Lingering somewhere between the old and the new, Loreto – with its pretty cobblestone streets, 300-year-old mission and rising restaurant scene – is fast becoming one of Baja California’s most appealing towns. From whale watching tours to trekking a desert wilderness, here’s how to spend an awesome 48 hours in Loreto.
Spot the largest mammal in the world
From January to April, something incredible happens in Loreto’s National Marine Park: hundreds of blue whales, the largest mammals on earth, pass through its protected, nutrient-rich waters to feed and raise their young. Thanks to ongoing conservation and research, boats here are able to get really close without disturbing these beautiful animals. During high season, pangas (small fibreglass fishing boats) leave from Loreto’s fishermen’s port daily. For the best deals, go down at 7.30 am and haggle a deal directly with the captains, rather than booking the expensive tours online. If you’re here out of whale season, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of marine life to be seen, such as huge schools of dolphins, manta rays and sea lions.
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Hitchhike to Mision San Francisco Javier
Just a 45-minute drive away from Loreto lies one of the most beautiful, untouched missions in Baja California. Perfectly preserved, Mision San Francisco Javier looks as it did almost 300 years ago when the Jesuits arrived to convert the Cochimi Indians. There is no public transport up here, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out if you don’t have a car. From Loreto, get a taxi to drop you off at the Mision San Francisco Javier turning off the main highway (just 35km from the Loreto). From here, you’ll be able to hitch a ride up the stunning, windy road to San Francisco no problem. Make sure you check out the 300-year-old olive tree (located behind the mission) while you’re here too.
Eat fish tacos at Claudia’s Restaurant
With its al-fresco tables shaded by a fairy-lit tree, colourful serape tablecloths, and a charming owner welcoming each and every guest, you can’t help but be drawn to Claudia’s Restaurant. Her specials menu changes every day, but the regular yellowfin taco is a must-try; Claudia serves her perfectly cooked battered fish with a dollop of homemade guacamole, pico de gallo and shredded cabbage on a beautiful traditional clay plate. Her Instagram-worthy margaritas are definitely worth a try too.
Learn about Baja’s settlement at Museo de las Misiones
Being the first town in Baja California to have been settled by the Jesuits, Loreto is steeped in history. Learn about the fascinating (and heartbreaking) story of how Loreto, and Baja California as a whole, came to be where it is today at the Museo de las Misiones. It’s only a small museum, but has an impressive collection of artefacts, religious art and even recreates the Jesuits’ living quarters to give you an idea of how they lived here more than 300 years ago.
Try the famous “chocolate clams”
Chocolate clams, so called for their chocolate-brown shells, are a delicacy here in Loreto – and they’re delicious. You’ll see them on lots of menus in town, normally served with either lime, garlic and herbs or, an even more popular choice for locals, butter, chipotle, and some Monterey Jack cheese.
Take a day trip to Coronado Island
With its crystal-clear azure waters, white sandy beaches and some very cute locals, Coronado Island makes for a great day out. At only a 25-minute boat ride from Loreto’s bay, this is one of the most popular day trips, so you won’t be short of tour options. However, as with the whale watching tours, your cheapest option will be to haggle with the boat captains directly. Classic tours include snorkelling with the resident sea lion colony, a tour around the island, and a picnic lunch on one of the beautiful beaches.
Explore Sierra de la Giganta
Due to poorly marked routes, an intense desert heat and challenging terrain, few make it out to Sierra de la Giganta. However, for those adventurous hikers willing to take on the challenge, the rewards are high: epic sea views, miles of cacti-dotted wilderness, and plenty of bird watching opportunities. You won’t find any food or drink stalls along the way, so come prepared. If you don’t fancy going alone, you can find guides at www.hikingloreto.com.
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