On a dramatic stretch of the Sea of Cortez in Baja California Sur, the small oceanfront town of Loreto is the ultimate paradox among beach towns in Mexico.
On one hand, Loreto is known as the ultimate haven for adventurers looking for thrills like world-class whale watching, diving, and off-roading. On the other, the hidden beaches on its off-shore islands, yoga retreats, and affordable seafood spots make it the ultimate relaxation destination. Whatever your definition of wellness is, you’ll find it in Loreto.
Ready to escape to beloved Baja California Sur with a stay in Loreto? Read on for local tips and our personal favorites in Loreto, with everything from the best things to do in Loreto to where to stay and places to eat in Loreto for the ultimate stay in Loreto.
This post contains affiliate links that may reward me monetarily or otherwise when you use them to make qualifying purchases – at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, please read our disclosure policy.
Located on the eastern shore of the Baja California peninsula, Loreto is a small city about four hours north of La Paz. This beach town is wedged between arid desert mountains and the stunning islands of Loreto that rise dramatically from the sea, painting a magical landscape with views everywhere you look.
Easily walkable and packed with great places to eat, from ultra-fresh seafood to cheap taco stands with all local favorites, Loreto is a refreshingly affordable paradise for those looking to feel like they’ve escaped. Loreto is yet to be overrun and is still unchanged by tourism, with nary a major international chain when it comes to both food and accommodations.
In many ways, Loreto feels like the Baja California Sur of the past, before Los Cabos-weary travelers started heading north up the peninsula in search of calmer shores. Spend days walking the malecón oceanfront promenade, admiring the islands of Loreto in the distance.
The islands hold some of Loreto’s best treasures, offering the perfect conditions for a non-stop vacation of diving, whale-watching, and swimming. Afterward, enjoy Loreto’s own locally grown wellness scene, surprisingly diverse and rich with ways to unwind. You’ll find it’s the perfect place for rest and relaxation in Baja.
Why Visit Loreto Mexico?
Of all the places to visit in the varied and beautiful region of Baja California Sur, why little Loreto?
While there are endless things to see and do in Loreto that add to its appeal, Loreto’s biggest draw is its undeniably laid-back beach town feel. There’s no presumption here and no packed beach resorts or chain restaurants to take away from its effortlessly easy feel. Loreto is the same as it’s always been, which is a perfectly refreshing change of tune from other overbuilt and overcrowded spots on Mexico’s coast.
Is Loreto Mexico Safe?
Loreto, Mexico is quite safe, and as you explore the town, you’ll feel remarkably safe wherever you find yourself. There are plenty of statistics to back up that Loreto is among the safest places to visit in Mexico.
As a solo female traveler, I felt completely safe exploring Loreto on my own, even walking on well-light streets at night by myself (though that’s perhaps not the best recommendation, no matter where you’re traveling). It’s a destination I’d highly recommend to any female traveler.
Things To Do in Loreto
Even travelers with an idea of everything there is to do in Loreto will be pleasantly surprised by just how much Loreto has to offer. It makes it a worthwhile spot to base yourself in Baja California even for up to a week without getting bored.
These are some of the best things to do in Loreto, just a sampling of all the very best things that the town offers.
1. Go Whale Watching
Baja California Sur is a world-class whale-watching destination, with multiple species of whales migrating to the Sea of Cortez every year. Whale watching season starts in December, but travel to Loreto from mid-January through March to enjoy the height of the whale watching season and for the best chances to enjoy the experience. Whale watching is by far one of the best reasons for visiting Loreto.
2. Take a Diving Expedition
Experienced underwater adventurers know that Baja California Sur is legendary for its diving, and Loreto is no exception. While Cabo Pulmo further south on the peninsula is well known for allowing divers to swim with rays, sea lions, dolphins, and more, Loreto offers impressive animal encounters of its own, plus a unique mix of reefs, walls, caves, and more.
Loreto’s best dive sites are sprinkled around the islands of Loreto, ranging from dramatic caverns to wall dives along Danzante Island and more.
Blue Nation Baja is a leader in diving in Baja and is based in Loreto, while Loreto Sea and Land Tours is another popular option – make sure to book in advance for experiences, especially between July and December when conditions are usually the best.
