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Fairs, Festivals and Fiestas: May Events in Baja

A Look Ahead at the Best May Events in Baja

Rosarito is the event capital of Baja California in May, hosting two notable events, and furnishing the starting line for another. The latter, of course, is the spring running of the 50 Mile Rosarito to Ensenada Fun Bicycle Ride, a regional sporting tradition that dates back to 1979, and is known as “the original party on wheels.”

The kick-off edition of the biannual bicycle race begins at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, an historic lodging that also typically plays host to the peninsula’s best Mother’s Day celebration. The acclaimed Rosarito Art Fest also returns in May, featuring local art, culture and cuisine.

There are hundreds of local events that can be found on Baja.com. The following represent some of our favorite selections.

Event dates and details are subject to sudden change and cancellation. Please confirm with the event organizers before booking your trip.

 

May Events in BajaLa Paz482nd Anniversary Foundation Festival

When:  May 3

La Paz celebrates its birthday on May 3rd, honoring the day in 1535 that Hernan Cortes first sighted what would eventually become the largest city in Baja California Sur. This year’s Fiestas de Fundacion again serve as a showcase for local art, culture and cuisine, with activities and concerts – including a traditional reenactment of the first landing of the Spaniards – centered around the malecon and Plaza Constitucion (also known as Jardin Velasco), the central plaza located across from the old church. 

Cost:  Free Admission

 

May Events in Baja

San Jose del Cabo:  Art Walk

When:  May 4, 11, 18, 25

Every Thursday evening between the months of November and June, fine arts galleries in San Jose del Cabo’s historic Distrito del Arte invite guests to sip wine, stroll the downtown neighborhood’s cobblestone streets, and view paintings, sculptures and other pieces from some of Baja’s finest artists. The Art Walk takes place from 5 – 9 p.m., and participating galleries often showcase special features such as artists in attendance or the premier of new artworks. The Art District is also home to many of the city’s finest restaurants.

Cost:  Free Admission

 

May Events in Baja

Todos Santos6th Gastrovino Food and Wine Festival

When:  May 5 – 7

Gastrovino returns in May, luring gourmands and oenophiles to the charming artists’ colony and pueblo magico of Todos Santos for a weekend festival celebrating local culture and cuisine, as well as Baja wines from Valle de Guadalupe. Organized annually by the owners of the wine and olive oil boutique La Bodega de Todos Santos, highlights at the 6th annual fete are expected to include a White Ball at the historic Hotel California, a Blind Wine Tasting Challenge, as well as the main event at the town’s plaza principal, with food, wine, live music, and a silent auction to benefit local programs for children.

Cost:  $30 – $100

 

May Events in Baja

Rosarito Beach:  38th Anniversary Rosarito to Ensenada 50 Mile Fun Bicycle Ride

When:  May 6

Dubbed “The Original Party on Wheels,” the 50 mile fun ride dates back to 1979, when a group of friends pedaled from Rosarito to Ensenada. Now a biannual event, the scenic rides are among the highlights of the regional social calendar, and conclude with a Finish Line Fiesta featuring food, drinks, souvenirs, live music, and massages for participants.

Cost:  $42 base, with upgrades like elite start times and jerseys available

 

 

 

 

May Events in Baja

Rosarito BeachRosarito Art Fest

When:  May 27 – 28

The biggest art fair in Baja California returns for an 8th edition at CEART, the cultural center of Rosarito Beach. The annual Memorial Day weekend festival will showcase its usual winning mix of regional art, performance art, live music and traditional Mexican cuisine.

Cost:  Free admission

 

 

 

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants,  hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Fairs, Festivals and Fiestas: April Events in Baja

A Look Ahead at the Best April Events in Baja

April is one of Baja’s best sporting months, thanks to long-time events such as the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race and the off-road NORRA Mexican 1000, which celebrate their 70th and 50th anniversaries this year, respectively. SCORE’s San Felipe 250 has also been around for better than 30 years, and in its decade plus the Paws n’ Claws Golf Tournament has raised plenty of funds on behalf of the Los Cabos Humane Society.

There are hundreds of local events that can be found on Baja.com. The following represent some of our favorite selections.

Event dates and details are subject to sudden change and cancellation. Please confirm with the event organizers before booking your trip.

 

April Events in Baja

San Felipe:  31st Annual SCORE San Felipe 250

When:  March 30 – April 2

Cost:  $1,545 and up, depending upon class

SCORE International’s four race World Desert Champion Series kicks off in 2017 with the San Felipe 250. The rugged off-road loop race starts and finishes in San Felipe, and is open to cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs. 

 

April Events in Baja

San Jose del Cabo12th Annual Paws n’ Claws Open Golf Tournament and Dinner

When:  Apr. 1

Cost: $100 – $350

This annual fundraiser for the Los Cabos Humane Society pairs an open golf tournament with raffles and prizes on the gorgeous Jack Nicklaus designed Arroyo and Mountain Courses at Palmilla Golf Club with a cocktail reception and BBQ courtesy of Acre Restaurant in San Jose del Cabo.

 

 

 

 

 

April Events in Baja

San Jose del Cabo:  Thursday Night Art Walk

When:  Apr. 6, 13, 20, 27

Cost:  Free admission

Every Thursday evening between the months of November and June, fine arts galleries in San Jose del Cabo’s historic Distrito del Arte invite visitors to sip wine, stroll the downtown neighborhood’s cobblestone streets, and view paintings, sculptures and other pieces from some of Baja’s finest artists.

 

April Events in Baja

Ensenada:  50th Anniversary NORRA Mexican 1000

When: Apr. 21 – 27

Cost: $1,967 and up, depending upon class

The origins of “The Happiest Race on Earth” date back to 1967, when NORRA organized the inaugural running of the “Baja 1000.” Although that legendary race is now run under the SCORE banner, NORRA revived the spirit of those bygone days when it restarted the Mexican 1000 as a fun, vintage-style rally race in 2010. The 50th anniversary race starts in Ensenada, and courses down the peninsula through El Rosario, Bahia de Los Angeles, San Ignacio, Loreto, and La Paz, before finishing in Los Cabos.

 

 

April Events in Baja

Ensenada70th Annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race

When: Apr. 28 – 30

Cost: $275

Billed as the world’s largest international yacht race, this maritime contest and social extravaganza is an annual highlight of the NOSA (Newport Ocean Sailing Association) calendar, and has been since 1948. Past participants include celebrities such as Humphrey Bogart and Walter Cronkite, as well as world-class yachtsmen like Dennis Conner, Bill Ficker and Dave Ullman.

 

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants,  hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Fun Facts and Trivia About the Baja California Peninsula

How well do you know the Baja California peninsula and its history? Did you know…

Baja is the first California….

The name California comes from Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo’s chivalric romance novel Las Sergas de Esplandian – first published in 1510 – in which a queen named Calafia rules an island inhabited only by women.

A lieutenant of conquistador Hernan Cortez (Fortun Ximenez) was the first European to set foot in the land known as California, landing near La Paz in late 1533 or early 1534. Cortez himself followed a little more than a year later. The first Europeans did not explore what is now the U.S. state of California for another 234 years, until the Portola expedition in 1769. Under Spanish rule, it was referred to as Alta or Nueva California, to distinguish it from Baja or Antigua California.

