The magic of Baja California Sur may not be as well-known to travelers as some more familiar Mexican destinations. However, once you have experienced all it has to offer, chances are you will fall in love with this amazing place. We did!
If you’ve traveled at all in Mexico, taken a cruise to Mexican ports, or live on the west coast of the US or Canada, it’s likely you have heard of or even visited Cabo San Lucas. It is, after all, a popular and rapidly growing resort destination and cruise ship port, and a short flight from multiple major cities on the west coasts of the U.S. and Canada.
However, most people we have met in the U.S. and Canada are not as familiar with the rest of Baja California Sur. We weren’t, either! However, if you’re willing to rent a car or hop on a bus, it is a magical place full of places to explore, with many towns to choose from, depending on your preferences and style.
First, a bit of geography. The entire Baja peninsula, which continues south from the U.S. state of California, is divided into two Mexican states. Baja California (also known as Baja Norte) is in the northern half of the peninsula. Closer to the U.S. border, Baja California is home to popular tourist destinations such as Tijuana, Ensenada, San Felipe, and the gorgeous Valle de Guadalupe wine region. Baja California Sur is in the southern half of the peninsula and includes Cabo San Lucas; the Los Cabos international airport, the colonial city of San Jose del Cabo, Loreto, and La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. It is also home to several smaller towns and destinations well worth exploring!
Following are a few places to put on your list for your next visit:
The Cabo Corridor
This stretch between the international airport in San Jose del Cabo and the town of Cabo San Lucas is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. A growing number of world-class resorts, golf courses and restaurants offer visitors an array of places to relax, eat and shop. In Cabo San Lucas, you’ll get views of Land’s End, the famous arch carved out where the Baja peninsula ends in a tumble of rocks that mark the spot where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. Cabo is also home to a thriving time share industry, so be prepared to be approached and pitched hard by a salesperson at any hotel or restaurant you visit here. San Jose del Cabo (at the other end of the Cabo Corridor, near the Los Cabos airport) offers a quieter, more traditional colonial Mexican atmosphere, while still offering amenities such as fine dining, golf and shopping.
The Pacific Side
About a 45-minute drive north of Cabo San Lucas, the tiny town of El Pescadero offers a laid back beach vibe and is home to the Cerritos surf colony. Visit Cerritos Beach to catch some waves or try boogie boarding. Beware of the strong rip currents, although protected, this beach is for experienced swimmers only. For a more upscale vibe, book a stay at Rancho Pescadero, a beautiful boutique hotel and yoga retreat. Pescadero is also home to the Baja Beans farmer’s market, a great place to spend a Sunday morning shopping for organic produce, handmade jewelry and other sourvenirs. For lunch, head next door to Hierbabuena, a local restaurant featuring delicious dishes harvested from its own organic gardens. Another 15 minutes north is the artists’ haven of Todos Santos, where you can browse shops and art galleries. Stop in for lunch and a margarita at the Hotel California. No, it’s not the same one referenced in the Eagles song, but there is a wink and a nod in that direction. Taking your picture in front of this hotel is irresistible and a fun way to commemorate your visit.
The East Cape
Just east of the Los Cabos airport, between San Jose del Cabo and the town of Los Barriles, new housing developments and resorts are springing up where once there was only desert. Cabo Pulmo is a national marine preserve with world-class diving and snorkeling. If diving is your passion, it is definitely worth putting on your list. Drive slow, and say hello to the friendly local burros you’ll find in on your way up the mostly dirt road. A bit further north, you’ll find Los Barriles and La Ventana, smaller beach towns where you can get around town in a dune buggy or ATV, shop and buy groceries from small corner markets (called tiendas) and enjoy fresh ceviche and fish tacos at local restaurants. If you’re planning a beach day, be aware these beaches can be a bit windier – one reason that La Ventana hosted the Lord of the Winds kite surfing competition for many years.
La Paz, Capital of Baja California Sur
These are all great destinations to visit and to live. So why did we choose to make La Paz our new home? The short answer: we got lucky! On some locals’ advice, we decided to visit La Paz on a house hunting trip, and almost immediately found a home we loved at a price we could afford. Now that we have lived here a while, we could not be happier with our choice! La Paz offers a unique blend of peaceful, laid-back atmosphere and big-city amenities we’ve found nowhere else in southern Baja.
Situated on the amazing Sea of Cortez, La Paz is home to stunning, swimmable beaches, amazing restaurants, a beautiful, three-mile long malecon, and a welcome mix of both expats and local Mexican residents. What you won’t find here: time shares and all-inclusive resorts. La Paz (so far) has missed the time share boom, preserving the laid back, peaceful feel that gives this city its name (La Paz translates to “The Peace”). And while La Paz may not be as English-speaking as Cabo, you will find any attempt to speak even a little Spanish will be rewarded with a friendly smile.
La Paz is also home to some truly amazing adventures. Here you can swim with whale sharks just a 15 minute boat ride from downtown, go stand up paddleboarding or kayaking around the calm, protected waters of La Paz Bay, or visit Espiritu Santo to snorkel with sea lions. Those seeking land-based activities can go hiking and mountain biking in the desert hills, drive an ATV or side-by-side off-road vehicle through mountain trails, or go horseback riding along the beach.
There are so many more wonderful reasons we love living in La Paz – too many to fit into this post. In a future post, we’ll offer more insights into what it’s really like to live here, including some of our favorite local places to eat, shop, relax and adventure.
Questions? Contact us here.