If you're in Loreto, you probably came for the sport fishing. The Sea of Cortez has a number of different fish that are plentiful and fun to catch. One of the best is Dorado (aka Mahi Mahi) in the late summer. The dorado is a pretty acrobatic fish and puts up a good fight. Sizes vary, but you generally throw back anything under 20 lbs. You can also catch an occasional sailfish.
Unless you own a boat, you should arrange with on the fishing charter companies in town. We went with The Baja Big Fish Company. They can supply you with a boat, a captain, and all the gear that you need. The captain will help you locate where the fish are biting that day - this is a very important service since the fish move with the sargasso (seaweed). They will also clean your fish and freeze them for the trip home. So don't forget to bring a cooler to Loreto!
You generally fish from dawn to early afternoon - or until you catch your limit. Most of the days we fished we each caught our two dorado by noon. By the afternoon you're pretty hot and ready for a dip in the sea.
The 2Mundos Diver & tours Beach Shop provides a little bit of everything. While Anna runs the Beach Shop, her dive master husband and friends provide tours of the area. They specialize in boat trips to the various Marine Park islands, diving, snorkeling, whale watching, hiking tours, sport fishing and kayak trips.
Their tour prices are quite good.
* Isla Coronado $55
* Isla del Carmen $65
* Isla Danzante $75
* El Tabor $55 (guided tour)
* El Tabor $30 (transportation only)
* Isla Coronado $55
* 2-tank boat dive at Isla Coronado $125
* 2-tank boat dive at Isla Carmen $125
* 2-tank boat dive at Isla Danzante $145
* 1 Extra tank $45
PADI Courses available from Discover SCUBA ($150) to Rescue Diver ($275) and Open Water and Advanced courses ($250-$400).
2 Days $30 (additional days +$8)
Weekly rental $60
If you're a fisherman, the Sea of Cortez is a dreamland. The sea has been compared to a tropical aquarium with some of the most diverse sea life in the world. The possible exception is the Galapagos but not by much.
On any given day, if you know where they are biting you will have dinner fresh from the ocean. There are a couple of businesses in Loreto that will arrange a charter for you. Big Fish is one of the better known. They are located on Benito Juarez a few blocks from the Malecon.
In addition there are always plenty of local "captains" waiting at the docks to guide and assist your quest. The cost is typically minimal, and unless you have enough hands with you to handle boat launch, bait catching, and paying attention to trolling while fishing at the same time, having a local along is a great help.
We've found one, Ramon Davis, who has helped our boat a number of times. He gets the bait, knows where the best spots are and has our catch filleted and on ice before we're back in port. Well worth what ever we negotiate for the days charge.
In the Feburary, March timeframe the Blue Whales are in the bay and the local "captains" are on hand to guide you so that none of the whales or their calfs are injured.
Plus if all goes well, he's fed his family for the effort as well.
The "Farmer's Market" in Loreto is more like a "flea market" than what I think of as a "Farmer's Market" with just fruits and vegetables. The market is a must see "tourist" activity to get a glimpse of life in Loreto. You can most anything from a used tire to new Sear Craftsman tools to fresh vegetables and meat.
Normally the fruits and vegetables are in better condition than those you find in most of the grocery stores but you have to pick your vendors carefully.
A side trip to San Javier, the second oldest mission in the Californias is a must do for history buffs or for someone just looking for a day trip from Loreto. The road to San Javier is much like the "Road to Hana" used to be in Hawaii. It's only 32Km long but it's very narrow, uneven and mostly dirt with the occasional all gravel and rock stretches.
The adventure is full of slow blind "s" turns and relatively steep climbs. It is however worth the drive to see the history of the area and to visit what is considered the best preserved original mission in all of the Californias.
Fishing in the sea of Cortez can be a wonderful experience although you are normally not fond of fishing like me. Sea of Cortez is full of big and colorful fishes that it is very easy to catch some. Simply go to the harbour and ask to join someone going fishing the day after. We had beautiful big doradas that we let them cooked in a local restaurant. Very tasty as well
St Javier is a small 150-inhabitants village in the middle of the Sierra de la Giganta. The road to go there is impossible but, on the other hand, is worthseeing. The village and its mission dated back 1697 themselves are pretty but the best thing of this trip is the opportunity to admire the montain landscape. It is one hour and an half of dirt mountain road: better to go with a driver or, at least, with a 4x4 vehicle. There are few restaurants as well. We have heard a new road is under construction and going to be ready by end of 2008, but I cannot believe it.