Fun Facts and Trivia About the Baja California Peninsula

Baja California Sur is the youngest state in Mexico…

Mexico has 31 states and a federal district. Baja California Sur was, along with Quintana Roo, the last to achieve statehood, being elevated from territory status on October 8, 1974. Baja California, by contrast, was officially given statehood in 1952.

Baja California Sur has more coastline than any Mexican state…

Mexico has approximately 9,330 kilometers of coastline, and a rather staggering percentage of it surrounds the Baja California peninsula. Baja California Sur owns 2,131 kilometers, Baja California 1,493 kilometers. Together, they account for 38% of the nation’s coastline.

La Paz is the oldest community on the peninsula…

Each year on May 3, La Paz honors its foundation, remembering the day Hernan Cortez came ashore in 1535. This year, Baja California Sur’s capital city marks its 482nd birthday, and as always, will celebrate with a Foundation Festival featuring food, drink, live entertainment, and of course a traditional reenactment of the landing of the Spaniards.

Loreto was the first capital of the Californias…

From 1697, when the Jesuits founded the first permanent peninsular community at Loreto (the indigenous inhabitants were hunter gatherers), Loreto was the capital of California. Loreto didn’t give up this privilege until 1777, when the capital was moved to Monterey in Alta California. Loreto remained the capital of Baja until 1829, when a particularly damaging hurricane caused the seat of government to briefly be moved to San Antonio. La Paz became the peninsular capital in 1830, and has remained so for Baja California Sur until the present day.

Fun Facts and Trivia About the Baja California Peninsula

The Jesuit mission at Loreto, as it appeared in the 18th century.

San Antonio is the longest continually occupied secular community in the Californias…

The Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans founded many missions in Las Californias, but the oldest continually occupied secular community is at San Antonio, a small town near El Triunfo, about 40 miles south of La Paz. San Antonio was founded in 1756 by Simon Rodriguez, as a community for mine workers at the newly formed Santa Gertrudis mine.

The final skirmish of the Mexican-American War took place near Todos Santos…

Although omitted almost entirely from books on the subject, Baja California was a hotbed of resistance during the Mexican-American War, and several pitched battles and sieges occurred on the peninsula. The war effectively ended when General Winfield Scott and his troops captured Mexico City in September 1847; but Bajacalifornio patriots under Capt. Manuel Pineda and wartime jefe politico Mauricio Castro continued to fight for their country. The final armed conflict of the war took place just north of Todos Santos on March 30, 1848, three weeks after the U.S. Congress had ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. 

The peninsula has a state song…

Canto a Baja California was written by Rafael Trujillo and put to music by Rafael Gama. The song, which begins “Baja California, brazo poderoso, al servicio eterno de la Patria” (Baja California, powerful arm, in the eternal service of the country) was adopted as the official state song of Baja California on September 27, 1956. Baja California Sur gave the matter decades of consideration, but finally followed suit in 2012.

The Sea of Cortez is the world’s youngest sea…

What we now call Baja California was born amid cooling magma in the distant mists of the Mesozoic Era, between 135 and 225 million years ago. For millions of years afterward, plate tectonics, continental drift, subduction and other forces acted upon the coastline, finally resulting in a peninsular break from the Mexican mainland. This fracture occurred from the top down–at the terminus of the Colorado River–beginning about 12 million years ago. As recently as five million years ago, present day Los Cabos was still connected to the continental massif, at what is now the state of Jalisco. The mouth of the Gulf of California, or Sea of Cortez, finally opened three million years ago; and approximately 1.8 million years ago, in the early stages of the Pleistocene Epoch, the peninsula achieved what we consider its present position…although it continues to move away from the mainland at a stately pace of about six centimeters per year.

Fun Facts and Trivia About the Baja California Peninsula

The Arch is old…really old.

The Arch in Cabo San Lucas is almost unfathomably old…

Geological estimates for the oldest granitic monuments at Land’s End suggest a mind blowing antiquity. According to The Atlas of Coastal Ecosystems in the Western Gulf of California, the Cretaceous Period granite that forms El Arco is equivalent in age to that found at subsurface volcanic sites at Las Tres Virgenes in the municipality of Mulegé:  approximately 84 million years old.

Ensenada is the largest municipality in the Americas…

The Baja California peninsula has a small number of municipalities, with both of its states possessing only five. Oaxaca, by contrast, has a whopping 570. But Baja California makes up for this dearth with Ensenada, which is not only the largest municipality by area in all of Mexico, but in all of the Americas. The Ensenada municipality encompasses more than 52,480 square kilometers.

Tijuana is the mostest…

Tijuana is not only the most populous city on the peninsula, with more than 1.6 million inhabitants, but it’s also the westernmost city in Mexico, and the westernmost point in Latin America.

The two worst hurricanes in Cabo San Lucas history happened on the same day…

The devastating “La Inundacion” of 1939, which washed away much of Cabo San Lucas, and category-4 Hurricane Odile in 2014 struck the Land’s End community 75 years apart on the same day:  September 14.

Fun Facts and Trivia About the Baja California Peninsula

Valle de los Cirrios is one of many places in Baja California protected by CONANP.

The peninsula is home to 15 parks and federally protected places…

Mexico’s Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas (better known as CONANP) is responsible for administering the country’s national parks, nature sanctuaries, natural monuments, biosphere reserves, protected flora and fauna areas, and protected natural resource areas. Currently, fifteen of these protected places are on or around the Baja California peninsula.

 

National Parks – Baja California

Fun Facts and Trivia About the Baja California Peninsula

The national park at Loreto Bay includes numerous offshore islands.

Constitution of 1857

Sierra de San Pedro Martir

San Lorenzo Archipelago

National Parks – Baja California Sur

Loreto Bay

Espíritu Santo Archipelago

Cabo Pulmo

Biosphere Reserves – Baja California

Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta

Isla Guadalupe

Bahía de los Ángeles

Biosphere Reserves – Baja California Sur

Fun Facts and Trivia About the Baja California Peninsula

Flora and fauna are protected on the Islands of the Gulf of California.

El Vizcaíno

Sierra de la Laguna

Revillagigedo Archipelago

Protected Areas for Flora & Fauna – Baja California

Valle de los Cirrios

Islands of the Gulf of California

Protected Areas for Flora & Fauna – Baja California Sur

Cabo San Lucas

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants,  hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Mexico Welcomed Record-Breaking 35 Million International Tourists In 2016

World-famous Mexican hospitality and diverse tourism experiences fuel industry growth

The Mexico Tourism Board announced today a record-breaking 35 million international visitors traveled to Mexico in 2016, representing a growth of 9 percent compared to 2015. This growth is more than twice the global industry average, most recently reported at 3.9 percent by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in January 2017.  Additionally, tourism spending by international visitors grew even faster, at 10.4 percent, highlighting the strength of Mexico’s appeal to luxury travelers, interest in multi-destination visits, and demand for Mexico’s gastronomy, artisanal goods and shopping offering.

“Mexico’s sustained, fast growth is a testament to the incredible quality and diversity in our tourism offering and the hard work for the entire industry, both internationally and domestically. More than 9 million Mexicans working in the tourism and hospitality industry have made it their mission to ensure visitors have incredible experiences,” remarked Lourdes Berho, CEO of the Mexico Tourism Board.  “Plans are already underway to ensure 2017 builds upon these achievements and that Mexico continues to welcome all visitors and give them reasons to come back again and again.”

