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Baja California

The big back yard

baja_califBy Jessica Lloyd

Surrounded by Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortés (or Gulf of California), Baja California is a region with a diverse geography which includes deserts, mountains, pine forests, hundreds of miles of untouched beaches and a coastline ideal for all water sports with many towns and campsites. The peninsula is divided into two states; Baja California (north), and Baja California Sur (south).

In general, the seasons are clearly marked, fall is fresh, winter is cool, spring and summer are sunny and warm to semi-tropical. To travel in this region you must have a Mexican Tourist Card or travel permit.

For exciting, or laid back holidays, the resort areas of Cabo San Lucas, Ensenada, La Paz, Loreto, Rosarito, San Felipe, San Jose Del Cabo, and Buena Vista are popular destinations while the small towns and remote beaches will satisfy hardened adventurers with surfing, or paragliding off the dunes.

Mexicali
The capital City of the State of Baja California and is located on the United States - Mexico border 150kms inland from Tijuana which is the key crossing for San Diego residents and is great for day trips over the border to shop, or to stay a while to soak up the atmosphere and Mexican hospitality. Guadalupe Canyon is a hot spring oasis 2.5 hours driving south of the border and an excellent day trip.

Ensenada
The last sizable town before you leave civilization, and it has many attractions. Estero Beach with it's large bay is perfect for water sports. Punta Banda has a blow hole, a range of restaurants and curio shops and snorkeling and diving are popular pastimes. The La Trinidad Cave Paintings are a guided walk and swim experience for the fit. (Ask at your hotel to arrange a guide). 45 miles east of Ensenada, Constitution National Park in the Sierra de Juárez mountain range is a popular recreation area with wildlife which includes rattlesnakes and mountain lions. Laguna Hanson (Hanson's Lagoon) is one of of Baja California's few semi-permanent bodies of water and an important stopover for migratory birds.

La Paz
La Pas has a population of 170,000 people and is 770 kms south of Guerrero Negro down the peninsula on the coast of Sea of Cortez. This a popular beach area has many fantastic golden beaches and clear waters. The best swimming and sunbathing beaches are found north of the city on the road to Tecolote. Activities include scuba diving, yachting, sailing, ecotourism trips and fishing tournaments.

You can drive to La Paz through the Transpeninsular Highway, or by sea with ferries from Mazatlán or Topolobampo as when driving from Mexico City and by air from many centers. The Tourist office is located on the Malecon at Avenida de Septiembre.

San Carlos
The most important seaport in Baja California Sur on the shore of Bahía Magdalena, a great bay 50 miles across where you can see Gray Whales from January to March (on the Pacific Coast).

Driving
The three day drive down the peninsula is one of the great desert drives in North America, but as with Mexican roads in general, it can be dangerous due to potholes, speed bumps, no shoulder, road markings and livestock. If you are planning to explore, a 4wd or 2wd with high ground clearance is advised as many of the minor roads can be little more than rough tracks. Fuel supplies are uncertain so it is advised that you fill up at every opportunity and carry an extra spare tire, water and provisions. In winter, it can snow and snow chains may be required. Driving conditions vary with the seasons, so check the weather before setting out.

Camping
There are many campgrounds and RV parks with many opportunities to freedom camp, but check the area is safe. For a little luxury there are resorts like Paloma Village Residential Park and RV park on the Baja South coast between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.

The Sea of Cortés
numexSeparates The Baja Peninsula from mainland Mexico is excellent for kayaking, snorkeling, diving and fishing.

Guerrero Negro where salt is produced.

San Ignacio is a small oasis, complete with date palms and a small lake.

Concepción Bay offers some of the most spectacular views of beautiful bays and rocky cliffs from sections of the Baja highway.

Getting naked
Officially it's a no no. But there are some more tollerant beaches in the Los Cabos area which includes the towns of Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, the Tourist Corridor in between and Todos Santos. But when you're out ij some remote spot of which there are many, go for it but don't get caught - keep a sarong handy.

Other towns:
Algodones, Tecate, Rosarito, San Felipe, San Quintín, Puertecitos, Arrecifes, Isla Todos Santos, Rancho Agua Caliente, Bahía de los Angeles, La Bocana, Rancho Mikes, Bahía de San Carlos, La Bufadora, Rancho San Carlos, Bajamar, La Misión, Real del Castillo, Calafia, Laguna Hanson, Rumorosa, Campo Mosqueda, Laguna Percebu, Salinas, Cantamar, San Antonio, Cañón de Guadalupe, Maneadero, San Luis Gonzaga, Cañón del Diablo, Mayor, San Matías, Cataviña, Misión de Guadalupe, San Pedro Martir, Chinero, Misión de San Vicente, San Vicente, Dunas, Misión San Telmo, Santa Verónica, Ejido Chapultepec, Misiones, Santo Tomás, Ejido Eréndira, Observatorio San Pedro, Valle de Guadalupe, Ejido Independencia, Ojos Negros, Valle la Trinidad, El Mirador, Parque Nacional, Constitución, Valle las Palmas, El Sausal, Popotla, Valle Sahuaros, Estero Beach, Puerto Nuevo, Vallecitos, Isla Konsag, Laguna Salada.

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