With its shores studded with islands and deep blue waves hiding breathtaking wildlife, Loreto, Mexico, will surprise you. For such a small, laid-back beach town, there is an incredible array of ways to stay busy – or perfectly peaceful – in this one-of-a-kind Baja California Sur beach town.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Loreto on your trip, read on for the ultimate list! From the hidden beaches only locals know to activities like whale watching, (affordable!) spa weekends, and secret snorkeling trips, Loreto has it all.
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Why Visit Loreto, Mexico?
With so many beautiful destinations to choose from across both the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean sides of the Baja California Sur region, what about Loreto makes it worth adding to your itinerary? Its combination of adventurous things to do, laid-back beach town vibes, and wellness-focused activities make it a destination ideal for many types of travelers – or a uniquely varied destination that anyone can love.
Adventure sports like diving, snorkeling, hiking, and off-roading combine with world-class whale watching, rich historical destinations, and a budding wellness community in a way you’d never expect from such a small beach town. Honestly, it’s hard not to fall in love with Loreto.
How Many Days To Spend in Loreto
With three full days on the itinerary, visitors should be able to enjoy the very best things to do in Loreto without feeling too busy or overwhelmed with a packed schedule. However, travelers who really want to do it all could easily spend five days to a week in Loreto without getting bored.
Things To Do in Loreto, Mexico
1. Sail to the Islands of Loreto
The coastline of Loreto is made even more impressive by the stunning islands of Loreto that sit just offshore. These five islands are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation of the Gulf of California and hide beautiful beaches, incredible dive sites, and havens for wildlife; visiting is practically an obligatory part of a visit to Loreto.
Sailing excursions to Coronado Island, known for having some of the clearest waters in the area, are quite popular, though Danzante Island with its stunning Honeymoon Beach is another popular destination for visitors. Both small-group sailing excursions and private charters are available from Loreto and include gear for snorkeling and picnics on abandoned white sand shores.
Alternatively, book a multi-day vacation aboard a yacht 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
2. Watch The Baja 1000
November in Baja California is a particularly exciting season as the region welcomes the prestigious Baja 1000 off-road race, considered one of the most important races of its kind in the world. If you’re into fast cars, dramatic stunts, and incredible desert landscapes, this is a great time to visit Loreto, one of the primary stops on the 1,300-mile journey south to north up the peninsula to Ensenada.
No need to plan on avoiding Loreto during this time of year if you have no interest in the Baja 1000 – we visited in November just days before the race began and the town felt as laidback as ever, though the excitement in the air was certainly infectious!
3. Go Diving
Baja California Sur is legendary for its diving, offering up enough undersea riches to earn it praise as “the World’s Aquarium” by renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. While Cabo Pulmo, much closer to Los Cabos, seems to steal the shine of some of the peninsula’s smaller diving destinations, Loreto is no small fry – not by a long shot.
Loreto’s best dive sites are sprinkled around the islands of Loreto, ranging from dramatic caverns to wall dives along Danzante Island and more. The area is also a haven for encounters with larger marine life that are protected by the islands, meaning divers can expect to encounter rays, sea lions, dolphins, whales, and even whale sharks.
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.
4. Walk the Malecón
Stretching along the coastline throughout most of the town of Loreto, the Malecón oceanfront promenade is both one of the most important thoroughfares in town and the best place to take in the town’s beauty. Whether you start from Hotel Oasis at the southern end of the promenade or midway through where the pedestrian-only street from Plaza Civica opens up to the water, make sure to walk the whole Malecón as one of the best things to do in Loreto!
In the evening on the weekends, the Malecón can get a little lively, especially at the waterfront restaurants and bars that dot the avenue, though little Loreto never feels anything less than perfectly laid-back.
5. Go Whale Watching
Multiple species of whales migrate to the protected waters of the Sea of Cortez every year to give birth to their babies, making Loreto and the surrounding areas one of the most important and reliable whale-watching destinations in the Americas.
Whale-watching season officially starts in December, but plan to 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. Loreto offers a few whale-watching tour options with Loreto Sea and Land Tours and Loreto Blue Whales, both certified and well-respected tour companies that make this one of the best things to do in Loreto.
