Larrañaga // © 2012
Though not as well-known as other destinations on the Baja California peninsula, the town of Loreto holds a unique appeal. Located on the Sea of Cortez, 200 miles north of La Paz, Loreto is in the running for a Pueblo Magico designation from Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism, due to its cultural history and natural resources. TravelAge West recently spoke with Luis Palacios Larrañaga, general director of the Baja California Sur Tourism Board, about Loreto’s diverse attractions.
Q: What are the key selling points for Loreto?
I think Loreto’s historic significance can’t be emphasized enough. Loreto was the first capital of the Californias, founded in 1697. The very first missions were established here by the Spanish in the mid-18th century. Those missions are still intact, with their altars and artwork just as they were originally. You might say that Loreto is where it all began for California.
Q: What important ancient sites are there to see?
The nearby town of San Javier is famous for its cave paintings. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating back some 7,500 years. The site gives us insight into the indigenous people who lived here when the Spanish first arrived. The cave paintings are a must-see attraction for visitors and are a unique part of Loreto’s historic and cultural heritage.
Q: What natural attractions will visitors find?
Jacques Cousteau described the Sea of Cortez as the ‘world’s aquarium,’ and there are amazing natural wonders in Loreto. In 1996, the government declared a huge area of uninhabited islands and wildlife-rich waters as the Loreto Bay Natural Marine Park. UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site because of the diversity of plant and marine life — all of which visitors can experience in an up-close manner.
Q: What are the most popular activities around the Marine Park?
It’s an amazing destination for diving, snorkeling and sailing. You can see rays jumping out of the water, different kinds of dolphins, and we have a great whale-watching season. There is excellent fishing from a beautiful port, Puerto Escondido. You can catch yellowtail, sea bass, roosterfish, snapper and dorado. From May to October, there is also marlin, tuna and sailfish. Kayaking is another popular activity. You can explore islands where you will see wonders found in the Galapagos, such as the blue-footed booby.
Q: What type of accommodations are available in Loreto?
Accommodations in Loreto have really evolved so that we offer a full range for every budget. On the high end, we are very excited about the new Villa del Palmar, which is a spa property that will cater to those that want an upscale experience. It sits on 1,800 acres, surrounded by hillsides with desert vegetation, facing the stunning bay and islands. It has 280 deluxe suites, great dining, impressive pools, one of the largest spas in Mexico, and there are even plans to build a nine-hole golf course. The Inn at Loreto Bay has a beautiful beach, 155 rooms, plus a beautiful 18-hole signature golf course with links connected by bridges. Downtown, we have La Mision Loreto, which offers 65 guestrooms in addition to a few two-bedroom suites and an on-site spa. And, Posada de las Flores is a boutique hotel with a colonial feel. I think agents will be quite pleased with the array of hotels for their clients.