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About Chris Sands

Chris Sands is the author of Bohemia by the Bay, and writes about wine, golf, and travel for publications such as Baja.com, Los Cabos Guide, Los Cabos Magazine, 10 Best, and USA Today. He is a full-time resident of Cabo San Lucas.

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 Cortes (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. Cortes 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.

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.

Trending ^

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.

 

Fairs, Festivals and Fiestas: January Events in Baja

Fairs, Festivals and Fiestas:  January Events in Baja

2017 begins with a bang in Baja California Sur, with some of the state’s standout cultural and outdoor competitions scheduled to take place this month: most notably, the Tropic of Cancer Concert Series and The Lord of the Wind Showdown.

The former is a more than adequate fill-in for the currently in limbo Todos Santos Music Festival (founded by former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck), and brings some of the finest bands on the contemporary music scene to perform in Baja’s first pueblo magico. The latter is one of two outstanding windsports competitions held each January on Baja Sur’s gorgeous East Cape (the La Ventana Classic is the other).

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.


January Events in Baja

San Jose del CaboThursday Night Art Walk

When:  Jan. 5, 12, 19, 26

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. 

Cost:  Free admission

 

 

January Events in Baja

Cabo San Lucas9th Annual Los Cabos Pro-Am Golf Tournament

When:  Jan. 16 – 20, 2017

The most notable golf tournament in a region famed for its spectacular courses–three of Los Cabos’ 14 links are currently ranked among the 100 best in the world–returns as Sheraton Hacienda del Mar and Cabo del Sol’s Ocean and Desert Courses play host to the 9th annual Los Cabos Pro-Am.

Cost:  Stay and Play packages start at $3595

 

January Events in Baja

Todos SantosTropic of Cancer Concert Series

When:  Jan. 12 – 21

Never fear, music fans. Former REM guitarist Peter Buck’s Todos Santos Music Festival may be on hiatus, but Todos Santos will once again host a series of great bands to kick off the New Year, and the historic Hotel California will once again be the primary host and sponsor. The Tropic of Cancer Concert Series features bands and performers such as La Santa Cecilia, Langhorne Slim, Las Cafeteras, Joan Osborne, The Autumn Defense, The Jag, Cordovas, Daniel Donato, Matt Haeck, and many more.

Cost:  $75 – $100

 

 

 

 

January Events in Baja

East Cape7th Annual Lord of the Wind Showdown

When:  Jan. 17 – 22

The coastal town of Los Barriles is home to one of the world’s most famous windsports competitions: The Lord of the Wind Showdown. The annual event is sponsored by the local Rotary Club, and features multiple days of world-class kiteboarding in categories like slalom and big air, with the overall winner walking away with thousands of dollars in prize money. There are also plenty of affiliated fiestas, like the traditional tamales cook-off. 

Cost:   $75 – $150 for competitors; free admission for spectators

 

 

 

 

January Events in Baja

East CapeLa Ventana Classic

When:  Jan. 25 – 29

Just as Los Barriles hosts its annual Lord of the Wind Showdown, La Ventana hosts its “Classic” windsports competition, with windsurfers, kiteboarders and SUP (stand up paddleboarding) enthusiasts battling the breezes to earn cash and glory in various categories. Proceeds from this year’s event are earmarked to benefit local schools. 

Cost:   $15 – $310 for participants; free admission for spectators

 

 

 

 

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: December Events in Baja

Fairs, Festivals and Fiestas: December Events in Baja

December ushers in the long holiday season in Baja California, with a wealth of traditional observances interspersed with secular events like fundraisers and culinary festivals.

New Year’s Eve bashes are the biggest event attractions, however. The annual midnight fireworks show over Medano Beach in Cabo San Lucas is a highlight of fiestas at area resorts like Breathless and Casa Dorada, while the Rosarito Beach Hotel’s yearly dinner and dance party continues to be the celebration of choice for those crossing the border from Southern California. 

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. 

 

December Events in Baja

San Jose del Cabo11th Annual Sabor a Cabo Food and Wine Festival

When:  Dec. 10

Yearly food and wine fest Sabor a Cabo brings together chefs from over 40 Los Cabos restaurants for a full-day fiesta of eating, drinking and dancing. This year’s main event takes place in the sculpture garden at Puerto Los Cabos, a luxury development just outside San José del Cabo. Grammy Award winning Mexican rock band Mana headlines the musical lineup.