6. Visit Playa El Requesón
The long, luscious white sands in Mexico’s Caribbean region are impressive, yes, but some of the beaches in Baja California Sur are pure magic. Just an hour north of Loreto, Playa El Requesón – considered one of the best beaches in Mexico! – is one of those special beach destinations that make for the ultimate Baja beach day.
Playa El Requesón is located along the Bahía Concepción north of Loreto and is known for its dramatic arch of white sand connecting the mainland to an “island” in a unique dual-sided beachfront that looks like a whale’s tail from above.
Playa El Requeson’s bayfront location makes it less susceptible to waves and a perfect choice for families, though you’ll find all kinds of visitors here on a sunny day. Beach amenities include bathrooms and the occasional roaming vendors selling food.
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7. Relax at Palmas Altas Retreat
If you’re headed to Loreto for a little rest and relaxation, your first stop should be at Palmas Altas Retreat in the heart of downtown Loreto. Step through the unassuming doorway at the property to discover some of the best spaces in the area for all kinds of restorative experiences, ranging from group yoga classes and meditation sessions to next-level cacao ceremonies.
Palmas Altas Retreat also offers frequent day-long retreats; new glamping-esque tents on elevated platforms dot the back of the colorful property and point to even more ways to enjoy longer stays soon to come. On the weekend, the retreat center also has a cafe that sells fresh-baked bread and organic goodies.
8. Hit the Spa
Continue your wellness journey in Loreto with a trip to the spa; travelers are usually shocked to find just how affordable the high-quality spa services in Loreto can be. Create your own 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 classic massages and facials to more specialized experiences and even nail services, Spa Las Flores offers a surprising array of treatments and can often fit in last-minute bookings. Make sure to drop in early in your stay in Loreto – you’ll probably find yourself coming back a few times.
9. Go Sport Fishing
Loreto has long been a celebrated destination for sport fishing, with many avid fishermen traveling from far and wide to enjoy these ultra-rich waters. Peak fishing season is in the summer when migrating species of fish add tons of variety to the fishing experience, but Loreto is a year-round fishing destination, only adding to its popularity.
Year-round, fishermen can expect to catch snapper, sea bass, yellowtail, whitefish, amberjack, and more, while the summer season finds schools of wahoo, dorado, sailfish, roosterfish, and various species of marlins visiting these waters. Charters depart early in the morning from Loreto and include experienced guides and hearty food along the way.
Reviews and Bookings: Fishing Charter From Loreto
10. Go Off-Roading
The annual Baja 1000 isn’t the only time to enjoy off-roading in Baja California Sur! If you’d like to give off-roading a try for yourself rather than just leaving it to the professionals, it can be one of the most memorable things to do in Loreto. Taking an off-roading ATV tour will even allow you to tackle some of the official Baja 1000 race routes. It’s one of the best ways to see the countryside and enjoy dramatic ocean views as you explore.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the beauty of Baja’s desert, even if off-roading seems just a bit too adventurous for you. Here are some similar activities we’d recommend:
11. Hike Tabor Canyon
Much of the draw to Loreto has always been its location on the coastline and the breathtaking islands of Loreto, but its dramatic desert landscape is one of its beautiful features that you won’t want to miss. One of the most popular hiking spots near Loreto is the red rock Tabor Canyon, which cuts into the mountainside with ocean views in the distance. You’ll spot waterfalls and dry desert flowers along the way.
This is a hike we recommend doing with a guide – the trail is not well marked, and sections can be a bit perilous – though it is possible to do on your own. We traveled with Wild Loreto for the experience and were so impressed with our guide – we’d recommend the experience over and over again!
You’ll want to plan to visit early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day; even during our visit in one of the cooler months of the year, the late morning sun was scorching.
Reviews and Bookings: Tabor Canyon Guided Hike with Wild Loreto
12. Visit Juncalito Beach
Many visitors exploring Loreto enjoy bathing in the ocean at the south end of Loreto’s Malecón oceanfront promenade – directly in front of Hotel Oasis! – but if you’re looking for a beach day escape on more tranquil sands head to Juncalito Beach with the Loreto locals.
