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Adventure, Travel / June 11, 2017

Baja’s 5 best adventures

Written by: Molly McCowan

If you’ve shied away from traveling to Mexico because of what you’ve heard in the news, your FOMO alarm should be kicking in right about now. Because you are missing out—on some of the best bang-for-your-buck adventures in the world.

Mexico’s Baja California Sur is best known to Americans for the tourist traps of Los Cabos. But the peninsula has much, much more to offer. These five trips are my favorites. 

 

1. Do the Cabo thing… for a day

Take it from me: you’ll want to GTFO of Cabo San Lucas as fast as you can. San José del Cabo is a bit less tourist-infested, but a day is plenty of time to see both cities if you plan accordingly.

Start by hopping aboard a glass-bottom boat in Cabo San Lucas and heading to the most-photographed point in southern Baja: the famous El Arco (The Arch). The waters will be crowded with boats, but the arch’s magic is undeniable.

Have the boat drop you off at Playa Médano, and lounge on the beach with a margarita for a while before hopping in your rental car and heading to San José del Cabo’s main square for a hearty meal and some evening mariachi.

El Arco (the arch in the lower right) is likely the most photographed feature on the Baja Peninsula. Photo by Jeff Gunn.

While it's not a personal favorite, San José del Cabo does have its charms. Like loads of authentic Mexican restaurants. Photo by Fulvio Spada.

2. Explore the Beaches (and art) of Todos Santos

About an hour up the coast from Cabo San Lucas, the quiet town of Todos Santos was off the tourist radar for years. But with 70 miles of pristine white-sand beaches, the town couldn’t stay a secret forever.

It’s now a sort of Bohemian village, complete with boutique art galleries and farm-to-table restaurants. Local entrepreneurs offer horseback tours, surf lessons, and a host of other eco-trips.

Our friends at Walking Connection guide a five-day hiking tour of the area’s beaches and deserts.

 

3. Swim with whale sharks in La Paz

From December to March, La Paz is the best place to see the world’s biggest fish.

So named because they have the face of a whale and the body of a shark, the whale sharks that swim in the bays near La Paz are actually just teenagers—though their average length of 20 to 30 feet might fool you into thinking otherwise. (Adults can be up to 40 feet long.)

Book a trip out to the bay with any number of local boat companies. Then just drop anchor, don your wetsuit, fins, and snorkel, and jump in with the gentle giants.

The beaches surrounding Todos Santos are exactly the sort most people imagine when they think of Baja... but somehow better. Photo courtesy of El Comisión Mexicana de Filmaciones.

The 20- to 30-foot whale sharks outside La Paz allow snorkelers to swim alongside them... but it's not always easy to keep up. Photo by Crystaldive.

4. See the cave paintings of Sierra San Francisco

The cave paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco are thought to be some of best-preserved ancient rock art in the world—some say they’re up there with the famed Lascaux cave paintings in France. But to see the best of them, you’ll have to hike. Far.

Give yourself at least two days and two nights in the mountain canyons. A guide and cave custodian are required for these trips, so the easiest way to gain access to these awe-inspiring sites is to go with a tour company that’s familiar with the area’s many restrictions.

Our friends at ROW Adventures visit the caves on their excellent six-day backpacking tour of the region.

 

5. Kayak Espíritu Santo

Bright turquoise water and pink cliffs combine to form one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world at Espíritu Santo, an island near La Paz.

Rent a sea kayak and paddle around the island and through caves to get your fill of amazing blue water. You’ll also see plenty of marine life, including sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles, and mobula rays (also known as “flying mantas” for their acrobatic jumps out of the water).

A paddle around Espíritu Santo is included in ROW Adventures’ outstanding 10-day Baja Aventura tour.

Hidden deep in Baja's canyon country, the cave paintings of Sierra San Francisco are among the most impressive on Earth. Photo courtesy of ROW Adventures.

The electric-blue waters around Isla Espíritu Santo make it a must-visit destination for sea kayakers. Photo by Alexis Salinas.

Do you have any questions or comments about this roundup? Email them to [email protected].

Featured photo by Kirt Edblom. 

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about the author

Molly McCowan

Molly McCowan is a professional writer and editor based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Her love for travel sees her globe-trotting whenever she can, and she seeks out experiences that are off the beaten path so she can immerse herself in new cultures. She speaks fluent Spanish, so she’s almost always planning a trip to somewhere in Latin America. She also lived in Spain for a while, and backpacked across Europe on a shoestring budget. She hikes, camps, goes four-wheeling in her old Jeep Wrangler, and fly fishes in the mountains of Colorado regularly.

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