Cost:  $200; VIP $350

 

December Events in Baja

San Jose del Cabo20th Annual Liga MAC Christmas Fiesta

When:  Dec. 10

Enjoy a casual evening at the beautiful Shoppes de Palmilla plaza with a glass of wine or soft drink while listening to Los Angeles – “The Angels” – Liga MAC’s ACE student choir, along with live music from local performers. The Shoppes sidewalk fashion show and generous donations of raffle items show the true spirit of Christmas. It’s a fun evening of holiday cheer and a wonderful way to brighten the holidays for less fortunate children in Los Cabos.

Cost:  Unwrapped, non-battery operated toy for a child 1-12 years of age.

 

December Events in Baja

Cabo San LucasCasa Dorada Luau Hawaii Party New Year’s Eve 2017

When:  Dec. 31

Casa Dorada throws the best New Year’s Eve parties in Los Cabos, with past celebrations ranging from barefoot formals to white parties and a carnivalesque bacchanal. This year’s theme is a Hawaiian style Luau, with a fire dancing show and other festive island focused highlights. As always, guests are invited to enjoy to an open bar and deluxe buffet from Chef Francisco Aguirre of the resort’s 12 Tribes restaurant, as well as live music from bands and resident DJs, and of course a spectacular fireworks show over Medano Beach at midnight.

Cost:  $175 for adults; $95 for children 3 – 12 years of age

 

December Events in Baja

Rosarito BeachRosarito Beach Hotel Traditional New Year’s Eve Dinner Celebration

When:  Dec. 31

Each New Year’s Eve, the legendary Rosarito Beach Hotel invites revelers from both sides of the border to ring in the New Year with dinner, drinks and dancing, as well as a spectacular international show in the hotel’s Salon Mexicano ballroom. 

Cost:  $89 – 99 for adults; $49 – 59 for children under 12

 

 

 

 

 

December Events in Baja

Cabo San LucasBreathless Disco Purple New Year’s Eve Party

When:  Dec. 31

Don your finest purple apparel and ring in 2017 in Breathless style at the Land’s End resort’s hip rooftop lounge, Purple. Live music and disco beats courtesy of Sugar Shake Band and Superlover DJ by Suara label.  NOTE:  Breathless is currently offering a special New Year’s Eve deal: stay four nights or longer over the New Year and January 1st is free.

Cost:  Call 1-855-652-7328 for details, or email info.brcsl@breathlessresorts.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.

On Location: 5 Great Movies Filmed in Baja

On Location: 5 Great Movies Filmed in Baja

In honor of the recent awards ceremony at the Los Cabos International Film Festival–the 5th annual edition of which wrapped up last week in Cabo San Lucas–we’ve compiled our own list of the most memorable movies ever shot on location in Baja California and Baja California Sur.

Some of these films celebrate the peninsula’s cultural heritage and picturesque vistas, while others utilize it as an economically advantageous stand-in for diverse international settings. So successful was Fox Baja Studios in building enormous tanks in which to shoot ocean scenes in the blockbuster Titanic, for example, that the facility became the go-to spot for filming nautical adventures, from Pearl Harbor and Deep Blue Sea to Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and the James Bond thriller Tomorrow Never Dies.

What each of our selections have in common is a commitment to quality. All five of the feature films we chose have won prestigious awards, and Dust to Glory was nominated for one for best documentary trailer (you’ll see why below).

Rosarito Beach – Titanic (1997)

 

Although noticeably short on icebergs, Rosarito Beach turned out to be the perfect place to film one of most famous movies ever made, a love story set against the backdrop of an historic maritime disaster. Titanic starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and was directed by James Cameron, whose film Avatar eventually surpassed his earlier classic as the highest grossing film of all-time (although Titanic will forever hold the Oscar lead, having won 11 to Avatar’s nine.)

Cameron and 20th Century Fox decided to build a satellite studio in Baja for two primary reasons: it was conveniently close to Hollywood, and it offered a chance to save money in what was already a massive budget. Thus, Fox Studios Baja was built on 46-acres just south of Rosarito Beach, with enormous filming tanks set against a backdrop of over 3,000 feet of oceanfront land. The tanks and their proximity to the Pacific Ocean provided the illusion of a ship sailing on a seemingly limitless horizon, and added a degree of verisimilitude that drew many other films to the facility in subsequent years.