Mexico Welcomed Record-Breaking 35 Million International Tourists In 2016

Mexico’s World Famous Hospitality Makes Visitors Feel At Home

True to the famous Mexican adage, ‘mi casa es tu casa’ (my home is your home), travelers from all over the world have recognized Mexico as being one of the most welcoming and friendliest places to visit in 2016.  In fact, the Mexico Tourism Board’s internal consumer tracking studies showed more than 94 percent of visitors reported an experience that “exceeded their expectations” and 86 percent say they would “like to come back again” in the next six months– some of the highest scores in the industry.  Examples include:

  • Mexico was awarded #1 country in the world for Family Travel and Puerto Vallarta as #2 destination in the world for LGBTQ travel by the global Travvy Awards
  • For the third year in a row, Mexico was ranked as the friendliest and most welcoming country in the world by the John Mason survey of expatriates in 191 countries
  • “Close to China” (Cerca de China) is a special program co-created by both China and Mexico which shares and recognizes best practices in the services offered to Chinese travelers by hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and guides
  • “Halal Mexico” is a special program to help prepare airlines, hotels, restaurants and the wider Mexico tourism industry to cater to travelers from around the world that maintain a halal diet

Mexico’s Visitors by Air and Expanded Connectivity Continues to Grow

Tourists arriving by air grew at an even faster rate of 10.7 percent, propelled by continued expansion in connectivity.  This includes service from new international markets to multiple Mexico destinations, expanded frequency on existing routes, and upgraded aircrafts featuring additional seats along with improved passenger experiences.

Mexico’s Top Destinations Featured and Recognized Around the World

From industry awards to consumer media, surveys and high profile brands, Mexico has once again proven itself once of the world’s most recognized destinations in 2016.  Examples include:

  • The New York Times named Tijuana (#8) and Puerto Escondido (#32) in their 52 Places to Go in 2017. Mexico City was featured as the #1 place to visit in their 2016 list.
  • Travel & Leisure’s “World’s Best Awards” reader survey named five Mexican cities in its Top 10 Best Cities in Latin America rankings, including San Miguel de Allende (#1), Oaxaca (#3), Mexico City (#4), Merida (#5), Guadalajara (#8)
  • Mexico and its local partners and destinations across the country, won a collective 35 International Travvy Awards in early 2017 including: Mexico as Best Family Travel Destination in the world; Riviera Maya region as the Best Honeymoon Destination in Latin America, and Puerto Vallarta as Best LGBTQ destination globally. In Mexico, Los Cabos received top recognition for its culinary and luxury offerings.
  • The Rough Guides named Mexico City as the #2 city to visit
  • National Geographic named Baja California as one of its top places you need to visit in 2017
  • Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2017 selected multiple locations in the Riviera Maya and Yucatan region including Tulum for one of its largest features in 2017

The Mexico Tourism Board’s recently announced 2017 tourism development strategy included a focus on developing expanded products and personalized marketing campaigns focusing on areas such as luxury, weddings and romance, diving, biodiversity and nature, culture, gastronomy, high-profile events, sports and adventure, as well as programs for audience segments such as millennials, LGBTQ and retirees.

In each of these areas, partnerships with key destinations as well as global travel operators will bring an ever-expanded portfolio of options to travelers of all types. These industry partnerships are critical to Mexico’s goal to appeal to a broader audience in new markets, globally. This will help in achieving the new ambitious goal of reaching 50 million international visitors by 2021.

For more information about Mexico, please visit www.visitmexico.com.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants,  hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Baja Ports Ride Cruise Ship Wave

New Statistics Show Cruising is Now the Fastest Growing Segment of the Global Travel Industry

The popularity of cruise ships continues to rise. In fact, according to a recent release from the United Nations World Travel Organization, cruising has become the fastest growing segment of the global vacation industry, outpacing land-based vacations by a whopping 23%.

Eye-grabbing statistic, huh? But what does it really mean for tourism numbers in the next few years, and more to the point for Baja California peninsula ports like Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, what does it mean for tourist destinations that realize significant gains from cruise ship visits?

Baja Ports Ride Cruise Ship Wave

Cruise ships are the fastest growing segment of the global vacation industry. Photo courtesy of Crown Princess and Princess Cruises.

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The answer to the first question is that cruise ship growth is not an anomaly. The UNWTO study touting cruising growth covered the 10-year period between 2004 and 2014. In the final year of the study, 2014, cruise ships worldwide generated over $37.1 billion U.S., with each passenger expending approximately $1,779 dollars on average.

Since then, the numbers have continued to rise. Over 25 million people worldwide are estimated to have taken a cruise ship vacation in 2016, and according to Mintel, a market research company, the revenue of the United States cruise market alone is expected to reach almost $50 billion dollars by 2018.

Expedia, one of the world’s largest online travel companies, announced a record setting year for cruise ship reservations in 2016, with over $560 million in gross bookings. Expedia added 33 new franchise locations and 1,300 new Vacation Consultants in 2016, and is expecting an even bigger year in 2017.

A recent J.D. Power survey found more than 90 percent of those who take a cruise plan to set sail again, with Gen Y/Millennials and Gen Xers particularly enthusiastic about repeating the cruise experience. About the same number of cruisers would recommend a cruise vacation to family and friends.

Baja Ports Ride Cruise Ship Wave

Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas are popular travel ports for Southern California based cruise ships. Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises.

Amenities

There are fewer measurements to explain why cruise ships are steadily gaining in popularity, and why they’re increasingly outpacing traditional land-based destinations.

One obvious contributing factor would be decreasing satisfaction with airline travel, from security hassles to baggage charges and delayed departures. But as a sweeping explanation that seems less than fair to the cruise ship companies, who have continued to refine the onboard experience, adding new and improved amenities and services without compromising affordability.

Baja Ports Ride Cruise Ship Wave

Cruise lines offer relaxing getawasys and, increasingly, the sort of upscale services provided by the best luxury hotels. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line.

Carnival Corporation – whose brands include the Carnival, Princess and Holland America Cruise Lines – has recently taken a page out of the Disney handbook, introducing “Ocean Medallions” that are similar to the MagicBand smart bracelets used at Disney’s theme parks.

The coin-sized medallions are embedded with computer chips capable of upgrading services in a wide variety of ways. Yes, they open your cabin door. They also help guests navigate around the ship, and help them keep track of wandering husbands or children.

The real benefit of these small devices (they weigh less than two ounces), however, is in tracking the preferences of guests, from favorite foods and wines to preferred activities and entertainment options.

In tracking and thus being able to anticipate future guests needs, cruise ships are not only following the lead of Disney, but many luxury hotels around the world. This is important to note, because cruise ships were already offering many of the same services as all-inclusive hotels, putting together accommodations, food and drink, activities and entertainment in one tidy package.

If they can now upgrade that package by means of superior service – augmented by medallions that tell them where you are at all times and what you typically like at that time of day – then they have managed to outdo the best all-inclusives in service, and the best luxury hotels in price.

That’s a very tangible reason for the steady growth of cruise ships, without even considering the most obvious benefit of cruising: the ability to visit multiple destinations in the course of a single, often short, vacation.