There are no beach amenities to be found here, so come prepared with everything you’ll need for the day, though you’ll love the laid-back vibe. Playa Juncalito is not as beautiful as Playa El Requesón or some of the other beaches an hour north at Bahía Concepción, but it is the perfect spot for a beach day and a dip in the ocean within just a short drive from Loreto.
13. Eat Chilaquiles at Orlandos
For such a small town, there are plenty of great places to eat in Loreto, though Orlando’s is one of the undisputed favorites. Just two blocks away from Loreto’s central square, Orlando’s serves up generous portions of Mexican classics, with breakfast dishes like chilaquiles and enfrijoladas being particular highlights on 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. Affordable prices and a cool, covered outdoor dining room make it memorable – and certainly one of the places you’ll come back to.
14. Eat Seafood at Baja Mar
From its humble beginnings as a popular food truck in Loreto, Baja Mar has transformed into a popular eatery on the Malecón oceanfront promenade in the heart of downtown. Few places in seafood-obsessed Loreto do it as well as Baja Mar, which serves up everything from Mexican aguachile and sashimi to ceviche and the freshest of catches.
The restaurant’s interior is nothing to write home about, and most will want to sit on the patio overlooking the ocean. Make sure to order a michelada made with the classic Clamato to accompany your meal; they’re as over-the-top as they come, decorated with chile-crusted tamarind sweets.
15. Visit San Felipe
Just 45 minutes outside of Loreto in the mountains of the desert is what was known as the “jewel of the Baja California mission churches,” Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó. Still functioning as a church today, this temple is set in a rare desert oasis, offering both historic and natural beauty for those looking to explore the areas around Loreto.
Would-be visitors can organize private transportation from Loreto or join on a small-group guided excursion to San Javier that includes a guide and lunch. Highlights of the excursion also include stops along the way for panoramic ocean views and visiting local farms with centuries-old olive groves and oasis rivers. We thought it was one of the best things to do in Loreto and the perfect half-day trip from the city.
Reviews and Bookings: Explore San Javier Mission, Lunch, Walk & Historical Tour
16. Visit La Purísima
Much like San Javier, La Purísima is home to both a unique desert oasis and a Spanish colonial mission, and another perfect day trip destination from Loreto. As the second-largest oasis on the Baja California peninsula, it’s known for its lush greens and blue river that stand out dramatically against the dusty desert.
Unlike the San Javier mission, the mission at La Purísima has not been well maintained. However, it makes for a cool visit and will leave you feeling like you’ve discovered long-lost desert ruins. The trip isn’t complete without a stop for farm-fresh local food on the journey before returning to Loreto or completing your crossing of the peninsula to the Pacific coast beaches at San Juanico, just a short drive further.
17. Enjoy Farm to Table Cuisine
If there’s any food trend sweeping Baja California Sur, it’s farm-to-table cuisine. Famous spots in Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo tend to get all the press, but Loreto and the surrounding area are brimming with cool new culinary concepts that use the freshest local ingredients straight from the farms – and the seas.
Located in the Loreto Bay community, Gastoteca AZUL is a farm-to-table cuisine and craft cocktail destination worth trying while you’re in Loreto. Even better, make sure to stop by San Javier Farms at the end of your visit to the Spanish colonial mission at San Javier to enjoy a new farm-to-table spot – a farm tour with a meal will show you just how fresh the ingredients can be!
18. See the Sights of Downtown Loreto
Loreto is tiny, but its charming downtown center is worth a stroll even if you’re in town for more adventurous activities. Start a short self-guided walking tour along the Malecón oceanfront promenade before heading up towards the Plaza Cívica – Loreto’s main square – via the pedestrian-only street in the middle of town.
This laid-back square is lined with shops and restaurants, including Hotel Posada de las Flores, both our favorite place to stay in town and home to one of Loreto’s best restaurants. Make sure to peek inside Loreto’s City Hall – walk right in! – to take in the beautiful murals in the stairwell that depict much of the history of Baja California Sur.
