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Located in the first-ever Spanish settlement on the Baja California Peninsula, Loreto Port has developed from a small fishing community to a significant tourist destination for Mexico. Loreto is a town founded in 1697 by Spanish Jesuit missionaries who colonized the area. In 1752, the establishment of Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto led the town to be the capital of the province of Las Californias until transferred to Monterey in 1777.
The Loreto cruise port progressed from a small port to one of the main travel destinations in Mexico. The warm weather all year-round entices tourist to grab an opportunity to discover the wonders of this small town; making it an enjoyable ports of call for cruise ships. Upon leaving the Loreto cruise terminal, activities such as hiking, sunbathing and swimming immediately present themselves to tourists in the form of sandy beaches.
As you look from your ship to the village of Loreto, the gold and green hills of the Sierra de la Gigante mountain range lie to the west and the clear blue waters of the Sea of Cortez are to the east. But it's desert out there in the hills, all the more reason to explore the area.
This is a laid-back place, perfect for relaxation, exploring the desert or swimming, diving, snorkeling or kayaking on the Sea of Cortez. For those who plan to spend at least part of the day in the village, it's helpful to know that Loreto has its own unique culinary traditions. You'll have a good meal which, combined with a cold beverage or two, can make for a very pleasant day.
Loreto is a boutique port for Princess Cruises' voyages to the Gulf of California.In 2015, Peships arrive at the city's cruise ship pier at either 7:00 am or 8:00 am, and depart at 6:00 pm. Princess Cruises' ships will be in port for an average of just over 10 hours. In 2015, Loreto is slated to welcome 20,100 passengers sailing on 10 ships, down 20% and even, respectively, from 2014.

Where You're Cruise Ship Dock
Your ship will drop anchor in Loreto Bay, and you will be transported ashore via ship's tender. You will come ashore in the northern part of the town, along the city's pleasant Malecon (Paseo Lopez Mateos), which arcs south following the shoreline. The Malecon features grass, palm trees and a seaside walkway complete with benches right at the edge of the Sea of Cortez. How romantic!
Things to See and Do
For cultural day trips in the area other than those listed below, contact C&C Tours (tel. 613/133-0151; www.loretovacations.com). Among the guided excursions they offer are the Historic Loreto City Tour (220 pesos, morning and evening options available), a long day hiking in Tabor Canyon ($18), a beach tour of Mulegé with a restaurant lunch (220 pesos), whale-watching tours, and folkloric dance classes.
Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó
The first mission in the Californias was started here in 1697. The catechization of California by Jesuit missionaries was based from this mission and lasted through the 18th century. The inscription above the entrance reads "Cabeza y Madre de las Misiones de Baja y Alta California" (Head and Mother of the Missions of Lower and Upper California). The current church, a simple building in the shape of a Greek cross, was finished in 1752 and restored in 1976. The original Virgen de Loreto, brought to shore by Padre Kino in 1667, is on display in the little chapel behind the courtyard on the right as you enter -- this is the icon that Steinbeck describes in the Log from the Sea of Cortez. The mission is on Salvatierra, across from the central square.

Misión San Francisco Javier
About 2 hours of dirt-road driving from Loreto and in a section of the old Camino Real used by Spanish missionaries and explorers, this is the best-preserved, most spectacularly set mission in Baja -- high in a mountain valley oasis, beneath volcanic walls. Founded in 1699 by the Jesuit priest Francisco María Píccolo, it was completed in 1758 and was the second mission established in California. The church was built with blocks of volcanic stone from the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains. It is very well preserved, with its original walls, floors, gilded altar, and religious artifacts, and the surrounding ranches -- filled with onion fields and olive-tree orchards -- make for a pastoral setting and a nice stroll. At research time, a marketplace for local products was also in the works.
Day tours from Loreto, organized by several local tour operators, visit the mission, with stops along the way to view aboriginal cave paintings and an oasis settlement with a small chapel. The trips can be arranged through most hotels and tour operators, including C&C Tours, for 500 pesos, Dolphin Dive Center, for $60, and Sea and Land Eco Tours, which includes visits to organic ranches and/or bird-watching on request, for $85. All tours include lunch and an English-speaking guide. If you are driving a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle and are an experienced off-road driver, you can get there yourself by traveling south on the Carretera Transpeninsular and taking the detour marked SAN JAVIER on Km 118, 3.2km (2 miles) south of Loreto. The 40km (25-mile) drive takes about 2 hours, the first half on pavement and the second on washboard road. If you fall in love with San Javier, you won't be the first. Stay a little longer, at simple ecotourism cabanas in the fresh mountain air. Contact Hotel Oasis or Raíces Vives (tel. 505/280-4761 in the U.S., or 613/109-8583; www.livingrootsbaja.org) for reservations.
Museo de las Misiones
This museum explains the Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto church . It has a small but complete collection of historical and anthropological exhibits, set around a charming colonial courtyard. You'll learn about the indigenous Guaycura, Pericúe, and Cochimí populations, along with the accomplishments of the Jesuit missionaries -- including their zoological studies, scientific writings, architectural sketches, and details of the role they played in the demise of indigenous cultures. Also on display are several religious paintings, original wooden beams and tools, and sculptures dating to the 18th century. The museum, located at Salvatierra 16 (tel. 613/135-0441), has a small shop where the INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) sells books about the history of Mexico and Baja California. It's open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 6pm, closing for 45 minutes for lunch at 1pm. Admission is 37 pesos.
San Javier & Mission
This quaint village is home to the second oldest mission in the Californias. Its historic 17th-century church boasts period architecture, stained-glass windows and the first weather vane in Baja.
San Javier & Mission San Javier
This quaint village is home to the second oldest mission in the Californias. Its historic 17th-century church boasts period architecture, stained-glass windows and the first weather vane in Baja.

