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Baja Year in Review 2017

Baja Year in Review 2017

Each December, as people are wrapping gifts for the holiday season, we put a bow on the year in Baja with a review of our favorite stories, headlines and videos from the previous 12 months.

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

Headlines to Remember

Sometimes the headlines tell you pretty much all you need to know. Here are three that made us smile in 2017.

Baja Year in Review 2017

Photo courtesy of Adobe Guadalupe.

Baja Vineyards Shine in Global Wine Competition

A decade ago, travelers from the U.S. and elsewhere were often surprised to discover that Mexico is a major wine producer, and that the country’s most fertile wine growing region – Valle de Guadalupe –  is in Baja California, just outside Ensenada. The secret has been out for a while now, however, with high-profile press from Vogue and The New York Times, among other publications, driving interest in Guadalupe Valley as a fashionable food and wine destination. Still, the announcement in May that Mexican wines had been awarded 18 medals at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, an international wine competition held this year in Valladolid, Spain, added even more luster to the country’s increasingly sterling winemaking reputation. Baja based Monte Xanic, L.A. Cetto, Santo Tomas, Casta de Vinos and Hilo Negro were among the wineries honored with medals, singled out from over 9,000 entries from around the globe.

Baja Year in Review 2017

Photo courtesy of the Presidencia de la Republica Mexicana.

Mexico Creates Massive Marine Park Off the Baja California Peninsula

Mexico continues to take steps to protect its incredible abundance of natural resources. Last year, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the creation of the Pacific Islands Biosphere Preserve, establishing a sanctuary of over 2.7 million acres – including 21 islands and 97 islets – off the western coast of Baja California. This year brought another bombshell:  the legal protection of an enormous marine park (“bigger than Greece”) around the Revillagigedos Archipelago, a group of four volcanic islands about 250 miles south of Cabo San Lucas. The islands have long been famed for their spectacular scuba diving conditions, thanks to the presence of robust numbers of very large marine specimens like whales, dolphins, sharks, manta rays and sea turtles. In fact, the island chain is often called the “Galapagos of North America” due to its intense concentration of fish (some 366 species), marine mammals, and colorful sea bird species like masked, blue-footed and red-footed boobies. Week-long expeditions to the undersea sanctuary are available from Los Cabos aboard the Solmar V.

Baja Year in Review 2017

Photo courtesy of Santo Mezquila.

Sammy Hagar and Adam Levine Partner to Create a New Alcoholic Spirit, Mezquila

Maroon 5 lead singer and former Montrose and Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar share more than just rock star status. They both love Los Cabos. Hagar pioneered the local party scene when he and his then Van Halen bandmates opened Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas in 1990, and he still returns to the downtown nightspot each October to celebrate his birthday with a series of cameo studded concert bashes. Levine, meanwhile, loves the area so much he married his wife, model Behati Prinsloo, at Flora Farms just outside San Jose del Cabo in 2014.

The two singers also share a love of fine spirits, and teamed up to create an entirely new drink in 2017 called Mezquila, a combination of traditional Mexican liquors tequila and mezcal. The concept was born when the two were hanging out one night at Cabo Wabo, and was developed in partnership with the distillery that Hagar used to launch his Cabo Wabo tequila in 1996.

“It comes on like tequila and you smell a little bit of smoke in it but is toned down to where you get a sweet finish,” Hagar said of their new Santo brand Mezquila. “It’s taking tequila to another level. When you blend the two you get a higher spirit, a brand new taste.”

Mezquila is still in its infancy, but if Hagar’s track record is any indication, it will do quite well. The “Red Rocker” sold most of his shares in Cabo Wabo tequila to Campari for 80 million dollars in 2007.

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.

Baja Year in Review 2017

Photo courtesy of Fred from Bombing Science.

The Many Faces of Tijuana: A Graffiti Portrait of the Gateway to Latin America

How does one create a portrait of a city? What is the best, most complete way to showcase the passion and personality of an urban area will well over a million residents? Which faces are most representative? What does it really mean to live in this place?

These questions are even more complicated when it comes to Tijuana, the most populous community in Baja California, and home to the world’s busiest border crossing.

It has been said that there are three Californias:  Alta, Baja and La Frontera. Tijuana inhabits the borderlands – a space with psychological as well as physical boundaries and dimensions – straddling the line between two countries, two cultures, and two languages.

For the mononymously known photographer Fred, the true portrait of any city – even one as complex as Tijuana – emerges from its street art, the unfiltered, uncensored and often defiant images that, in their totality, are a strong declaration of self-identity.

