Known for being an expat haven, the historic town of Loreto in Baja California Sur is far from a sleepy retirement city. In fact, this Pueblo Magico has quickly become one of our favorite cities in all of Mexico with no shortage of amazing things to do in Loreto, Mexico.
Loreto shares its shores along the Gulf of California with a National Park with its 5 islands being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also the only pueblo magico in all of Mexico with an international airport. Which makes getting to and from Loreto a breeze.
Add in its amazing natural beauty, unique outdoor activities, rich history, and delectable food and it’s easy to see why this charming city is a must-visit destination on a trip to Baja Mexico. If you’re planning a trip here, these are the 10 best things to do in Loreto, Mexico.
1. Go on a walking history tour
Loreto is the oldest pueblo in Baja California. This area was inhabited by the Cochimí people for thousands of years and later by Jesuit missionaries. Serving as the first capital of the Californias from 1697 to 1777, this city may be small but has so much fascinating history to discover.
Its historic mission in the center of town was the first mission in all of Baja California. And Loreto is where the Camino Real, a long road that connected the dozens of missions all the way north to Sonoma California, begins.
On our second trip to Loreto, we took a walking history tour with Loreto Baja Tours. It was a three-hour tour that cost just $20 and gave us so much interesting facts about Loreto and the Baja peninsula.
We absolutely loved the tour and feel it should be the first thing everyone does when visiting the city. Plus at the end of the tour, our guide Carlos made us the most incredible margaritas and mojitos. Seriously, he could open a bar they were so good!
2. Take a boat tour of the National Park
Loreto National Park consists of five islands:
These now deserted islands were offer visitors a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the wildlife of the area, go for a hike, or relax on a pristine beach. Since this area was built from volcanic activity, much of the beaches in Loreto are black sand. The water color also has a darker tone to it.
But on the islands, the water depth is shallow and the sand is white creating the most beautiful beaches.
You can take a boat tour to these islands (Coronado is the most popular one to visit). Or if preferred a kayak trip to one of the closer islands. Either way, taking a boat tour of the islands is one of the top things to do in Loreto, Mexico.
3. Enjoy the diverse sea life
The Gulf of California is one of the most biodiverse bodies of water in the entire world. It’s home to hundreds, if not thousands of different bird and marine species. It’s rich and warm waters also make it a fabulous area for migratory birds and animals like whales, sea turtles, and sea lions.
A popular activity during whale season (January through April) is to go on a whale watching tour. Grey whales are the most common whale found in Loreto, but you can also see blue whales, humpback whales and Orcas. You can also get up close to the sea life here by taking a kayak tour.
We camped on a beach about 30 minutes south of Loreto on our road trip north and were greeted by pods of dolphins every morning. One day, we saw a pod of at least 100 to 200 dolphins swimming by. It’s deep waters make it perfect for feeding. Sharks are also super common here, so don’t be surprised if you see some as you’re exploring.
4. Go on a charter sport fishing tour
It’s abundant sea life and deep waters make Loreto a sport fishing paradise. By far one of the most popular things to do in Loreto, Mexico is take a chartered fishing tour. Dorado, rooster fish, wahoo, sail fish, yellow fin tuna, amberjack, marlin, and groper are just a few of the common fish to catch off the shores of Loreto.
Many of the tour guides will help you clean and prepare your fish for a lovely ceviche, sashimi, or other delictable lunch or dinner.
5. Enjoy a walk on the Malecon
Loreto is a super walkable city. One of the best areas for a stroll is down its mile-long Malecon (paved promenade) along the waterfront. The Malecon takes you from Playa Negrita (black sand beach and public beach access) to the end of downtown (where you’ll find another public beach Playa Oasis).
It has lovely benches along the way and several restaurants and bars to stop at if you get hungry or thirsty. It’s also where you’ll find the colorful sign of Loreto, a popular icon for the towns of Mexico and good photo opportunity.
Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife. We camped along the Malecon in our RV one evening and woke up to a pod of dolphins swimming just off shore!
6. Eat super tasty food
We ate so much amazing food during our trip to Loreto. We have a complete list of our favorite restaurants in Loreto to try. But a few note-worthy restaurants to mention here are:
El Michoacan Paletas – El Michoacan paletas can be found all across Baja, but this spot is the most famous. Something about their paletas (popsicles) just tastes different. They have nearly 100 different popsicle flavors to choose from.
Orlando’s Restaurant – This is one of the best places in Loreto, Mexico for breakfast. Orlando’s open-air patio serves traditional Mexican dishes like enfrijoladas, chilaquiles, and omelets. But what makes them different is their poblano sauce which is packed with flavor.
Mi Pequeña Poblanita – This was our favorite restaurant in all of Loreto. This unassuming restaurant under a palapa could easily be missed by tourists. But is a local go-to restaurant for Puebloan cuisine. Must-order items include enmoladas and chilaquiles.
7. Visit San Javier Mission
The San Javier Mission was founded in 1699, two years after Loreto Mission was completed. This mission was one of the few to succeed thanks to a reliable supply of fresh water from a nearby spring, which allowed the Spaniards to cultivate food.
After the Spanish fled Mexico in 1768, the mission was abandoned until the Mexican government restored it. Today, visitors can enjoy the stunning baroque architecture, beautiful frescoes, and a 300-year-old olive tree that stands near the Spanish-built aqueduct and natural spring. It’s a must-see destination for history enthusiasts.
Just be warned, the road out to the mission is about an hour long and goes through several water passings from freshwater springs. We took our motorcycle out there and crashed our bike in a water passing.
8. See historic cave paintings
There are several places throughout Baja California and Baja California Sur where you can see pictographs or petroglyphs left from the peninsulas first inhabitants. A few of which are within a few hour trek from Loreto.
There are several places to experience cave paintings near Loreto, including this tour. But some popular ones are La Pinguica, Santo Domingo near San Javier mission, San Borjita (Sierra de San Francisco) and Sierra de Guadalupe.
The cave paintings in the Sierra Madre Mountains were painted an estimated 7,000 years ago. No one knows exactly who these people were, but they were documented as being here by the Cochimí people.
9. Spend time on the water (or beach)
If you aren’t taking a boat tour or going kayaking, make some time to relax on one of Loreto’s three beaches. Playa Negrita is a black sand beach with a few palapas to rest in the shade under. It’s right next to the Marina and is a popular spot for locals.
The beach at the end of the Malecon, Playa Oasis, is a long open beach that juts out into a peninsula. This area doesn’t have palapas, but is a lovely spot for a walk or to let your dog(s) run free if you’re traveling with pets.
Playa Darsena is in the center of the malecon and is less of a beach more of a rocky area. Personally, these aren’t our favorite beaches in the area (the sand color really makes a difference) but they are easy to access and a great place to spend the day with the locals.
10. Take a cooking class
On our walking history tour we stopped at Restaurante Canipole which offers different cooking classes. The space is so charming, it feels like you’ve stepped into someone’s home. We were able to make our own blue flour corn tortillas and try their homemade molé that was made in a cooking class the day prior.
The molé was absolutely incredible (truly one of the best we’ve had). They have a pre-set menu they make that doesn’t include the more labor intensive molé. Either way, their classes are sure to leave your heart and stomach full.
As you can see there is no shortage of amazing things to do in Loreto, Mexico. No matter what you enjoy doing there is something for everyone here. If you visit Loreto Baja California Sur, let us know the top things you enjoyed doing in the comments below.