Mission of Our Lady of Loreto
Rising above the main plaza, the charming stone church's bell tower is the town's main historic landmark, founded in 1697. Step inside for its beautiful crucifix and golden altarpiece carved in wood.

Jesuit Missions Museum
Located in an 18th century Jesuit convent, this petite museum displays 300 artifacts showcasing the development of the Baja and Alta California missions as well as 17th- and 18th-century mission art.

Outdoor Adventure
Explore the beauty and wonder of the rugged Baja Peninsula by kayak.

Underwater Adventure
Enticing divers and snorkelers of all levels, Loreto National Marine Park, a 100-mile stretch of sea-hugging Baja coastline, is home to over 800 species of colorful fish, unique to the Sea of Cortez.

Mexican Fiesta
Savor the flavors of an authentic Mexican seafood specialty exclusive to Loreto. Fresh from the sea, "chocolate" clams, cooked over rocks, are complimented by margaritas and a music performance.
A Mexican vacation will not be the complete if you do not visit the town’s main attraction; the beaches. Surfing, swimming and kayaking are only some activities that you can do on the pristine and beautiful blue waters of the beaches of Loreto. One of the prime beaches to visit is Nopolo Beach. Several resorts and shopping stores have sprung up in this area over these past few years. A great view of the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range adds spice to the magnificent surroundings of the beach.
Another beach to visit would be the Juncalito Beach found just 14 miles away from the main city of Loreto. Surrounded by coves and palm trees, the beach is the perfect setting for some rest and relaxation. Just minutes away from the beachfront is an RV camping ground perfect for overnight camping and relaxing. Other main beaches to visit would be the Agua Verde, The Ensanada Blanca and San Bruno.
There's a different outdoor activity for every day of Loreto's year: whale-watching from January to April, kayaking May to June and October to December, dorado and billfish fishing in summer, scuba diving and snorkeling in May and July to August, mule expeditions into the mountains November to June, and sportfishing and excursions to San Javier mission, cave paintings, and Loreto's offshore islands year-round. For a small town, Loreto has a lot of very good tour operators. Some of our favorites are Baja Big Fish (seasonal summer office in Mediterraneo restaurant on the malecón; tel. 613/135-1603; www.bajabigfish.com), a sportfishing company with a strong commitment to sustainability; Dolphin Dive Center (on Juárez just off the malecón; tel. 613/135-1914; www.dolphindivebaja.com), Loreto's most established dive operator; Land & Sea Eco Adventures (next door to the Damiana Inn on Madero at Hidalgo; tel. 613/135-0680; www.loretoecotours.wordpress.com), with gifted naturalist guides; and Tour Baja (tel. 800/398-6200; www.tourbaja.com), offering sailing, kayaking, pack trips, and some of the entire peninsula's most exciting active adventures since 1983.
Bear in mind that if you'll be on the water or the offshore islands, you'll need a Loreto Bay National Marine Park bracelet as proof you've paid your daily entry fee (23 pesos). Tour operators will take care of it for you, but if you're on your own, stop into the park office at the marina to pay.
Beaches -- The main beaches at either end of the malecón are popular places for Loretanos, especially on Sundays; they're safe for swimming. But the region's most beautiful, pristine beaches, glittering with white sand, turquoise water, and spectacular marine life, are on Isla Coronado, a half-hour boat ride away, and Isla del Carmen  -- if you're here for more than 1 day, you won't want to miss out, especially on Coronado, which is an easy trip. The best anchorage is on the western shores of both islands.
Boat Trips -- Loreto offers island exploration tours that take in one, or a combination, of the five islands located just offshore. They usually offer the opportunity to visit sea lion colonies and do some snorkeling and beachcombing for around $60 for three people. Arrange cruises through your hotel -- every hotel has a deal with a local fisherman -- or through one of the operators listed above. Land & Sea Eco Adventures will take you to Coronado's beaches for $65, including snorkeling, a desert nature walk, and lunch (add $20 for an excellent barbecue and beer); they also run boat and hiking tours to Isla del Carmen. Ask about visits to the farther-flung islands -- each one is unique and offers a spectrum of activities such as sea kayaking, snorkeling, diving, hiking, or simply exploring the local desert flora and fauna.
Bird-Watching -- The estuary just out of town south of the Hotel Oasis is an Eden of wildlife in the early mornings. Hire a panga at the marina or through your hotel for sunrise bird- and dolphin-watching, or just stroll down along the shore. Don't forget your camera! Farther afield, Land & Sea Eco Adventures offers seasonal bird-watching at Misión San Javier, and Baja By Kayak (tel. 613/135-1887; www.bajabykayak.com) arranges birding overnights to Laguna San Ignacio.
