Baja California Roadtrip: Baja’s Hidden Jewels
If someone would have told me one of the best trips of my life would have involved over 20 hours of driving, I would have thought they were crazy. A few years ago, my dad joined me for a very special road trip from San Diego down to the southernmost tip of Baja – Los Cabos. While I love Mexico for its amazing hospitality and beautiful resorts, the little towns that are off the beaten path are equally wonderful and definitely worth exploring.
GUERRERO NEGRO: Guerrero Negro was the halfway point of our journey down to Los Cabos, and proved to be quite the interesting stop. We stayed at the Malarrimo Motel, which is not only a hotel, but also has a restaurant and an RV park. The hotel has become a famous stop for travelers driving through Baja, as it is the first major stop once you cross the border from Northern Baja into Southern Baja. At first glance, the restaurant looks like the typical restaurant attached to a hotel born out of necessity. As we tasted our food, we were blown away by the freshness of the seafood and the flavorful dishes.
Guerrero Negro is an interesting mix as it is primarily an industrial town that is surrounded by a number of lagoons. The town is best known for its whale watching tours, which take place from December 15th to April 15th, as the whales make their way down from Alaska to their ideal breeding spot in the warm waters off of the Baja coast. An interesting little known fact is that Guerrero Negro is the world’s number one salt producer, thanks to the saltworks operations around the Laguna Ojo de Liebre (Eye of the Jackrabbit Lagoon).
MULEGE: After driving for hours in what seems like the middle of nowhere, we knew we were getting close to the coast when we saw a beautiful river flowing next to the road. In what seemed like a matter of a few minutes, the vegetation turned from dusty desert roads to a jungle-like paradise with chirping birds and lush, green vegetation. Mulegé is unlike any place I’ve ever been and to this day I consider it to be one of Mexico’s best kept secrets. As the highway took us around the corner, we saw a glimpse of the most beautiful blue-green waters surrounded by impressive cliffs.
While there is not a lot to do in Mulegé other than sailing around the Bahia de Concepcion or fishing, the scenery is enough to make you stop the car and stare off into the horizon for hours (or take tons of pictures!). It’s no wonder that author John Steinbeck said that the bay was one of the most beautiful in the world.
SANTA ROSALIA: Santa Rosalía is one of Baja Sur’s most interesting towns when it comes to history. Once we drove into the town, we immediately noticed a drastic change in architecture. Instead of the typical Baja or Spanish influenced buildings we were used to seeing, we saw European looking houses made of wood with tin pitched roofs. The town was established when the French came to found one of the world’s major copper producing mines, and to this day you can see how big an impact the miners made. The church in Santa Rosalía was designed by Frenchman Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel tower fame) for the 1889 World’s Fair, and the steel walls were brought over by ship and reconstructed so that the townspeople, mainly those who worked at the copper mine, would have a place to worship. Another famous spot in Santa Rosalía is the El Boleo bakery, which at one time had some of the best bread in Baja. The bakery got its name from the French mining company and continues to use some of the equipment brought over from France in the late 1800s today. One of the funniest parts of our three day journey happened in Santa Rosalía. We explored the town, had taken some pictures and were ready to head on our way, when we started hearing a drumline and people singing. Before we knew it, we were stuck in the middle of a parade! With only one main street in and one main street out, you can imagine what our options were, so we decided to make lemonade out of lemons and sit back and enjoy the parade. While it certainly wasn’t planned on, it turned out to be a great experience and a funny detour. We got back on the road with a clear mission – make it to Loreto.
LORETO: Imagine the desert landscape meeting the beach and you’ve got Loreto. Loreto was the first capital of the Californias and since it was established it has become well known for its sailing, deep sea fishing, diving, and kayaking. In addition to all of the water sports, Loreto is a great place for history buffs due to its missions and nearby cave paintings. We stopped briefly at the Inn at Loreto Bay for lunch by the water. The views are breathtaking, the weather was perfect, and in that moment I knew why so many expats look to Loreto as an ideal retirement spot. So, if you’ve ever been tempted to get in the car and go on a road trip that you won’t forget, I highly recommend driving down the Baja Peninsula. With so many great towns and areas to explore, you’ll be sure to create as many great memories as I did!