The sleepy fishing village of Loreto, 700 miles down the east
coast of the Baja Peninsula, just woke up with a jolt. The tourists
are coming! Since the ’60s, Loreto has been the private playground
of sport-fishermen, who flew down to mine the rich blue waters of
the Sea of Cortez for marlin, tuna and dorado. Today, the town and
the vast cactus garden desert around it are about to become
Mexico’s newest mega-resort but with a refreshing difference.
Mexico’s tourism development agency, Fonatur, which engineered
the rise of Cancun, Los Cabos and Ixtapa, has had its share of
false starts here. But in 2003, the government gave the green light
to eco-friendly building developers, Scottsdale-based Loreto Bay
Company, for a long-term project of 6,000 low-profile homes and
The first two-story model home is up and ready for inspection.
It stands near the luxurious Camino Real resort hotel at Loreto Bay
(the new name for Nopolo Bay), at the southern end of the
development’s 8,000 acres. The hotel is one of two major resorts
from an earlier project.
In mid-February, Alaska Airlines began twice-weekly flights from
LAX to Loreto’s Fonatur-built international airport and has been
bringing down planeloads of prospective buyers. Home prices range
from $250,000 for two bedrooms to $2 million for custom mansions.
All owners will be entitled to optional maid and concierge service,
beach club and tennis, and golf memberships in a
soon-to-be-redesigned course by champion David Duval.
“All these amenities can be offered along with homes in the
commissionable rental pool,” said the Loreto Bay Company’s vice
president for tourism marketing Don Weintraub, who expects that up
to 75 percent of the owners, many part-time residents, will
participate in the pool. Some 60 houses should be ready for
occupancy by July.
Excited new buyers, stepped-up air service and cruise-ship port
stops such as Holland America’s 13 calls on the town of Loreto this
year, are spreading the buzz. And the town, which is only three
miles from the new development, is already beefing up its own hotel
inventory. Up to now lodgings have been mostly small fishermen’s
havens, with the exception of the locals’ pride and joy, the
rose-colored 22-room boutique hotel, Posada de las Flores, on
Loreto’s flower-decked plaza.
Loreto tourism official Renato Arias Sazorio reported that the
abandoned 46-room Mision Hotel, with its arcaded facade along the
malacon (the seaside promenade), is about to be sold and
refurbished. The newer Hacienda Suites hotel at the edge of
downtown is currently building meeting space and doubling its room
count to 50.
As for the picturesque cobble-stoned downtown, with its
300-year-old mission church, low-key tourist shops and stalls, its
outdoor cafes, intimate watering holes and family-run restaurants,
Sazorio assured us, “Our little town has only a population of about
15,000 now, and we know we are in for a boom. But we will never let
Loreto lose its charm.”
Nor will the ever-fascinating desert that surrounds it. We
signed up for a guided tour in 5,000 acres of pristine desert that
the Loreto Bay Company has dedicated as a nature preserve, ideal
for hiking, riding and organic farming. In recent years this
desert, with early cave paintings and remote villages and ranches
to be explored, has begun to attract backcountry adventurers,
snorkelers, divers and kayakers, along with many more
sport-fishermen. The bountiful Sea of Cortez, now protected from
commercial fishing, is alive with wily game fish, playful dolphins
and grouchy sea lions. In winter, humpbacks, orcas and blue whales
and dolphins roam among the islands.
To watch the giant grays that swim down from the Bering Sea to
breed and give birth in warm waters, a two-hour drive across the
narrow peninsula takes you to Magdalena Bay. We motored out in the
calm waters of this famous whale nursery in a fleet of 26-foot
skiffs called pangas. Curious babies, followed by watchful mamas,
swam right up to our boat, while cameras clicked. We reached out to
pat a mother the size of a small submarine; a friend bent down and
sneaked the baby a kiss.
But wait, something is still strangely missing from Fonatur’s
newest paradise. Where is the dance-on-the tables nightlife? And
when will we see that swank row of high-rise hotels along the
“That’s just not us,” Weintraub said with a shrug and a glance
at the sun setting behind the mountains. “But look what we have to
NEW from Alaska
LAX-Loreto: Thursday and Sunday
Loreto-LAX: Thursday and Sunday
Posada de las Flores:
In an old Colonial building beautifully decorated with Mexican art.
Great service. Fine restaurants. On the Plaza.
Bay of Loreto
Camino Real: Handsome
luxury beach resort with all amenities. Adjoining golf course.
Choice of restaurants. Concierge arranges for all sports and
El Canipole: Authentic
moles and more traditional dishes cooked over wood fire in giant
earthenware cazuelas. In heart of town. Pino Suarez and Magdalena
La Terraza: Steaks,
seafood and Mexican dishes in charming upstairs dining room steps
from the plaza. Madero 16.
Hertz serve Loreto. Taxis are plentiful.
Loreto Bay Company
Loreto Tourist Office