Golf -- The 18-hole Campo de Golf Loreto, Bulevar Misión San Ignacio, Fraccionamiento Nopoló (tel. 613/133-0554), is 18 holes of natural landscaping, incorporating desert, mangroves, and artificial lakes that attract migrating birds. The front 9 holes are a links-style course with gently sloping fairways, and the back 9 incorporate the mangroves and water features.
Hiking & Mountain Biking -- As hiking goes, the Sierra de la Giganta has virtually no formal trails, so a local's perspective is invaluable and will land you in many magical spots in these towering mountains. Tour Baja offers a range of adventure tours, including hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, sailing, and horseback riding, and they were adventurers in this rugged territory long before they decided to become guides. Their Pedaling South tour offers vehicle-supported guided mountain-bike treks for all skill levels. Choose from tours into the mountains, along the coast, and to the San Javier Mission, and combine your favorite with snorkeling or kayaking. Call Tour Baja for information on mule packing and day-hike trips into the mountains. A 3-day guided mountain-bike trip costs $95 per hiker per day, and a mountain-biking excursion costs $125 per day or $95 if you bring your own bike (with a minimum of three people). Land & Sea Eco Adventures will organize custom hiking tours with a strong emphasis on understanding the natural environment of the desert, including desert survival tips, for $50 per day.
Horseback Riding -- Tour Baja's Saddling South offers pack trips on horse- and muleback into the Sierra de La Giganta range and through historic ranches along the way. If you're looking to experience life on the California frontier, this is for you. One to 6-day mule treks ?? to the cave paintings of San Ignacio are highly recommended. The cost is $125 per day for a minimum 3-day and maximum 8-day tour.
Tennis -- You can play tennis at the Nopoló Sports Center's Loreto Bay Tennis Center (tel. 877/522-9466), which was dedicated by John McEnroe. There are eight courts, a pool, a sun deck, a stadium that holds 250 people, a racquetball court, and a pro shop. Check in before your visit to find up-to-date prices. The center is open daily from 7am to 8pm.
Eating Out
Loreto offers a wide variety of dishes and flavors that captivate even the most demanding of palates. These delicacies are the result of the contrast between the sea and the desert: fish and seafood dishes such as mahi-mahi and marlin; fruits such as figs, oranges, mangos and limes; goats’ cheese and machaca (shredded beef). Seafood includes almejas tatemadas, Loreto’s most typical dish that you simply have to try.
Traditional flavors of Mexican cuisine preserved by many restaurants found in Loreto preserve the heritage and culture of the town for visitors and locals alike. Cruise travellers, once presented with real Mexican dishes, avoid fat rich fast food chains in the U.S. Dining brought to its best in Loreto is something to remember. The Café Ole is one of these restaurants that serve authentic Mexican cuisine. The carne asada and menudo dish of the restaurant demonstrates their commitment to maintaining the authenticity of Mexican food. Other restaurnats are the Camino Real Loreto's Guaycura Restaurant, El Oasis Restaurant and the El Canipole.
Loreto is known for its quaint serene landscapes and surroundings that speak of an unhurried pace. Immediately found in the Loreto port of call, are several small stores that sell local crafted wooden souvenirs and items. The modern malls and stores cannot be found in the town. Instead, open-air markets and simple quaint makeshift houses built as stores and shops are to be found.
The cobbled streets and alleys are perfect for strolling and shopping. One of the few well-known markets in Loreto found in the Casa de la Abuela; it offers tourists a unique setting for shopping. This building of brick and adobe materials existed for several centuries. The store itself is home to small boutiques and stores that sell items that range from locally woven rugs to hand-sewn clothing.
A good shopping excursion would not be complete without a visit to the Silver Desert; this houses several small vendors that sell silver jewelries. These shops sell genuine silver jewelry with at least .925 or .95 percent pure silver as required by local laws. This prevents the selling of fake silver jewelry (which would discourage tourists from coming back).
Loreto, Baja California Sur is known for its old world quaintness that is so contrasting to the other tourist-infested, commercially driven Baja California municipalities. Almost every recreational activity in Loreto, from swimming, sunbathing, golfing, dining to whale watching, follows a leisurely, unhurried pace. Even shopping, that practical and recreational activity that requires great amounts of energy and a pair of comfortable shoes, takes on a slower, more enjoyable pace when done in Loreto.

