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Peaceful seaside Loreto dates to 1697, when it became the first colonial settlement on the Baja Peninsula and the capital of the Spanish colony of the Californias. These days, the town has spread beyond its colonial origins, but it retains beautiful relics from the past, especially of the Dominican, Franciscan and Jesuit orders, all of which were active here. These include the Mission of Our Lady of Loreto, which stands at the beginning of the famous Camino Real connecting the Spanish missions in both Baja and Alta California. Loreto, tucked between the rugged Sierra de la Giganta range and the calm waters of the Sea of Cortez, is also blessed with spectacular natural scenery. Just offshore, a string of islands beckon divers, snorkelers and sea kayakers with secluded coves, dramatic rock formations and crystal-clear waters that are protected within Loreto Bay National Marine Park. And a day trip into the mountains offers the opportunity to see cave paintings from pre-colonial indigenous groups, some of which are now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After a paddling adventure offshore or a trek into the mountains, take a stroll along the malecón, Loreto’s waterfront boardwalk, where you can have a drink or a plate of fish tacos overlooking the water.