Crowned the “ultimate road trip” by many a travel publication, Baja California is fast becoming a bucket list destination – and it’s easy to see why. Miles of Hollywood-worthy desert scenes, Robinson Crusoe beaches, and a crazily biodiverse ocean are just some of the things drawing thousands of visitors here each year. From the north’s mountainous wine region to the white sand beaches of the south, here’s how to spend 3 awesome weeks exploring Baja California.
Although it was once a travel afterthought, Tijuana is currently experiencing a highly impressive cultural revival. Craft breweries, hip coffee shops and outdoor gastro markets are just some of the things drawing crowds over the border. Spend a day here exploring the city’s bustling Mercado El Popo, checking out the street murals in Pasaje Rodríguez, sampling Mexico’s best craft beer and coffee on Avenida Revolucion, or trying the world’s first ever Caesar Salad at Caesar’s Hotel & Restaurant. If you fancy it, you can also have your picture taken with Tijuana’s hottest attraction: a zebra-painted donkey.
Ensenada may not be the prettiest of Baja California’s towns, but it has two big things going for it: excellent seafood and a tonne of wineries. Just a two-hour drive from Tijuana, you’ll not only be in the home of both the world-famous La Guerrerense and the bustling Mercado Negro fish market, but you’ll also be just a stone’s throw away from Baja’s stunning wine region. Spend 48 hours here sampling fresh yellowfin ceviche at any of the fish market restaurants, strolling the charming Malecon, and taking a half-day wine tasting tour into the nearby Valle de Guadalupe.
From December to early April, Guerrero Negro’s Laguna Ojo de Liebre sees something truly incredible happen: nearly all of the Earth’s grey whale population migrates to its shallow waters to socialise, mate and give birth. The whales here are highly social, and this is one of the only places on Earth where you can give the mothers and their calves a belly rub as they play with the boats! If you’re exploring Baja out of whale season, there really isn’t much else to see in this town. However, you may be forced to lay your head here for the night as, from Ensenada, it’s a 10-hour journey through nothing but desert. From Guerrero Negro, it’s another 2 hours to the next town with tourist accommodation.
Still a relatively undiscovered gem, Mulegé is a small oasis town located at the mouth of beautiful Río de Santa Rosalía and just a three-hour drive from Guerrero Negro. The town itself, with its narrow alleyways filled with the odd craft shop, brightly coloured Mexican taquerias and crumbling colonial architecture, has a sleepy charm about it, but the main draw here is the stunning nature that surrounds it. Just some of the must-dos include taking a guided hike into Cañon La Trinidad, visiting the stunning beaches nearby, and taking in the river views from the perfectly preserved 18th-century mission.
While nature is the main draw for travellers here, Baja is full of history, too. In the 1600s many Jesuit and Dominican missionaries came to the peninsula to spread the Catholic faith to the native populations. The very first settlement was in a small seaside village called Loreto. Abandoned by the missionaries in the late 1700s, today the beautiful stone-carved Misión Loreto houses a museum which tells the story of Baja California’s fascinating past. If missions aren’t your thing, don’t worry: Loreto has a square full of atmospheric al-fresco restaurants, a lovely Malecon and, being the home to the Loreto Bay National Marine Park, is the perfect place to see dolphins, sea lions, manta rays and the biggest mammal on our planet, the blue whale.
Next up is one of Baja California’s highlights: Isla Espiritu Santo. As it’s only about an hour boat ride from La Paz, there are plenty of day trips which normally include swimming with sea lions, snorkelling, and visiting one of the many beautiful beaches on the island. However, if you’re up for a real adventure, we suggest taking 4 days out to do a multi-day kayaking trip with Baja Outdoor Activities (BOA), one of the oldest and most experienced tour operators in La Paz. The trip will not only take you to the more remote and hidden parts of the island, but you’ll also get the real Espiritu Santo experience: paddling through emerald green waters, camping with unrestricted ocean views, morning shipwreck snorkelling, afternoon desert trail hikes, and fresh fish served up on the beach.
After all that island fun, it’s time for a little downtime. Just an hour and half south of La Paz sits one of Baja California’s most picturesque towns: Todos Santos. Todos Santos is a highlight of any Baja South itinerary, with many cute coffee houses, artisan shops, independent galleries and impressive boutique hotels. Every hotel here has its charm, but our favourites include the luxurious Guaycura Boutique Hotel Beach Club & Spa, the chic, laid-back La Bohemia Hotel Pequeño and the historic Todos Santos Inn.
Just a 20-minute drive from happening Todos Santos sits several miles of wild, untouched Pacific beach. Although more and more holiday homes and hotels are popping up along here, it’s still relatively undiscovered – so chances are you’ll find a spot where you can get a wave to yourself. If you’re just starting out, Cerritos, being an easy sandy beach break, is great for beginners and improvers. For the more experienced surfers, head straight to San Pedrito beach in Pescadero for an excellent and – if conditions are right – huge right reef break. If you’re on a budget, camping is available on both these beaches. Alternatively, treat yourself to the stunning Rancho Pescadero, only a 7-minute walk to San Pedrito and a 10-minute drive to Cerritos.
For those looking for beautiful beaches, luxury beach resorts and a thumping nightlife, Cabo is your ticket. The star of most Baja travel brochures, Cabo San Lucas is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the whole peninsula – so expect tonnes of hotels, expertly pruned golf courses and seafront clubs forming crazy conga lines. While you’re here be sure to check out iconic El Arco, don your scuba diving gear in search of sea lions, humpback whales, and mobula rays, or, if you didn’t quite get enough in Pescadero, grab a surfboard and take on Cabo’s awesome breaks.