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The Mission in Loreto

The Mission in Loreto

© Suzanne Barbezat


Loreto, a quiet town in Baja California Sur on the edge of the Sea of Cortez, was the first capital of the Californias. The majestic Sierra de la Giganta mountain range to the west and the crystal clear sea to the east provide a spectacular backdrop to this charming town of about 15,000 inhabitants. Five islands just off the coast and calm waters teeming with magnificent sea life beckon visitors to explore, fish, and play. Loreto offers an unspoiled, tranquil, and laid-back environment that has been carefully protected.


Loreto is located on the eastern coast of the state of Baja California Sur, on the Sea of Cortez, 200 miles north of the state capital La Paz and some 250 miles north of Los Cabos. The weather in Loreto is generally warm to hot with more than 300 sunny days and a year and temperatures averaging in the 80's.

History of Loreto:

In 1697, Jesuit priest Juan Maria Salvatierra and a small group of his followers established California's first settlement, Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto. He carried with him an image of the Virgin of Loreto from Spain. He placed her image on a wooden cross adorned with wildflowers and dedicated the mission to her.

Eventually, a network of missions was established through Baja and northern California, each one located about one day's riding distance from the next. The Jesuits were expelled from Mexico in 1767, due to conflicts with the Spanish crown, whereupon the Dominicans took over the missions. Loreto served as capital to the Californias for 133 years, from 1697 to 1829, when the capital was moved to La Paz.

Loreto's history as a tourist destination is quite recent. In the 1970s when the trans-peninsular highway was inaugurated, and the the state of Baja California Sur was established in 1974, tourists began to discover this delightful area and its wonderful natural riches and dramatic landscape. Tourist infrastructure has been built up to accommodate the many visitors who come to experience the destination.

What to Do in Loreto:

Explore the ancient missions of San Loreto and San Francisco Javier and learn about this area's unique history.

See cave paintings that are the only evidence left of the earliest inhabitants of the area.

The Nopolo Sports Center has a seaside golf course with 18 challenging holes and a tennis center with nine lighted courts, as well as a stadium and a swimming pool.

Visit the islands of Loreto: Coronado, Carmen, Danzante, Montserrat, and Santa Catalina. These islands offer a multitude of options for visitors to enjoy sport fishing, diving, ecotourism or soaking up the sun on quiet beaches. Marvel at the variety of marine life that includes sea lions, exotic birds, playful dolphins, and whales.

Wild Loreto Tours offers a variety of excursions both on land and sea, and the tour company's enthusiastic staff makes all of their outings fun and memorable.

Where to Stay in Loreto:

  • Villa del Palmar is a luxury villas resort located 40 minutes outside of the town of Loreto (check rates). Read a review of Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto
  • Hotel Santa Fe (check rates)
  • Hotel Posada de las Flores is housed in a colonial mansion in the heart of Loreto (check rates)

Getting There:

Loreto is an easy two and a half hour flight from Los Angeles, and there are several direct flights a week. The following airlines offer flights to the Loreto International Airport (airport code LTO):

Autotransportes Aguila offers bus transportation to Loreto from La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, Tijuana and Mexicali.

Read more about Baja California Sur and its attractions.

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