Loreto, Mexico, is a charming 17th-century town on the Sea of Cortez. Enjoy fresh Mexican flavors on land and take to the waters to see dolphins in the Bahía de Loreto National Park.
Loreto is one of Mexico's magical little towns. Travelers can visit beautiful historic missions, stroll through the town shops, play in the warm water, indulge in therapeutic massages, and dine on an eclectic array of delicious cuisines while sipping ice-cold margaritas. Flights to Loreto are less than two hours from Los Angeles, California, and just over three hours from Dallas, Texas, making a trip to Loreto, Mexico, an ideal escape.
Loreto, Mexico—a Quiet Oasis in Baja California Sur
I recently visited Loreto, Mexico with a couple of other travel writers. It was my first time, and I was impressed with the lack of “tourism.” I have been to Cabo and many other places in Baja California Sur, Mexico, but Loreto offered all the essential amenities without all the crowds.
Loreto sits on the Sea of Cortez (often called the Gulf of California by those in the US) in the southern half of the Baja Peninsula, about 300 miles north of Cabo. The weather is ideal for outdoor activities, and the turquoise waters of the Gulf will beckon you to fish, surf, boat, dive, and paddleboard. Loreto is rich in history. It was the first settlement in Baja California Sur and the original capital of the Californias (Mexico and the US).
The state boasts breathtaking scenery with rugged desert terrain, deep canyons, and the occasional welcoming oasis. Loreto is a fabulous place in Mexico to wander the shops, hike the hillsides, play in the water, watch the local wildlife, and chill in this low-key paradise.
Hotel Posada de las Flores in Loreto, Mexico
My home base was Hotel Posada de las Flores. It is only ten minutes from the airport. The hotel, located in a colonial-style building next to the plaza, is a three-minute walk under the arched trees to city-center shops and numerous tasty restaurants. It's also a quick seven-minute walk to the waterfront.
The hotel staff was friendly and accommodating, and the rooms were well-appointed and decorated with a traditional Mexican flare. The showers boasted colorful tiles, and the mellow orange walls beautifully complemented the yellow and brown furnishings and decorative accents. Every room has air conditioning and Wi-Fi.
The outside hallways featured chairs and inviting tile tables to sit amongst colorful climbing flowers that covered the railings.
The hotel lobby boasted comfy couches and a stunning fountain. Each day the staff decorated the fountain with bright pink flowers. After checking in, I dropped off my bags and headed to Claudia's Restaurante to meet the others in my group for drinks and snacks.
For my first dining experience in Loreto, Mexico, I ordered a cool and refreshing mango-pineapple margarita. We all shared steak nachos, ceviche, guacamole, and clams with tomato and cheese. The food was tasty, and I quickly learned that all drinks in this region come with tajín, a seasoning mix of chili powder, salt, and dehydrated lime. A little is nice, but a full rim was too much for me. From then on, I ordered my drinks with no tajín. After our snacks, some in the group went to rest; I went upstairs to check out the rooftop pool and lounge.
The Pool at Hotel Posada de las Flores in Loreto, Mexico
The rooftop pool is a great way to cool off on a hot Loreto day. You can stand under the “pipe” fountain and get the shower effect, swim in the pristine water, or relax by sitting on the edge and getting your feet wet. The pool has a glass bottom. You can't see much when you are in the pool, but guests in the lobby can look up and see the swimmers.
The covered lounge area is comfortable, and next year the hotel plans to upgrade the rooftop furniture and add a snack bar.
Dinner at Mezzaluna Restaurante in Downtown Loreto
Mezzaluna, a local Italian restaurant well-liked by the locals and visitors, was only a short walk from the hotel. I began with a cantarito, a drink that typically includes fresh grapefruit and soda. Most places have their own recipe, and Mezzaluna's contained tequila, Squirt (grapefruit soda), fresh orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime. It was cold, sweet-tart, and refreshing.
Each day the chef at Mezzaluna makes a few empanada specials. I had to try one, so I chose the beef steak with olives and raisins. It was excellent. Then I ordered the gnocchi ala diavola with sauteed shrimp in a creamy, spicy sauce with tomatoes, bacon, onion, garlic, capers, black olives, and chili. The gnocchi was light and fluffy, and the sauce was delicious. The walk back to the hotel was quick, and I was ready for a good night's sleep.
A Walk on the Malecón in Loreto, Mexico
It was a glorious and quiet morning. I got up early to watch the sunrise at the Malecón, the stone-built embankment, or esplanade, along the waterfront. The sun rose over the horizon, seagulls and pelicans floated on the water, fishing boats came and left the harbor, the streetlights dimmed as the sky brightened, and a few cyclists and joggers waved as they passed by.
I returned to the hotel and ate a light continental breakfast of fruit, sweet cake, and coffee. Our group met Ivette Granados, our Loreto representative, and a local guide for a quick tour of Loreto history and a walk through the local mission. After the informative walk, Victor, our van driver, took us to the marina, where our luxury catamaran awaited us.
