The holidays are over and winter weather has set in for us Northern Hemisphere folk. If you’re like me, this is the signal that it’s time to make some plans for a warm weather get-away and a road trip down Baja California is the remedy!
Tijuana has gotten a bad rap in the past few decades, but 2017 is definitely it’s comeback year! It made #8 on the New York Places to Go in 2017 list, sighting a culinary renaissance, a new transit system and luxury condo boom. Many of it’s problems are not gone, but hopefully this new energy will transform this border town to its former glory. (More on Tijuana from The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Being only about 80 miles from San Diego, Ensenada, named The Cinderella of the Pacific, is a hot spot for many Californians to head on a quick international get away. It boasts plenty of tourist activities including water sports, windsurfing, sailing and whale watching as the gray whale migrates annually to Alaska. It is also located close to many world famous surfing spots including San Miguel Beach, California Trailer Park, Stacks and Tres Emes. An island located 2 hours by boat from Ensenada, Todos Santos Island (Todos Santos article in Outside Magazine) boasts incredible waves and international surfing contests.
This unassuming salt mining town comes alive from December through April when its most famous visitors, the migrating gray whales, arrive to give birth in the Ojo de Libre Lagoon. Depending on when you visit, you may see up to 1,000 whales in this one location. In the early part of the season, you may witness mating, and by late January and February newborns. By the end of the season, you’ll see these playful young gray whales “testing the waters” and get ready to continue their 6,000 mile migration from the Bering Sea. It is an amazing experience to witness the natural habitat of one of the world’s largest animals and makes a visit to Guerrero Negro a must on your road trip.
After whale watching in Guerrero Negro, follow Federal Highway 1 across the width of Baja California Sur to the small town of Santa Rosalía on the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California.) A French influence still remains in the town from the French company who came to mine copper from the late 1800’s until the 1950’s yet ironically the Mission de Santa Rosalía resides in neighboring Mulegé and not in its namesake.
Mulegé is the gem on the Gulf of California. This real oasis town sports mild weather conditions and is one of the few places in Baja with a green landscape due to the Río Mulegé flowing into the gulf. The coves along the shoreline boast shimmering turquoise colors and make this area very popular for fisherman, kayakers, snorkelers and divers. Mulegé is also the gateway to the Bahía Concepción, one of the largest bays on Baja with white sandy beaches at every turn.
About 220 miles north of La Paz and is the city of Loreto, first founded by the Jesuits in 1697 (Mission of Our Lady of Loreto), and later taken over by the Franciscans it served as the capital of Las California (Alta California, today’s US State of California, and Baja California), until the 1770’s when the provinces broke in two and Alta California’s capital became Monterey. The mission in Loreto is where the famous El Camino Real (The Royal Road) begins and travels all the way north to Sonoma California in the US. Like most of the towns and cities along the Gulf, Loreto sports lots of water sports and activities, as well as a Marine Park and several neighboring National Park islands to explore.
La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur and has a population of a little over 200,000 residence (roughly 1/4 million people if surrounding towns are included.) The large population offers many more cultural attractions than other small towns in Baja such as resorts, restaurants and the likes, but still retains its charm. It offers plenty of water sports and all the exploration that the Gulf of California offers. (For literature buffs, John Steinbeck visited La Paz in 1940 and wrote about it in his novel The Pearl as well as his travelogue The Log from the Sea of Cortez.)
Cabo San Lucas
The road trip finally ends at the bottom of Baja, and the city of Cabo San Lucas. Rated as one of the top 5 destinations in Mexico, Cabo (as referred to by the US) has no shortage of things to do. Cabo offers a quintessential relaxing vacation with fancy resorts, stellar golfing, beautiful beaches and of course the water where the Gulf of California meets the Pacific Ocean.
Although Cabo may be a destination on its own, it would be a shame to miss out on all the various activities, historical sites, raw nature and beauty that dot the entire length of Baja. So instead of booking a direct flight, just hop in your car, and make the whole peninsula a road trip. The margarita at the end of your journey will be well worth it.