.
How to Get to Loreto, Mexico
There are multiple ways to get to Loreto, Mexico from the US, Canada, and within Mexico.
Flying is the most common route, but flights are seasonal and limited. If you’re unable to fly directly to Loreto, consider flying into La Paz and renting a car to drive four hours to Loreto.
International Flights to Loreto
Loreto has a small international airport with a handful of carriers providing flights to and from the US, Canada, and the rest of Mexico. Check out Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, WestJet, Volaris, and Calafia Airlines to see which routing works best for you.
Cross Border XPress San Diego to Tijuana
If you’re in the San Diego area you can cross through the Cross Border Xpress that connects San Diego to the Tijuana airport. From there you can fly domestically via Volaris or Calafia to Loreto.
Baja California Road Trip
As stated above, Baja California road trips are incredibly popular. I met a few fellow travelers in Loreto who were doing their own road trip and I asked my tour guides about their safety. All of them said it was very safe to drive and a beautiful way to see the varied landscape and other fun places to visit in Baja.
I recommend renting your car in Mexico. I did a Yucatan Peninsula road trip and while the rates were not as cheap as they claimed online, it was an easy process!
The Best Time to Visit Loreto
The best time of year to visit Loreto is in the fall or winter months. Yes, tourism is at its peak during this time because the weather is much more manageable!
Temperatures in the winter are generally in the 70os and the humidity is much less compared to the summer. In the fall the weather will be a bit warmer, in the 80os.
The other reason the winter is a good time to visit Loreto is because a variety of whale species, from blue whales to killer whales, migrate through the Gulf in February. So if whale watching is on your bucket list then definitely consider visiting Loreto in February and March.
However, if you don’t care about the weather, you like hot and humid, but want to save some money, hotel prices will drop in the summer as the temperature increases!
Is Loreto Mexico Safe?
Generally speaking, Loreto, Mexico is safe! I traveled there solo and did not feel uncomfortable at all. I got a few catcalls but beyond that no one made me feel unsafe.
It’s something that locals are proud of as well. As everyone mentioned it to me how safe their town is, from the taxi driver to my tour guide, to the person I chatted with briefly in a cafe.
Each night I walked back to my Airbnb well past dark and there were families out in the main square and other tourists wandering around.
In fact, one night I returned to my street level Airbnb and noticed the door was slightly ajar. My heart skipped a beat before I quickly realized I’d forgotten to lock it before leaving!
So, take the usual travel safety precautions, be a reasonable human being and you’ll have no problems in Loreto.
Best Things to Do in Loreto
Now that we’ve got the practical tips for visiting Loreto out of the way. What exactly is there to do in Loreto? Let’s talk about it!
Visit Isla Coronado
One of the most visited islands in the National Marine reserve is Isla Coronado. Here you can see lava cliffs, see Blue Footed Boobies, snorkel with sea lions and relax on white sand beaches.
In the morning walk down to the Marina to see if you can hire a captain for the day to take you over to the island. Alternatively, and my recommendation, is to book a tour. I booked with Wild Loreto and had an amazing experience.
Our captain patiently waited for all of the boats to leave so we could watch a pod of wild dolphins swim around us. He gave us plenty of time to snorkel in a cove and with the sea lion colony before bringing us to a gorgeous white sand beach for lunch. Along with cold beers and lunch along the way!
Go Snorkeling & Diving in Loreto
Due to the protection of the National Park, snorkeling and/or diving in Loreto is an absolute must.
My experience snorkeling in Loreto is second only to snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. In Loreto, I was able to puffer fish, needle fish, and a variety of brightly colored tropical fish.
If diving is more your thing, book a tour over to Isla del Carmen to dive to sunken ship, now home to a variety of fish!
Go Kayaking in Loreto
Another extremely popular way to get out on the water in Loreto is via kayak (or paddleboarding). You can actually take multi day kayaking excursions to visit the other islands of Loreto, besides Isla Coronado, that includes camping on the deserted islands!
I did not plan ahead enough to do this, but I did plan on renting a paddleboard or kayak for the day. But the weather when I was there was not conducive to a paddle, especially with my novice status. The wind was too strong and it likely would not have been the peaceful outing I desired.
