The Bay of Loreto is an area that brings two environments together, the tropical region of the Gulf of California and the more temperate Baja desert; this leads to high levels of biodiversity and a high level of endemism for several species of plant and animal. The bay as well as the islands in the bay were named a national protected area by CONANP in 1996 with the intent to protect the biodiversity as well as preserve the area for cultural use. UNESCO, Ramsar, and Areas of Protection for the Conservation of Birds (AICAS) have designated the entirety of Loreto Bay, or islands in the bay, as important areas for conservation and protection.
Loreto Bay is characterized by several marine environments including white sand beaches, rocky shores, mangrove forests, submarine canyons, and marine terraces. The waters are home to over 160 species of micro algae and the islands support over 600 species of plant (CONANP – 26). The bay is home to a wide variety of animal species including 300 species of registered invertebrates and 260 species of fish (CONANP -27).
The Puerto Escondido station was one of the riches we visited, for it combined many kinds of environment in a very small area; sand bottom, stone shore, boulders, broken rock, coral, still, warm, shallow places, and racing tide. —John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
The bay becomes the winter residences for whales, including the great blue whale, the humpback, the fin whale, and the sperm whale. Dolphins and orca also call the area home. Five of the seven genera of sea turtles have also been seen in the bay (COANAP – 27).
There are five main islands with several smaller islands: Coranodos Island, Del Carmen Island, Danzante Island, Monserrat Island, and Santa Catalina Island. The islands support a variety of wildlife with the reptiles being the most common. Nearly 230 species of bird are either residents or migratory, including terrestrial, coastal, and marine species (CONANP -27). Small mammals do reside on the islands, and the rodent far exceeds any other order.
Loreto is the original capital of the Baja peninsula and was first successfully settled by Jesuits in the seventeenth century. Visitors to Loreto will find no shortness of things to do. Boat tours of the islands are popular activities as well as scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, sport fishing, and hiking. The first annual Blue Whale Festival was celebrated in Loreto in February, 2017.