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12 Months of Baja: A Guide to Travel-Worthy Events Around the Peninsula in 2018

Optimize Your Baja Trip to Experience Signature Regional Festivals and Fiestas

Although there is no bad time to visit Baja, the flexibility to shift your travel dates by a week or two could pay huge dividends:  not in savings, but in memorable, one-of-a-kind experiences.

The secret is signature regional events. Every community on the peninsula hosts celebrations, and not just local observances of national holidays, but festivals, fiestas and other events that reflect their unique character and culture.

Some of the signature regional events have been around for 50 years or more, some are relatively new. Some are free, some – like the Baja 1000 or Bisbee’s annual series of fishing tournaments – are free to follow, but require significant outlays for participants.

To find out what’s coming up in each regional area, we recommend regular visits to our Baja.com events page. But as a broad overview, we’re sharing our selections for the signature event in each month for 2018.

January – Tropic of Cancer Concert Series in Todos Santos

12 Months of Baja: A Guide to Travel-Worthy Events Around the Peninsula

Tropic of Cancer Concert Series in Todos Santos

Former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck pioneered jam culture in Todos Santos with this annual music festival, which brought in high-profile musicians for performances at the landmark Hotel California, as well as the town’s picturesque main plaza. Buck’s festival went on hiatus after he made some controversial comments about local politics at the 2016 event, but the music lives on. The freshly minted Tropic of Cancer Concert Series premiered in 2017, and has returned again in 2018 with an all-star lineup headlined by Joan Osborne, The Autumn Defense, The Jag, Cordovas, La Santa Cecilia, Bostich and Fussible from Nortec Collective, Julie Roberts, and La Victoria. 

February – Carnaval in La Paz and Ensenada

12 Months of Baja: A Guide to Travel-Worthy Events Around the Peninsula

Carnaval in Ensenada

There are two cities that host notable Carnaval celebrations on the Baja California peninsula:  Ensenada and La Paz. Carnaval, for the uninitiated, is the Catholic pre-Lenten celebration that captivates Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans each year, although in the latter city it is better known as Mardi Gras. In La Paz, the six-day farewell to indulgence is centered on the capital city’s malecón, and includes voluminous food and drink, colorful parades and costumes, plenty of live music from high-profile performers, and the coronation of a festival king and queen. This year’s theme is Tierra de Encanto y Fantasía (Land of Charm and Fantasy). Carnaval takes place Feb. 8-13. 

March – 12th Annual Blues & Arts Fiesta in San Felipe

12 Months of Baja

Blues & Arts Fiesta in San Felipe

The San Felipe Lion’s Club is holding its 12th annual San Felipe International Blues & Arts Fiesta on March 16-17 at the Pavilion at La Ventana del Mar, El Dorado Ranch. The Pavilion is a landmark venue in the quiet Sea of Cortez fishing town of San Felipe and offers amazing sea and mountain views. This year’s festival brings together blues bands from the U.S. and Mexico, as well as regional visual artists. Performers include Backwater Blues Band, Jade Bennett, Gregg Wright, Lacy Younger, Rock Cats, and Pachuco Blues.

April – 71st Annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race

12 Months of Baja: A Guide to Travel-Worthy Events Around the Peninsula

Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race

Billed as the world’s largest international yacht race, this maritime competition 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. The 71st annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race is scheduled for April 27–29, with participants set to compete in over 50 trophy categories during the 125 nautical mile sail from Newport Beach, California to Ensenada, Mexico. In 2018, N2E has also merged with the shorter Border Run Race to San Diego, and added a youth-oriented Border Run Sprint to Dana Point.

May – 483rd Anniversary Foundation Festival in La Paz

12 Months of Baja: A Guide to Travel-Worthy Events Around the Peninsula

Landing of the Spaniards Reenactment at the La Paz Foundation Festival

Although the first European to set foot on the Baja California peninsula was mutineer Fortún Ximénez – who arrived sometime in late 1533 or early 1534 – the residents of La Paz celebrate the day his superior, conquistador par excellence Hernán Cortés, came ashore a little over a year later. That date, May 3, 1535 has been enshrined as the official foundation of La Paz, even though Cortés himself called the place Santa Cruz. This anniversary is remembered with an annual festival in Baja California Sur’s capital city featuring activities and concerts, as well as a traditional reenactment of the first landing of the Spaniards.

June – 16th Annual Horse, Art & Wine Festival in Ensenada

12 Months of Baja: A Guide to Travel-Worthy Events Around the Peninsula

Horse, Art and Wine Festival in Valle de Guadalupe

 

Mexican art, food, folk dancing, fine wine and horses are the main attractions at the Festival del Caballo, Arte y Vino (Horse, Art and Wine Festival), held yearly in the Valle de Guadalupe outside Ensenada. A children’s area is set aside with toys, clowns and ponies, while adults can enjoy various equestrian competitions, which showcase the beauty of various horse breeds as well as the skill of local riders. Some of the region’s best wineries also get to showcase their wares. A date has yet to be announced for the 2018 festival.

