Whether you want to soak up the natural beauty of the landscape or head to the hotels and golf courses at the southern tip, there's something for everyone in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur.
Below, we'll tell you which cities to hit to soak up the local culture and where to go to enjoy both the mountains and the beaches.
Where Is Baja California Sur Located?
Baja California Sur, Mexico, covers the entire southern half of the Baja California peninsula. The Pacific Ocean serves as its west coast, while the Gulf of Baja sits on the east coast.
This Mexican state also includes the islands of Natividad, Magdalena, and Santa Margarita, among others. Baja California Sur is comprised of central mountain ranges, with beautiful beaches and coastal plains on either side.
Best Places To Visit In Baja California Sur
Many Spanish Catholic missions are found across Mexico, and Loreto is the oldest in Baja California Sur. Originally founded in 1697 under the name Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto, it's now a small town with colorful restaurants, well-kept hotels, and a thriving downtown community.
The Jesuit Missions Museum is found in Loreto and houses documents, archeological finds, weapons, and other items of historical interest. This can be a great place to kickstart an exploration of the mission ruins around Baja California Sur, such as the ruins in San Javier, San Luis Gonzaga, and Santa Rosalia de Mulege.
Loreto is also a haven for water sports. You can enjoy deep-sea fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, and diving in Loreto.
El Vizcaino Biosphere
This is Latin America's largest protected natural area. It stretches from the Vizcaino Peninsula to the Sea of Cortez, covering over 25,000 square kilometers. It's a desert filled with scrub brush and dense cacti but also includes specific landmarks of interest. The Sierra de San Francisco is a Unesco World Heritage Site because there are preHispanic rock paintings in the caves.
La Paz is the capital city of the Baja California Sur state. It's particularly fun to visit during Carnaval, in late winter, right before Lent. The streets will be filled with games and dancing, and the colorful street parade that takes place during that time is one of the best in all of Mexico. Near La Paz are the islands of Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida, where you can swim with sea lions!
As you head further south down the Baja California peninsula, you'll move from nature paradise to hotel villas. Los Cabos is a municipality encompassing the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
Los Cabos is famous for its world-class hotels and all-inclusive resorts, such as Grand Velas, Nobu Hotel Los Cabos, Hotel San Cristobal, and Grand Solmar Land's End Resort & Spa. It's also where you'll find the Palmilla Gold Club, 27 holes of golfing with spectacular ocean views.
Arch of Cabo San Lucas
This is the iconic landmark of the Los Cabos area. Vendors at the Los Cabos Marina will take you on boat tours to see the arch or even drop you off on Love beach. Keep in mind that the waters in this area are very rough, and the boats are usually simple fishermen's boats.
San José del Cabo Estuary
A bird sanctuary is found between the Marina and San José del Cabo. You can hike and kayak through this protected area, or just bring a pair of binoculars and enjoy the sightings of indigenous bird species.
Todos Santos is one of the Pueblos Magicos, or small towns that the Mexican Tourist Board specifically highlights for tourists wanting to enjoy authentic Mexican culture. It's a small, historical town that has a young, artsy, boutique feel. Todos Santos has 15 art galleries, all within walking distance! Organic food is a staple of Todos Santos, and the restaurants there pride themselves on using only locally sourced organic ingredients.
A small town that you might otherwise overlook, Cabo Pulmo is located in a protected marine park. If diving and snorkeling are your thing, you can't miss Cabo Pulmo. Boat tours specifically designed around diving and snorkeling are available. If you go during the winter, you are nearly guaranteed to see a whale while you're under the water.
Best Things To Do In Baja California Sur
Baja California Sur is ideal for nature lovers and thrill seekers.
A truly incredible natural feat takes place from the end of December through March every year in the Baja lagoons. Gray whales swim from 6,000 to 10,000 kilometers, from Siberia and Alaska all the way down the warm waters of Baja, to give birth and raise their young for three months before starting the arduous swim back north. You can also spot blue whales and humpback whales throughout the winter.
