This summer may be an excellent time to explore the Baja Peninsula. With spectacular vistas and a history dating back more than 475 years it can be both fun and educational.One of the big rush season for Baja travel are the weeks following the close of the North American scholl year. from the first of June through mid August you will find the reosrts of the Baja peninsula a very popluar location choice for family vacations, so make your reservations early.
The Baja peninsula has a lot to offer your summer vacation. More than 21 missions dating back to Spanish colonial days mark the route north for the missionaries that later lead to the settling of what is now California. History, sun, fun and security await you in your affordable Baja Summer Vacation.
Driving Baja is Safe!
The headlines make visitors fearful of a Baja vacation. You are no more likely to be attacked on a Baja highway than anywhere else. If you want to read more on this subject click here. Driving the length of the peninsula on Baja’s Highway 1 is a beautiful and safe multi-day journey. The highway is all paved, 2 and 4 lanes and only a shadow of the wild and wooly adventure it was decades ago. If you adventure as far south as Baja California Sur by land, sea or air, you will find a tropical desert paradise with the main summer attraction being the Sea of Cortez.
With nearly 3000 miles of coastline on the cool Pacific side or the bath water warm Sea of Cortez side, there is plenty to see and do in Baja if you are a water lover. Yes, summer can be very warm in Baja, 100°F temperatures can be found in July in most inland locations and most places along the Sea of Cortez side.
Beaches are one of the big draws to the Baja peninsula and in a recent USA Today reader's poll, 6 of the 10 best beaches in Mexico can be found at the southern end of the peninsula. With summer water temperatures reaching into the high 70's on the Pacific side and mid to upper 80's in the Sea of Cortez the water is a great escape from the summer heat.
This is the appeal of the coastal areas of Baja California during the summer. Headlines and changes in the passport requirements to visit Mexico have robbed the area of much of its summer tourism. Restaurants and beach clubs along the coast are eager for the return of the southern California casual and weekend visitor. Local government, real estate developers, and travel businesses are working hard to regain the trust and tourist traffic of years gone by. If you look at the facts and not the prejudice headlines you would be convinced.
Rosarito Beach is still home to lobster just about any style you can imagine. The days of the $10 lobster feasts are gone, we ate all the $10 lobster, but the charm and affordability are still there. The Fox Studio tour is another day activity, particularly if you have kids. The beaches of the coastal areas of Baja California offer beautiful vistas and clean bright Pacific waters to swim. The drive along the toll road to Ensenada make the day trip a photo opportunity.
The wine industry of Baja California is also an emerging travel adventure. Tours are offered, just as in the wine country of California. Although fall is the peak time to visit the vineyards, summer can be a busy time with trimmings and tending to the future harvest. The tours move inland along Highway 3 to Tecate and some big-name vintners can be spotted from the road if you are making a day of it on your own.
Famed Ensenada bars and the Malecon are fabulous attractions. Wander the waterfront and enjoy fresh fish tacos and peruse the selection of the day’s catch. Shopping in Ensenada has always been an attraction. The cruise ships still make a stop at the new cruise ship port facilities and that has brought the wave of tourist shops and designer outlets that come with that weekly traffic. El Bufadora is just about 30 minutes south of the city of Ensenada. The Pacific ocean waves roar into the small inlet and the force of the waves is shot up through the rocks in an impressive display of nature's power.
Once you are south of Ensenada you enter a different Baja. If you have never ventured more than 100 miles south, there is a whole other Baja for you to explore.
Tourism extends southward to El Rosario, through San Quintin and Colnet, but it is like rolling back the clock with every mile south you drive. San Quintin offers fishing and some very affordable hotels on the beach or up the inlet. Camping on the point is still a very popular pass time. Surfing in the area can be good during southern storms. Motels along the route can cost you less than $30 a night, although you may find them basic, I have found most of them to be clean. Never be shy to ask to see a room in advance.
Once you leave the Pacific coast headed south it does get warm. Temperatures as you cross the high desert can be over 100°F for the next 90 days. Make sure you fill up driving south at El Rosario, it is the last gas for about 240 miles in Guerrero Negro. (actually just north of that in Santa Rosa) Sometimes gas has been available in Catavina, but we’ve had sketchy reports on that.
Fishing is, of course, one of the summer attractions to Baja. In Baja, California expeditions are available from Ensenada. For a truly different experience, we suggest contacting our friends at Cedros Outdoor Adventures. The Cedros Islands are located offshore, at the ‘elbow’ bend in the peninsula. The waters offer a rich catch and the isolated island experience will get your mind out of the rat race.
Guerrero Negro is the border city and my usual stop when driving the peninsula. Motel prices range from about $25 to way more than you should spend in this town. Most of the motels are clean, hot water can be a commodity at some. I like the Hotel Ballena myself, always hot water, clean sheets and a secure lot just off the main drag, $28/night. Taco stands are your best bet for dinner, there is one restaurant at a motel entering G.N. that offers fantastic steaks.
By the way, after Guerrero Negro you are in Baja California Sur, one of the safest states in Mexico and safer than a majority of US states.
San Ignacio is well worth the few minutes off the highway to take a break. The cool oasis on the Pacific coast if popular during whale watching season but can be a nice place to hang out very affordable off season.
