Loreto is the first capital of the Baja Peninsula and was settled by the Jesuits in 1697. The town is a designated Pueblo Magico, or Magic town, and sits on the Gulf of California. The Jesuits established Misión San Javier in the Sierras Gigantes. The mission serves as the unofficial southern border for most of the ancient cave paintings in Baja. Guides are available in the town center for hikes to the mountain caves and travelers also have the opportunity to leave for the caves straight from Loreto. Today, it takes about an hour to drive the winding mountain roads to the old mission and the views are spectacular.
Year-round streams and springs pump life into the region, and so the area takes on an almost unnatural greenery, “From the sea, the town was buried in a grove of palms and greenery,” (Steinbeck, 142). The old mission in the towns center, Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, has been reconstructed since Steinbeck‘s and Krutch‘s visits. Today, services are held and the front steps serve as a meeting place for the locals.
Loreto sits on the scenic Bahía de Loreto. The natural beauty encapsulates the area and wildlife comes from the smallest invertebrates to the migrations of the great blue whale. When John Steinbeck collected from the shores at Puerto Escondido in the Bay, he found the variety of invertebrates to hold more variety and plenty than most of the collecting stations in the gulf (Steinbeck 141). The islands in the bay support a variety of animal and plant life and boat tours are available from the town’s marina.