Even after filming ended, Titanic continued to exercise a profound fascination for both locals and visitors. A Titanic museum and theme park was open for many years, and the spirit of Jack and Rose now lives on at the recently launched Parque Submarino Rosarito, an underwater park and artificial reef whose attractions include “wreckage” from the ill-fated ocean liner.

Cabo San Lucas – Troy (2004)

 

Where else would one film the most famous conflict ever–the 10-year Trojan War, fought over 3,000 years ago in what is modern day Turkey after a Trojan prince named Paris wooed the ravishing Helen from her Greek husband Menelaus–than on the glorious golden sand beaches of Cabo San Lucas?

The big-budget sword and sandals epic starred Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Diane Kruger and Orlando Bloom, and was shot on the Pacific Coast just north of the Land’s End city, near what are now Pueblo Bonito Pacifica and Sunset Beach Resorts, and the Quivira Golf Club.

Just as the original war dragged on far longer than anyone anticipated, so too did the shooting schedule. It was a case of art mirroring life. Initially budgeted at $150 million, costs for Troy spiraled after a hurricane destroyed sets for the ancient city, which then had to be rebuilt.

The opening fight scene featuring Pitt as legendary warrior Achilles was shot in an arroyo near the bullring, and in its epic grandeur narrowly edges Adam Sandler grilling nude on Médano Beach in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.

Troy won an ASCAP award, and was nominated for an Oscar; one more, as it turned out, than Sandler’s 2008 work.

Tijuana – Babel (2006)

 

Babel’s complex script features interlocking stories and characters in diverse locations that range from Morocco and Japan to the U.S. and México. When a mother is shot in Morocco, for example, her nanny Amelia, fearful of missing her son’s wedding, takes her two charges across the border without permission.

Filmed on locations in both Tecate and Tijuana, Babel offers both a captivating look at traditional Baja culture, and the terrors of living on La Frontera. When their driver gets drunk and abandons them after the wedding, Amelia and the kids are stranded in the desert without food and water. A nightmarish series of further complications then ensues.

This multi-narrative drama, crafted by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Birdman, The Revenant), garnered the Mexican filmmaker a Palme d’Or for Best Director at Cannes, and later led to seven Academy Award nominations. It won for Best Score, with many songs from Tijuana groups like Los Tucanes and Los Incomparables.

La Paz – Desierto (2016)

 

Actor Gael García Bernal took up residence in Baja Sur’s capital city for several months while filming this recently released thriller about a racist vigilante that hunts unarmed Mexican immigrants trying to cross the U.S. border. Shot almost entirely on location in the municipality of La Paz–including in small communities like San Juan de la Costa and Los Tamales–the region’s striking and savage desert terrain adds yet another element of suspense to the life-or-death drama.

Desierto was directed by Jonás Cuarón, son of famed Oscar winning Mexican film director Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, Gravity), who acted as a co-producer on the film. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, given its illustrious pedigree, Desierto won the International Critics’ Prize at the Toronto Film Festival.

Documentary Category – Dust to Glory (2005)

 

Over its 49 year history, the Baja 1000 has drawn a who’s who of professional racers and celebrities (including movie stars Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and James Garner), lured by the challenge of pitting themselves against a harsh and unforgiving land.

Best known for his surfing films, director Dana Brown went all out in Dust to Glory, employing over eighty crew, fifty-five cameras, four helicopters and a dune buggy camera car to document the sights and sounds of the infamous race, an annual off-road adventure in which the lives of both drivers and spectators are sometimes lost.  The live footage was largely gathered during the 2003 event, on a looping course that started and finished in Ensenada.

The results are magnificent. No filmmaker has ever captured the beauty, excitement and danger of Baja’s rugged terrain quite like Brown; and his interviews with legendary drivers like Mario Andretti, Robby Gordon and Mike “Mouse” McCoy offer unique insight into the peninsula’s signature sporting attraction.                                                                                    

Bonus Category – Land’s End (1995 – 1996)

 

Okay, enough of the high quality films.

Did you ever wonder what Magnum P.I. would be like if instead of Hawaii, the series was shot on location in Cabo San Lucas?

It probably would have looked a lot like Land’s End, a short-lived (22 episodes) crime drama that aired during the 1995 – 1996 season. The series starred Fred Dryer, a former NFL defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams who transitioned to acting in the 1980s, most notably in the hit show Hunter.

