Loreto was the first capital of the Californias. Despite several earlier attempts, including those of Hernan Cortés himself, Loreto was the first permanent Spanish settlement established in the Californias It held the title of capital until 1777, by which time Spanish settlement had extended far into Alta California and administrative responsibility was switched to Monterey in what is now California, USA.
Loreto has a mission founded in the 17th century, plus a mission museum. Loreto was founded by Jesuits, and so Christian worship was established immediately, though the mission building itself wasn't completed until the mid 18th century. Next door to "Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó" is the museum, which traces the history of the colonisation of the Californias.
The Malecón. Walk from the mission, down Paseo Salvatierra and past the "Palacio Municipal" and you'll soon reach the seafront Malecón, a fine place for a leisurely stroll. A block south is the excellent Los Mandiles restaurant. At its northern end you'll find a small sandy beach and nearby the marina, the starting point for many a fishing trip or other aquatic activity. Opposite you will be Isla Carmen, the largest of the islands in the bay, and to the north east is Isla Coronados, the most popular to visit.
Loreto Bay is the largest marine reserve in Mexico. Just over 2000 square kilometres of the Sea of Cortés was declared a conservation area in 1996. Notable species include several types of whale and dolphin, sea lions and turtles. Activities for humans include fishing, diving, kayaking and boat tours of the bay.
The Sierra de la Giganta provides dramatic scenery to the west. Back on dry land, the Sierra de la Giganta forms the backbone of this part of the peninsula and contains its own historical attractions - 35km from Loreto San Javier has a moorish style mission which can easily be visited and nearby cave paintings. Whale watching trips to Bahía Magdalena (150 kms away on the Pacific coast) are also on offer.
You can spend two nights in Loreto with us as part of our Baja tour. Our Loreto layover includes a boat trip into the bay and plenty of free time to explore the rest of what this historical town has to offer. Click for itineraries, dates and prices.