Hike Tabor Canyon
One of the hikes that I did in Loreto was the Tabor Canyon hike. And let me tell you – the tour operator and the people of the internet really UNDERSOLD the difficulty of this hike.
While the mileage is not high, there are a few mental blocks you’ll have to overcome. Such as using a rope, tied to a rock, and some *cross your fingers* correctly placed branches to scale a vertical wall.
Tabor Canyon is known for its extensive network of waterfalls, but when I did the hike it was bone dry. As I crossed a dry waterfall pool I asked the guide what it’s like to do the hike when there’s actually water, he said “it’s a bit trickier”.
Do I recommend this hike? 100%! Yes if you are in generally decent shape and don’t have a fear of heights.
I do not recommend doing this hike without a guide like other blogs I read recommend. While it’s straightforward in the sense that it’s an out and back canyon, the path of least resistance is not obvious. And I know I wouldn’t have been able to complete the rope sections without our guide placing my foot exactly where it needs to be on the descent.
Be sure to start this hike early in the day as once the sun rises there is no shade and bring plenty of water and some snacks.
Relax with a Massage
After all of the hiking and snorkeling, head to Spa las Flores in Loreto’s main square for a spa treatment. I popped in here one afternoon inquiring about making a massage reservation and they got me in immediately.
There are multiple private massage therapy rooms, a mani/pedi room, and a relaxing outdoor patio in the back.
The massage was really relaxing and only cost $40 for an hour. Definitely worth it!
They also offer other spa services.
Learn about the History of the California Missions
There is a lot of history in Loreto, especially as it pertains to the history of Missions throughout Baja and California. While it’s not exactly the happiest history, the people are very proud of the fact that Loreto is home to the very first successful Mission – Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, or Loreto Mission.
After multiple failed attempts at establishing Missions in what we now know as Baja California, the Spanish finally succeeded here, in Loreto in 1697 converting the Monqui tribe and setting up the first Spanish settlement. The Mission is a fixture of the downtown square and holds daily mass. Next door is a museum about the Mission – although it was closed during my visit.
Nearby, actually on the road to the Loreto airport, is Mission San Javier. This is the second Mission founded in 1699 and was not only successful in converting the Cochimi to Christianity but also in growing crops which was difficult in this area due to lack of water.
I did not make it there during my trip, but on my taxi ride out of town, my driver said the views are amazing. I really wish I would’ve asked him to take a quick detour seeing as I was THREE hours early for my flight anyway.
(As we know, European diseases ultimately eradicated local tribes and the Monqui and Cochimi people became extinct not long after the inception of the Missions.
Explore Downtown Loreto Mexico
Switching gears a bit to present day Loreto.
Downtown Loreto is a charming spot filled with great restaurants, music and a relaxed vibe.
A pedestrian only cobblestone street leads into the heart of the square which is surrounded by city hall, a gorgeous hotel, and multiple restaurants.
If you continue walking through the main square you’ll end up at the Malecon, which is also a lovely place to walk.
Venturing off the main square each street provides a bit of delight. Whether it’s delicious ice cream shop, more great food, or a cute casita.
What I loved so much about downtown is that it’s small, has family homes surrounding it, and is clean and safe.
I highly recommend spending a few hours wandering around downtown Loreto.
Swim at Loreto Beaches
There are three beaches in Loreto proper, La Darseña, La Negrita and Oasis.
La Darsena and Negrita are both located near the Marina. On La Darsena you’ll find palapas for shade and calm water for snorkeling or swimming (unless it’s windy).
La Negrita is a bit further down the Malecon and is much less touristy only because it’s a bit further from the center of town.
Oasis beach is located on the southern side of the city and has a few palapas for shade. Hotel Oasis is located here.
To find a white sandy beach hire a boat to take you over to Isla Coronado.
Many of the resorts in Loreto have their own beaches as well.
Where to Eat in Loreto
There is no shortage of places to eat in Loreto. Most are Mexican restaurants but you can also find Nicaraguan, Italian, and of course plenty of seafood options. I did not have a bad meal at any of the restaurants in Loreto.