In Land’s End, Hunter played the aptly named Mike Land, a disillusioned former LAPD detective who, after moving to Los Cabos, becomes part of a private detective team, working with his friends Willis P. Dunleevy (character actor nonpareil Geoffrey Lewis in a signature role) and Dave “Thunder” Thorton (played by the gloriously mustachioed Tim Thomerson). Land lives at the fictional Westin Regina Resort, where he also acts as head of security.

Sadly, episodes of Land’s End are now hard to find–yes, even classics like “Day of the Dead,” “El Perico” and “Dr. Amore”–but the theme song and introductory montage will live forever.

 

 

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Fairs, Festivals and Fiestas: November Events in Baja

Fairs, Festivals and Fiestas: November Events in Baja

November sees the return of a number of signature events, from the legendarily rugged, off-road SCORE Baja 1000 – which starts and finishes in Ensenada – to food and culture themed festivals around the peninsula.

Tijuana welcomes back the world’s best Latin dancers for its 2nd annual Salsa Festival, San Felipe shows off its seafood abundance with its 24th Shrimp Festival, San Jose del Cabo kicks off its annual Thursday night Art Walk in the historic Distrito del Arte, while Cabo San Lucas rolls out the red carpet for the impressive array of movie stars that attend its yearly International Film 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.

 

November Events in Baja

San Jose del Cabo:  Art Walk

When:  Nov. 3, 10, 17, 24

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.

Cost:  Free admission

 

 

November Events in Los Cabos

San Felipe:  San Felipe Shrimp Festival

When:  Nov. 4 – 6

Every year in November, San Felipe celebrates the wonders of its favorite shellfish with an abundance of succulent shrimp recipes, traditional tequila and regionally produced wine tastings, as well as live music and folkloric dances. The event also includes a competition that rewards the chef of the best shrimp dish.

Cost:  Free admission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November Events in Baja

Cabo San Lucas:  5th Annual Los Cabos International Film Festival

When:  Nov. 9 – 13

The Los Cabos International Film Festival returns for the fifth consecutive year with a mix of premieres, parties and programs designed to promote collaboration between the film industries of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Movies will primarily be screened at the Pabellon Cultural de la Republica and Cinemex Theaters at Puerto Paraiso in Cabo San Lucas, with a free outdoor screening program held at Plaza Mijares in San Jose del Cabo.

Cost:  Free –  $555

 

 

 

 

November Events in Baja

Tijuana:  2nd Annual Tijuana Salsa Festival

When:  Nov. 18 – 20

Chips aren’t the partner for the 2nd annual Tijuana Salsa Festival, but rather fellow Latin dance enthusiasts. The festival features lessons, socials and workshops – including a ladies styling bootcamp with Karel Flores – as well as competitions (most notably, qualifiers for The World Latin Dance Cup), and performances from some of the world’s best dancers.

Cost:  $85

 

 

November Events in Baja

Ensenada:  49th SCORE Baja 1000

When:  Nov. 16 – 20

The world’s most legendary off-road race, the SCORE sponsored Baja 1000, returns for its 49th running this year. The 2015 loop race clocks in at approximately 830 miles, starting and finishing in Ensenada. Television coverage in the U.S. and Canada will be provided by the CBS Sports Network.

Cost:  $2,240 – $3,490

 

 

 

 

 

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 localrestaurants,  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, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

The Best of Baja’s Attractions

Why the Baja California Peninsula is World-Class in More Ways than You Think

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 sportfishing, 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.

The Best of Baja´s Attractions

Deckman’s en El Mogor is one of several restaurants producing world-class cuisine in Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe.

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.

The Best of Baja's Attractions

Playa Balandra in La Paz was voted best beach in Mexico in a recent USA Today readers poll.

Beaches

The breathtaking beauty of Baja’s sandy shorelines has been confirmed–as if such a thing were necessary–by a recent USA Today reader’s poll of the best beaches in Mexico. Stand down, Cancun. Not only did La Paz’s Playa Balandra win by a wide margin, but a whopping six of the top 10 vote getters were located in Baja California Sur: including Balandra neighbor El Tecolote; Lover’s and Medano Beaches in Cabo San Lucas; Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante (one of the Islands of Loreto); and Cabo Pulmo, jewel of the state’s gorgeous East Cape.

