Baja Is A Whole Lot More Than Cabo: Here’s Why You Really Need To Go
When most people think about Baja California, Cabo San Lucas comes to mind, but this is the world’s second longest peninsula, with nearly 750 miles of majestic, untamed land and breathtaking views at nearly every turn. While high-rise resorts, crowded beaches and booze fests are common in Cabo, a fabulous world awaits just outside, far from the tourist scene.
The Mountains and the Sea
Todos Santos sunset
In Baja, visitors enjoy everything from golden beaches that sit at the edge of the Pacific to the cerulean aquarium-like waters in the Sea of Cortez and lush mountains dotted with waterfalls. The peninsula boasts 2,000 miles of coastline, with the cooler waters of the Pacific along the west coast, and the much warmer Sea of Cortez extending between Baja to the west and the Sierra de la Madre Mountain range to the east.
The diverse topography results in the opportunity for not only a wide array of stunning scenery, but an abundance of wildlife and outdoor adventure.
Speaking of adventure, Baja is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Just an hour north of Cabo, Playa Cerritos draws surfers from around the world. Diving and snorkeling are popular in many areas too. Just 60 miles north of Los Cabos is Cabo Pulmo Underwater National Park, known as the “jewel of the East Cape region.” Here, unspoiled beaches give way to a shallow, tranquil bay that’s home to one of only three living reefs in North America.
Up in La Paz, visitors can swim, dive or snorkel in what Jacques Cousteau once called the “world’s aquarium.” One of the most biologically diverse bodies of water on Earth, it houses over 900 species of fish, thousands of species of invertebrates, and a host of marine life, including whales, dolphins and sea lions. It also happens to be a popular jumping off point for the trips to Espirito Island, where you’ll swim right alongside some 300 sea lions that live here, along with countless tropical fish.
The Bay of Balandra, which looks out into the Sea of Cortez, is surrounded by sand dunes and features calm, brilliantly-hued turquoise waters that reach just above waist level, along with soft powdery sands on the bottom that make it one of the world’s most spectacular places to swim.
Not all recreational pursuits involve the water here, however. Golf, ATV tours and hiking are all popular too. In fact, you might be surprised to discover that a walk into the mountains brings the chance to view cascading falls and even soak in hot springs.
Baby Sea Turtle Release
Baby sea turtle release near Todos Santos
Who doesn’t love baby sea turtles? Watching newly hatched sea turtles crawl across the sand and into the ocean is something that you can do near the town of Todos Santos at Campamento Torugero, “Turtle Camp.” The turtles are released as part of a process to save the endangered leatherback turtles, and visitors have the chance not only to watch, but to help release them, between December 1 and March 31, just before dusk each day.
Grey whale, Baja
Baja is one of the world’s best places for close encounters with whales. Along the Pacific coast, you might see the spout of a humpback, or, if you’re lucky, a whale leaping right out of the water. The region is most famous for its “friendlies,” the friendly grey whales that come to one of the three major lagoons between late January and about mid-April on their way to Alaska. At San Ignacio Lagoon, Magdalena Bay and Scammon’s Lagoon, you’ll have the chance to see the mothers and their calves, some of whom even seek contact with humans.
Prawns in mango sauce
The food in Baja is incredible, particularly when venturing outside of the tourist mecca. Expect to find plenty of dishes based on fresh seafood and locally-sourced fruits and vegetables just about anywhere you go throughout the peninsula. Todos Santos in particular has become increasing popular for its foodie scene. This charming artsy town is a hot culinary destination and it’s also incredibly scenic, surrounded by striking desert scenery, with the glistening waters of the Pacific on one side, and soaring mountains on the other. Indulge in mouth-watering street tacos and amazing chile rellenos, as well as lots of organic produce, thanks to the numerous organic farms in the area.
In fact, you may want to choose Todos Santos as the spot to base your stay. It offers an unspoiled natural oasis of palms and lush fruit trees that produce papayas, passion fruit, mangos, avocados and more, along with endless expanses of uncrowded beach and gorgeous sunsets that one can often enjoy all to themselves.
Claude and Celia, Todos Santos residents and Airbnb hosts
The people in this country are some of the most welcoming on the planet. In most areas, you’ll probably feel safer than you do back home. Take a walk into town, particularly outside of the larger cities, and chances are, someone will stop and ask if you’d like a ride. It’s practically guaranteed that you’ll get lots of helpful advice on what to see and do, and all sorts of other insider tips. While speaking Spanish is helpful, most citizens here speak English too, so it’s easy to communicate, and you might even find you’ve made a friend or two before it’s time to return home.
While traveling to Baja is considered safe, to ensure a worry-free trip, plan to visit a healthcare professional before you go to get any vaccines you may need. For example, as a mosquito bite in Mexico can bring malaria, you may need medicine to prevent it, depending on your particular travel plans.