Baja Ports Ride Cruise Ship Wave

Ensenada saw over 250 cruise ship visits in 2016, and will again in 2017. Photo courtesy of Gregg Erickson.

Destinations

Although the West Coast does not compare to the Caribbean in terms of cruise ship traffic, the region has seen robust growth in recent years, both in terms of increased interest in Alaska and the so-called Mexican Riviera, as fears of cartel violence have gradually abated.

Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas have traditionally been the beneficiaries of port calls in Baja, with longer cruises continuing on to destinations such as Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and, after a recent renewal of interest by cruise lines, Acapulco.

Cabo San Lucas saw a 50% increase for January and February 2017, as compared to the same time frame a year ago. Overall, the gains this year are projected to be more modest, up around 11.5% from 2016. Ensenada, which due to its proximity to Southern California homeports like Los Angeles and San Diego, typically sees slightly more action than San Lucas, has a more stable outlook. Ensenada hosted 254 unique cruise ship visits in 2016, according to Cruise Port Insider, and is slated to receive 259 in 2017.

Baja Ports Ride Cruise Ship Wave

Cabo San Lucas continues to be a favored destination for West Coast cruise ships. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line.

Despite the slight increases this year, growth potential for Baja ports is strong; a fact bolstered by the larger ships now being deployed to the West Coast. The Carnival Splendor, a massive ship with a capacity of over 3,000 people, is moving to Long Beach in January 2018, and will specialize in week-long voyages along the Mexican Riviera. Holland America has sent a larger Vista Class ship to San Diego. Disney and Princess are also investing heavily in Mexico for the 2017 season, with the former departing from San Diego, the latter from Los Angeles.

Expansion

One of the things cruisers can expect in the future is more high-end amenities, particularly in regards food and entertainment. Cruises featuring celebrity chefs and rock stars have proved very popular. A little over three months ago, the Norwegian Sun hosted a Groove Cruise, sailing from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas with an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) soundtrack courtesy of some of the world’s best DJs.

Last month, Cabo Wabo founder Sammy Hagar was one of many big names performing on the 5th annual Rock Legends Cruise, joining REO Speedwagon, John Mayall, Pat Benatar, Thin Lizzy, Creedence Clearwater Revival Revisited and many more aboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas.

Expect the names to get bigger and bigger as this trend continues.

Baja Ports Ride Cruise Ship Wave

Culture based amenities like mariachis are now being offered on some cruises to the Mexican Riviera. Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises.

Other trends to keep an eye out for are culture based amenities and longer, more geographically ambitious cruises. Holland America has brought on “Mexican Ambassadors” for many of its Mexican Riviera cruises, preparing guests for upcoming port stops with language and dance classes, and introductions to regional arts, crafts and folkloric dancing. Carnival, in an effort to maximize its transfer of the Splendor, is offering a 13-day Panama Canal cruise from Miami to Long Beach. The Splendor will be the first Carnival ship and the first ship of her class to transit the newly upgraded canal locks, with port calls scheduled at Cartagena, Colombia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

In order to accommodate the Splendor, Carnival signed an agreement with the City of Long Beach to massively increase its dockage and facility capacity from 66,000 to 142,000 square feet. Hopefully, this upgrade serves as a blueprint for other Southern California ports looking to attract top-of-the-line cruise ships.

The Panama Canal cruise, if successful, could also point the way to connecting the best of Caribbean and West Coast destinations in longer, more wide-ranging voyages. The “sweet spot” for cruise lines, however, has always been cruises approximately one week in duration, which is why some industry insiders are also suggesting that the ideal Baja based jaunts should include another peninsular port.

Stay tuned! Prediction models suggesting continued growth and improvements in the cruise ship world promise big changes for the travel industry at large, and for Baja based ports of call.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants,  hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Fairs, Festivals and Fiestas: March Events in Baja

Our Look at Monthly Events Around the Baja California Peninsula

The single biggest March event for much of Baja  is Spring Break, as thousands of U.S. and Canadian collegians head south of the border  for beachfront fun in the sun. Those of a more mature age, however, will also find plenty to do, as the month sees the return of several signature peninsular cultural events.

Blues bands promise to get mojos working throughout the San Felipe area during the town’s yearly Blues & Arts Fiesta,  while in Todos Santos the pueblo magico’s annual Film Festival  showcases a wide array of first-rate Latin American movies at its historic downtown theater, as well as at select sites in Pescadero and La Paz.

Adults who retain a youthful frame of mind and a collegian-like appreciation for cerveza, meanwhile, can enjoy the best of both worlds:  live music and abundant craft-brewed suds courtesy of the Ensenada Beer Festival.

There are hundreds of local events that can be found on Baja.com. The following represent some of our favorite selections.

Event dates and details are subject to sudden change and cancellation. Please confirm with the event organizers before booking your trip.

 

March Events in Baja

Todos Santos:  14th Todos Santos Film Festival

When:  March 1 – 5

This annual showcase for Mexican and Latin American films was founded in 1994, and is based each year at the historic Teatro-Cine Manuel Marquez de Leon, a landmark 70+ year old movie theater that overlooks the town square in Todos Santos. The 14th edition of  the coastal pueblo magico‘s acclaimed festival de cine will include full-length films, as well as shorts, documentaries, and projects from the local Youth in Video program. Additional screenings will take place in nearby Pescadero, and Baja California Sur’s capital city, La Paz.

Cost:  Free – $5

 

 

 

 

March Events in Baja

Ensenada2017 Ensenada Beer Festival

When:  March 16 – 18

Ensenada’s celebration of the peninsula’s best craft beers – and some international suds – takes place yearly at the Centro Cultural Riviera, and is highlighted by a conference, competition and of course a festival featuring live music and a constant flow of fine cervezas.

Cost:  $17

 

March Events in Baja

San Felipe11th Annual San Felipe Blues & Arts Fiesta

When:  March 17 – 18

The local Lion’s Club sponsored Fiesta showcases local and international blues bands, plus exhibits offering a huge variety of fine art – from jewelry and collectibles to painting and sculptures drums and iron creations. This year’s musical performers include Backwater Blues Band, Bayou Brothers, Gregg Wright, and Madame LeRoux and Krewe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March Events in Baja

East Cape24th Annual East Cape Arts Festival

When:  March 19

Staged annually at the Hotel Palmas de Cortez in Los Barriles, the Festival de Artes is a showcase for original artwork from regional artists, and also features food, drinks, live music and dance groups. Booth proceeds benefit community activities and art programs through the Asociación de Artes del Mar de Cortez A.C.

Cost:  Free Admission

 

March Events in Baja

San Felipe31st Annual SCORE San Felipe 250

When:  March 30 – April 2

SCORE International’s four race World Desert Champion Series kicks off its 2017 season with the San Felipe 250. As one might expect, the rugged off-road loop race starts and finishes in San Felipe. The event is open to cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs; but racers must have a SCORE membership to register.

Cost:  $1545 – 2440

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants,  hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Three Kinds of Magic: Baja’s Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

Three Kinds of Magic:  Baja’s Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

What is magic, really? Is it merely sleight of hand, or is it something made real by the imagination, by people and places whose unusual histories and unexpected charms create in one’s mind  a whole far greater than their individual parts would suggest?