From here you can also take a side trip to the remote and beautiful Malarimo Beach. For beachcombers it is paradise, for decades, it has been where everything in the Pacific washes ashore. It is also great whale watching in the season but summers are pretty quiet.
Santa Rosalia is beginning to become a reason to stop the car when driving south. After coming down Cuesta de Infierno (Hell Hill) you get your first glimpse of the Sea of Cortez. When I return to Baja I have to stop and touch the Sea at the first opportunity. The copper mines of Santa Rosalia are active again inland, but the old mine processing facilities are slowly being renovated into an attraction of shops and history.
Loreto is the oldest continuous settlement in Baja and the original seat of government. The Presidio is probably the most photographed building in the city. The state is putting great resources into developing Loreto. Golf is available and there is air service on an increasingly available schedule to the small city. Fishing, diving and great access to the Sea of Cortez are all draws to this city in the middle of the state on the Sea of Cortez. A wide variety of accommodations are available and trendy shops and restaurants have sprung up alongside the traditional open air taco restaurants and beachfront. Although Loreto has developed over the past decade, I still would not call it a tourist town. Good deals on summer vacations still abound. (See Stuck in Paradise)
If you fish off-track adventures await you in CD Insurgents when you turn off to visit Lopez Mateo or San Carlos. These are quiet little pueblos where summer visitors are rare. Fabulous deals can be found alongside those folks trying to make a summer’s profit from your visit. Shop wisely, this is a common tactic in Mexican off-season marketing.
“The Valley” as it is known by locals (Why? It is an alluvial plain?) is the agricultural bread basket of Baja. Big farms, huge farm equipment, and biplane sprayers are common sights. Karen’s Tacos on the west side in the middle of town is my favorite reason to stop. Watch your driving, the Constitucion police have a reputation, keep your visible cash to a minimum and you could get out of it for less than $200 pesos. Being inland and a farming community, tourist stops are rare but it is a good place to catch a motel and fuel. Leys Grocery has come to town so shopping is easier, but with less charm than it had on my first visit.
La Paz is the next stop southbound, the gateway to the Sea of Cortez. La Paz is emerging as a tourist destination. Now boasting two golf courses including the Gary Player Signature Course at CostaBaja Resort & Marina, the city as matured in the 10 years I have been here. La Paz has always seen itself as the big sister of Baja. The seat of government, La Paz had a population of over 100,000 when Cabo San Lucas had a few scattered fishing shanties. Today, La Paz has a population nearing 300,000.
The Sea and the beaches are why people come to La Paz in the summer. The fishing is outstanding and more affordable than Cabo San Lucas. The protected Islands of the Sea are another attraction for camping, exploring and day trips. Snorkeling is fabulous, I was just out last weekend and although the visibility isn’t what it will be in September, at it’s worst it is better than diving the Pacific along the California coast. You don’t need a 7mm dive suit to enjoy the waters either, a dive skin is recommended for protection from the sun and aqua males. Swimming with the Sea Lions is always a popular La Paz Activity and a number of providers can take you to the Islands of the Sea of Cortez for a day trip.
Fishing is just coming on strong as July approaches. The Sea is warming up and the Dorado, Marlin, and other great sport fish are hitting hard. Expeditions to fishing grounds can be booked in advance from large outfits or a walk along the Malecon in the morning can find you a panga driver ready and willing to take you out for an island exploration or fishing adventure.
A wide variety of accommodations are available from the Hotel San Bernadino at around $35 a night to the new five-star CostaBaja Resort.
La Paz is still struggling against poor air service. With reduced flights during the summer months, it isn’t any easier. All flights to La Paz route through Los Angeles or Mexico City. We recommend a flight to Cabo and renting a car very affordably for the week. You will travel safe highways and get to see more of the REAL Baja.
Todos Santos has earned the title Pueblo Magico and is a Pacific coastal community centuries old. The famous Hotel California is a local attraction along with art galleries, restaurants, and tons of shops featuring local artisans. Todos is very popular with the surf crowd during the summer and there are still a few places where you can beach camp, but those days are passing fast.
Cabo San Lucas is Land’s End. Serviced by dozens of flights per day it offers the best access by air. Cabo is a summer adventure article all on its own. You can choose to rent a villa for your exotic vacation for very affordable rates if traveling with a group or large family. Cabo use to have a tourist ‘season’ but now the fun seems to go on all year long. The first part of July we see many families taking the ‘after school’ break in Cabo. With sunset cruises, Zip line rides, Dune buggy adventures and of course fishing Cabo San Lucas is the tourist capital of Baja. . The Cabo nightlife reigns as the hottest in Baja, need we say more… Squid Roe and Cabo Wabo…If you are looking for a nightlife tour or complete travel agency see the Cabo Agency for more.
San Jose del Cabo is Cabo San Lucas’ older sister. Steeped in tradition the resort business has blossomed in the coastal area between Cabo and San Jose over the past two decades. Exclusive-all-inclusive resorts and beachfront hotels abound. The downtown area of San Jose del Cabo has art galleries,fine restaurants and bars offering a great mature nightlife.
Baja does get warm during the summer, so drink plenty of water and watch your exposure to the sun. Come join us and have a wonderful time on the Baja peninsula.