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The Baja Peninsula of Mexico offers a wealth of unforgettable experiences, including a host of outdoor adventures with incredible scenery, abundant wildlife, amazing food to sample and lots of friendly people to meet. One of the best ways to do it if you have the time is to fly into Cabo and embark on a bucket-list-worthy road trip to Loreto and back. If you don’t have time to do it all, you might want to sample at least a few, with many available within a couple hours’ drive of Cabo.
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After flying into Los Cabos Airport, you’ll want to spend some time in the area. One of the most unforgettable experiences you can have is to join a half-day kayaking and snorkeling tour from Playa Medano that will bring you to the iconic arch and Lovers Beach. You’ll paddle past El Arco and then snorkel out to Neptune’s Finger, experiencing the spectacular underwater world in the Sea of Cortez, a place famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau called the “world’s aquarium.”
This popular tour from Cabo will bring you to the Sierra biosphere near the small town of Santiago, with a trail that leads to a freshwater pool fed by a 30-foot-high waterfall that’s ideal for a refreshing dip. The surrounding landscape is filled with fruit orchards, colorful agricultural farms and swaying palm trees that supply palm leaves for making palapa roofs throughout the Cape region. There are wonderful hot springs nearby too, for a heavenly soak among the breathtaking scenery. Naturalist Bill Levine offers a guided tour, including pickup from Cabo, through Airbnb experiences.
Cabo Pulmo Underwater National Park, referred to as the “jewel of the East Cape region,” is one of the world’s best places for diving. It stretches for five miles from Pulmo Point to Los Frailes and is surrounded by undeveloped desert and soaring mountains. Discover idyllic beaches that give way to a calm, shallow bay that houses one of just three living reefs on the entire continent. There are multiple outfitters offering small group diving tours allowing you to experience this 20,000-year-old ecological treasure that holds many of the 800 marine species in the Sea of Cortez.
Playa Los Cerritos is just 40 minutes north of Cabo San Lucas. One of the most popular spots for surfing in Baja, it’s great for beginners with a nice beach break that’s just right, although when a big swell hits, it brings out the more experienced surfers. You’ll find surf all year round, with the most consistent swells rolling through during winter. Nearby are fantastic, cheap food stands and beach bars, along with surf shops for picking up gear or taking a lesson.
The Sea of Cortez and Bay of La Paz are considered one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks, the largest fish in the ocean. The animals return to the area every winter and remain through late spring to feed in the rich waters. These are gentle giants, and swimming with them is an experience of a lifetime. There are multiple tour operators available along the Malecon, although Baja Sur Tours offers one of the best experiences and includes a highly knowledgeable local guide.
La Ventana, about a 35-minute drive from La Paz, is one of the world’s premier kite surfing destinations, famous for its stunning turquoise bay and strong winter winds that provide ideal conditions. The stark contrast of the arid desert landscape against the intense blue of the sea is absolutely breathtaking. Just a few of the activities available here in addition to kite surfing, include snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and fishing. There are some great restaurants here too, like Las Palmas in the adjacent town of El Sargento which offers views like the one pictured here, along with mouthwatering meals at cheap prices.
Isla Espíritu Santo is one of the many islands in the Sea of Cortez that have been named UNESCO World Heritage Bioreserves. But here, you can snorkel among countless tropical fish and sea lions. It can only be accessed with a guided boat tour, which helps to limit the number of visitors. Baja Sur Tours also offers this excursion that can be combined with swimming with whale sharks. There are approximately 300 sea lions that inhabit the island and its surrounding waters, and the playful sea lion pups especially seem to love a good belly rub.
Gray whales are the most famous of the Baja whales, known as the “Friendlies,” as they seem to enjoy interaction with people and even bring their calves to meet humans that arrive to visit them in their pangas. They congregate in lagoons like Magdalena Bay between mid-January and mid-April before heading north to Alaska on their annual migration. Tour operators, including Baja Sur Tours, can pick you up from your La Paz hotel for this experience of a lifetime.
From January to late March, Loreto Bay National Marine Park is filled with dozens of blue whales searching for calm waters and plentiful food. It’s quite the experience to witness the world’s largest mammal in person. While there are a number of tour operators, prearranging a trip online can be pricey. While it includes lunch, your better bet if you’re on a budget is to bring your own food and head to the fishermen’s port early in the morning, haggling a price with panga captains directly.
Perhaps one of the best ways to cap off a trip in Baja before you return to the airport is to take in a panoramic view of it all by helicopter. Even if you saw it from the water, it’s worth viewing the scene at Lands End from above, with the 30-minute ride taking in the stunning turquoise coves at Santa Maria Bay, Lovers Beach and The Arch. It’s especially unforgettable at sunset.