The latter explanation has always made more sense to me, particularly in regards pueblos magicos (literally, magical villages), Mexican towns that by dint of great natural beauty, thriving cultural communities and strong historical legacies have been given an official stamp of enchantment. The pueblo magico program was founded by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism (SECTUR) in 2001, and since then some 111 places have earned this wizardly appellation, with at least one located in each of the country’s 31 states.

The Baja California peninsula has, to date, three pueblos magicos:  Tecate in the state of Baja California; and Loreto and Todos Santos in Baja California Sur.

All three are part of a program that from its inception was deliberately designed to drive and disperse tourism dollars. But here’s the thing:  they really do have some magic.

Todos Santos

An oasis surrounded by desert, mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Todos Santos has from its very beginnings been a place of great natural beauty. The original inhabitants were Guaycuras, a hunter gatherer tribe whose territory reached as far north as Loreto. The Jesuits built a mission there in 1733, which proved to be rather unfortunate timing since the Pericues, the tribe to the south, rebelled in 1734 and all the southern missions, from San Jose del Cabo to La Paz, were looted and badly damaged.

Baja's Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

Although not the inspiration for the famous song by the Eagles, Hotel California is one of the benchmark lodgings in Todos Santos. Photo courtesy of Michael Kull.

During the 19th century, Todos Santos became a sugar cane capital, with residents not only growing the cash-rich crop but milling it as well. The town’s most distinctive building feature, its beautiful old redbrick buildings, largely date to this period.

The prosperity was interrupted by the Mexican Revolution, although the action in Baja California was limited to few small skirmishes. The Mexican Mural Movement, an artistic highlight of the post-Revolutionary period, reached the town in the 1930s, wonderful examples of which can still be seen in its historic Centro Cultural Todosanteño.

Baja's Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

Painted during the height of the Mexican Mural Movement, this artwork has graced the Centro Cultural Todosanteño in Todos Santos since 1933. Photo courtesy of Michael Kull.

In 1947, work began on the now legendary Hotel California, a lodging conjured by a Chinese immigrant named Mr. Wong, whose attempts to acclimate to Mexican culture included changing his name to Don Antonio Tabasco. The locals called him El Chino anyway, but his family’s 16-room hotel proved perennially popular with visitors and locals alike. The former were drawn to the comfortable lodgings, the latter because the Hotel California pumped the only gas, and served the only cold beer in town.

Baja's Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

The historic Teatro-Cine General Manuel Marquez de Leon was completed in 1944, and is the primary screening site during the annual Todos Santos Film Festival.

Inspired by the area’s unique light, acclaimed artist Charles Stewart and his wife Mary Lou settled in Todos Santos in 1985, and the town soon boasted a thriving artists’ colony. Today, Todos Santos remains distinguished by its many superb art galleries, but also by its boutique hotels – some, like The Todos Santos Inn and Hotel Guaycura, housed in historic 19th century redbrick buildings – and the excellent surfing conditions off Pacific Coast beaches, from La Pastora to San Pedrito. Todos Santos is also famed for its many outstanding cultural festivals, among which are annual events dedicated to art, music, film and writing.

Loreto

The Jesuit mission period, remembered as one of the defining epochs in Baja California, effectively began in 1697, when Juan Maria de Salvatierra and nine others landed at Loreto. Loreto was the first permanent Spanish settlement on the peninsula, the beachhead for over 70 years of Jesuit proselytizing, with new missions radiating out in all directions from this central hub. Loreto was the start of El Camino Real, the Royal Road which, in olden days before the Transpeninsular Highway was even a gleam in Governor Francisco J. Mugica’s eye, was the “golden brick road” of Las Californias…minus the gold bricks, of course. The Jesuits, despite opponents’ claims of hidden wealth and hidden missions, measured their success in salvaged souls. Loreto was the first capital of California, remaining so until ceding power to Monterey in 1776, after Franciscan Junipero Serra had opened up Alta California.

Baja's Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

The first Spanish mission in the Californias was built in Loreto.

Loreto remains a premier destination for peninsular historians, with a fine museum at the site of the well-preserved remains of the first mission. Nowadays, however, it is primarily a gateway to the gorgeous Islands of Loreto, and to the enormously important and still mysterious rock art in what is called the Great Mural Region.

The five islands off the coast of Loreto – Carmen, Coronado, Danzante, Monserrat and Santa Catalina – have been designated as a protected marine preserve, and a UNESCO world heritage site. Intrepid romantics seek out Danzante’s spectacular Honeymoon Cove, and the breathtakingly beautiful waters surrounding the islands draw divers and kayakers from around the world. The protected marine preserve is home, seasonally at least, to the largest creatures ever to live on the planet, blue whales, and the islands themselves feature many plant and animal species endemic to Baja California Sur.

Baja's Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

Kayaking the Islands of Loreto. Photo courtesy of Sea Kayak Adventures.

The age-old rock art found in Baja’s central sierras like the Sierra de la Giganta, to the west of Loreto, was first brought to public attention by Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, who wrote about it in his many Baja focused travel books, as well as for Life Magazine.  Examples of Baja’s primitive rock art extend south of La Paz and thus could be said to have existed in the territory of each of the peninsula’s large indigenous groups: the Cochimi, Guaycura and Pericu. Yet all maintained the evocative outsized rock art was created by a race that came before them, a race of giants.

Baja's Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

Vintage photo of City Hall in Loreto.

Tecate

Tecate is probably best known for its eponymous beer, or for being the gateway to Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s best and most productive wine region. The picturesque border community is much more than a destination for aficionados of fermented grape and grain, however, and was well deserving of its pueblo magico status, which it attained as recently as 2012.

Baja's Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

Parque Hidalgo in Tecate. Photo courtesy of Zappingzone.

The plaza principal, Parque Hidalgo, really is the heart of Tecate, a quaint but vibrant urban oasis in a small city with less than 100,000 inhabitants. The town square is invariably brimming with spirited activity, from lively dominoes games and roving musicians to arts and crafts vendors and the budget-friendly restaurants and umbrella-shaded outdoor cafés that mark its outer boundaries.  Tecate too has its own notable art scene, from ancient rock art in nearby mountains to skilled contemporary pottery makers and the excellent Mexican Art Collection at Hotel Santo Diegueño.

Baja's Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

Tecate is one of three government designated pueblos magicos in the Baja California peninsula.

The name of the boutique lodging is a nod to the designation once given to native Kumeyaay Indians by San Diego based missionaries. In addition to its fabulous art collection, Santuario Diegueño is also home to Asao, a highly acclaimed restaurant that specializes in locally sourced food and wines. Asao is situated at the property’s highest point, and pairs its fine fare with magnificent views.

Baja's Enchanting Pueblos Magicos

The spa at Rancho La Puerta is one of Tecate’s most popular attractions.

Rancho La Puerta is another major Tecate attraction. The 3,000 acre wellness retreat was founded by Edmond and Deborah Szekely in 1940, and its ongoing cult-like appeal was recently noted by none other than the Washington Post, who favored it with a lengthy profile. The exquisitely landscaped property features gorgeous gardens and hiking trails, a pampering spa and abundant salon facilities, as well as celebrations of or instruction in a wide range of disciplines, from cooking and crafts to yoga and fitness.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants,  hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Fairs, Festivals and Fiestas: February Events in Baja

Valentine’s Day and Carnaval (AKA  Carnival, AKA Mardi Gras) are big events almost everywhere, not least of all on the Baja California peninsula. 