Shopping in Loreto is nothing like the stressing and tiring activity that many vacationers and tourists experience when shopping in new, unfamiliar places. No over-crowded, open-air markets and no dull, run-of-the-mill malls exist in Loreto. There are also no stores and boutiques in Loreto that sell signature branded clothes, bags, shoes and trinkets. Where large, gray malls or densely packed markets should be are colorful Loreto shops, stores and boutiques lining the quaint cobblestoned streets and alleys.
When shopping in Loreto, make sure to stop by the Casa de la Abuela. This brick and adobe building that has only grown more beautiful and elegant-looking with the passing of years is host to a number of small boutiques and stores selling anything from leather boots to woven rugs. You can easily find this charming shopping area at the end of famous Salvatierra Street where it is open all days of the week.

As you drive or walk by the Salvatierra street, you might notice a small sign informing you that you are in front of Loreto's Silver Desert. The Silver Desert is similar to the Casa de la Abuela in that it also houses several stores and shops. However, all the stores in the Silver Desert sell fine silver jewelry of all kinds. Mexico is known for being one of the world's top silver producers. And Loreto shoppers can find silver necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, anklets and even silver tiaras in the Silver Desert. Shoppers also need not worry about being conned into buying fake silver jewelry pieces because all stores and jewelry pieces in the Silver Desert complies with the local law of using 0.925 and 0.950 % silver.

Colibri is another shop found along the corner of Independencia Avenue and Salvatierra Street in Loreto. Shoppers can find traditional Mexican artists products or productos artisanias in this interesting shop. Plates, jars and other pottery are popular items sold in Colibri. Tourists can also find beautifully made blankets, clay figurines, wood sculptures, silver ornaments and hand-woven baskets.

Of course, no Loreto shopping spree will not be complete without a quick stop in El Alacran. Many consider El Alacran the largest and best-equipped shop in Loreto. Aside from the many stores selling productos artisanias, you can also find stores selling souvenir shirts and caps, fishing bait, swim suits, snorkeling equipment and rustic furniture. There is even a charming little gallery found in this store where paintings and photographs of local artists are featured.
Whether you're looking for authentic Mexican art crafts, hunting for one-of-a-kind jewelry, in need of a souvenir to take home, or you simply want a fun, relaxing time, then Loreto shopping is the activity for you.
Venders in markets are more likely to negotiate prices as many venders in the malls are now fixing their prices in stone.

Most of the stuff that you will see at the flea market you can also find at the malls. Depending on your bargaining skills the prices will vary. But be forewarned many of the market sellers can be aggressive and you have to know how to handle it. Some may badger you endlessly. You have to learn how to play the game to come out ahead.

Some tourists complain that the vendors are rude and abusive however it is a two-way street and some tourist treat the vendors with no respect what so ever. The best way to get a good deal is to be nice to the vendor. This is not a game; it is their livelihood. Most work 6 days a week for little money. The majority of vendors you meet do not own the stall or the merchandise they are selling.

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