Life’s Better in Baja
There are plenty of stereotypes that come to mind when someone says “vacation in Mexico”: sandy beaches, frozen cocktails, wild spring breakers. All of these things are available, of course, but there is so much more to this country. If you want to explore and discover many different elements of a destination without moving around too much, it’s the perfect place to be.
There’s a wide range of worthwhile places to visit in Mexico, from the ancient Teotihuacan and other Aztec and Mayan ruins, to all the colourful colonial towns such as San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca, and San Cristobal de las Casas. But when we think about some of the coolest parts of this country, Baja California and the Sea of Cortes (named for Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, who thought he’d discovered a new path to Europe) come to mind first. Now commonly referred to as the Gulf of California, Jacques Cousteau called it “the aquarium of the world” because of the vast range of marine and bird wildlife in the area.
Baja is all about contrasts; the huge 70,000 square kilometre region is mostly desert, but dotted with amazing oases like La Paz, Los Cabos and San Jose del Cabo, where on winter days you’ll find groups of expectant visitors waiting to see all the different types of whales (blue, humpback, fin, killer, grey and more) that come here to eat and rest while their cubs grow. See the whales spout water from a distance as you relax in one of the area’s hotel pools, or jump right in to snorkel with a whale shark—one of the most amazing and surreal experiences you can imagine. If neither of those options appeal, why not enjoy the area from the same vessel Celine Cousteau does: the Pacific Monarch.
November to April is the best time to visit, although the summer is pleasant as well; you can’t really go wrong year-round. There are plenty of amazing accommodations in the area, whether you’re visiting with family, as a couple, or just a flock of friends in the mood to relax and explore. The Cape is one of our favourites, ideal for adults who enjoy rooftop drinks and a trendy place to stay, or try Las Ventanas al Paraiso, which will blow your mind with its gorgeous beachfront restaurant. One & Only Palmilla has an incredible spa and swimmable beach for relaxation seekers, and if you want to retreat to a smaller, boutique hotel, there’s nothing like Rancho Pescadero. Some hotels don’t have swimmable beaches, but many have amazing private plunge pools, or beautiful beachfront pools that get you right next to the ocean, like The Resort at Pedregal.
After you’ve had your fill of oceanside whale watching, learn how to make a real tortilla in a cooking class, get schooled in Baja pottery making, take amazing photos on a horseback ride, or simply enjoy a boat ride to The Arch where the sea lions can teach you how to bask in the sun like a pro.
Carola Fresno hails from Chile, but boasts brilliant expertise across Latin America and Mexico. She can tell you all about snorkelling with whale sharks—how much time do you have?