3. Sail to the Islands of Loreto
You can’t say that you’ve visited Loreto without sailing out to its stunning islands. Punching through the blue waters just offshore, the five islands of Loreto, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation of the Gulf of California, hide beautiful beaches, incredible dive sites, havens for wildlife, and much more.
Enjoying a full day of sailing among the islands of Loreto, with stops for snorkeling and private meals on hidden white sand beaches, is by far one of the most memorable ways to experience Loreto. Sailing excursions to Coronado island, known for having some of the clearest waters in the area, are quite popular, though you can also find sailing excursions from Loreto to multiple islands, including stunning Danzante Island with its beautiful Honeymoon beach.
Alternatively, book a multi-day vacation aboard a ship for a memorable experience spent exploring every inch of the islands, anchoring at peaceful bays every evening.
Reviews and Bookings: Sailing Excursion to Coronado Island with Beach Picnic + Snorkeling
4. Enjoy a Wellness Retreat
Surprisingly affordable spa services are just the start when considering Loreto’s growing profile as a destination for a wellness-focused getaway. Start your wellness retreat in Loreto at Spa Las Flores in the town’s central square or at their alternative location in the Loreto Bay community near the new Cordelia Resort & Spa.
From there, the options are endless – and affordable. Yoga classes and even SUP (paddleboard) yoga are popular activities, with Palmas Altas Retreat offering some of the best spaces and masters in town to guide the experience. Frequent day-long retreats as well as a la carte experiences like yoga classes, meditation sessions, and on-site glamping tents mean there’s something for every type of traveler.
Go even deeper by connecting with local practitioners who provide additional experiences like cacao ceremonies and other experiences, connecting with local traditions rooted in ancient practice for an experience unique to Baja.
5. Go Off-Roading
Baja California Sur is known for hosting the famed Baja 1000 race every year, among the most prestigious off-roading events in the world, with intrepid speed demons crossing the desert from La Paz to Ensenada.
Feeling the thrill of watching the race in person is one thing, but even if you’re not getting in on the race, there are plenty of ways to enjoy off-roading among the arid hills and through the oases that are sprinkled near Loreto. Taking an off-roading ATV tour around Loreto will even allow you to tackle some of the official race course. It’s one of the best ways to see the countryside and enjoy dramatic ocean views as you explore.
If off-roading seems just a bit too adventurous for you, there are other ways to get out into the countryside – like horseback riding or endless hiking opportunities through the hillsides. Here are some activities we’d recommend:
Where To Stay in Loreto
There are a wide variety of accommodations to choose from in Loreto, ranging from basic hostels to more upscale boutique accommodations. There are no oversized beach resorts here aside from the luxe Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto, which is about 40 minutes outside of downtown Loreto.
Loreto is all the better for not being overrun with resorts, preserving the laidback vibe that makes it so easy to fall in love with Loreto. These are the places to stay in Loreto that are worth considering for your visit:
Located on the widest and most impressive beach in downtown Loreto, Hotel Oasis has long been the place to be in Loreto, with many guests coming back year after year for decades. Rooms are basic but comfortable, with the biggest draw being the expansive patio out front, slung with hammocks and mere inches away from the sand.
The beach barbeque buffet every Saturday at Hotel Oasis is incredibly popular, including freshly roasted local chocolate clams cooked in a traditional way: underneath the beach sands. Show up early (5:00 PM sharp!) to watch the clams cook and take in the sunset with a drink in hand. It’s a culinary experience even those who aren’t staying here won’t want to miss.
Reviews and Bookings: Hotel Oasis
Don’t think about traveling without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, at home or abroad.
Posada de las Flores
Located in the heart of Loreto’s central square, Posada de las Flores is just a few decades old though with its charm it feels like it’s been around forever. Simple but comfortable rooms are packed with character, from handmade tiles in the bathrooms to antique furnishing throughout. The hotel’s restaurant, facing the heart of the plaza, serves some of the best food in town.
Just three blocks from the malecón oceanfront promenade along a tranquil pedestrian-only stretch, Posada de las Flores is easily walkable to everything in town. Its location means that it can get a bit loud, especially on weekends when the town square is the place to be, and church bells end late at night and start early in the morning. If you’re a light sleeper, come prepared with earplugs.
