Highway 1 leaves Ensenada and heads south, the only main artery to extend the length of the Baja Peninsula. The real journey begins after cresting the hills and beginning the descent into the Valle Santo Tomas. (*Adventurers with sturdy cars might want to take the 45-minute dirt-road trip from here to the west, to La Bocana fishing village. About 3-4 miles north of the village is a cluster of shanty-shacks and a panga-boat harbor: Here, fishermen can be hired to scout out everything from crab, to scallops, to lobsters for a reasonable price). From this point on, the vistas are of mountains, vineyards, little hamlets and, eventually, farms for cactus, strawberries, tomatoes and peppers. This is the north-central part of Baja and you have entered the San Quintín Valley, which is basically the vegetable garden of Baja California.
San Quintín, approximately 120 miles south of Ensenada, was established in late 1800s by an English company interested in growing wheat — not a long-lived venture, given the dry conditions of the region. The wheat fields were constantly destroyed by drought, and the experiment died. In more recent – and far more successful – history, Don Luis Rodriguez Avina (1914-1992) moved to San Quintin Valley from Michoacan, bringing with him his family and a deep knowledge of farming. In 1952, he founded Pinos Produce, still owned and operated by his family, which now runs massive tomato and produce shipping operations and manages approximately 5,000 acres of vegetable-growing farmland and 85 acres of hothouses in the San Quintin region. Pinos Produce has played a huge role in the growth of San Quintin as an agricultural hub and as a community: Today, San Quintin has approximately 25,000 residents and land cultivation continues at a steady pace.
The San Quintín bays offer nature and outdoor lovers a virtual arena to experience everything from eco-tours, to sports fishing and hunting. In addition, the area is a natural rest and breeding refuge for thousands of birds that migrate like clockwork, every year, from North America; in fact, this is known as the Pacific Bird Migration Corridor for many species such as seagulls, ducks, geese, and pelicans among others. In winter, the inner bay of San Quintín is especially rich with birdlife, welcoming migratory species including the great blue heron, snowy egrets, sandpipers, terns, ducks and loons.
It is quite often windy in San Quintín, but the wind and ensuing surf have conspired to create vast beaches where sand blows like chiffon over knolls of algae and flowering succulents. From the beach, fishing for shallow water catch is good—curvina, perch and bass can easily be caught. Pismo clams are everywhere and it is a blast to see gangs of children chasing retiring waves to start digging for these little delicacies (got a picnic basket?). And for the shell-hunters, bounty is everywhere but especially plentiful are the delicate and beautiful sand-dollars that have washed onto shore. Surfing, boating, windsurfing, kayaking and other activities are popular in this ocean-focused area.