Baja California is still a great place for travelers looking beyond the Caribbean tourist hubs of Cancún and Tulum. But the secret is out on Baja. Hotels and resorts are already springing up at a truly alarming rate. Our advice is to get in quick and look south for the sleepy fishing villages and unblemished natural wonders that will make your trip a memorable one.
Baja offers fantastic hiking trails that will take you through a huge diversity of landscapes. With rocky canyon vistas, coastal sand dunes and silent but scenic deserts, the peninsula has it all.
Surfers in search of great waves and adventure are flocking to Baja. Sections of the peninsula are attracting pros and beginners alike, drawn to the area because of its peerless surfing conditions. In recent years, Ensenada has emerged as a major surfing hub. Close to the US border, the coastal spot has some of the best waves in the country, especially during the winter.
There are more than 100 prehistoric cave paintings in the state of Baja, depicting human figures, animals and rituals. Typically red and black, the very oldest drawings date back more than 7,000 years. The most impressive drawings are situated in the municipality of Mulegé in the San Francisco mountain range, a location that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Cabo Pulmo National Park near the city of Cabo San Lucas is a fantastic place for diving and snorkeling. The park contains the oldest coral reef located in North America, teeming with all manner of incredible flora and fauna. Over-exploited in the 20th century, the fish population has grown massively since fishing was made illegal more than two decades ago.
Zip-lining has become increasing popular in Mexico in recent years. The Outdoor Zip-Line Adventure Company based in Cabo San Lucas offers the longest and most thrilling zip-line route in the country. Adventure lovers will love soaring through the air above tree canopies in the Boca de la Sierra, a stunning UNESCO protected biosphere.
Every winter, Pacific Gray Whales come to Baja to mate and give birth. Approximately 25,000 of them make the annual journey from the Artic to the now-protected waters on the Pacific side of Baja California Sur. The whale-watching season in Baja begins in early February and ends in March. The best way to see the whales is by joining a marine safari such as Whale Watch Cabo, which offers trips that start in Cabo San Lucas.
The Isla Espíritu Santo, or Holy Spirit Island, is one of the most stunning destinations on the continent. The island lies in the Sea of Cortez between the peninsula and the mainland, a destination that was memorably called “the world’s aquarium,” by the French explorer Jacques Cousteau. Named a World Heritage Bioreserve by UNESCO, the island is a fantastic place to explore and also offers opportunities to watch dolphins or swim with sea lions.
The small town of Todos Santos has become a major arts and culture hub in recent years, with new galleries and art studios opening all the time. Founded as a Jesuit mission in the 18th century, the government named the picturesque town a Pueblo Mágico, or “magical town” in 2006. The official designation marks the town’s importance as a cultural landmark.
The Bay of Balandra is never far from the top of any local’s recommendation list. The stunning location, which is connected to the Sea of Cortez, is surrounded by pristine white sand dunes. Because the bay is almost a closed circle, its waters are exceptionally calm and clear. The beach also boasts the jaw-dropping mushroom rock formation.
Seafood is the name of the game in Baja. Unsurprisingly, given the location, you’ll be eating some of the freshest and most delicious fish and shellfish the world has to offer. Whether it’s mouthwatering fish tacos or pismo clams – juicy smoked clams served with garlic and tomato – you won’t lack for options on the peninsula.
Baja is Mexico’s premier wine-growing region, with most of it produced in the Valle de Guadalupe area surrounding the coastal city of Ensenada. Spanish settlers brought vines with them in the 18th century and soon found they grew healthily, with the Pacific blunting the peninsula’s desert-like conditions. Wine production continues to this day, and several companies, including Baja Vino offer tours with tastings.
Long known as a seedy party town, the sprawling border city of Tijuana has reinvented itself in recent years, and was even named one of the New York Times’ top travel destinations for 2017. The city currently boasts excellent restaurants and gastropubs, a host of micro-breweries and several first-rate museums.