From unbelievable beaches to hot springs and whale watching (and petting) you simply MUST make time for Baja Mexico. The best way to travel the peninsula is on a family road trip. Here are the top places to visit on your adventure.
The Baja California Peninsula has a lot to offer. We recommend starting in the town of San Felipe. It is only a 2 -3 hour drive from the border and it is the perfect place to start your Baja adventure. The people here are so inviting and the atmosphere is so peaceful and relaxing.
You can spend your days hanging out on the beach and then head into town for an authentic Mexican dinner that is going to cost you about the same as going to McDonalds in the States. And don’t forget to get a delicious Margarita!
We recommend checking out Taco Bar – it has a more American sports-bar feel to it, but it is still authentic and the food is good (Craig recommends the shrimp tacos and I recommend the Margarita and chips and guacamole).
Another great thing to do here is to go out on a boat fishing. There are so many fish here that you basically guaranteed to catch your dinner. Craig went out with the kids and they had a blast and everyone caught multiple fish, we ate for several days on it. There is nothing like eating a fresh fish you just caught that day!
When you are there ask, around for Captain Queso. We asked, but he doesn’t have a business card or website so he just said ask around and someone will give you his number. It is how they roll down there and it is great.
San Felipe is on the Sea of Cortez so the water is definitely warmer and calmer then on the Pacific side of Baja. This is also the eastern side of Baja and is right across from the coast of Mexico (mainland).
It is off the beaten path and there is literally NO cell coverage. But if you are up for an adventure it is worth it to head down to Puertecitos. It is this quaint little village with houses spread out in the mountains.
The best part is the hot springs that are right on the edge of the ocean. Basically you have to wait for the tide to come in a ways so that the ocean water cools down the hot springs and then you can sit in these natural hot tubs and watch the waves crashing in on the rocks around you.
It is awesome.
Bahia De Los Angeles
This is another one where you are going to have to go off the main road, but luckily they just finished paving it and the town now has electricity. It used to run off of generators – the whole town!
It is a small town that sits right on a beautiful bay in the Sea of Cortez. When it isn’t windy it is the perfect place to take your kayak out and explore the bay or to head over to one of the beaches on one of the many islands to hang out for a few hours.
When we had the kayak out we saw dolphins swimming about 100 yards away from us and also saw fish and stingrays right from kayak. The kids were able to dive for starfish which we made sure to keep in water and put back in the ocean when we were done looking at them.
Laguna San Ignacio
Now it is time to cross into Baja California Sur – the southern part of the Baja Peninsula. This will also be the first time you are on the west coast of the peninsula.
No matter what you do when you go to Baja, if you are there in the winter you MUST go to Laguna San Ignacio to see the whales. It is UNBELIEVABLE. You go out on a panga (or boat) into the lagoon and see whales everywhere!
They literally are breaching and jumping out of the water right in front of you. It is so cool. Then if you are lucky they will actually come up to your boat and you can pet them or even kiss them. It is such an amazing experience to have these giant creatures (that are bigger than your boat) come up and be so gentle and playful while you pet them.
The whales you see are Grey Whales that have migrated down from Alaska to have their babies. We were told that Killer Whales do not come into this area since it is so shallow in some spots so the Grey Whale babies are safe.
They come back every year and there are anywhere from 200 – 400 whales in this small lagoon area. You do have to go out with a tour company and we choose to go with Kuyima.
We have seen it recommended that if you are looking to get to pet or kiss the whales you should plan on going out multiple times since you just don’t know if they are going to come up to your boat. Luckily for us it just took one time.
When we first went out we saw whales everywhere – blowing water into the air and coming up and out, some of them even went air borne and came down with a huge splash! Then finally a mama whale and her baby came over by our boat and the mama whale pushed the baby over by the boat so we could pet it.
We were literally looking right into the whale’s eyes. At one point one of the whales blew water out of its blowhole right into the kids face. Everyone who wanted to got to pet the whales multiple times (our youngest didn’t want to) and a couple of us got to kiss one too! It was such an awesome experience and is definitely at the top of the lists of things we have ton since we started traveling full time in 2014.
(Hey – don’t forget about our Whale Watching experience in Northern California!!)
Mulege is an oasis of palm trees and greenery, which is a welcoming site after traveling through a lot of dry desert land. There are also great restaurants in town and you may be able to find somewhere to pick oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes!
If you are looking for a break from the ocean and the desert head over to Mulege to explore this unique town.
