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Loreto was the first Spanish settlement on the Baja California Peninsula. It served as the capital of Las Californias from 1697 to 1777, and is the current seat of the municipality of Loreto in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The city of 16,724 people (2015 census) is located on the coast of the Gulf of California, (220 mi) north of the state capital, La Paz.

The town was founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries, who found a steady spring of fresh water in this area, as the Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto. The Jesuits were expelled in 1767, and control of the Baja California missions was given to the Franciscans. In 1769, the Franciscans were ordered to turn over the Baja missions to the Dominican order and accompany the expedition of Gaspar de Portola to establish new missions in the unexplored northern frontier that became Alta California. The expedition departed from Loreto on March 24, 1769.

The town served as the capital of the province of Las Californias from its founding until the capital was moved to Monterey on February 3, 1777. In 1768, the province had been split into Alta California (today’s U.S. state of California) and Baja California. At first, the two provinces continued with a single governor. Later, the town became the headquarters for the Lieutenant Governor of California Viejo , or old California (the province of Baja California).

The city is now a tourist resort, catering mostly to U.S. and Canadian travelers, with daily flights from the U.S. state of California to Loreto International Airport. Many American tourists enjoy fishing in “pangas” for “dorado” (Mahi-mahi or Dolphin Fish). Local restaurants will willingly prepare the daily catch of the tourists. Loreto has a museum that coexists alongside the historic, but still active, parish. Loreto has active sister city relationships with Hermosa Beach and Cerritos, California, USA.

Loreto has a reputation as an excellent sport fishing location.This is its main tourist attraction, as well as the main source of employment in the area, thus linking Loreto’s economy closely to fishing. There are two well-defined fishing seasons: summer features “dorado” and species like marlin (black marlin, Atlantic blue marlin, striped marlin) and sailfish, which are ideal for fly fishing; winter fishing features “yellow tail” (jurel) and other species that usually are deep in the sea rocks. In addition to these seasonal species, Loreto’s waters are home to other species like snapper and seabass, which are found all year long.[17][18][19] Thanks to this abundance, Loreto has been home of several IGFA records. The two “foundations” of Loreto’s sport fishing are the “dorado” and the “yellow tail”.The dorado is the emblematic species of Loreto’s warm waters, its season beginning in late May, peaking from July to September, and ending in November, with two important tournaments, in July and September. The yellow tail is one of the strongest species; its season begins in November, peaks from March to April, and comes to an end in late May.

There are several beaches in the Loreto area:
Ensenada Blanca.
Agua Verde.
San Bruno (to the North of town).
Other activities are: Diving. Loreto offers world class snorkelling and scuba diving, featuring warm water that makes wetsuits unnecessary most of the year, remarkable biodiversity, and good visibility.
Golfing. The Loreto Golf Course is a par 72 course with 18 holes and two artificial lakes, located in Nopoló, 9 km south of the town.
Tennis. The Loreto Tennis Center has 8 professional courts and a stadium, also located in Nopoló.
Camping. Loreto offers from full service campsites, as well as deserted beaches.
Kayaking. Several companies offer sea kayak tours.
Sailing. Puerto Escondido, now renamed “Puerto Loreto” by the federal government, is south of Loreto. This port it is a safe natural harbor surrounded by hills, and is home to the “Sea of Cortez Project”, formerly known as Nautical Ladder Plan), operated by two government agencies. The Hidden Port Yacht Club is also based in this port, an internationally recognized club that is also involved in philanthropic activities.

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