Reviews and Bookings: Posada de las Flores
Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto
The one true beach resort in Loreto is Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto, located about 40 minutes south of town along a dramatic stretch of coastline at Playa Ensenada Blanca. If you’re looking for nothing but rest and relaxation, with all the amenities you could ever want from a beach vacation, this is surely the place to be.
The resort features an impressive 18-hole golf course, the award-winning Sabila Spa featuring over 75 unique treatments, and plenty of space to spread out, with five pools and four restaurants to choose from. The resort offers both room-only bookings and all-inclusive plans.
While the resort is removed from town, its beachfront location at the foothills of the dramatic mountainous Baja desert makes it a great spot for adventurous activities. Everything from diving and snorkeling to kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing excursions, and guided hikes can be arranged by the hotel for guests.
Reviews and Bookings: Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto
Best Places to Eat in Loreto
From super-simply taco stands to more upscale dining options, Loreto has a surprisingly impressive array of places to eat. These are the ones we kept coming back to and the ones we didn’t stop hearing about from the locals we met along the way:
If there’s any restaurant you’ll want to return to day after day during your stay Loreto, it’s Orlando’s. Just two blocks away from Loreto’s central square, serves up generous portions of Mexican classics. Affordable prices and a lovely vibe in the outdoor dining room just add to the experience, making it an easy favorite in town. I would have come back again and again if I could have.
Breakfast at Orlando’s is quite popular here, with giant servings of chilaquiles and enfrijoladas being a highlight of the menu. Whether you visit for brunch or any other time of day, you’ll always find it busy and buzzing with locals and visitors alike.
Few places in seafood-obsessed Loreto do the classics as well as Baja Mar. What started as a popular local food truck has graduated to a permanent location along the malecón, serving up everything from aguachile and sashimi to ceviche and the freshest of catches.
A basic interior lets the food shine, though most will want to sit on the patio, with its oceanfront views along the malecón oceanfront promenade. Make sure to order a michelada with your meal; they’re as over-the-top as they come.
The restaurant at Hotel Oasis shines any day of the week, but the Saturday evening beach barbeque buffet is the real reason to visit. Show up at 5:00 PM to see how the chef cooks Loreto’s famous chocolate clams in a traditional style, beneath a raging fire and underneath the sands of the beach.
Offering everything from freshly grilled seafood to barbeque ribs and chicken bursting with flavor and with oceanfront seating, it’s a meal you’ll dream of long after it’s over.
If you’re skeptical that a cafe in the heart of Loreto’s central plaza could be worth a visit, don’t be – Cafe Olé has long been a favorite. You’ll see locals lining up for coffee as soon as the cafe opens, with patrons spilling out into the cafe’s patio to enjoy meals from morning to evening. Reasonable prices and generous portions make Cafe Olé a universal favorite.
Getting to Loreto
Loreto’s international airport, located just ten minutes outside of town, makes it easier than ever to get to Loreto, whether you’re traveling from another corner of Mexico or from abroad. No need to drive 4+ hours from La Paz or even further; check out flights directly to Loreto to avoid the long distances between other cities in Baja California Sur.
Loreto International Airport currently receives one daily flight by American Airlines from Phoneix; American Airlines also connects Loreto and Dallas. Alaska Airlines connects Loreto with cities in California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.
La Paz to Loreto
The nearest large city to Loreto is La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. The drive between La Paz and Loreto takes about four hours, making it too long for a day trip but totally doable if you’re planning to stick around in Loreto for a few days.
Buses connect Loreto and La Paz but take longer than driving in a private car: the bus ride is about six hours, and tickets cost anywhere from $30-50. Several bus companies operate the route, and the buses are comfortable and air-conditioned.
Alternatively, renting a car and driving yourself makes for a much more comfortable journey, as does scheduling a taxi or driver.
Los Cabos to Loreto
If you’re flying into Baja California Sur via the airport in Los Cabos, the journey to Loreto will be longer, just over six hours if traveling by car. It’s a distance that makes it worth considering looking into connecting flights directly into Loreto.
The journey is longer by bus; the Aguila bus line makes the trip from Los Cabos to Loreto in about 9 hours, with tickets costing around $80 USD for the ride.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.