While in Loreto you dont have to miss a boat trip to Isla Coronado. We simply went to harbour the evening before and agreed it with the boat owner. Of course if you are more than two it will be cheaper. Usually they provide you with all snorkelling equipment. Anyway, the island is really beautiful to look at and the boat trip will bring you to a paradise beach.
Loreto, besides being a sportfishing paradise, is also a jump-off point for kayaking in the Sea of Cortez. There are a lot of adventure/leadership schools and adventure travel groups that start in Loreto, paddling south to La Paz.
There are several outfitters that rent kayaks, some for a minimum of two days. A great two day trip would be paddling out to Isla Coronado (Coronado Island) and camping on the beach on the east side of the island! There is great snorkeling over there, and a couple of palapas to provide relief from the sun.
Some of the hotels near the beach (Villas de Loreto do for sure) rent or lend out kayaks for the day, so be sure to check with them before you spend your money.
A tip: Go out as early as you can. As the day progresses and the air heats up, the wind starts to come up in the late morning. By mid-day the wind is blowing pretty hard, usually to the south (we were there in late October). The light current is predominantly to the south as well, so kayaking north against the current and the wind could be a little challenging.
I highly recommend renting a car (or better yet a convertible Jeep!) and driving north to Bahia de Conception (Conception Bay), about 90 kilometers north of Loreto and just south of the unique village of Mulage.
We stopped at Playa la Perla (Pearl Beach). There will be a very small sign on the side of the road right at the intersection. Drive down the hill, and you have your choice of going left or right. Both choices are fine, but we liked the left fork better. There are several "palapas" there, or palm-lined lean-to's, that provide shade and a nice home base for the day or night. There was no charge for day use, but there might be a small charge for overnight camping. Great view of Bahia de Conception!
Good base for snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, or just enjoying the sea!
I highly recommend renting a car (or better yet a convertible Jeep!) and driving north to Bahia de Conception (Conception Bay), about 108 kilometers north of Loreto and just south of the unique village of Mulage.
We stopped at Playa Coyotes (Coyote Beach). As you are driving north, you will drive down a big hill and see the beach on your right. A small restaurant will be on the left. Take the fork to the right, around the point, and the palapas will be in front of you on the left. This is a beautiful little bay with some great wildlife and snorkeling opportunities. There were a lot of bait fish there, evidenced by the presence of pelicans and gulls. Use of the palapas is free.
We got there mid-afternoon and most of the palapas were open. By the time we left near dusk, the place was nearly filled up with campers. There are few facilities here (a pit toilet and the restaurant about 800 meters away) but it makes a great campground for the night or the week. What a beautiful area.
Like Playa de Perla, Playa Coyotes is a good base for snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, or just enjoying the sea!
Loreto's mission was founded in 1697, but destroyed several times by either hurricanes or earthquakes. The rebuilt mission is quite lovely, located in the heart of the city and houses a museum next door.
The Museo de las Misiones recounts the complete history of the European conquest of Baja California as well as providing information on Baja's missions.
If you plan your visit to Baja between mid January and mid March, you will have the opportunity to see the grey whales that migrate to Baja from the Arctic each winter.
There are several outfitters in Loreto that organize day trips to Magdelena Bay for $120 per person which includes your transportation, 2hrs of whale watching and lunch. We intended to join one of these tours but they only depart with a minimum of 4 people.
So, instead, we rented a car and drove 2hrs to Puerto Adolpho Lopez Mateos on the Bay of Magdelena. Once here, we joined 4 other tourists and hired a boat for 2hrs.
We saw dozens of whales in the secluded bay, many at very close range.....and organizing our own tour ended up saving us money afterall!
Isla Danzante is only a 2.5 mile paddle from the Baja coast in the Sea of Cortez. You can paddle across to the island and around the island in one day. It is a 9 mile trip around the circumference of the island. There are several beaches at which to stop and rest. There is excellent snorkelling on the east side of the island at the aptly named "Aquarium".
You can also take a hike up to a viewpoint that offers this vista of sea, coast and a natural arch.
I booked an organized kayak tour from Canada that departed from Loreto and returned to Loreto. I will write more about that 8 day trip in my Baja Sur pages.
However, we met other travellers who had rented kayaks and organized their own day excursions in the Sea of Cortez. If you are an experienced paddler, I think this would be a great way to enjoy the water, the coastline, the islands and their flora and fauna.