Issue: Spring 2013
Hollywood Discovers Loreto Mexico
Two hours from LA.... and centuries away!
Have you had it with the congestion and our famous traffic and just want to quickly get away to one of the most tranquil places on earth? Fear not as we have discovered the ultimate Hollywood getaway—Loreto, Mexico. (Do not be concerned and do not confuse Loredo with Loreto, they are literally worlds apart.) Instead hop a quick (a little less than two hours) flight on Alaska Airlines and be whisked into peace and tranquility.
Needing to recover from a hectic film shoot, a concert tour or just too many energy drink, caffeine pumped nights on the town? We recommend doing a lay down in Loreto on the Baja Peninsula on the Sea of Cortez. You’ve heard about the intellect of the whales, it is here where the southbound whales we see off our coast are heading to seek nourishment and give birth to their young. Follow the wise whales. You’ll also find dolphins, man rays, sea lions, and birds and all forms of wild life basking in the sunshine or swimming in the crystal clear waters. For us humans, fishing is a major pass time as is kayaking around the beautiful cluster of off shore islands.
Traffic? There’s no word for it here either in Spanish or English. With a population of about 15,000, many of them children, getting around the grid of streets (some unpaved) is an easy jaunt. Up on the main Highway, a ribbon of emptiness stretches before you.
Loreto sits on a site surrounded by a dramatic mountain range. Palms and bougainvillea are everywhere and a dramatic contrast to the distant mountains and the indigo hued Sea of Cortez. Surprisingly for such a remote and seemingly undiscovered area, Loreto was the beginning of El Camino Real, the site of the first mission and the capital of the Californias. Initially this coastal site was spotted in 1685 during a Spanish exploration. Finding a steady spring of fresh water on the site, Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto was founded in 1697 and is considered the origin of all missions in Alta and Baja California. Years later, the Jesuits would be replaced by the Franciscans and Father Junipero Serra would continue the missionary trek northward. The larger, more impressive, edifice was completed in 1752. Loreto is one of the most beloved missionary places of the peninsula and served as the capital of both Californias from its founding until the capital was moved to Monterey (California, that is) on February 3, 1777.
Exploring the warmth of Loreto's community, you’ll be introduced to their easy ways and local delicacies—most often chocolate clam, served in a variety of ways. When your appetite has grown from a long day of playing under the warm rays of the Mexican sun, indulge in fresh cuisine perfected for over three hundred years. Enjoy world-class sport fishing and play golf and tennis at the Nopolo recreational sports complex. With year round temperatures averaging in the 80's, outdoor activities are always available. Try sailing, kayaking, diving, horseback riding, mountain biking, ATV’s, and beachcombing or take a memorable drive to the beautifully restored Mission of San Javier high up in the mountains behind Loreto. On the mission grounds, you’ll find the very first olive tree of the Californias from which all others descended.
The Bahia de Loreto Marine Park is considered one of Baja´s best kayaking locales, and the pristine waters and offshore islands are home to a variety of wildlife, like dolphins and wintering gray whales. Isla El Carmen and Isla Coronado, uninhabited islands just off of the coast of Loreto, offer excellent scuba diving in the clear Sea of Cortez waters. The Bahia also provides close-in fishing opportunities, with plentiful dorado, grouper and bass. Just north of Loreto, several beaches, including Bahia de San Juanico, have large waves and strong winds that are ideal for surfing. The Sierra de la Giganta, a mountain range just inland from Loreto, is full of canyons and peaks that provide hiking and rock climbing opportunities. Locals are proud that they are partners for preservation of their waters and work to ensure that generations old and young understand its importance to their town and their way of life.
Loreto has been inhabited for thousands of years, as nearby archaeological sites and cave paintings attest. The Sierra de la Giganta Mountains are home to cave paintings made by the earliest settlers on the Baja peninsula, dating back 10,000 years and covering more than 300 unique sites in the mountains. A favorite side trip for visitors and locals alike is a jaunt up the mountain to San Xavier, one of the best preserved and beautiful missions on the peninsula. On its grounds, is what is claimed to be one of the oldest olive trees in the Americas. The half-hour drive follows a verdant canyon and spectacular views of the sea below. The mountain town is sleepy except for the annual feast of San Xavier which draws thousands who camp out to celebrate the saint’s day.
Accommodations range from an all-inclusive resort on the beach to quaint boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts in town. If you're traveling by land, you'll find friendly, well maintained R.V. parks with a staff eager to assist your every need. With daily scheduled air service from Los Angeles, it's time to make vacation plans to come and experience Loreto, the Baja destination where not even the sun is in a hurry.
There’s a sizeable ex-pat community as well. Many have opened restaurants or B&B’s and all sing the praises of Loreto. Wildlife photographer Rick Jackson and his wife settled in Loreto about 10 years ago after leaving Sonoma, California and have never looked back. Their B&B is steps from the Malacon and once inside the compound your cares melt away. There’s also the comfortable two-suite Loreto Playa run by Roberto and Paula offer guests luxury and amazing views of the outer islands. Paula recently opened a pie shop. “I didn’t want to do anything that would compete with the locals,” she said. Today locals, expats and visitors have to arrive early before the day’s baked good sell out.
Other properties range from the charming La Damiana Inn, with its spacious rooms, communal kitchen and Debora and Geraldo’s warm hospitality to the Mission Hotel with all hotel amenities and steps from the water. There is literally something for everyone’s taste and wallet. We enjoyed the convenient, quiet Hotel Playa de Cortez, a 5-room new boutique property in the middle of town, a block from the sea.
If you stay at the the Loreto Baja Resort & Spa outside of town in Nopomo, a full resort with its five swimming pools, and restaurants, you may choose to pack some evening wear, but in and around the little town, comfort and casual is the order of the day. On the town’s southern border, the beachfront Hotel Oasis offers hammocks, cool breezes and a tranquil relaxed atmosphere. You can stroll the malecon, curl up with a good book, or enjoy one of the many activities. But after leaving hectic L.A., you’ll probably prefer a hammock and a snooze first.
Editors Note: We thank the Mexico Tourism Board and the Loreto Hotel Association for their assistance. For additional information go to