Sunset da Mona Lisa, a restaurant annually ranked among the most romantic restaurants in the world, celebrates Valentine’s Day this year with Champagne, a multi-course feast, live music and breathtaking sunset views of Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas.  

Two peninsular cities – Ensenada and La Paz – are particularly famed for their Carnaval celebrations. Both will carry on the tradition again this year, with a series of public festivities that reach their crescendo on “Fat Tuesday,” the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.

There are hundreds of local events that can be found on Baja.com. The following represent some of our favorite February events in Baja.

Event dates and details are subject to sudden change and cancellation. Please confirm with the event organizers before booking your trip.

 

 February Events in BajaTodos Santos:  Todos Santos Writers Workshop

When:  Feb. 5 – 11

The 4th edition of this literary themed workshop will include five days of intensive sessions, and for the first time will be held in collaboration with the local Writing Ranch. Daily sessions will be led by Jeanne McCulloch, Gordon Chaplin and Rex Weiner, with seminars featuring speakers such as Jonathan Penner (“On Language”) and Nick Triolo (“Psychoscapes of Love and Revolution”). Literary agents Meg Thompson and Mark Gottlieb will head discussions at the Publishing Roundtable. 

Cost:  $900

 

 

February Events in Baja

Todos Santos:  Artists of Todos Santos Open Studios Tour

When:  Feb. 11 – 12

The peninsula’s southernmost pueblo magico draws hundreds of people each year curious to see its many working art studios. Participating artists include painters, sculptors, photographers, muralists, plein air painters, encaustic artists, jewelers, printmakers, collage artists, potters and wood turners. All proceeds benefit the children’s art programs at the Palapa Society of Todos Santos, A.C.

Cost:  $10

 

 

 

 

 

February Events in Baja 

Cabo San Lucas Valentine’s Day at Sunset da Mona Lisa

When:  Feb. 14

When it comes to romance, no Los Cabos restaurant comes close to Sunset da Mona Lisa. Perched seemingly atop the Sea of Cortez, with spectacular views of the granite monuments at Land’s End,  Mona Lisa offers the ultimate al fresco dining experience. The addition of the Taittinger Champagne Terrace in recent years has only added to the romantic allure of a place that already witnessed wedding proposals on an almost daily basis.

Cost:  $125

 

 

 

 

February Events in Baja La Paz:  Carnaval

When:  Feb. 23 – 28

Forget Rio. The world’s best Carnaval celebration takes place in Baja California Sur’s capital city, La Paz. This year’s theme is El Juego de la Vida (The Game of Life), with six days of pre-Lenten festivities – parades, costumes, live music, dancing in the streets, the crowning of a king and queen – culminating on Fat Tuesday (in French, Mardi Gras), February 28, 2017. Performers include Teo Gonzalez, Angeles Azules, Ha*Ash, Napoleon, El Tri, and Banda Carnaval. 

Cost:  Free admission

 

February Events in Baja

East Cape:  Los Barriles Dog Show

When:  Feb. 26

The Los Barriles Dog Show returns after a one year hiatus to the Hotel Palmas de Cortez in the beautiful East Cape town of Los Barriles. Canines are eligible to compete in up to nine categories, including best costume, best trick, best looking for pure and mixed breeds (above and below 40 pounds), cutest pair and dog that looks most like its owner. The family-friendly day in the sun will also feature an agility event, food and drinks, arts and crafts vendors, and special appearances from the Disc Dogs of Mexico, and the Schutzhund Association of La Paz. 

Cost:  50 pesos per human aged 10 and over; 40 pesos per dog.

 

 

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants,  hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

Baja Makes National Geographic Best of the World List for 2017

National Geographic Traveler magazine has announced its annual Best of the World list, which highlights 21 must-see places to visit in 2017. The destinations were all chosen by the Traveler editors and fall into one of three categories- Cities, Nature, or Culture. The full list can be found in the December/January 2017 issue of Traveler magazine, and online now at NatGeoTravel.com/BestTrips2017.

“This special issue takes readers on a globe-spinning journey to 21 of the world’s best destinations,” said George Stone, National Geographic Traveler editor in chief. “We think this year’s list represents a carefully curated selection of forward-leaning places that reveal the bright future of travel. This list is all about exploration and discovery. It’s not just about where to go, but why to go now and how to make 2017 a year of enlightenment through travel.”

Baja Makes National Geographic Best of the World List for 2017

The 2017 Best of the World destinations are (in alphabetical order):

  • Anchorage, Alaska, USA
  • Baja California National Marine Parks, Mexico
  • Banff, Alberta, Canada
  • Canton Uri, Switzerland
  • Cartagena, Colombia
  • Central India’s National Parks
  • Chengdu, China
  • Cradle of Humankind, South Africa
  • Ecuador’s Cloud Forests
  • Finland
  • Georgia, USA
  • Guadeloupe Islands
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • Kauai, Hawaii, USA
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Malta
  • Marrakech, Morocco
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Seoul, Korea
  • Via Dinarica, Western Balkans

The online hub includes an immersive visual experience with 360 videos along with helpful tips and facts for planning trips to each locale. Visitors will also find inspiring illustrations to download and share. National Geographic Travel will be hosting a Best of the World-themed Twitter chat on Friday, November 18, from 2-3:00 PM EST. Join the conversation with @NatGeoTravel and #BestTrips2017.

National Geographic Traveler (six issues per year) is the world’s most widely read travel magazine and has 15 international editions. The National Geographic Travel digital group shares its inspiring and authoritative digital content such as trip ideas, photo galleries, blogs and apps with its @NatGeoTravel community of over 20 million.

To learn more about each destination, visit: NatGeoTravel.com/BestTrips2017

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants,  hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Baja Year in Review 2016

Baja Year in Review 2016

In the second installment of our year-end feature, we put a bow on the year in Baja with a review of our favorite stories, headlines and videos from 2016.

We hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane, and wish you and yours the very best during this special time of year.

Headlines to Remember

Sometimes the headlines tell you pretty much all you need to know. Here are five that made us smile in 2015.

Alien City: UFO Hunter FInds 80-Mile-Long Underwater Structure Off Baja California Coast 

Did aliens build the strange structures seen by satellites along the ocean floor of the Gulf of California, AKA the Sea of Cortez? Probably not, although the tube shaped structures that stretch for over 70 miles bear some resemblance to the famed Nazca Lines, the ancient geoglyghs in southern Peru with enormous, evocative designs that can only be apprehended via aerial views. But as Ernest Hemingway once wrote:  “Isn’t it pretty to think so.”

Rare Baja Plant Named After Rock Guitarist Jimi Hendrix

It seems rather strange that a rare Baja succulent with an enormous lifespan would be named after a virtuoso guitarist whose life was cut tragically short, but that’s exactly what happened earlier this year when a small plant with pinkish-white  was named for rock star Jimi Hendrix. The story goes that former San Diego State University graduate student Mark Dodero discovered the plant while listening to the Hendrix classic Voodoo Child. The severely circumscribed habitat of the newly dubbed Dudleya hendrixii is threatened, but hopefully the plant, like its namesake’s reputation, will live forever.

