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Travel: Loreto may work wonders

Baja makes a fitting ‘anti-Cancun’

Adrienne Jordan | 6/28/2013, 9:44 a.m.
Envision a tranquil boat ride against the lapping waves with little around you save for the occasional mischievous pelican or ...

Envision a tranquil boat ride against the lapping waves with little around you save for the occasional mischievous pelican or whistling dolphin. A peaceful sunset becomes a prelude to the startling visibility of millions of stars against a clear night.

Sound good? Well, you’re not too far from this Mexican paradise, and three nights might be just enough of a getaway for some. You may be familiar with the cities of Cabo San Lucas and La Paz, located in northwestern Mexico, but what of its little known neighbor, Loreto?

Loreto is the oldest settlement on the Baja Peninsula, founded in 1697 by zealous Spaniards seeking to colonize their new discovery. The destination is comprised of five islands, most of which are uninhabited except by wildlife. Loreto’s tranquil ambiance includes a mixture of exotic flora, vibrant reefs, and a mountainous backdrop. Located on the coast of the Sea of Cortez, Loreto contains the Loreto Marine Park, a World UNESCO site that protects more than 800 species of marine life. The destination is a convenient getaway for Southern Californians—only a two-hour flight from LAX.

The tucked-away location of Loreto makes it a fitting “anti-Cancun.”

For starters, compared to Cancun’s hefty 6 million annual count of visitors, Loreto receives a modest 35,000 annual tourists. Perfect for travelers on a budget, the average hotel in Loreto costs around $100 per night, compared to $250 in Cancun. Some vacationers are uncomfortable with the locals trolling the beaches selling trinkets, which is very common in Cancun. Because Loreto is still in some ways an insider’s secret getaway, you can beach easy without being hassled.

Some popular activities to experience in the destination include whale watching, kayaking, snorkeling, sailing and fishing. There are also boat tours available that put you up close and personal with large marine mammals like sea lions, dolphins, and whales.

For exploration away from the water, downtown Loreto and the village of San Javier are two places worth visiting. You can tour the first missions (Spanish settlements) built in Baja in both downtown Loreto and in the city of San Javier. In San Javier, you can walk along the roads that the Jesuits walked to get to the church, as well as visit the olive orchards that they planted in the 1750s. Also, located in San Javier is the purported oldest tree in Loreto (estimated to be 400-plus years old).

Downtown are quaint shops and souvenir stands that are easy to navigate, and you can also visit some of the local restaurants such as Domingo’s, which serves chocolate clams, a local specialty.

Where to Stay:

For luxury accommodations, Villa del Palmar is a great choice for an all-inclusive stay in Loreto. The resort is quiet and scenic, with many activities available like yoga, complimentary kayaks and paddleboards, as well as beach parties and fiestas. The wristbands you get come with keycard technology so you don’t have to worry about losing your room key. The resort’s seafood is shockingly fresh and tasty, as 70 percent of the fish and clams come from the neighboring Ensenada Blanca waters, located 20 minutes from the resort.

Hike one of their onsite hiking trails, followed by a relaxing massage at the Sabila Spa.