1,000 miles of culture, character and cuisine.
By Marlo Morrison/Photos by John Kropf
Ever considered taking a vacation in Baja California,
Mexico ... by car? This journey of traveling the Baja
peninsula by car will enlighten you to plenty of history
1, a two-lane, paved highway takes you through some
of the most spectacular ocean views and scenery of various
species and colors of plants and animals. You'll be
befriended by locals who love to share their heritage
and historical towns with authentic cuisine, including
incredibly fresh seafood.
the occasional obstacles in the road, like a cow or
fallen rocks from the beautiful hillside, the drive
is very safe. It is highly recommended that you don't
drive after dark. Statistically, 80 percent of all Baja
auto fatalities occur at night. You must pay attention
to the road signs as well as signals from other drivers.
It is common to pass a slower vehicle, as long as it's
driver will indicate with the left turn signal that
he is allowing and aware you want to pass. If oncoming
drivers flash their lights, that generally means to
be alert of what's ahead.
is required that a tourist card is purchased for those
traveling south of Ensenada. You'll be asked to show
it upon passing the military checkpoint entering into
Baja Sur. It is best to obtain your card, as well as
automobile insurance, prior to entering the country. Hugh
and Carol Kramer of Baja Travel in San Diego can assist
you with any needed information, maps, auto insurance,
tourist permits and books.
is available at almost every town. The gas stations,
Pemex, are regulated by the Mexican government, so the
price is the same at all locations. You should always
consider your fuel economy and get gas accordingly.
found at the Pemex stations, are generally clean, stocked
with toilet paper and have running water and paper towels.
Some stations also offer snack shops. Editors Note:
Tijuana through San Quintin will be covered in our Summer
you are already thinking about lunch, don't worry. First
stop is El Rosario, where you will want to stop at Mama
Espinosa's for her delicious lobster burrito plate.
You get three rolled lobster burritos (more like rolled
tacos in the U.S.) with rice, beans and salad. It is
every bit as good as it sounds.
you leave El Rosario, you'll notice a change in the
surroundings. Cacti of all shapes, colors and sizes,
some measuring over 50 feet high with a life span of
up to 400 years, seem to appear in mass numbers. For
miles, the beauty and grandure of these cacti add to
the many reasons why driving the Baja Peninsula is an
amazing vacation journey.
before you enter into the small town of Catavina, which
is surrounded by enormous boulders, you'll need to keep
your eyes open on your left, traveling south, for a
small hut around mile marker 171. Stop here to take
a short hike up the side of the rock mountain to see
some authentic cave/rock art. It's
a bit challenging to find, but worth the exercise.
the travel south, you may encounter military checkpoints.
Not to worry. These stops are not meant to intimidate
you, but are there for your protection. Since they are
checking for drugs, be sure to keep your prescription
medicine in their original containers.
immigration and agricultural checkpoint, located just
before arriving into Guerrero Negro, is where you will
be asked to show your tourist permit and whether you
are carrying any fruits or vegetables. If you happen
to have or have had any, you may have the underneath
of your car sprayed with an insecticide. This marks
the halfway point of the Baja Peninsula, as well as
Mountain time zone.
With a record breaking migration year of over 2,011
whales, Saltworks, white sand dunes, home of the Osprey
and Bird Refuge, Guerrero Negro offers more than one
would suspect. Las Cazuelas, the first restaurant as
you enter the city, is a must. Eddie, the owner, will
test your tastebuds with the freshest flavors like garlic
sauteed octopus, locally grown clams, scallops and oysters
the size of your hand.
door to Las Cazuelas you'll find Punta Mariscal, offering
whale watching tours in addition to two others in town,
Laguna Tours and Malarrimo Eco-Tours. The whale watching
season, typically late December through early April,
is an experience not to be missed. The Gray whales have
one of the longest migrations of any mammal, traveling
over 6,000 miles from Alaska to Baja. What amazing creatures!
Even though their size averages between 46-55 feet as
adults, these massive mammals are extremely playful,
flirtatious and beautiful. One whale in particular,
kept coming back, rolling around in the water, spraying
us, just wanting attention. As I touched his soft yet
barnacled coat, I realized what an incredible experience
so few get to experience.
incredible feature of Guerrero Negro is Exportadora
de Sal, Salt Exportation, a solar-evaporated operation
that produces 18,000 tons of salt a day or 7 million
tons a year!
Guerrero Negro towards San Ignacio and Santa Rosalia,
you'll drive through the Vizcaino Desert, which covers
more than 2.5 million hectares. Here you'll observe
a multitude of cacti like organ pipe, the world's largest
you make your way through the desert and down the mountain
to sea level, spectacular vistas of the Sea of Cortez
appear, bringing you to Santa Rosalia. An interesting
city with narrow roads and French-style architecture,
it has a church that was designed by the famous Gustave
Eiffel, of the Eiffel Tower.
Arriving in Mulege, a peaceful more traditional town
with a beautiful palm-lined river running through it,
you'll experience serenity and culture. The Mission,
which sits upon a hill overlooking the city of a thousand
date palms, is worth the short drive or a brisk walk
prison, which functioned as a criminal detention facility
from 1907 to 1975, was originally the only jail without
bars that ever existed in Baja California Sur. It is
now a museum of history and anthropology which accepts
donations as admission.
of Mulege's full service hotels, located just south
of town, is Hotel Serenidad, which has its own airstrip,
an adjacent RV Trailer park, as well as spacious clean
rooms, a great restaurant, pool, and a palm courtyard
that hosts a pig roast with mariachis every Saturday
night. Restaurants like Las Casistas, Los Equipales
and El Candil feature the best Mexican specialties and
seafood in town.
south toward Loreto, you will take in some of the most
scenic views of Conception Bay. Lined with white sand
beaches and iridescent blue waters, the entire bay,
now a national marine preserve, is reportedly one of
the cleanest marine bay systems in the world. Many would
consider this to be a kayaker's paradise. There are
a number of individual beaches, and if camping is your
preference, this is the place.