One thing that was a bit disheartening actually was I didn’t get a chance to try all of the restaurants on my list. Since I was there during COVID and New Years day many places were closed or incredibly busy and couldn’t seat me. That being said, I’m grateful I was able to eat where I did!
I ended up at Orlando’s on my first night in town after not being able to get a table at the only craft brewery in town, El Zopilote. Orlando’s was also filled with reservations, but they let me sit at the bar – another perk of being a solo traveler.
Much to my surprise and delight a rock band was setting up and I had a front row seat. I sipped my delicious margarita as an older expat chatted me up. For dinner I got the special which was fresh caught sea bass stuffed with crab.
Honestly, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in Mexico. As the night and margaritas progressed people started dancing and I met a couple from Canada road tripping Baja on their motorcycles.
The service was outstanding, the music amazing, and the vibe exactly what you want for a chilled out, but fun, time in Mexico
To be honest, I tried not to eat at Claudia’s. It’s located right on the main square and while definitely cute, it gave off a very touristy vibe.
However, by the end of the trip, I’d eaten there twice! The first time I stopped in for a drink and a snack while anxiously refreshing my email for my COVID results.
I’d just gone on a very long walk around town and was hungry and thirsty. Claudia’s was the first thing I saw so I went for it.
The margarita was pretty decent and I ordered the nachos appetizer which I thought would be a decent snack before dinner. When it came out, I was shook at the size of the plate! A huge pile of chips, guacamole, steak, and salsa stared me down. I was proud that I finished most of it and enjoyed a lovely nap afterward. .
The second time I ate there was the following day, New Years Day. Claudia’s was legit the ONLY PLACE OPEN.
I got there early enough that I was able to snag a seat – another pro of being solo is they didn’t mind one more person. But I watched them turn away large groups of people. I was warned that there would be a long wait for my food and I said as long as I can have a drink while I wait I’m good.
I was in the killing time phase of my trip where I had to check out of my Airbnb but my flight wasn’t for 5 hours, so I was in no hurry.
I ordered the chilaquiles with green sauce at the suggestion of the waiter and a fruit plate. It was so good!
I’m so glad I gave Claudia’s a chance, because while the prices are a bit higher than other spots in town, the food was damn good! Plus I’m grateful they were open on the holiday!
Asadero Super Burro
Asadero Super Burro might not be a place that you know about just by walking around town as it’s down a nondescript side street off of Avenida Miguel Hidalgo. You’ll find an unassuming restaurant front with a crowd of people waiting to get seated or get their food to go, which is an option here as well.
Coming from California, when I think about a super burrito, it comes with rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, etc inside of the burrito. Not here, the Super Burro is simply a large tortilla with meat and cheese. Due to its simplicity you can really taste the fantastic flavoring of the steak. It also comes with a variety of sauces to add to the top of it ranging from very mild to very, very spicy.
The service was quick and friendly.
Want breakfast with a view? Head to Loreto Islas. Located on the Malecon you’ll have a great view of the Sea of Cortez while you enjoy your huevos rancheros. Which is exactly what I recommend you order. I will say, the service was not the friendliest, but they were nice enough. And the delicious food with a gorgeous view really makes it worth stopping in.
Zapata is located on the cobblestone pedestrian path leading to Loreto’s town center. It was right around the corner from my Airbnb so on New Years Eve I stopped in for a drink.
I loved the cute swings outside, the live music, and the team of female bartenders that showed me that the Mezcalito may be better than a Margarita. I sampled their traditional Mezcalito and a fancier version from their menu and both were slightly smoky, but that tajin rim. Chef’s kiss perfection!
While there I got a bit hungry so I ordered the fish tacos. Again, I was not disappointed at all. The simplicity of the lightly battered fresh fish with just one mild (I don’t do salsa) was quite lovely.
To be honest, this Mi Loreto wasn’t my favorite meal in Loreto. But I do think that I ordered incorrectly as other table’s food looked way better than mine! This colorful restaurant has an extensive menu of authentic Mexican dishes. I ordered the three enchiladas with red, mole, and green sauce. Again, it was good, it just wasn’t my favorite meal.
