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A road trip down Mexico’s Baja Peninsula offers the opportunity for a trip of a lifetime. The ultimate destination for adventure travelers, much of this region is wild and remote with empty, unspoiled beaches, as well as soaring mountains that are transformed into a vibrant green shade during the summer thanks to the season’s rain, dotted by cacti and all sorts of wildlife. Snorkelers and divers have the opportunity to see abundant wildlife from manta rays to whale sharks, and there are a number of charming towns to visit along the way. From the north end at Tijuana to the south tip at Cabo, it’s an over 20-hour drive, which means you’ll want to take it slow, savoring as much as you can during the journey.
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Less than 2 hours south of Tijuana, Ensenada is worth a stop, particularly for wine enthusiasts who can explore nearby Valle de Guadalupe. This region boasts vineyards that can rival even California’s Napa Valley at a fraction of the cost and without the crowds. Spend a couple of days here and you can also sample the fresh yellowfin ceviche at one of the fish market eateries and stroll the picturesque Malecon (waterfront) too.
San Ignacio is a beautiful little town that makes a great base for exploring aboriginal cave paintings or joining a whale watching excursion in the famous lagoons nearby. It’s also home to the San Ignacio Mission, founded by the Jesuits in 1728, most notable for its Baroque altar, wood and gold plate with seven religious oil paintings and a picture of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignacio Springs B&B Resort offers an ideal place to stay right along the river and offers activities like kayaking and swimming.
An oasis that sits at the foot of a river valley, Mulege offers many delights among the expanse of arid desert. The town itself is filled with narrow alleyways lined with the occasional craft shop, vibrantly-hued taquerias and crumbling colonial architecture. A rather sleepy village, the main attraction here is the nature that surrounds it, including spectacular beaches, hikes into Cañon La Trinidad, and the gorgeous river views that can be taken in from the impeccably preserved 18th-century mission.
Loreto is one of the oldest settlements in Baja, a small mountain town along the Sea of Cortez in the Sierra de la Giganta. It offers a more authentic Mexican feel with its rich heritage and colorful traditions as well as easy access to magnificent unspoiled beaches, bays and uninhabited islands that were perfectly designed for snorkeling, diving, swimming, kayaking, sailing or just simply relaxing and soaking up the sunshine.
Cosmopolitan La Paz is a wonderfully colorful city that boasts an idyllic blend of laid-back, Old World beauty and hip chicness. Its name translates to “the peace” and offers amazing scenery that includes being framed by strikingly clear turquoise waters and white sand beaches that rival those found in the Caribbean. Take a walk to experience its provincial Mexico town atmosphere, lively squares and city streets that are tucked between coconut palms, old laurel trees and date palms. It hosts a fabulous beachside promenade, or Malecon, lined with an array of outstanding fantastic eateries and funky stores. It’s also the departure point for boat tours to Isla Espiritu Santo where you can snorkel with sea lions an many of the 800 aquatic species found in the Sea of Cortez.
Todos Santos is about halfway between Cabo San Lucas and La Paz. Named a Pueblo Magico, or magical town for its importance as a cultural landmark, it’s one of the most charming towns in Baja with its quirky mix of New Age spiritualists, surfers, fishermen and artists. It’s become a focal point for arts and crafts of the region, with many artists opening up galleries and making their home there. It offers a world-class foodie scene in an artsy desert oasis, somewhat reminiscent of Taos, New Mexico 20 years ago, nestled among ancient orchards of mango and palms while enjoying expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and endless golden sands.
Cabo Pulmo Underwater National Park, referred to as the “jewel of the East Cape region,” sits about 60 miles north of Los Cabos. It stretches for five miles from Pulmo Point to Los Frailes and is surrounded by undeveloped desert and magnificent mountains. Here, the pristine beaches give way to a calm, shallow bay that houses one of just three living reefs on the entire continent, making it an especially popular spot with divers.
This small Baja Sur pueblo is situated just 35 miles from San Jose del Cabo, best known for its easy access to the hot springs, Aguas Calientes, Fox Canyon (Canon de la Zorra) and Rancho Ecological Sol de Mayo. The latter is popular for its trail that takes visitors 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. The town itself hosts a small museum with interesting exhibits like colonial artifacts and local fossils, as well as the Santiago Zoo, housing a variety of animals endemic to the region.
Made up of two towns, San Lucas and San Jose, Cabo San Lucas is the marlin sport fishing capital of the world and one of the most popular destinations for tourists. Located at the peninsula’s southern tip, it’s filled with luxuries like high-end resorts and upscale eateries while being famous for its exciting nightlife in renowned clubs like Cabo Wabo, The Office and the Mango Deck. Be sure to get out on the water by taking one of the boat tours to Lover’s Beach and The Arch.