California's secular and religious capital for 132 years,
Loreto founded the first mission of California in 1697.
A small but quaint town, Loreto has plenty to offer.
Mission San Javier, a spectacular building constructed
on stone blocks quarried from nearby Arroyo de Santa
Domingo, is an obligation all travelers must keep.
drive to San Javier is very scenic and averages 90 minutes
one way. Plan on five to six hours for the entire journey.
It's worth it. The road is unpaved and a bit tricky,
so a guided tour is recommended. Celso, manager of Desert
& Sea Expeditions in town, offers daily well-informed
Next, the simple, yet self-sufficient village of San
Javier was more than expected. The beauty of the Mission
and the simplicity of the people really bring to life
what living off the earth is all about. Another side
trip to consider is a boat ride to Isla Coronado, a
great place to snorkel the clear waters and just relax
on the secluded beach.
great steaks and seafood dishes, El Nido restaurant
will satisfy your tastebuds. Domingo Perez and his pleasant
staff compliment a fabulous dining experience. Of the
many accommodations available in Loreto, a favorite
is La Pinta, situated a few blocks from downtown. La
Pinta offers spacious, newly remodeled rooms with balconies
overlooking a sand beach, the Sea of Cortez, Isla Coronado
and Isla Carmen; a pool, restaurant, small lounge, friendly
staff and plenty of sunshine.
La Paz, capital of the state Baja California Sur, sits
between Loreto and Cabo San Lucas, geographically as
well as lifestyle. With the newly reconstructed palm-lined
Malicon (waterfront walkway) La Paz is surrounded by
the beautiful Sea of Cortez, along with several small
islands offering spectacular diving, fishing and white
15 minutes north of La Paz is Pichilingue, one of the
many picturesque beaches and home to Club Cantamar Resort
and Sports Centre, specializing in activities for the
adventure seekers, including kayaking, world-class fishing
and spectacular diving. Club Cantamar boasts its own
private beach, French style bistro with fabulous food,
a 35-slip marina, a swimming pool overlooking the bay
and spacious rooms and suites.
are 25 incredible and unique dive sites, accessible
only by boat, just north of the peninsula around Isla
Espiritu Santo. One island in particular, Los Islotes,
is the home of a sea lion colony and one of the only
locations in the world where sea lions interact with
25 miles south of La Paz is El Triunfo, an interesting
small town that has an amazing music museum. Whether
antiques intrigue you or not, you will appreciate the
display of instruments, from violins to pianos, some
up to 300 years old.
Known as the "Jewel of the East Cape," a diver's paradise,
Cabo Pulmo is an ecologically sensitive underwater phenomenon
that the Mexican government established as a National
Marine Park in 1995. The bay's reef system, the northermost
of only three coastal reefs in North America, is the
only coral reef in the Sea of Cortez. Accessible
by car, the 16.5 mile road, of which the last 6-mile
stretch is dirt, makes for a very attainable destination.
largest and most equipped activity center here is the
20-year-old Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort that offers scuba
diving tours, night dives, on-site diving instruction,
snorkel tours and kayaking. The diving is amazing. The
beauty of God's creation comes to life in a way that
many only read about.
and his wife, Maricela, owners of Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort,
will ensure your stay to be an uniquely memorable experience
with palm-thatched luxury, solar-powered bungalow equipped
with a kitchen, queen-size bed in an enclosed area,
living room, dining area and a garden patio with a hammock.
With very reasonable rates, spending a few days or even
a week at Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort will do wonders for
Between La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos is a
small quaint town known primarily for the fabled tale
of Hotel California which, in fact, has nothing to do
with the Eagles song. With a population of less than
5,000 and a sleepy exterior, Todos Santos is home to
an impressive 11 art galleries, year-round farming and
great beaches bordering the Pacific Ocean. Surfing conditions
are ideal December-March.
Congratulations, you've just arrived at the southern
most tip of Baja! If your choices include nightlife,
5-star hotels and fine dining, then this is your stop.
The "everything to do under the sun" term comes to life
in Cabo San Lucas.
of the most beautiful, all-inclusive resorts to stay
at are Villa del Palmar Beach Resort and Spa and the
Villa La Estancia. These 5-star luxury resorts offer
everything you'll need to unwind after the 1000-mile
journey. You will find the perfect blend of relaxation,
recreation, and entertainment all within a 20-minute
walk from downtown. Dining in Cabo can range from ordinary
extraordinary is what you like, visit Mi Casa del Mar.
Go for the seafood feast, but save room for a Mexicana
Coffee! In a class of its own, Jeff Morrison, owner
of Local Eight in San Jose del Cabo, creates innovative
global cuisine complimented with a superior wine list.
the one-of-a-kind art and jewelry lover, visit Maricela
& Emilio's Crystal Dreams, fine glass art & unusual
jewels situated in Villa del Palmar's Plaza. Maricela's
creative talent with glass and color, along with Emilio's
precision in the design of his hand-selected Sea of
Cortez pearls, result in the most exceptional forms
of jewelry and art. They are committed to design, and
they manufacture only one-of-a-kind glass artwork and
a journey, head south and see what Baja has to offer!
featured in South
(photos by John Kropf)
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