The supremacy of Baja Sur can’t be considered much of an upset, given that it possesses more coastline than any other Mexican state. What is genuinely interesting, however, even to long-time visitors is the sheer majesty of its littoral treasures, which range from 30-million-year-old granite rocks at Land’s End to colorful fingers of living coral reef off the coast of Cabo Pulmo. The latter, by the way, lies within a protected underwater sanctuary that is home to the highest concentration of marine life in the Sea of Cortez.

For those interested in safety, services and sustainability, there are now four beaches on the peninsula qualified to fly the Foundation for Environmental Education’s prestigious Blue Flag:  El Coromuel in La Paz; and Chileno, Palmilla and Santa Maria in Los Cabos.

The Best of Baja's Atrractions

The wedding chapel at One&Only Palmilla, annually rated as the best resort in Mexico.

Hotels

Los Cabos has long led the way in the peninsula’s high-end hospitality ventures. No surprise, then, that on Travel + Leisure’s current list of the 15 best hotels in Mexico, three are found near the southernmost tip of the peninsula:  One&Only Palmilla, Esperanza and Grand Solmar.

A fourth, Las Ventanas al Paraiso, could have been added (and has been previously). It was there that the late, great hospitality pioneer Edward Steiner helped transform the Capes Region from a laid-back fishing mecca into one of the world’s premier destinations for tropical sophistication and barefoot luxury.  Steiner moved on to Palmilla in 2004, when the 1950s era property (built by Rancho Las Cruces and Hotel Hacienda developer Rod Rodriguez) was reimagined under the One&Only imprimatur. It has been a grand dame resort ever since, appearing on Travel + Leisure’s list every year for the past decade.

These days, the local luxury formula is codified: take a scenically situated coastal property and pair it with world-class amenities like private butlers, soothing spas, championship level golf courses, and gourmet restaurants helmed by superstar chefs. This regionally refined recipe has been so effective, in fact, that the Five Star Alliance now recognizes over 20 five-star hotels in Los Cabos. Variations on the formula even exist at many lesser area accommodations, although the spa services tend to be a little less pampering, the wining and dining bundled into affordable all-inclusive plans.

Grand Solmar is the only repeater on Travel + Leisure’s ranking of the top 15 Mexican hotels, and Trip Advisor’s recent posting of the country’s 25 highest guest-rated properties. The Resort at Pedregal also gets some much deserved love on the Trip Advisor list. The ultra-luxe Pacific coast hideaway has been the best lodging in Cabo San Lucas proper since it opened as Capella Pedregal in 2009 (under the stewardship of Peter Bowling, now the general manager at One&Only Palmilla). Medano Beach based resorts Villa la Estancia and Villa del Arco are also included on Trip Advisor’s latest roll of honor.

The Best of Baja's Attractions

The Jack Nicklaus designed Quivira is one of over a dozen world-class golf courses in Los Cabos.

Golf

Los Cabos is also unquestionably one of the world’s most spectacular golfing regions, with three of its 14 active courses currently ranked among the 100 best on the globe by Golf Digest:  Jack Nicklaus’ Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol, Davis Love III’s Dunes Course at Diamante, and Tom Fazio’s Querencia. Why is the area so special? There are only a handful of places on earth that can boast this many world-class courses, and the others have well over a century of history and tradition (several centuries, in the case of Scotland). All of the great seaside courses of Los Cabos, by comparison, have been built during the past 25 years.

18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus put the region on the map in the early 1990s, combining desert and mountain terrains with superb ocean views at Cabo del Sol, El Dorado and Palmilla. The Golden Bear has returned three times since to add to his incredible portfolio, most recently with Quivira, rated as GOLF Magazine’s best new international course in 2015. And other notable players and designers have followed in his cleated footsteps, from Greg Norman (who shares a composite design with Nicklaus on Puerto Los Cabos, and is crafting the highly anticipated new loop at Rancho San Lucas) to Tiger Woods, Tom Weiskopf and Fred Couples (visionary behind the soon-to-be-open Twin Dolphin course).

The Best of Baja's Attractions

Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards & Inn is one of many reasons to visit Baja’s wine country, Valle de Guadalupe.