July – 15th Annual Street Opera Festival in Tijuana

12 Months of Baja: A Guide to Travel-Worthy Events Around the Peninsula

Opera en la Calle in Tijuana

A Tijuana neighborhood, Colonia Libertad, provides the stage set for the annual Opera en la Calle, or Street Opera Festival. The event has been taking place since 2004 and includes the participation of more than 300 performers and designers, who provide locals and visitors alike up-close encounters with the power and artistry of opera. The event is sponsored by Opera de Tijuana, a local cultural institution since 2000. A date has yet to be announced for 2018.

August – 28th Anniversary Fiestas de la Vendimia in Valle de Guadalupe

12 Months of Baja

Fiestas de la Vendimia in Valle de Guadalupe

Fiestas de la Vendimia are a series of annual events celebrating the grape harvest in the heart of Baja California’s wine country, Valle de Guadalupe, near Ensenada. Baja’s wine valleys are by far the most fruitful in the country, generating upwards of 90% of the table wines produced in Mexico. They are also increasingly being acclaimed internationally for their quality. The yearly fiestas celebrating the bountiful grape harvest are organized by Provino, a committee dedicated to promoting the area’s wines. The fiestas traditionally consist of over two weeks of tastings, dinners, workshops and concerts around the region before concluding with the highly anticipated Paella Contest at Viña Liceaga.

September – 37th Annual Rosarito to Ensenada 50 Mile Fun Bicycle Ride

12 Months of Baja

Rosarito to Ensenada 50 Mile Fun Bicycle Ride

Dubbed “The Original Party on Wheels,” the 50 mile fun ride started in 1979, when a group of friends pedaled from Rosarito to Ensenada on a lark. 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. The 2018 rides are scheduled for May 5, Cinco de Mayo, and September 29. As usual, participants will start at 10 a.m. on the scheduled Saturdays in front of the Rosarito Beach Hotel in Rosarito, and will have 6 hours to reach the finish line in Ensenada.

October – 38th Annual Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament in Cabo San Lucas

12 Months of Baja: A Guide to Travel-Worthy Events Around the Peninsula

Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament in Cabo San Lucas

Oft billed as “The World’s Richest Fishing Tournament” or the “Super Bowl of Sportfishing” thanks to its million dollar plus payouts, the Black & Blue tournament originally premiered in 1981, and remains to this day the highest profile annual event in Los Cabos. The $4.165 million payout in 2006 was and still is the largest in sportfishing history. Base entry for this millionaire maker is $5,000 U.S. per team, and requires a $71,500 U.S. outlay across all categories, jackpots and challenges. But anyone can enjoy the daily weigh-ins in front of Puerto Paraiso on the marina boardwalk. 

November – 51st Annual Baja 1000

12 Months of Baja: A Guide to Travel-Worthy Events Around the Peninsula

SCORE Baja 1000

Without doubt, the Baja California peninsula’s most iconic annual event is the Baja 1000, a high-octane, high-adrenaline off-road challenge for motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs and other four-wheel vehicles that unfolds over 1,000 miles of rugged terrain. When the event premiered in 1967 – as a race from Tijuana to La Paz – it was under the auspices of the National Off-Road Racing Association. Following the OPEC Oil Crisis in 1973, there was a change in organizers, and since 1975 the Baja 1000 has been run under the SCORE banner. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the legendary event, and as a nod to tradition, the race utilized its most traditional start and finish spots, running a 1200-mile point-to-point course from Ensenada to La Paz. This year sees the return of a loop format, with the start and finish in Ensenada.

December – 13th Annual Sabor a Cabo Food & Wine Festival

12 Months of Baja: A Guide to Travel-Worthy Events Around the Peninsula

Sabor a Cabo in Los Cabos

Los Cabos’ signature food and wine festival returned for its 12th edition last month, Dec. 9 at the Quivira Clubhouse in Cabo San Lucas. Over 60 local restaurants and 30 regional wineries participated in the main event, which followed on the heels of the annual rural food and wine tasting at Huerta Los Tamarindos outside San Jose del Cabo. Culinary headliners included celebrated chefs Dieter Koschina, Enrique Olvera and Richard Sandoval. Koschina and Olvera both have been awarded Michelin stars, and also currently have restaurants rated among the top 100 in the world (Olvera, amazingly, has two). 1970s funk and disco supergroup Earth, Wind and Fire headlined the musical performers. No word yet on the 2018 event, but Sabor a Cabo traditionally takes place during the first week of December.

 

All photos provided courtesy of the respective event organizers. 

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.

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.

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