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There's a different outdoor activity for every day of Loreto's year: whale-watching from January to April, kayaking May to June and October to December, dorado and billfish fishing in summer, scuba diving and snorkeling in May and July to August, mule expeditions into the mountains November to June, and sportfishing and excursions to San Javier mission, cave paintings, and Loreto's offshore islands year-round. For a small town, Loreto has a lot of very good tour operators. Some of our favorites are Baja Big Fish (seasonal summer office in Mediterraneo restaurant on the malecón; tel. 613/135-1603; www.bajabigfish.com), a sportfishing company with a strong commitment to sustainability; Dolphin Dive Center (on Juárez just off the malecón; tel. 613/135-1914; www.dolphindivebaja.com), Loreto's most established dive operator; Land & Sea Eco Adventures (next door to the Damiana Inn on Madero at Hidalgo; tel. 613/135-0680; www.loretoecotours.wordpress.com), with gifted naturalist guides; and Tour Baja (tel. 800/398-6200; www.tourbaja.com), offering sailing, kayaking, pack trips, and some of the entire peninsula's most exciting active adventures since 1983.

Bear in mind that if you'll be on the water or the offshore islands, you'll need a Loreto Bay National Marine Park bracelet as proof you've paid your daily entry fee (23 pesos). Tour operators will take care of it for you, but if you're on your own, stop into the park office at the marina to pay.

Beaches -- The main beaches at either end of the malecón are popular places for Loretanos, especially on Sundays; they're safe for swimming. But the region's most beautiful, pristine beaches, glittering with white sand, turquoise water, and spectacular marine life, are on Isla Coronado, a half-hour boat ride away, and Isla del Carmen  -- if you're here for more than 1 day, you won't want to miss out, especially on Coronado, which is an easy trip. The best anchorage is on the western shores of both islands.

Boat Trips -- Loreto offers island exploration tours that take in one, or a combination, of the five islands located just offshore. They usually offer the opportunity to visit sea lion colonies and do some snorkeling and beachcombing for around $60 for three people. Arrange cruises through your hotel -- every hotel has a deal with a local fisherman -- or through one of the operators listed above. Land & Sea Eco Adventures will take you to Coronado's beaches for $65, including snorkeling, a desert nature walk, and lunch (add $20 for an excellent barbecue and beer); they also run boat and hiking tours to Isla del Carmen. Ask about visits to the farther-flung islands -- each one is unique and offers a spectrum of activities such as sea kayaking, snorkeling, diving, hiking, or simply exploring the local desert flora and fauna.

Bird-Watching -- The estuary just out of town south of the Hotel Oasis is an Eden of wildlife in the early mornings. Hire a panga at the marina or through your hotel for sunrise bird- and dolphin-watching, or just stroll down along the shore. Don't forget your camera! Farther afield, Land & Sea Eco Adventures offers seasonal bird-watching at Misión San Javier, and Baja By Kayak (tel. 613/135-1887; www.bajabykayak.com) arranges birding overnights to Laguna San Ignacio.

Golf -- The 18-hole Campo de Golf Loreto, Bulevar Misión San Ignacio, Fraccionamiento Nopoló (tel. 613/133-0554), is 18 holes of natural landscaping, incorporating desert, mangroves, and artificial lakes that attract migrating birds. The front 9 holes are a links-style course with gently sloping fairways, and the back 9 incorporate the mangroves and water features.

Hiking & Mountain Biking -- As hiking goes, the Sierra de la Giganta has virtually no formal trails, so a local's perspective is invaluable and will land you in many magical spots in these towering mountains. Tour Baja offers a range of adventure tours, including hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, sailing, and horseback riding, and they were adventurers in this rugged territory long before they decided to become guides. Their Pedaling South tour offers vehicle-supported guided mountain-bike treks for all skill levels. Choose from tours into the mountains, along the coast, and to the San Javier Mission, and combine your favorite with snorkeling or kayaking. Call Tour Baja for information on mule packing and day-hike trips into the mountains. A 3-day guided mountain-bike trip costs $95 per hiker per day, and a mountain-biking excursion costs $125 per day or $95 if you bring your own bike (with a minimum of three people). Land & Sea Eco Adventures will organize custom hiking tours with a strong emphasis on understanding the natural environment of the desert, including desert survival tips, for $50 per day.

Horseback Riding -- Tour Baja's Saddling South offers pack trips on horse- and muleback into the Sierra de La Giganta range and through historic ranches along the way. If you're looking to experience life on the California frontier, this is for you. One to 6-day mule treks ★★ to the cave paintings of San Ignacio are highly recommended. The cost is $125 per day for a minimum 3-day and maximum 8-day tour.

Tennis -- You can play tennis at the Nopoló Sports Center's Loreto Bay Tennis Center (tel. 877/522-9466), which was dedicated by John McEnroe. There are eight courts, a pool, a sun deck, a stadium that holds 250 people, a racquetball court, and a pro shop. Check in before your visit to find up-to-date prices. The center is open daily from 7am to 8pm.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.