Wine

Although mainland Mexico is home to the oldest winery in North America, over 90 percent of the country’s table wine is produced in Baja California’s wine country, which consists of Valle de Guadalupe, as well as neighboring valleys like Santo Tomas, San Vicente and San Antonio de las Minas. Valle de Guadalupe has exploded in popularity in recent years, as its wines have been lauded around the globe, and some of the brightest stars in the media firmament have proclaimed it one of the world’s hottest new wine travel destinations. Wine Enthusiast declared Valle de Guadalupe one of the 10 best wine travel destinations for 2014. “Just a two-hour drive south of San Diego across the Mexican border lies a peaceful Baja California valley brimming with ripened grapes,” stated a recent profile in Forbes. Wall Street Journal called the region “rustic but stylish,” and referred to its wines as “attractive and well-balanced.” A Vogue writer enthused “Compared to Napa and Sonoma, Valle offers a more low-key, less commercial, highly authentic experience. It’s the kind of place where you can watch a Michelin-starred chef grill grass-fed meat a few feet from your table or chat with winemakers during a tasting. But Valle isn’t short on style either.”

The Best of Baja's Attractions

Los Cabos is home to many of the top rated spas in Mexico. Photo courtesy of Spa Marquis at Marquis Los Cabos.

Spas

As with luxury hotels and seaside golf links, Los Cabos is Baja’s nonpareil destination for soothing beachfront massages and signature therapies. Not only does the municipality reign supreme regionally, cape cities Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and their connecting tourist corridor are home to a shockingly high percentage of the best spas in Latin America as a whole (a Spanish speaking conglomeration that, in addition to Mexico, makes up most of Central and South America). Forty percent, to be exact, according to Travel + Leisure’s latest spa rankings. Esperanza tops the list, as per usual. The award-winning Spa at Esperanza features an expansive facility, with dedicated wellness spaces that run the gamut from candlelit private treatment rooms to hot and cold plunge pools, steam caves and relaxing waterfalls, as well as a full range of gym and fitness areas. Romantic couple’s treatments are also a specialty at Esperanza, as they are at One&Only Spa at One&Only Palmilla, The Spa at Las Ventanas al Paraiso, and the Armonia Spa at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Holistic Retreat & Spa.

The Best of Baja's Attractions

The world’s richest fishing tournament, Bisbee’s Black & Blue, is held annually in Cabo San Lucas. Photo courtesy of Bisbee’s.

Water Sports

Much of Baja’s tourist industry was built on big-game sportfishing, and fishing tournaments remain a consistently popular draw around the peninsula, from Pesca La Baja, the World Series of Baja California fishing, to Bisbee’s annual trio of tournaments in Baja California Sur. Of these, Bisbee’s Black & Blue is undoubtedly the most famous. Billed as “the World’s Richest Fishing Tournament”–the 2006 payout of $4.165 million dollars remains the highest in sportfishing history–the Black and Blue has been a Cabo San Lucas tradition since 1981, with visiting anglers battling for the biggest blue, black and striped marlin, as well as sailfish, spearfish, tuna and dorado.

Although fishing remains king, Baja California as a whole offers world-class conditions for a host of water sports. Each Winter, for example, powerful El Norte winds blow down the Sea of Cortez, turning small East Cape communities like Los Barriles into windsports meccas. Last year, the Los Barriles based kiteboarding competition, Lord of the Wind Showdown, was officially named as the IKA North American Kitefoil Championship. The aspiring Lords and Ladies gather each January, grabbing big air in 15 to 30 mph winds, while also enjoying reggae on the beach, tamales cook-offs, and other affiliated fiestas.

Surfing may be the only sport capable of challenging fishing’s primacy. SoCal boarders have been heading south of the border for decades to enjoy world-class breaks at dozens of sites around the peninsula; two of the most famous now host WSL (World Surf League) events.

The Los Cabos Open is held each June at the famed Zippers break off Playa Costa Azul in San Jose del Cabo. The LCO started as a 6-star men’s event in 2013, but over the last three years has evolved into a QS6000 series event for women and junior men and women. Bronte Macaulay outlasted Dominic Barona in a thrilling battle this year, as Australian women continue to dominate in Los Cabos.

The Big Wave Tour’s Todos Santos Challenge, meanwhile, is one of the most intense surf competitions on the planet. Killers, the break off Todos Santos Island–approximately 12 miles from Ensenada–serves up massive waves: sometimes in excess of 50 feet.  Australian Josh Kerr took top honors in January 2016, earning nearly $19,000 of the $75,000 purse in challenging circumstances. The next event will take place between October 2016 and February 2017, depending upon peak wave conditions.

 


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