In this, the first installment of what we hope will become a regular year-end feature, we put a bow on the year in Baja with a review of our favorite stories, headlines and videos in 2015.
We hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane, and wish you and yours the very best during this special time of year.
¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!
Headlines to Remember
Sometimes the headlines tell you pretty much all you need to know. Here are five that made us smile in 2015.
Valle de Guadalupe Restaurant Makes the World’s Best Breakfast
Locals and SoCal daytrippers weren’t surprised, but just about everyone else was when culinary website FoodieHub made it official: Valle de Guadalupe restaurant La Cocina de Doña Esthela serves the world’s best breakfast. The announcement was made May 31, 2015 at FoodieHub’s third annual awards ceremony, and was the latest sign that Baja California cuisine is becoming increasingly respected around the globe.
Baja California Tourism Hits Highest Level in Eight Years
The last weekend in July saw 260,000 people visit Baja California, spending more than $66 million in the state’s hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.
“’Baja California is living its best tourism moment in eight years,” said tourist minister Oscar Jess Escobedo Carignan at the time, attributing the increased numbers to coordinated efforts between state government and the private sector.
Seven New Mexican Locations – Two in Baja – Added to List of Protected Areas
The Sierra la Giganta and Sierra de Guadalupe mountain ranges in Baja California Sur were among seven newly protected natural areas in Mexico in 2015, bringing the total number of protected areas in the country to 184.
Two of World’s Top 100 Golf Courses Located in Los Cabos
GOLF Magazine selected Los Cabos layouts Diamante (Dunes) and Cabo del Sol (Ocean) for inclusion in its prestigious “Top 100 Courses in the World” list, as featured in the publication’s October 2015 issue.
“To flip through our 17th biennial rankings is to travel the globe,” wrote Top 100 chairman Joe Passov, noting that the “rankings are determined by a 100-strong international panel whose members include major championship winners, architects, journalists and a cadre of connoisseurs who have played all of the world’s top 100 courses.”
Chosen from a ballot of nearly 500 golf courses worldwide, Diamante Dune shot up 14 spots in the 2015 rankings. It now stands at No. 38. Cabo del Sol’s Ocean Course, a Jack Nicklaus design with an ebb-and-flow layout that delivers players to the sea on both nines, clings to the no. 100 spot.
Sunken Naval Ship Serves as Centerpiece of Rosarito Underwater Park
On November 21, 2015, a few carefully calibrated charges sent the decommissioned Mexican Navy patrol boat Uribe to her final resting place: in 90’ of water in Bahía El Descanso, two miles off the coast of the famed lobster village of Puerto Nuevo.
The sinking was the culmination of years of hard work – bringing the 220’ ship over from Manzanillo, cleaning and preparing her, and determining her ideal underwater location were all expensive and time consuming propositions – but also the beginning of a far more ambitious project, which is the formation of the 100-acre Rosarito Underwater Park (or Parque Submarino Rosarito).
In addition to a “ship graveyard” and artificial reef formed by the Uribe and three other vessels, the underwater park will also feature shallower sections showcasing, respectively, pyramids and statues that evoke Mexico’s Pre-Hispanic past, and a Titanic tribute with chimneys, propellers and other pieces of wreckage. There will also be an onshore museum.
Our Favorite Stories
Many thanks to our contributors around the Baja California peninsula for another great year of stories. Here are three of our favorites, and judging from the response we got on social media, three of yours as well.
A Gringo in Mexico’s 10 Travel Warnings for Baja California
Our most popular and commented upon story this year was A Gringo in Mexico blogger and Baja.com contributor Scott Koenig’s list of warnings for potential Baja visitors, which cleverly subverted the type of fearmongering alarums against Mexican travel so common in the U.S. media.
Here’s a sneek peak… Click on the link below the excerpt to read the full story.
I’m often asked by stateside friends about our family’s experiences traveling in and around Baja California. We drive just south of the border from San Diego 2-3 times a month for weekend stays on the beaches of Rosarito Beach and Ensenada, great food and wine in the Valle de Guadalupe, art and culture in Tijuana and to check out other Baja California destinations and bring the story back to you, our readers. We enjoy sharing tales of our adventures and of course always encourage our amigos and amigas to visit for themselves or join us on a tour.
However, travel is never without its detours and potentially life-changing experiences. To make sure you get the most out of your trip, here are El Gringo’s 10 travel warnings to keep in mind when visiting Baja California…
- You will be exposed to new and interesting cultures.
From the indigenous Kumiai to migrant families from all over Mexico, visiting Baja California may expose you to new and interesting people, food and cultures.
- You may develop a decreased tolerance for boring wines.
The Valle de Guadalupe supplies 90% of the vino consumed in Mexico. It’s also home to a burgeoning artisanal wine scene that is producing some imaginative and delicious blends.
- Street food.
El Gringo knows that street food in Baja California can be scary – scary good! From adobada (marinated pork) tacos and carne asada tortas in Tijuana to ceviche tostadas in Ensenada, there are many delicious and inexpensive options.
10 Things to Do in Tijuana (That Don’t Involve Drinking)
San Diegan Katherine Belarmino knows her drinks. In addition to writing about restaurants and bars in her blog Travel the World, which helps vacationers get the most out of their travel experiences, she also samples beer, wine and cocktails around the globe for Passports & Cocktails. In this profile of Tijuana for Baja.com, however, she concentrates on the cultural aspects of a city too long pigeonholed as a cross-border getaway destination for decadent behavior.
