5-Day Off-the-Beaten-Path Itinerary in Baja California
Digital Nomad Travel
Where else can you lay in a hammock, tour a cactus farm, swim with seal pups, have fish tacos made with yellowtail caught that day, learn to surf, drink the freshest margaritas, feel at home with the locals and stargaze...all in one day. The Baja Sur area of Mexico is just that place! It is rustic and stylish...no touristy all-inclusive resorts here. Just the natural beauty of the mountains, meeting the desert, meeting palm oasis, meeting the sea. The whole area surrounding the artsy town of Todos Santos is full of beautiful surprises down every dusty beach road. It is wild, yet peaceful...simple...yet, awe-inspiring...full of adventure or relaxation...or both. It is pure magic!
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Where to stay
Luxe adults-only resort near San Pedrito Beach with rustic-chic rooms offering ocean views.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
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Hotel San Cristóbal
Hip hotel with airy rooms on the beach in the small town of Todos Santos.
Boutique resort with private villas, outdoor bathtubs and an on-site chef in Mexico's Baja California.
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Day 1: Arrive in Mexico
Fly into the Cabo airport, which has many short flights from west coast cities. The airport is super clean and efficient, and you will be through customs in less than an hour.
Rent a car and drive on a well-maintained safe highway for one hour to the Todos Santos area. You will be blown away by the scenery of so many towering cacti and the towering mountains and your first glimpse of the sea is heart melting. Drive down a very bumpy, dusty dirt road and that will take you to one of the fabulous and stylish properties, where you will chill in comfort for your stay.
You will check into your place, and head to the rooftop for fresh margaritas to watch the sky light up at sunset. It is a 360 degree view of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains to the East and the sun setting on the wild blue Pacific to the west. The colors are indescribable, and if you're lucky...you'll be there for a full moonrise to add to the Baja beauty. From this very first day...the spell is being cast
Head to one of my favorite restaurants on earth: Hierbabuena. Here, motto is "gastalo en la cocina y no en la medicina", which means good food is medicine. And that's what you will find in this organic farm to table place. Set in a dreamy garden of blooming herbs and wildflowers...treat yourself to the most delicious meal of wood fired pizzas and local dishes. The folks who work there treat you like family and the drinks are to die for. I love the Dusty Dog, which is a combo of mezcal and hibiscus. Salud!
Return to the rooftop to gaze at the gazillion stars in the night sky...the only sound you'll hear is the pounding of the ocean. You will feel it in your heart.
Day 2: Explore Todos Santos
Today is a day to explore the quaint, artsy coastal Mexican town of Todos Santos. It is designated as a pueblo magico (or magical town) and that it is. It is historic yet, modern, with cobblestone and brick streets and colorful flags flying in the sunshine. There are many shops to buy local Mexican goods and crafts and studios to check out the local artist scene.
There are SO many incredible restaurants and cafes in this town. It is hard to choose, but definitely have lunch at Oystera, a fashionable beautiful open air place built within the structure of an old sugar mill. The open air space is gorgeously designed, but I love the outdoor patio overlooking a garden abloom with bougainvillea. A dapper fellow with a tin of oysters and an oyster shucker, comes to your table and gives you one of the salty little treats.
After lunch, stop at Agricole Cooperativa, a lovely family-owned market with organic produce, fresh baked bread and gourmet goods. Buy some supplies to take home to stock your fridge. I recommend the handmade burritos and fresh guac and salsa to have on hand for snacks. Spend the rest of the afternoon swimming in the solar heated pool, or napping in a hammock in the warm breeze. No judgements here...you do you! As long as you are ready for the rooftop sunset ritual (mezcalrita in hand) maybe you will even see some whales frolicking in the distance!
Walk to dinner at Coyote, one of the coolest places in the area. Set in a desert-y trippy mini canyon oasis with an airstream as a kitchen - it is another dreamy spot. Try the wood-fired burger: you will thank me. Have a nightcap in the fun, trendy bar on site. Play darts, sway to the DJ, meet new friends. We always do.
Day 3: Adventure on the Sea of Cortez
Today you will head to La Paz (an hour away) to go on a sea adventure on the Sea of Cortez. Jacques Cousteau called this area in Baja "the aquarium of the world", because of all its rich marine life. It's one of the rare protected places in the world where marine life still thrives. This presents you with many options for one of a kind adventures. You can go diving with whale sharks (no they are not sharks) but they are the largest species of fish, who just happen to look like a shark. They are ginormous, spotted, wild looking, but extremely docile creatures, and if the time of year is right, you can swim alongside them and marvel at their beauty.