To watch these whales, head to the Laguna San Ignacio (south of Vizcaino Peninsula), the Laguna Ojo de Liebre (south of Guerrero Norte), Puerto Lopez Mateos (near Isla Magdalena), or Puerto San Carlos (in the Bahia Magdalena).
Because you get a unique combination of coastal regions and mountains, there are many popular hiking trails in Baja California Sur!
Tabor Canyon Trail
This 3-hour-long trail starts in Loreto and presents a moderate challenge. Boulders line the trail, and you'll enjoy waterfalls and beautiful vistas.
Puerto Todos los Santos
This is a 4.3-mile out-and-back trail that is perfect for hiking, running and biking. It's not heavily populated, and dogs are welcome.
Canon de La Zorra
An easy 2-mile out-and-back near the Los Cabos municipality. A simple hiking trail that is great for families, this trail features a waterfall that you can swim in and a clear lagoon.
There are some beautiful beaches all up and down the Baja California peninsula!
Enjoy a boat trip from Loreto to Coronado Island to spend some time at the white sand beaches there. This beach is much less tourist-heavy than the Cabo beaches at the peninsula's southern tip. The contrast between the virtually untouched white sand and the clear turquoise sea is worth the trip.
Considered the most beautiful beach in the Baja California peninsula, the Balandra beach provides some stunning views. Two bays form the Playa Balandra, and you can swim, kayak, or paddleboard around the playa. The waters are calm, readily swimmable, and almost like a natural pool.
If dolphins are what you're looking for, this beach near Cabo San Lucas is the best place to start. Dolphins can be found all around the peninsula on any boat tour and are particularly densely populated around Medano Beach. The sand is soft, the water is clear, and you might find yourself with dolphin companions!
Swim With Whale Sharks
This isn't an experience you'll find many other places! Whale sharks are gentle giants, and if you visit La Paz from December to April, you can go swimming with them. A half-day tour will take you near them, and you can snorkel with the whale sharks in 15-minute increments for the entire duration of the tour. tropical garden
Best Time To Visit Baja California Sur
There really is no bad time to visit Baja California Sur, but certain activities are best in certain seasons!
The winter, from December to early April, is the only time you'll be able to see blue whales, humpback whales, and gray whales. However, even though you're in a hot and arid climate, the water is still pretty cold during those months!
If water sports are more your aim, you might find the water more enjoyable if you come during the spring and fall. The water is just as wonderful in the summer as well, but the crowds are thicker.
Things To Know Before Visiting Baja California Sur
The sun is intense in Baja California Sur! And you'll likely be spending most of your time outside, as the natural playground of this state is its main feature. Bring plenty of sunscreens and apply them frequently.
Bring A Wet Suit
If you're visiting the Baja peninsula during the winter and plan to do some snorkeling or scuba diving, it's wise to bring along a wet suit. The water is chillier than you think during this season.
Bring A Water Bottle
It's not just a myth - you really can't drink the tap water in Mexico. Bring a water bottle and fill it up as frequently as you come across a potable water source. Nearly all of the hotels have water that is safe to drink.
How To Move Around Baja California Sur
To drive from top to tip, you will need a vehicle, and this makes a perfect little road trip. If you are planning on driving down the peninsula, it's best to do it during the day, as Baja California Sur has free-grazing laws. This means farmers can take their cows anywhere to graze, and they can be hard to spot at night time.
If you plan on renting a car, you only need a valid driver's license, proof of insurance, a passport, and your vehicle registration.
If you prefer not to drive, a taxi is both a convenient and economical way to get around within a short distance. To Los Cabos, it can get expensive since it's near the tip of the peninsula, and the drive can take much longer.
Uber, Lyft, and other app transportation are unavailable in this area.
Bus service is available but not well developed in the Baja peninsula area.
How To Get To Baja California Sur
It's easier to get into Baja California Sur by airplane, and two international airports run flights there - the San Jose del Cabo International Airport (SJD) and the General Manuel Marquez de Leon Airport (LAP) located in La Paz. A ferry service also runs across the Gulf of Baja, connecting La Paz and Mazatlan.