Dominated by the bell tower of a Jesuit mission founded in 1697, Loreto’s sun-drenched central plaza still vibrates with the atmosphere of Old Spain, making it feel worlds apart from its Baja cousins Los Cabos and La Paz. Sandwiched between the spiky cliffs of the Sierra de la Giganta mountains and the Sea of Cortez, Loreto boasts a seaside promenade, spectacular sport fishing, and bay beaches ideal for swimming, kayaking and paddle-boarding. It is also known for its chocolate clams, adored by foodies around the world. Locals love to argue over which of the town’s restaurants prepare the clams with the most flair.

1. Eat at Mi Loreto

Kick back in one of the colourful chairs on the mango tree-shaded patio, dip into chef Edgar Del Olmo’s savoury fish soup and you’ll know why Mi Loreto, open for just over a year, is already at the top of every restaurant list. Must-try dishes include plantain-stuffed chiles rellenos and garlic shrimp, accompanied by fresh tortillas made right in front of you. The nicest touch? Warm wool ponchos are provided to ward off the night chill.

2. Go whale-watching on Magdalena Bay

People come from all over the world to visit the “whale nursery” of Magdalena Bay, where every year, from January to March, grey whales come to calve. A motorized skiff takes you close enough to see pods of nursing mothers and playful juveniles breaching and “spy hopping” to attract the attention of potential mates. An experienced captain makes a difference; book an excursion through Mag Bay Tours or Magdalena Bay Whales.

3. Go kayaking on Loreto Bay

Kayak or sail island-studded Loreto Bay, an internationally recognized marine park where 800 square miles of warm, food-rich waters are home to more than 800 diverse species of wildlife. A busy study site for marine biologists, the waters surrounding Danzante and Carmen islands offer prime viewing for dolphins, manta rays, tropical fish and numerous whales. Go with a seasoned outfitter—Wild Loreto Tours and Row Sea Kayak Adventures lead day trips.

Loreto Bay, photo by Darryl Leniuk/Getty

Loreto Bay, photo by Darryl Leniuk/Getty

4. Browse the Miramar market

Every Sunday morning, a shantytown of colourful tents springs up on the edge of town, drawing shoppers from up and down the peninsula. Part farmers’ market, part swap meet, part craft fair, it offers everything from ripe papayas and homemade tamales to Talavera pottery, woven blankets and bargain-basement socks. Recently relocated from its original spot in a dusty arroyo, the market is now in Miramar—ask around for directions.

5. Sip at El Zopilote Brewing Co.

Visit new craft brewery El Zopilote Brewing Co., next door to beloved Restaurant 1697, where Kieran and Norma Raftery, owners of both, now serve up their Rattlesnake IPA, Tombstone Pale Ale, and a rich stout aptly named El Bandito Black. The location, tucked along the side of the central plaza, couldn’t be better for keeping an eye on the nightly promenade and an ear on the roving mariachi bands.

Read more: Where to Go in Mexico


[This story appears in the November 2016 issue of WestJet Magazine]