Mexico Protects Vast Marine Reserve Off Baja California

In a move that drew rave reviews from regional conservationists, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto recently established the Pacific Islands Biosphere Reserve. The new wildlife preserve comprises over 2.7 million acres, includes 21 islands and 97 islets – including the Coronado Islands and the famed surf island of Todos Santos – and offers permanent legal protection for many important seabird and marine life habitats off the coast of Baja California. It also complements the Pacific Biosphere Reserve, which protects, among other things, the Revillagigedo Archipelago south of Baja California Sur.

Baja Year in Review 2016

Photo courtesy of C.apperti at Wikimedia Commons.

Playa Balandra in La Paz Voted Best Beach in Mexico in USA Today Readers’ Poll

Although reader contests and editorial lists offer purely subjective rankings, it says something about the beauty and allure of the peninsula’s beaches that in a recent USA Today reader’s poll an astonishing six of the top 10 beaches in Mexico were judged to be found in Baja California Sur. Playa Balandra in La Paz was voted number one overall, but neighbor Playa El Tecolote, Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante, the East Cape’s Playa Cabo Pulmo, and Lover’s and Medano Beaches in Cabo San Lucas also made the cut.

Three Los Cabos Golf Courses Make Cut for the World’s 100 Best

Los Cabos has a remarkable golfing history. The first course wasn’t built until 1987, yet despite this late start the region has quickly established itself as one of the world’s most desirable golfing destinations. Golf Digest gave a glimpse into the reasons for this success in January 2016, when it rated three of the 14 area loops among the 100 best in the world. The Davis Love III designed Dunes Course at Diamante, the Jack Nicklaus designed Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol, and Tom Fazio’s Querencia Course were all honored in the annual ranking. A 15th Los Cabos based course, a truncated par-3 layout from Tiger Woods, has since opened at Diamante.

Our Favorite Stories

Many thanks to our contributors around the Baja California peninsula for another great year of stories. Here are five of our favorites, and judging from the response we got on social media, three of yours as well.

Baja Year in Review 2016

The Best of Baja’s Attractions:  Why the Baja California Peninsula is World-Class in More Ways than You Think

Why Baja? In one of our most popular articles this year, we examine the world-class food, wine, accommodations and attractions that can currently be found throughout the Baja California peninsula, and trace how these signature draws developed over the past few decades.

“The old Baja of dirt roads, ranches and rustic resorts still exists, but in recent decades the region has increasingly marketed itself to travelers as a more sophisticated vacation destination, touting not only sport fishing, stunning natural settings and a sunny year-round climate but luxurious modern conveniences and brand-name accommodations.

“Nowadays, the peninsula offers a multitude of world-class pleasures, from fine food and elegant wines to chic boutique hotels showcasing  upscale amenities like expansive spas and championship-level golf courses.

“This evolution–most noticeable in larger areas like Tijuana, Ensenada, La Paz and Los Cabos–has resulted in an ever-expanding collection of accolades and encomiums from major media sources.

Restaurants

“Baja’s booming dining scene–buoyed by international acclaim for its Baja Med and Pan-Pacific fusion cuisines–hit a new high in May, when The Daily Meal released its annual list of the best restaurants in Mexico. Mexico City traditionally dominates such rankings, and did so again in 2016, accounting for 10 of the top 25 eateries. But the Baja California peninsula provided its strongest competition to date, placing eight entrants, seven of which are located in the state of Baja California: Mision 19 and La Querencia in Tijuana; Laja and Manzanilla in Ensenada; and Corazon de Tierra, Deckman’s en El Mogor, Finca Altozano and Silvestre in the Valle de Guadalupe. Not mentioned by The Daily Meal, but honored elsewhere was Valle de Guadalupe’s La Cocina de Doña Esthela, which was given the “Best Breakfast in the World” award by culinary website FoodieHub in 2015.

“Farm-to-table standout Flora’s Field Kitchen was the only Baja Sur based restaurant to crack The Daily Meal rankings, although that may change in coming years thanks to a host of up-and-coming young chefs, and the presence of celebrated restaurateur Enrique Olvera. Chef Olvera, whose Mexico City based Pujol is rated as the best in the country and one of the top 20 in the world, opened his first restaurant in Los Cabos, Manta at The Cape: A Thompson Hotel, in June 2015.”

Read more

Baja Year in Review 2016

Boom Times in Los Cabos

No less an authority than the New York Times recently reported on the enormous boom in hotel construction currently taking place in Los Cabos. Our Cabo correspondent, Chris Sands, reported on this phenomenon and its remarkable backstory back in May. This was his local’s take on what’s happening, and what it means for the future of the area.

“Construction projects are booming throughout Los Cabos, from the Pacific Coast north of Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Los Cabos, the luxury development located just outside San Jose del Cabo. Even the East Cape – a 70 mile stretch of coastline known for its pristine beaches and off-the-grid communities – is not immune, with at least two new high-profile projects in the offing.

“One need only drive the 20-mile tourist corridor which connects cape cities San Lucas and San Jose to see the incredible changes that are underway. Enormous building sites teeming with workers rise up every few miles, while the intervening highway lanes are littered with orange cones – for rerouting, and also for the additional entrances and exits needed to accommodate the ambitious new resorts that are transforming the coastline.

“Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Nobu, Hard Rock, VieVage, Montage, Solaz and Le Blanc are among the many brands moving into Los Cabos, pushing maximum hotel capacity from 14,000 to 18,000 rooms in the space of a few short years (2015 – 2018). That’s an increase of about 22%; a massive leap. And of course resorts in Los Cabos promise an impressive array of amenities, which means more new golf courses. Already home to 14 impressive courses, including three of the world’s 100 best loops (per Golf Digest), new Los Cabos layouts are on the way from major champions Fred Couples and Greg Norman, among others.

“Whether this meteoric growth is sustainable or not is a very good question. There are many reasons to believe it is:  steadily rising tourism rates in Mexico, increased numbers of flights and tourists to Los Cabos, and beefed up infrastructure most prominent among them.

“Los Cabos saw a 14.7% rise in tourism in 2015, and Mexico as a whole has seen a similar jump in 2016. Flights to Los Cabos were up significantly in 2015, and more gains are expected as carriers take advantage of new liberalized aviation agreements between the U.S. and Mexico. Southwest Airlines, in particular, has ramped up flights to Los Cabos from destinations around the U.S., and is currently seeking permission to expand its Mexican service from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). A new toll road from the Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) to Cabo San Lucas has helped alleviate some of the traffic congestion in an area that is now home to almost 300,000 people.

“But it is debatable how much these new developments help local merchants, who have suffered in the wake of the new trend towards all-inclusive resorts. One good storm or incidence of cartel related violence could set the area back substantially, and it still remains to see how a desert area with a limited water supply is going to cope with rapidly rising demands. Yes, desalinization is a requirement for new properties, but desalinization brings its own problems, including harmful impacts on local fish populations. You know, the reason tourists came here in the first place.”

