Magic awaits in Mexico. So much so, the country has designated over 121 cities as Pueblos Magicos, magical cities, due to their unique characteristics. On the list: Loreto in Baja California Sur. Reaching this sweet coastal village from Los Angeles takes a mere two-hour flight via Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Alaska Airlines. What awaits upon arrival: turquoise waters with sea caverns and lava cliffs teem with coral forests, archeological sites where prehistoric cave paintings wait to be discovered… But mostly, magic.
Loreto, considered the first Spanish Mission of all of California, dazzles from every direction with views of the Sea of Cortez and the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range. Embodying the charm of Loreto are family-owned, boutique hotels within easy walking from the Malecón beachfront promenade, historic sites like Our Lady of Loreto Mission, and many shops, bars, restaurants, and cafes.
As for those restaurants and cafes, they speak to Loreto’s gastronomy scene with menu items like alamejas chocolatas, a Loreto delicacy; these chocolate clams are prepared using a pre-Hispanic method of cooking. Other culinary must-try dishes are Loreto’s fresh ceviches and Mexican fare.
Swim with the Fishes, Scale the Mountains
The Sea of Cortez’s azure waters irresistibly lure: dive right in. Allot time on itineraries for snorkeling, SCUBA diving, kayaking, paddle boarding, and sailing. Intrigued by marine life encountered, check out a whale watching cruise (a third of the world’s cetaceans reside here), and visit the Bay of Loreto National Marine Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Prepare to explore all the magic the Sea of Cortez has to offer.
Jacques Cousteau referred to the Gulf of California as “the world’s aquarium.” A destination that epitomizes this is the Bay of Loreto National Marine Park. Here, be on the lookout for butterflyfish, barracudas, sea turtles, angelfish… Don’t be surprised to spy dolphins, whales, mobula rays, and sea lions. The Bay of Loreto National Marine Park is also an excellent jumping-off point for visiting the five nearby islands of Coronados, Carmen, Danzante, Monserrat, and Catalana.
Also beckoning for some fun are the Sierra de la Giganta mountains. Activities to undertake include hiking, mountain biking, and ATV rides. Indeed, hidden canyons, towering cliffs, and giant boulders abound. Trek beyond roads with vehicle access, and it’s possible to happen upon palm oases.
Where Adventure and History Meet
Telling the stories of the people who lived in Baja California Sur from c. 100 B.C. to A.D. 1300 are cave paintings, rock art, and “Great Murals.” The UNESCO World Heritage Convention declared the 400 sites at La Sierra de San Francisco “one of the most outstanding concentrations of prehistoric art in the world.” Accessing these ancient art forms will require a guide. Uncovering this part of Mexico’s history up close is unforgettable.
An iconic landmark seen in Loreto is Mission De Nuestra Senora De Loreto Concho, or Our Lady of Loreto Mission. When Jesuit missionaries landed in Loreto in 1697, they began building the stone church, which was completed in 1744. It ceased operating as a mission in 1829, but served as a home base for other nearby missions.
The Sea of Cortez, Sierra de la Giganta, ancient cave paintings… All these elements and more come together creating the magic that’s Loreto.