What we noticed is the further south you head in Baja, the more American it gets. There are more expats or seasonal vacationers from the US and Canada and also the amenities feel more American. This can be a good thing to feel more comfortable, but a bad thing if you are looking for the more traditional experience.
Loreto was the first place we stopped where we started to feel this. They had a delicious pizza restaurant (we hadn’t had pizza in a while so we were happy about that) and a beautiful square you can walk around to explore the oldest Mission on the Baja Peninsula – all the way up to northern California.
We loved the vibe here and really enjoyed walking around the square and through the town going to the restaurants and also visiting the shops and cafes.
When in Loreto you can walk down by the docks and find the boat captains and ask them to take you out to Coronado Island (actually they will probably find you and ask you J). We were able to get a boat for 8 of us for $130 US dollars and we went out at 9am and got back at about 3pm.
Coronado Island is part of the Loreto Bay National Park.
When they first take you out the island you go on a trip around the island and get to see the sea lions. There were so many of them and the captain got the boat super close so we could check them out and watch them swim all around under our boat.
Around the island the boat captain continued to point out fun and interesting things about the island and then he takes you to the beach. WOW.
You pull up to the beach and it is this amazing soft/white sand and crystal clear water. It is like the beaches you see in movies. The boat pulls right up onto the shore and you jump out to setup your beach chairs (bring your own and a cooler) and relax on the beach for a few hours.
You can also get your snorkel gear on and swim right off of the beach over to the rock area where you can snorkel and see a variety of fish and other sea creatures. There is also a 4 mile hike you can take from the beach.
We opted not to do that this time – but if we go again we will plan a whole trip just to come for the hike and a quick swim in the ocean when we are done.
The boat captain then takes you back to the harbor. It was so nice on the boat ride home for all of us to kick back and relax with the ocean breeze blowing in our face as we sped across the water!
If you are looking for a quiet beach town this is the place for you. Or if you are a kite surfer! With the north winds that come down in the winter, this is the perfect place for kite surfers and people come down for the season just to kite surf everyday or close to it.
If you don’t know how to kite surf they also offer lessons, but we heard it takes about a week of lessons to really learn how to do it. We didn’t give it a try this time but instead just enjoyed the pool by the ocean and did some ATVing.
It is also a great place to ATV since there are miles of trails. We rented one for a day and took it off roading to Snorkel Beach – where we did about a 40-minute ATV ride to this remote beach where you could snorkel right off of the beach. At one point we were the only ones on the whole beach. It was pretty epic.
Then we took the ATV on a ride towards the mountain edge where there was a waterfall. The waterfall was about 6 feet high and was beautiful but the fun part was getting back there. We had to drive the ATV through an Arroyo, which is a dried up stream bed, and then through water to get back to where the waterfall was.
The kids were getting splashed with water and we were flying through there. It was so much fun!
We also really enjoyed the restaurants and the overall vibe and feel of Los Barriles and could see staying here for a whole winter season. I mean what else do you need besides happy hour, a pool and the beach right?!
Also note if you are looking for more city life then before stopping in Los Barriles you can visit La Paz. There is a Walmart and Home Depot and it is one of the largest cities in Baja. They also have water adventures you can do and islands to visit.
Cabo San Lucas
We did a quick drop in at Cabo San Lucas for a day and happened to catch it during college spring break . . . need I say more?? Even with all that going on it was beautiful and we were able to find a little off the beaten path beach called Chileno Beach that was not so College Spring Breaky.
Plus there are a ton of activities you can do here from glass bottom boats to jet skiing and paddle boarding. They have snorkeling trips and a water taxi that will take you out to the famous Lovers Beach where you can walk over to the Pacific Ocean or back to the Sea of Cortez.
After the quietness we had experienced in Baja to date it was definitely a shock to drive into the craziness of Cabo. But even with the craziness I could still see the draw and would like to come back to spend a few nights.
San Jose Del Cabo
Just north of Cabo on the Sea of Cortez side is the town of San Jose Del Cabo. They have a beautiful square area with an art district and mission. Plus they have a brewery here! We just stopped in for a few hours but I would definitely add it to your list of places to stop.
If you head up the Pacific side you can also check out Ensenada, Catavina and the wine country! There is so much beauty and fun to be head in Baja and it makes for an amazing road trip to take from the US!
If you are thinking of visiting Baja, or other beach destinations during the Thanksgiving holidays, we encourage you to read this post from our friends at Travel Mamas.
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After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.