All throughout Mexico’s expansive landscape, whether tucked away in its lush jungles or located high up on the dry, desert plains, one will find what are known as the “pueblos mágicos”, or magic towns. An initiative led by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism, the Pueblos Mágicos Program was developed as a means to promote the extravagant cultural heritage and history of Mexico through the promotion of quainter, less known communities. Now, with 111 towns recognized as “pueblos mágicos”, visitors can experience Mexico’s hidden treasures first hand, ranging from stunning architecture and natural wonders to the taste of savory regional cuisine. One place that seems to have it all is the city of Loreto, located in the tropical Baja California region.
As one of the oldest settlements situated on the Baja California Peninsula, this stunning destination transports visitors back in time as they witness the city’s historic architecture and explore the nearby caves and prehistoric paintings and petroglyphs. One particular draw, however, entices large numbers of tourists from around the globe each year – the Sea of Cortez.
Arguably one of the best fishing destinations in the world, and a top destination for Baja California fishing enthusiasts, the Sea of Cortez is home to more than 875 species of fish, including tuna, yellow tail, dorado, black marlin, blue marlin, and sailfish. Situated within its waters is the Bay of Loreto National Park. The marine park covers 800 square miles (2,065 square kilometers) ranging from Isla Coronado in the north to Isla Catalana in the south.
Other islands of Loreto include Isla Del Carmen, Isla Danzante, Isla Monserrat, and Isla Santa Catalina. These uninhabited volcanic islands near the Loreto coast are home to massive underwater rock formations, coral reefs, seamounts, underwater caves, and even wrecks, making Loreto and its surroundings waters some of the best diving spots in the Sea of Cortez. Isla del Carmen, Isla Coronado, and Isla Danzante are most popular, as a large number of their dive sites are located in shallow waters, making them ideal for beginners. Isla Monserrat and Isla Santa Catalina lie farther south and require special-request trips, typically suited for those with diving experience.
With opportunities available year-round and an average water temperature of around 68-72F (20-22C), Loreto and the surrounding islands are a must see for those who desire to witness the impeccable beauty below the water’s surface. Whether diving in the clear, shallow areas near the Loreto coast, or taking on the deep, rocky excursions further south, divers are sure to capture a glimpse of the sea’s diverse marine life, including Humboldt squid, sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles, whales, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, stingrays, and wonderful colored flora and coral.
Each year in January, locals and visitors alike witness one of the region’s greatest gifts – the arrival of at least 9 different species of whales, including Humpback, Mink, Finback, Sei, Blue, Sperm, Pilot, Orca, and California Gray Whales. To add to the excitement, during this time large schools of Bottlenose Dolphins are often spotted. These large guests tend to stick around until late March, and at times, even as late as early May.
One thing remains clear (and no, I am not talking about the water!) – diving in Loreto is a must. While an extensive list of what to do in Loreto may be overwhelming, getting a glimpse of life below its waters should be a priority. After all, diving in Loreto and the nearby islands is an unparalleled experience. When asked, “Where is Loreto?” you will not only answer by pointing out the magnificent pueblo mágico on a map – instead, you will describe a place that exists both above and below the sea’s surface. With exposure to rich history, stunning architecture, clear waters, and abundant sea life, those who witness its beauty are sure to be left mesmerized.