Historically Tijuana has been a drinking mecca. Its proximity to Southern California cities like San Diego and Los Angeles and its legal drinking age of 18 meant Tijuana was a popular place for the under 21 crowd to come for drinking and clubbing. Tourism from the United States to Tijuana dried up for years when stories of crime and drug wars filled the news. Now Tijuana is a safe place to visit again, and the implementation of a passport requirement means the demographic of the traveler looking for a day trip or weekend trip to Tijuana has shifted. Tijuana’s streets are no longer overwhelmed with rowdy underage drinkers. Now they are being strolled by couples and families looking for things to do that celebrate Tijuana’s beauty and culture.
The Tijuana Cultural Center is the most important center for culture in northwest Mexico. Founded in 1982, the Tijuana Cultural Center portrays the culture of Mexico close to the border. The center has art galleries, a botanical garden, an aquarium, an IMAX theater, a performance hall, and an outdoor area that is a great place for events, festivals, and outdoor exhibits. There is constantly something going on at the Tijuana Cultural Center. The center hosts concerts, theatrical productions, movies, documentaries, and many other events, some of which are free to the public and others which require paid tickets.
During our visit, the Tijuana Cultural Center was featuring a beautiful exhibit of the works of Massimo Listri, a photographer of interior spaces like libraries, churches, and palaces, some of which you may recognize from your own travels. The Museum of the Californias is a permanent exhibit covering different times in the history of the Baja peninsula including European explorers, missions and missionaries, the Mexican Revolution, and more recent history. Did you know Tijuana had an airplane factory in the 1920s? We also visited an exhibit featuring the work of local Baja artists.
5 Beautiful Restaurant Views in Baja California Sur
Katherine Belarmino wasn’t our only contributor having fun with numbers this year. Los Cabos correspondent Chris Sands followed up his popular pieces on The 5 Best Songs About Cabo San Lucas and 5 Classic Books About the Baja California Peninsula with this similarly enumerated look at Baja California Sur’s most spectacular restaurant views.
Although the most famous restaurant vantages in Baja California Sur are those that provide majestic views of the granite rock formations at Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas, winning combinations of fine food and gorgeous views can be found throughout the peninsula’s southernmost state.
Here are five of our favorites:
Sunset da Mona Lisa, Tourist Corridor, Los Cabos
This is the gold standard. Often ranked as one of the most romantic restaurants in the world, Sunset da Mona Lisa offers Italian specialties and fresh local seafood dishes (from their own fishing boats, no less), a newly minted Taittinger Terrace Champagne and oyster bar, and of course sublime views of the Sea of Cortez, Cabo San Lucas Bay, and Land’s End. Proposals are so common here that wedding coordinators are on standby, ever ready to help plan and stage the ultimate destination wedding. Any meal at Mona Lisa is memorable, but for the maximum experience, synchronize your dinner reservation with the sunset.
Palapa Azul, Playa El Tecolote, La Paz
The beaches of La Paz – the capital city of Baja Sur since it became a state in 1974 – are incredibly beautiful, and also serve as sites for some of the area’s best barefoot dining. Playa El Tecolote is triply blessed, since it’s home to soft sand, the eclectic offerings of Palapa Azul, and incredible views centered around uninhabited offshore island Espiritu Santo. The restaurant is easy to spot, since it’s the only one around housed in a hollowed out boat. Grab a table beachside, order up a bucket of ice cold beer, and sample local specialties like chocolate clams and marlin en escabeche while enjoying the spectacular surroundings.
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.
A Taste of Baja
Baja Taste, a one-hour documentary about the vibrant culinary scene in the Baja California peninsula’s northern state, enjoyed its world premiere in the southern one, at the 4th annual Los Cabos International Film Festival. In fact, it was the festival’s concluding film, enjoying an enthusiastic reception at Plaza Mijares in San Jose del Cabo.
The documentary, which was directed by Roberto Najera and produced by Adriana Santos, spotlights many of the chefs who have spearheaded the state’s culinary renaissance, and helped to promote destination food and wine tourism in Tijuana, Ensenada, Rosarito and the Valle de Guadalupe: chefs such as Miguel Angel Guerrero, creator of the influential Baja Med movement; Javier Plascencia, scion of Tijuana’s most famous family of restaurateurs; Diego Hernandez, the man behind wine country standout Corazon de Tierra; and Oso Campos, whose mobile Tacos Kokopelli is at the forefront of Tijuana’s street food scene.
We can’t share the entire film, but you can watch the trailer here.
The Magical World of Espiritu Santo
The Uribe may well be the centerpiece of the most ambitious artificial reef ever created off the Baja California peninsula, but it will not be the first. That honor belongs to the Fang Ming, which along with another vessel confiscated for transporting illegal Chinese immigrants, was sunk near Isla Espiritu Santo – just north of La Paz – in November 1999. The Fang Ming lies approximately 70’ beneath the Sea of Cortez, and is now a thriving habitat for fish, mollusks, sea turtles, and other marine life.
Isla Espiritu Santo itself is breathtakingly beautiful, and a mecca for kayakers and others interested in exploring one of the most magical places on earth. This video captures a bit of that magic.
Rush Hour – BJ Baldwin’s Epic Stunt Drive Through Ensenada
BJ Baldwin knows a little bit about driving the peninsula. But the multi-time SCORE Baja 1000 and overall series champion has rarely if ever shown off his skills to greater advantage than in this video sponsored by Monster Energy, in which he takes viewers on an exhilarating tour through Ensenada.
Breathless Cabo San Lucas Resort Presents The Evolution of the Bikini with Amanda Cerny
The hottest new hotel in Cabo San Lucas is Breathless, a hip, adults-only all-inclusive that boasts a prime location at the juncture of the Land’s End city’s marina and its most popular beach, Playa El Medano. In this special video for the romance focused resort chain, Vine star Amanda Cerny takes a fun look at the evolution of the ladies swimwear.
Thanks again for all your support this year. Happy Holidays!
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