Local Color: Grey Whale Watching
A popular day trip from Loreto in the winter months -- about Dec. 15 to April 15 -- is to the grey whale breeding grounds in Magdalena Bay on the Pacific coast.
C&C Ground Services and Tours operates programs that leave Loreto by motorcoach at 7:30 a.m. for a two-hour drive through the Sierra de la Gigante mountain range and miles of desert landscape to the bay.
There, thousands of whales and their calves live in the shallow waters in winter before migrating back to Alaska for the summer. The 12,000-mile roundtrip migration is the longest such journey made by any animal.
Visitors spend about two hours in small boats that are about 22 feet long, and the close proximity of the marine mammoths is a thrill. The docile whales, some larger than the boats, are not timid and often approach the boats, swimming close enough to be touched.
The tour, which returns to Loreto around 5 p.m., costs $110 per person, including lunch, a boat ride and motorcoach transportation with an English-speaking guide. It is sold by tour operators as an option on Loreto packages and can also be booked directly with C&C.
Other C&C tour programs in Loreto include a morning or evening town tour, including visits to the mission church.
There are also excursions to Mulege, a seaside town on an inlet north of Loreto that has its own mission church, and trips to a desert mountain oasis, San Javier, in the mountains above Loreto. San Javier is the site of a 300-year-old mission and a place where the locals live on farms and tend to goat herds.
For information, contact C&C Ground Services and Tours at (011) 52-613 133-0151 or e-mail [email protected].
LORETO, Mexico --
Word of the beautiful landscape surrounding this small Baja
California town on the Sea of Cortez has spread over the years
among fishermen and nature lovers.
But Loreto now is
poised to draw a much wider base of travelers, as a U.S.-Canadian
company proceeds with plans for a $3 billion resort and residential
The Loreto Bay
Co., a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based developer, partnered with Fonatur --
the Mexican tourism agency that 25 years ago selected Loreto as a
site for an international tourist destination -- to build a resort
that will be the closest Fonatur property to the U.S., about 700
miles south of San Diego.
Fonatur is the
agency that chose and helped develop Bajas largest resort area, Los
Cabos, as well as Cancun, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and
The 8,000 acres
that Fonatur has set aside for Loreto Bay is in an area called
Nopolo, about five miles south of Loreto.
Some years back,
Fonatur built roads and infrastructure in the area to lure
But with the
growth of Cabo on the southern tip of Baja, development stalled,
and -- except for a few homes and the 154-room Camino Real hotel
and golf course, built in 2002 -- there was little
The Loreto Bay
Co. is nearing completion on the first 50 units, which eventually
will be part of a retail, entertainment and residential complex of
6,000 homes, ranging from condominiums to large, custom-built
villas, in a village-like, car-free zone of bubbling fountains and
shady walking paths.
The jagged peaks
of the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range and the blue waters of
the Sea of Cortez frame the resort area and are the backdrop to
majestic sunrises and sunsets.
The buyers of the
units -- mostly Canadians and Americans investing in vacation or
retirement homes -- have been jetting to Loreto on new Alaska
Airlines flights from Los Angeles to choose their model homes (see
Local Color, Getting There box below).
The developer is
selling packages to potential buyers, with the flights
In its first full
year of sales, the company sold 200 units valued at more than $70
million; prices start around $250,000. Property owners have the option of entering their units
into a pool of rentals to be offered as part of vacation packages
sold by the Loreto Bay Co. and through Alaska Airlines Vacations
and other tour operators.
Loreto, a sleepy
town of 3,000 set in a semitropical, cactus-dotted desert
landscape, is not new to tourism, but thus far it has specialized
in small-scale tourism, largely driven by its proximity to
world-class sportfishing and abundant marine life.
watchers and kayakers stay at small hotels along the waterfront and
explore and fish the waters off
Coronado, Carmen and other islands that make up Mexicos largest
national marine park.
The town of Loreto,
with its main square and tree-shaded roads, has a long
In 1697, it was
the site of the first European settlement in the California
territory claimed by Spain.
The Jesuits built
their first Mexican mission in Loreto, starting a string of 21
missions that extend northward as far as Sonoma in northern
The Mision de
Nuestra Senora de Loreto still stands, and its cupola is the town
has been its tranquility and small size. There is only one bank and
ATM and just a handful of restaurants, souvenir shops and
Officials at the
Loreto Bay Co. say they have no intention of changing the local
ambience and are using Loretos small-town charm as a selling point
to buyers, many of whom had considered Cabo but were put off by its
growth and increasingly big-resort environment.
of Loreto Bay is intended to be on a human scale, said Debra
Stevens, vice president of marketing communications.
buildings will be constructed with environmental conservation in
mind, according to a strategy created by David Butterfield,
president of the Trust for Sustainable Development, the Loreto Bay
Stevens said the
development will harvest more potable water than it consumes and
will use solar or wind power.
Use of cars will
be discouraged in favor of electric carts; entertainment,
restaurants and shops will be within walking distance from the
residents can take taxis into town (for about $10).
As an added
commitment to keeping the environment pristine, 5,000 acres of the
8,000-acre tract will be maintained as a natural preserve but will
be open for hiking and horseback riding.
On a recent trip
sponsored by Alaska Airlines and the developer, the construction of
the first phase, called the Villages of Loreto Bay, adjacent to the
Camino Real, was in full swing.
The two- and
three-bedroom townhomes are being built of adobe block, the natural
building material of the area.
The tile floors,
high ceilings, small courtyards and terraces are Mexican-style.
Furniture will be built in Mexico in traditional hacienda-style.
(Loreto Bay sales offices at the Camino Real and another in the
center of Loreto have samples and architects
In addition to
the homes, which will be built in phases through 2015, the project
includes the construction of a beach club, retail and entertainment
outlets and recreation facilities, all projected to be completed by
the end of 2006. The golf course at the Camino Real is also slated
The first 50
units are expected to be available for rent by late fall, and
packages will be released at that time, commissionable at 10% to
agents, said Don Weintraub, vice president of destination
marketing. Pricing has not yet been set.
About 70% of
owners are expected to put their units in the rental pool and offer
the units at least six months of the year.
Loreto Bay is
planning to set up a reservations office and toll-free number in
Scottsdale by late May.
which is a major sponsor of this years Mexico Travel Market trade
shows, will start marketing to the travel trade this spring in
preparation for the autumn roll-out of packages, Weintraub
Travel agents and
tour operators are extremely important to us, he said, adding that
U.S. tour operators are expected to start adding Loreto Bay
accommodations to their packages late this year and in
But much work has
to be done to familiarize the trade with Loreto, which many people
confuse with Laredo, Texas.
A lot of people
dont know where Loreto is, Weintraub said. Our philosophy is
getting the destination sold first and then the Loreto Bay product
Loreto was critical to the project, said Weintraub.
recently started twice-weekly (Thursdays and Sundays) nonstop
flights from Los Angeles to Loreto, service that was spurred by a
commitment from the Loreto Bay Co., which wanted the service to
boost sales of homes and tourism to the destination.
and Aeromexico are the other airlines that serve Loreto.
with Alaska Airlines for service out of Los Angeles is a key
development, Weintraub said, because the flights offer connections
to service from the Pacific Northwest and western Canada, important
markets for Loreto Bay.
is available at www.loretobay.com or (866) 956-7386.
reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].
details on this article, see The laid-back love Loreto.