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The following are some general recommendations to get the most out of a visit to Loreto, Baja Sur, Mexico.
Loreto isn’t Cabo San Lucas. It isn’t on the cruise ship cycle and isn’t overloaded with tourists on all-inclusive vacations or college students on spring break. If you’re looking for parties and nightlife, this isn’t the place. There are a few clubs in the city center, but for the most part the town is quiet and nearly empty after dinner time. If you’re truly enjoying Loreto, you’ll be too tired from fishing, diving, snorkeling, hiking, biking, or golfing to do anything after dark other than sleeping.
Loreto is as safe as any place in the United States. Baja is isolated from mainland Mexico and largely free of the drug war violence that is adversly affecting tourism elsewhere in Mexico. Of couse, theft and petty crimes can happen wherever there are tourists, and do in Loreto too, so you just need to take the same precautions you would whenever travelling to foreign countries. There is the occasional military checkpoint along Highway 1, but unless you are driving between cities, you’ll not likely encounter them. If you do, you'll have a minor delay as they ask you a few questions and inspect your vehicle.
If you rent a car, it will be reliable but don’t expect anything fancy. There are few paved roads in the Loreto area and you’ll need to drive over some bumpy roads to get to some of the best sights. The first thing the rental car agency will probably show you is the location of the spare tire and you'll see a lot of people changing them along the road. Your rental may have a lot of miles as well as numerous dings, dents, and scrapes from past use. Just make certain that they are noted when you pick up your car.
Avoid driving at night, not because of crime, but because of road hazards, poor lighting/signage, and lack of services. If you do drive at night, you’ll need to be much more alert than when driving in other foreign countries. You will likely encounter cows, burros, and dogs that may appear on the road seemingly out of nowhere as there are few roadside lights or road markings. Drive slow, even if your being passed regularly by seasoned locals, for you'll have little time to react at fast speeds. If you are travelling between cities, day or night, be prepared with water and plenty of fuel.
The area is relatively new to the resort or fancy hotel style of vacationers so day tour companies are limited and less polished than you might be used to elsewhere. There are a relatively small number of tour companies, each of which generally offer the same combination of outdoor activities and sightseeing options. As a result, the guides tend to be more of the jack-of-all-trade types rather than topical experts. However, the tours will likely have fewer people and be more personal and flexible to travel desires. Because there are fewer tourists, you can generally get a personal tour for 2-4 people for the same price you’d pay for a 12 person day tour in the bigger tourist areas in Baja.
Loreto isn’t a shopping or culinary mecca. There are several shops selling locally made blankets, however the area doesn’t have a strong local artisan tradition and most of the artwork in the shops was made elsewhere in Mexico. It is a good place for silver, with most of the better shops on the promenade between the Loreto Mission and the Plaza. As for dining, outside of the excellent seafood, the restaurants serve predominantly standard Tex-Mex items like burritos, quesadillas, and fajitas with a few restaurants also including pasta and pizzas. You’ll find the greatest diversity in the restaurants on the Plaza.
If you want to get the best out of Loreto, get in the water every day. The waters in the Loreto Bay are filled with an incredible range of fish and underwater life of every color in the rainbow. Its a snorkeling, kayaking, boating, and fishing paradise. Without straying more than a few hundred yards from shore or 5 feet under water you can easily see neon- and rainbow-colored fish of all sizes, rays, puffer fish, scorpionfish, sea lions, ospreys, pelicans, crabs, clams, coral, sea snakes….. And if you visit at the right time, you can see multiple types of whales on a single day. You will be unlikely to find another place on earth with the range of colorful sealife in one spot.
If you do go to Loreto, tread lightly. The area residents promote tourism but they don’t want to turn Loreto into another Cabo. They are proud of the local small town culture and the unique environmental and biological diversity of the Loreto Bay.