Many of Baja California Sur’s hidden treasures can be found when you venture off the beaten path.
When you live in La Paz, BCS, a whole world of adventure lies just outside your door in just about any direction. While there are no shortage of beaches and towns reachable by car, so much more of Baja’s magic is found along coastal, desert and mountain trails that defy 2-wheel drive.
That’s why you’ll see many La Paz locals whizzing around on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and side-by-side utility task vehicles (UTVs). In an off-road vehicle, you can access deserted beaches, remote towns and villages, fish camps where fresh seafood is caught and sold, deep desert canyons, and so much more.
In fact, the Baja 1000 off road race, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is an 800-mile off road race that often starts in Ensenada and runs the length of the Baja peninsula, finishing in La Paz. If you want to experience for yourself what it’s like to drive the same track the pros race, you can check out the race map here.
There are several informal off-road groups that plan rides together around La Paz, which is safer than going it alone, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the trails. On a recent weekend, we headed out with a group that call themselves the Moto Geezers. Our destination: San Evaristo, a small bayside village a few hours north of La Paz with a tiny restaurant that we had heard serves amazing fresh fish tacos.
Our group met at 8:00 a.m.at a local gas station in El Centenario, just outside La Paz, where we bought delicious machaca burritos for breakfast. It was an experienced group and well prepared, with vehicles ranging from UTVs to dune buggies and quads. Among our supplies: plenty of water, snacks, extra gas, and basic tools for repairs. As with any outdoor adventure, we made sure to tell friends where we were going, our planned route, and when we expected to be back.
We trailered our vehicles up the highway for about 45 minutes, then parked in a spot off the road near a mining operation. From there, we set out on a dirt road that took us first along the Sea of Cortez, then through the desert and up a winding rocky trail through the mountains.
Along the way, we passed a large shrimp farm, a few beachside fish camps, cows munching contentedly on desert fauna, a herd of horses trotting alongside the trail, and a baby burro and its mama. Many animals roam free in Baja, so you must always be on the lookout around the next bend!
At our first stop, we parked on a cliff overlooking the Sea of Cortez in front of us. Behind, multi-colored cliffs rose from the desert floor, ranging in color from deep desert pink to an unusual dark green from the naturally occurring phosphorus. We exclaimed over the views, snapped dozens of photos, then headed onward.
Some time later, we arrived at San Evaristo, where a small grouping of homes and a single restaurant surrounded a stunning bay. Several sailboats bobbed peacefully in the afternoon breeze. A group of shorebirds gathered nearby to scavenge, and a flock of pelicans swooped in low, scanning the water for their lunch.
Speaking of lunch, we headed to Lupe Sierra’s restaurant, where dozens of shells hung on strings, painted with the musings and messages of past visitors. Paint and brushes stood on a nearby table. A few of us painted our own shells, then wandered down the beach, snapping more photos of the picturesque bay.
Then the food arrived, and we settled in for a delicious lunch of fresh sautéed grouper and snapper, served in cast iron skillets and accompanied by warm tortillas, pico de gallo and several salsas. The fish was so fresh and delicious, we ordered a second round.
Full and happy, we hopped in our vehicles and headed back, content to have spent the day outdoors, enjoying a part of Baja most tourists never see. On the way out, one of our group pointed out nearby Isla San Francisquito and Isla San Jose, two nearby islands where a local family that runs Barbarita Tours takes La Paz visitors on tours to San Evaristo and out on snorkeling and camping trips to the islands. We promised ourselves to return soon to check it out.
The drive back was just as scenic, and we arrived home dusty, tired and smiling from our day of off road adventure. No matter what your interest or skill level, there are plenty of trails to explore and sights to see off the beaten path in Baja California Sur, and La Paz offers a perfect starting point for trips in just about any direction.