For the last 20 years, Fred has traveled the world in a never-ending quest to find the best graffiti art for his website, Bombing Science. He recently stopped in Tijuana and managed to take over 500 graffiti pictures in only a few days. Touring Tijuana on his bicycle, Fred witnessed the burgeoning street-art scene of the city.

“I was really surprised,” he said, “with the quantity and the quality of the graffiti you can find on the streets of TJ. The local graffiti artists are just top notch, and you have that sense of a global city for arts when you can see so many artists from other Mexican states, the U.S., and even Europe.”

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Baja Year in Review 2017

Photo courtesy of Hotel California.

Day Trip: Todos Santos

We don’t want to be like Cabo” is a refrain often heard from residents of Todos Santos; by which they mean Cabo San Lucas, with its touristy hustle and boisterous nightlife. Todos Santos actually shares quite a bit in common with San Jose del Cabo:  both communities were founded around Jesuit missions, both took advantage of available water resources to become peninsular commercial centers in the late 19th and early 20th century, and both are now distinguished by thriving art scenes.

Todos Santos does have a singular character, however. The many beautiful old brick buildings, a legacy from its 19th century heyday as a sugar capital, give the historic downtown area a distinctive profile unlike any other place in Baja California Sur. Todos Santos is also blessed by a beneficial vantage, between the Sierra de la Laguna mountains and the Pacific Ocean, that undoubtedly contributes to the unique quality of its light. This unusual light was what first attracted artists in the 1980s, and led to the town’s rebirth as an artists’ colony some thirty years or so after its water wells had run dry.

Todos Santos has for many years been a popular day trip destination from Los Cabos–it is less than an hour by car from Cabo San Lucas–notable for its fine arts galleries, hip eateries, and annual festivals celebrating art, film, music and literature. Todos Santos is also a destination surf spot, with popular breaks at Cerritos, San Pedrito and La Pastora.

It was the first place on the peninsula to be designated as a pueblo magico (a promotional appellation applied to Mexican communities with great natural beauty, and strong cultural or historical legacies), and it remains, along with Loreto and Tecate, one of only three towns throughout Baja to be so honored.

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Baja Year in Review 2017

Fun Facts and Triva About the Baja California Peninsula

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

Baja is the first California….

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

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

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.

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Videos We Loved

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


The Baja Sur Road Trip

The Baja Road Trip website lives up to its name with this video, which takes viewers on a breathtaking tour of the peninsula’s southernmost state, from dirt roads and cactus-strewn desert to pristine beaches, secluded coves and offshore islands. 


The Living Legend Who Can Cook Eight Whole Lambs at the Same Time

Within five years of opening, Doña Esthela’s restaurant (La Cocina de Doña Esthela) in Valle de Guadalupe had become so renowned for its morning meals – prepared and served in traditional Mexican style – that culinary website FoodieHub named it the best breakfast place in the world.

Sister and brother hosts Bricia and Fernando Lopez, whose family operates acclaimed Los Angeles eatery Guelaguetza, made the pilgrimage over the border for Eater’s Open Road series, hoping to discover for themselves the secrets of this Baja legend…like how to cook eight whole lambs at the same time.



White Party at Blue Marlin Ibiza in Cabo San Lucas

Born on the Costa del Sol, in the blue-blood party milieu of Marbella, the White Party made its way to Los Cabos via Nikki Beach Club at ME Cabo, which for years lent its haute couture, poolside party venue to the local smart set, as well as the hip scene makers who flew in from Los Angeles and Las Vegas for the nightclub’s signature rite of Spring.  

Hurricane Odile forever changed the local landscape when it made landfall in September 2014. Nikki Beach, damaged beyond repair, gave way in the rebirth to Blue Marlin Ibiza, yet another legendary beach party brand from the sun-drenched shores of Spain…this time from the island of Ibiza, which along with Mallorca and Menorca is part of the Balearic chain popular with summering European tourists.

The one constant in Los Cabos White Party lore has been ME Cabo, the Art Deco inspired masterpiece of a resort that overlooks Medano Beach. ME Cabo’s unique amenities and stylish services have inspired such loyalty among its young, moneyed clientele, that even with an 18-month hiatus post-Odile for major repairs and renovations, the property scarcely skipped a beat. Video specialists CaboViVO and Cabo Noise teamed up to capture the elegance and energy of the 2017 event, complete with an unforgettable drone tracking shot from Land’s End to the dance floor. 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

About Chris Sands

Chris Sands is the author of Bohemia by the Bay, and writes about wine, golf, and travel for publications such as, 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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