You can also take a panga from the beach to skim along the crystal green waters of the Sea of Cortez to Balandra Beach, a stunner of a white sand beach with ancient desert-like rock formations and gin clear water. Voted one of the best beaches in Mexico, it is a well-kept secret, and best seen by boat.
Moving on to Isla del Espiritu Santo, an island of spirits with craggy rocks and deserted beaches...and seals! My daughter and I actually snorkeled through one of the arched rock formations. There were seal pups swimming all around us. Some of them even nipping at our lifejacket strings - so playful and adorable. If it's not on your bucket-list...it should be!
Afterwards, the awesome guides at Mika Tours took us to a beach on the island, where we had a lunch of ceviche and cold cervezas. Heavenly! You can end the day at one of the outdoor restaurants on the embarcadero in the quaint seaside town of La Paz. There are many options for fresh seafood, and if you're lucky, you will be serenaded by a charming mariachi band. Beso me mucho!
Day 4: Cerritos Beach
Today is a day to chill. And by chilI mean head to the local surfer beach, Cerritos! Oh ya know, just another magical spot in Baja, with a glamorous "Hotel California" looking villa towering above. (Fun fact: It is rumored that The Eagles wrote that song about Todos Santos.)
A short drive through the bumpy, windy, dirt roads lined with cacti takes you to the laidback, lovely, fun town known as Cerritos Beach. Many beaches in this area of Baja are not swimmable, due to the currents and riptides, but Cerritos is a perfect spot to frolic in the waves. Or even learn to surf! There are lots of surf schools set up right on the beach, with lessons available and surf boards to rent. The vibe is family friendly - lots of happy doggies, too!
You must have lunch at Barracuda Cantina, located a short stroll away, for tacos and margs that will blow your mind. Set in a cactus garden, it's basically a food truck that serves authentic Mexican food with the freshest ingredients and the friendliest folks. Head back to the beach for sunset, toes in the ocean. Let that Baja magic wash all over you! It's starting to feel like you can check in...but you can't ever leave. And that's okay, because you don't want to.
Day 5: Fishing excursion
Wake up super early - I'm talking the crack of dawn. But don't worry it will be worth it. Drive down yet another dirt road, lined with huge cacti to Point Lobos. A stunning hidden beach with the bluest waves I've ever seen crashing on the golden sand. This is where all the local fishermen launch their boats on the daily to catch mucho pescado! You are in luck, because you will meet Paolo, a super friendly expert fisherman, who is going to be your guide. Watch in awe as you see the sunrise over the purple mountains, and rays shine upon an old sacred Mexican shrine on the hill. The coolest part is watching all the men show up with their nets and poles and witnessing first hand how tight knit this community is. I loved seeing how they launch the boats, each waiting their turn, and helping the one after them. That is the Mexican way, and it's a blessing to witness such authentic camaraderie.
Out on the Pacific Ocean, Paolo will help you find and catch fish. And by fish...I mean the hugest yellowtail I have ever seen. We caught three large beauties, and had that incredible experience of being on the water all morning in that indescribable place. Although the language barrier can be a bit challenging, there is something about the universality of laughter, being on a boat and telling a good fish story. The best part was that we got to take the fish home with us. We froze some of it to take back to the States.
But the real treat was meeting Paolo later that day, at one of our favorite places, Besos De Mezcal, located right across the street from Casa Bella. This is another gem down (you guessed it) a cactus-lined dirt road. There lies the stylish, well-designed and homey restaurant, Besos De Mezcal. Here you truly feel like family, always greeted with fist bumps and big smiles. And Paolo is actually family, as his cousin Aldai works there. Aldai with the same bright light as Paolo is a master bartender and will make you a pina colada that will make you cry tears of joy. Add to this that the chef, Herman, will take the fish you caught and turn it into the most magnificent plate of sashimi you've ever had.
Spend your last evening basking in this feeling of deep happiness in your world weary heart. The sun setting, the delicious food in good company of new local friends, the stars starting to shine in the clear desert sky. It’s been awhile since you’ve felt this content. And though you have to leave tomorrow, you already know you will be back. The locals don’t say goodbye or adios…they say “hasta pronto”...which means “see you soon.”
And you know with all of your being that this is true.
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