A Day on the Bel Gato
The Bel Gato is a gorgeous catamaran with a professional and personable crew. We stepped on board and wanted for nothing the remainder of the day. The staff instinctively knew what each passenger needed or wanted before being asked. Francisco, Oscar, and Jorge quickly learned each guest's cocktail preference profile and kept the libations coming at a well-balanced pace.
The food on Bel Gato was fresh, plentiful, and tasty. The seafood-forward lunch included bass ceviche, a pickled-fish salad, and grilled sea bass stuffed with vegetables and ham. Everything was spectacular.
One of my favorite activities was jumping off the side of the catamaran to swim and snorkel. Ivette and Donna, a fellow travel writer, went for a paddle on the kayak, and we all took a spin in the zodiac. Donna asked to be captain, and she had a great time at the helm under the close supervision of the actual captain. The water in the Sea of Cortez was deep blue with stunning shades of teal.
Although we only saw one other boat on the water that day, three different pods of dolphins joined us. They were so playful as they swam and jumped in front of and alongside the catamaran. These fantastic mammals were a highlight of the day. We returned to the marina at about 6:00 pm and changed for dinner.
Dinner at Santo Cielo Restaurant
Ivette ordered queso fundido with chorizo and cooked clams for all of us to share. I ordered the flank steak; it was well seasoned and served with one of the sweetest and tastiest baked potatoes I have ever had.
We ate outside, and a guitarist sang and played while we dined. As the night sky darkened, the lights surrounding the church took on a gorgeous glow. Full and satisfied, we walked back to the Hotel Posada de las Flores.
SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) Yoga on the Sea of Cortez in Loreto
I love yoga, and there is no better way to start the day than with yoga on the water during sunrise. The instructor kept things simple and told us to do our “own practice.” I love it when they say that; it removes all the intimidation—no need to stand on the paddleboard unless you want.
The stretches and moves were not difficult, and our audience of more than 20 pelicans was amusing. After SUP yoga, we returned to the hotel for a light breakfast and got ready for our trip over the mountain.
A Trip to San Javier Mission
San Javier's Mission was the second mission built in Baja California Sur by the Jesuit priests. This mission was a popular place for many years, and every December 4th, San Javier's birthday, more than 10,000 people would pilgrimage to the mission. People built their homes and towns near oases in Baja California Sur.
The desert here is stark. Although the oases were magical, the harsh weather often dried up the streams, forcing residents to leave.
Lunch at Casa Mia in the Hotel Santa Fe in Loreto
After our trip to the mission, we stopped for a lovely lunch at Casa Mia at Hotel Santa Fe. Ivette selected a four-course lunch: vichyssoise (a delicious potato soup with leeks and croutons), a green salad with balsamic vinegar and beets, bass confit with a decadent cream sauce, fresh asparagus, mushrooms, and tasty ice cream with cinnamon apples, kiwi slices, and a bright red strawberry. Yum! After lunch, it was time for our spa treatments.
Spa las Flores, Spa & Boutique
Lulu, my masseuse, gave me an intense massage and a HydraFacial. Lulu used long, broad strokes to work out the knots in my muscles, and the HydraFacial felt terrific on my sunburned skin. A HydraFacial, sometimes called hydradermabrasion, involves microdermabrasion-like exfoliation paired with hydrating serums. The three-step process uses water and lotions to deep-clean, exfoliate, and hydrate the skin. After our treatments, we met in the lounge area for refreshing mojitos, then returned to the hotel to prepare for dinner.
Dinner and Beer at The Zopilote Brewing and Co.
Our final dinner in Loreto was at El Zopilote Brewing Company. Although I am not a beer fan, I enjoyed the tasting and later ordered a refreshing margarita with my dinner. Ivette ordered a delectable Margherita pizza with fresh tomatoes as an appetizer for the group. I dined on crispy, tender fish and chips with a scrumptious tartar sauce. We meandered back to the hotel to tuck in for the evening before flying home the next day.
Brunch at Los Olivos Restaurante La Misión Hotel Loreto
Los Olivos Restaurante puts on a phenomenal brunch. It features familiar eggs, bacon, potatoes, tea, coffee, etc., but the chef specializes in traditional Mexican fare. The pozole—a soup-like dish made with hominy and pork—was amazing. It was perfectly seasoned and included the typical condiments like cabbage, onions, chilis, and radishes. I have tried this dish in many different places in Mexico, but this version wins first prize in my mind. Everyone in our group tried it and returned for seconds or thirds. After another magnificent meal, it was time to leave Loreto and fly home.
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Visit Loreto, Mexico—a Revitalizing Oasis in Baja California Sur
Mexico is one of my favorite places to visit, and Loreto is just a quick flight or two from many places in the US. This less-trafficked oasis is the perfect place for a long weekend or a more substantial vacation. Stop at La Michoacána for a fruit or ice cream bar before leaving Loreto; they are spectacular!
Bring the family and friends, or make the trek alone for some R&R. Whether your next trip is to Baja California Sur, elsewhere in Mexico, or some other beach destination, let Wander with Wonder help you plan the perfect getaway.