Loreto’s story begins in 1697, when Padre Salvatierra sailed from the mainland to begin a Jesuit settlement. It was the first in all of Baja California to become a permanent mission site, and Loreto would serve as the capital of Baja California for almost 100 years.
From its cobblestone plaza and shady paseo to the restored mission church and bell tower, an unmistakable colonial influence defines the town. Some of its historic homes have been turned into boutique inns, gift shops, restaurants, and private residences. Since the middle of the 19th century, the main draw for visitors has been the fishing—and more recently, the diving and kayaking—in the Sea of Cortez.
Loreto boasts the largest marine preserve in Mexico, the Parque Maritimo National Bahia de Loreto. The park encompasses five protected islands and offers some of the most exciting underwater experiences to be found on the Baja peninsula.
South of Loreto, Nopolo is a large-scale tourism initiative funded initially by the Mexican government and now going through a period of transition as developers change hands. It has condos, a beachfront hotel, golf course, shops, tennis courts, and more. Further south, the Puerto Escondido marina has a sheltered harbor, marine stores and services, a restaurant, showers, and accommodations in Tripui.
The expansive Villa del Palmar Loreto at Ensenada Blanca opened in 2011 as the first all inclusive resort in the area, 45 minute drive south of Loreto.