Read more

Baja Year in Review

Sabor de Baja Hits New Heights in 2016

Each August, columnist Tom Gatch takes  a break from fishing to don his finest white attire and journey to the Rosarito Beach Hotel, host of the annual Sabor de Baja culinary competition.  The finest chefs, vintners and brewers from Baja California gather at this end of summer affair, where they showcase their delicious creations for appreciative attendees. By  popular demand, here is Tom’s recap of this year’s gala edition.

“Over numerous decades, the Rosarito Beach Hotel has played host to a myriad of Hollywood celebrities, international dignitaries and discriminating visitors from around the globe.  As a matter of fact, as the years have passed, some of its regular guests even began referring to it simply as ‘the legend’; paying homage to the fact that the hotel has remained one of the top properties of its kind on the Baja coast since the days of the early 20th Century.

“As it turns out, during the past several years, the hotel along with Chef Bo Bendana of the Mi Casa Supper Club have worked together to create yet another legend, which now draws throngs of eager epicureans and wine lovers to the annual Sabor de Baja that features delightful samplings of our region’s finest wines and craft brews pared with gourmet cuisine from top local restaurants.  Without a doubt, the 2016 event set a new standard in that regard.

“This year’s affair was also upgraded with a new VIP section, which offered reserved table seating that was situated adjacent to the main stage.  Guests who took advantage of this option enjoyed easy access to the wine and food along with a close up view of the featured entertainment and presentation ceremonies.

“An increase in onsite staffing ensured that the general admission attendees were also well accommodated with additional chairs for their tables whenever necessary.  As always, however, it was the exceptional performance of the many vintners, brewers, chefs and restaurateurs taking part in this annual event that elevated it to its new apex in 2016.”

Read more

Baja Year in Review 2016

Golden Ghosts: El Triunfo and the Soul of Baja California Sur

The occasion of the 9th annual El Triunfo Arts and Crafts Festival provided an excuse, as if one were needed, for a deep dive into the history and culture of the two oldest secular communities in the Californias:  San Antonio and El Triunfo. The two were prominent mining communities as far back as the 18th century, and 300 years later remain at the center of controversy over the future of gold mining in Baja California Sur.

“The two-lane stretch of Highway 1 between San Pedro and Los Barriles is one of the most beautiful on the Baja California peninsula. After climbing several thousand feet into the Sierra de la Laguna, the mountain range which dominates the center of Baja California Sur between La Paz and Los Cabos, the road curves perilously through a breathtaking panorama of peaks and valleys, the views of cactus, scrub and tree strewn slopes made more piquant by the specter of wandering goats and cows.

“Traffic along this portion of Highway 1 is almost always sparse, limited to the occasional pick-up truck or dust-covered SUV.  In the rare event where traffic backs up, there are pull-off overlooks located between the winding mountain passes, and once in awhile a small town will appear, offering refreshments and a chance to rest one’s nerves.

“El Triunfo (pop. 321) and San Antonio (pop. 463) are the most notable of these small towns. They’re located 35 and 40 miles south of La Paz, respectively, straddling the highway at altitudes close to 1500 feet.  Although each has a few tourist attractions, it is only on special occasions, like the El Triunfo Arts and Crafts Festival – the 9th edition of which took place on a recent Sunday – that people ascend en masse to these sleepy mountain hamlets.

“On festival days like this one, El Triunfo glows. A kaleidoscopic profusion of cars pull off onto every conceivable shoulder of the road and its downtown arteries, while clusters of brightly dressed people file through the slowed traffic along the highway towards the sounds of music and the smell of grilled meat. The dominant color motif, as always, is gold. The traditional costumes of the women swirling with their dance partners around the plaza principal are accented in gold. Many of the large, well-preserved homes that sit south of the highway are painted white but trimmed in gold. The old church, whose profile looms above the modest skyline, boasts a golden coat with royal red piping, its golden bell towers glinting in the afternoon sunlight.

“Once upon a time, El Triunfo and nearby San Antonio were the wealthiest and most famous towns on the Baja California peninsula. This legendarily prosperous period occurred during the latter part of the 19th century, but in truth the two were mining capitals and historical anomalies long before post San Francisco gold rush fever put the small Sierra de la Laguna communities on the international map in 1862.”

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Baja Year in Review 2016

Photo courtesy of Marlin Harms at Wikimedia Commons.

10 Plant and Animal Species Only Found in Baja

Some of the Baja California’s most famous flora and fauna aren’t necessarily confined to the peninsula;  surreal Boojum trees and giant Cardon cactus, for instance,  can also be found in the mainland state of Sonora. In this long overdue article, we introduced our readers to some of the rare plants and animals that are uniquely and utterly “Baja.”

“The Baja California peninsula is like no place else on earth, a fact reflected in the peninsula’s distinctive and often unique flora and fauna.

“Much of the fascinating diversity in Baja California Sur is due to what is called island endemism, a process by which plants and animals develop independently in specific isolated environments. The unique island endemism of the Galapagos, for example, famously helped to inspire Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Coastal islands off Baja California Sur like Magdalena and Espiritu Santo are hotbeds for endemic species, which have necessarily evolved over time in order to survive in their geographically circumscribed environments.

“But the peninsular mainland – “almost an island” in Bruce Berger’s felicitous phrase – boasts its own collection of strange and wonderful creatures, with many specifically adapted to the central or southern sierras, or to low-lying desert areas. Some are indigenous but not endemic, meaning they can also be found in other regions. Others are sui generis, found only in Baja.

“Here are 10 of our “only in Baja” favorites.”

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Videos We Loved

We didn’t make any of these videos, but we’re happy to share them, since they show off the spectacular natural beauty of our favorite place on earth, as well as the special character of its inhabitants.

Baja Diver Trapped in Cage with Great White Shark

To date, over 20 million people have watched this frightening video, in which a great white shark bursts through the bars of an underwater diving cage as crew members look on in horror. Luckily the diver, who was enjoying the incredible underwater scenery near Isla Guadalupe(a volcanic island some 250 miles southwest of Ensenada), lived to tell the tale.

Women of Billabong Surf Todos Santos

“When wanderlust strikes,” writes Billabong, “we pack our bikinis and set our bearing for the Tropic of Cancer.” In this exquisitely shot video, several of the Australian lifestyle apparel company’s models head for the beaches of Baja’s first pueblo magico, Todos Santos, where they soak up local color and take advantage of the Pacific Coast community’s outstanding surfing conditions.

Audi Test Drives New Model in Beautiful Baja California Sur

Forget the Autobahn. If you really want to test out a new model, hit the highways and byways of Baja California Sur. That’s what German automaker Audi did with its new Q5 2.0 TFSI, and the beach, desert and mountain scenery is every bit as breathtaking as the luxury hybrid SUV’s high-powered performance.

Skateboarders Showcase the Charms of La Paz

Luis Humberto leads viewers on an unconventional tour of Baja California Sur’s capital, as he skateboards along the beautiful three-mile-long malecon, at signature attractions and through the city streets of downtown La Paz.

In Search of Painted Caves

Baja’s incredible and mysterious cave paintings date back thousands of years, and have exercised a profound fascination for writers like Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner and historian Harry Crosby. In this introductory video from the Bradshaw Foundation, Crosby offers a captivating introduction to these ancient masterpieces.

Thanks again for all your support this year. Happy Holidays!

 

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants,  hotels  and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, call toll-free (US/CAN) at 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.