From there, continue on the pedestrian-only corridor towards Loreto’s historic mission, where you can still take in a mass or just marvel at the age-old construction. Next door, there’s a small but interesting history museum worth a quick visit.
Of course, Orlando’s at any time of day is a must, but the ice cream shop next door is an obligatory stop on your Loreto itinerary as well. Super-fresh, homemade popsicles in every flavor under the sun with have you coming back again and again.
19. Try SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) Yoga
Whether you’re in Loreto for adventurous activities or a wellness getaway, adding SUP yoga to your itinerary is a great way to enhance your stay. Early morning lessons at Loreto’s calm beachfront with trained guides are a great way to start the day. Even as beginners, we loved the experience.
SUP yoga is also a popular part of many of the sailing excursions to the islands of Loreto, where hidden bays and beaches make for the perfect place to enjoy the experience. Make sure to ask in advance for the experience to make sure it’s part of your itinerary.
20. Shop in the Plaza Cívica
Loreto’s main Plaza Cívica is usually pretty tranquil, but in the late afternoon and evening you’ll often find the square filled with vendors selling food, handmade wares, and a bit of anything under the sun. During our visit to Loreto, we coincided with several different markets, which often transformed into evening festivities and music, especially on the weekends.
Make sure to stop by on Saturday mornings for the fresh produce and handmade goodies at the farmers’ market – something is sure to catch your eye.
21. Try Chocolate Clams
There are plenty of classic Baja flavors you won’t want to miss during your visit to Loreto – fish tacos! machaca! seafood galore! – but chocolate clams (almejas chocolatas) are a must. Named for their dark brown shells rather than their flavor, these clams are an important part of Loreto’s culinary tradition and are usually roasted on the beach beneath the sand or eaten raw with chile and lime.
The best place to try Baja California Sur’s famous chocolate clams is at the weekly barbeque buffet at Hotel Oasis, a popular Saturday evening tradition in Loreto. 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 you won’t want to miss.
22. Visit Honeymoon Beach
The islands of Loreto are filled with special spots, but the small, secluded cove known as Honeymoon Beach on Isla Danzante is a particularly magical destination. Hidden away and totally protected from waves by high rock faces on each side, this beach with nearly white sand is the perfect spot for a day away from every care in the world.
Hike the short distance to the top of the crest overlooking the beach for the most magical views of the sand and ultra-clear waters below. Or, break out the snorkeling gear and head for the edges of the shore to spot swarms of colorful fish that will head straight for you.
Honeymoon Beach is the definition of undeveloped and untouched, so make sure to bring along all the gear, snacks, and drinks you’ll need to enjoy a day on the sand.
Reviews and Bookings: Danzante and Carmen Island Boat Tour and Snorkeling
23. Stay at a Resort
Loreto is known for its tiny boutique hotels and beachfront guesthouses, but if you’re looking for more of a resort-like, amenity-rich stay, you’ll love Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto. Its beautiful coastal location between desert mountains and Playa Ensenada Blanca makes it one of the best resorts in Mexico for travelers looking for an adventurous getaway.
Guests can enjoy all kinds of activities, from snorkeling and kayaking to paddleboarding, fishing excursions, and guided hikes that can be arranged by the hotel for guests. Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto also features an award-winning 18-hole golf course, and the spacious Sabila Spa featuring over 75 unique treatments.
Five pools and four restaurants provide plenty of variety, and room-only bookings and all-inclusive plans offer flexibility for a stay.
Reviews and Bookings: Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto
24. Go Wild Camping on the Islands of Loreto
If a resort stay isn’t your thing, consider aiming for the other extreme and try wild camping on one of the islands of Loreto. While you won’t find any traditional campground amenities here, that’s just the appeal for adventure-minded visitors who will get the luxury of some of the best beaches in Mexico all to themselves.
Considering that the islands of Loreto are part of the protected Loreto Bay National Park, camping is strictly on a permit-by-permit base only and comes with restrictions such as carry-in, carry-out and no-pets policies. Permits are available at the Loreto Marina.
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.