Thrifty Ice Cream
Sometimes, you just want an ice cream cone while you stroll the city. Thrifty Ice Cream is perfectly located for that. They carry your typical ice cream flavors and seem to be open late! Stop in for a scoop!
La Michoacana Ice Cream
This friendly ice cream shop is a MUST visit in Loreto. In addition to their seemingly endless flavors of ice cream, La Michoacana is known for their ice cream popsicles.
They come in a wide variety of unique flavors and are absolutely beautiful to look at. I opted for my typical craving of chocolate with nuts. Which while a bit boring compared to their other flavor combinations, was still damn good.
Coffee Shops in Loreto
There are a good number of coffee shops and cafes in Loreto. As you know, I’m a huge matcha latte fan and while all of the coffee shops had matcha on the menu, only one actually had it. So let’s start there.
La Route is a bike friendly cafe located in Loreto’s town center. In this small shop you could theoretically buy a bike with your coffee. I’d stopped by this cafe a few times during my stay as they open early and stay open late. After ordering chai lattes during each visit, on my final morning I realized they had a tub of green powder behind the counter. Sure enough, they could make me a matcha latte.
I wished I’d noticed it sooner because damn that matcha really hit the spot after 4 days of not having one!
Besides that, they’re incredibly friendly. The owner noticed my suitcase and let me store it inside for a few hours while I relaxed outside. Highly recommend stopping in here!
Cafe Ole is a small little cafe right next to a restaurant of the same name. The first day I passed by, the inside was brimming with people and all of their outdoor tables were full. I also noticed this one great window that would make an excellent reading or working nook.
After spending the morning snorkeling, I spent a few hours here working in that window while people watching and sipping on a delicious chai tea latte.
Each time I stopped in, the service was incredibly friendly and the chai each time was high quality!
Sea Coffee Cafe
Located just one block away from the main square, this big coffee shop has a much more local vibe. You can sit out on their patio to people watch or relax in one of their comfortable chairs inside.
I opted for a hot chocolate here and it was really nice! I definitely recommend trying it out.
Where to Stay in Loreto
Loreto offers a variety of accommodation options, from budget friendly hostels to high end resorts. Below is where I recommend starting your search for a place to stay in Loreto.
Hotels in Downtown Loreto
If you want to stay in downtown Loreto, there are multiple hotel options for a variety of budgets.
Hotel Posada de Las Flores
Hotel Posada de Las Flores was a top 5 contender for me as it’s right in the town center. One day I walked in and the ambiance inside is lovely. It is expertly decorated and there is an Instagram worthy spiral staircase. Additionally, there is a rooftop pool and breakfast included daily.
Posada del Cortes
I stumbled upon Posada del Cortes during one of my walks through town. It’s located a brief 3 minute walk from the town center and from the outside it looks like a boutique hotel experience. The reviews online are great as well!
Hotel 1697 is another hotel I considered staying at while doing my research. It’s in a great location in the town center, right next to El Zopilote Brewery, it’s rooms look charming, and there’s a pool in the courtyard.
Resorts in Loreto
There are a number of resorts in neighboring towns to Loreto such as Nopolo and Escondido. These resorts typically have everything you need – from pools, to beaches, to golf courses, and on site restaurants.
I actually stopped in Loreto Bay Resort to pick up the rest of our hiking group and it’s very cute – like Instagram cute. But it definitely did appear designed for that purpose. The people that I met the next day on the snorkeling tour were also staying there and the wife said “you know, it’s just a lot of Americans there”.
I think it all depends on what kind of trip you’re looking for! As the resorts are really a one stop shop and you wouldn’t need to venture into town if you didn’t want to.
Besides Loreto Bay, consider Villa del Palmar which is a bit further south in Escondido.
Airbnb in Loreto
I ended up staying in an Airbnb in Loreto called Studio Tabor. It was on a quiet cobblestone street one block away from the main street in Loreto. Just across the street is a COVID testing lab, which was super convenient as well. There is also another set of Airbnbs called Studio 80 that look super cute and are located just around the corner from Zapata.
Looking for more Mexico travel tips? Check out these posts:
Your Guide to Isla Holbox (one of my favorite places in Mexico)
Why Tulum is Overrated (my least favorite place in Mexico)