Baja California is one of my favorite regions to explore for its variety of ecosystems and landscapes. In this 10-day Baja California Sur Road trip, I was exploring Baja for my second time, this time by myself and I had a blast. Too bad my trip was interrupted by Covid, otherwise it would have been 15 days. But I can’t complain, really. In this post, I am going to share with you my itinerary as well as important practical tips on traveling to Baja California Sur.
The blue ocean and the red rocky desert dotted with thousands of green cacti offer a spectacular contrast and overwhelming views that captivate any nature lovers and photographers.
The best way to explore Baja California is by renting a car and in this post, I will share my 10-day road trip itinerary in Baja California Sur, including the most exciting things to do and places to see.
Baja California practical tips
A few practical notes on this road trip itinerary in Baja California
- If you are concerned about renting a car in Mexico, don’t be. I have been driving in Mexico for the past 10 years and although there are places where it’s not advisable to go, Baja California is not one of them. On the contrary, it’s one of the safest areas to travel. Also, having a car in Baja California is more practical because the local transportation is not reliable if you want to reach the most interesting areas. Just make sure you pick your car rental wisely.
- Baja California is a great destination for solo travelers because it’s relatively safe and easy to move around. I was there on my own twice and I had a blast.
- Get your own snorkeling gear because it’s more hygienic, and a dry bag so you can take your belonging with you while you are having fun in the water
- US$ are accepted but it’s more convenient to have Mexican Pesos, for the exchange rate.
- Keep your gas tank always half full at least, so you don’t risk running out.
- Tipping is not mandatory, but it is expected, supermarket baggers, Gas Station stuff, waiters.
- Drive slowly, the only danger on Baja Roads are the goats and cows appearing in front of you out of nowhere.
- Get a local sim card and use google map to find your way around.
- A local sim card is also helpful in case you need to call a hotel or your car rental or if any issue occurs.
Baja California Map
10 days Baja California road trip
This itinerary is not set in stone. It’s just a sample of what I would do based on my experience. (I did two road trips in Baja). By all means, you can change it according to your interests.
It’s applicable only between January and March, which is the whale season.
Day 1 Arriving a Los Cabos International Airport
On the first day, you will arrive at Los Cabos Airport, but you will skip the city and after picking up your car rental, you will drive to San Jose al Cabo, where you will spend the first night.
San Jose al Cabo is a cute touristic town, much more charming than Cabo San Lucas, for its historical feel. If you manage to organize your arrival on a Thursday night, it’s even better because you will be enjoying a nice night out in the heart of town where artists gather and show their works in the main square. You will also enjoy great food and live music in local restaurants. If you happen to be there early in the day, you can make time to explore the beach.
Days 2 Santiago – Cabo Pulmo
The following day you´ll have an early wake-up call as you will be enjoying a wonderful hike in the Sierra de La Laguna. A spectacular deserted area with amazing trails and hidden oasis, even a hot spring. I went with a great guide that was suggested by a local friend. I met 2 ladies who joined the tour and we eventually became friends. We had a great time hiking on boulders and riding our bikes for part of the road.
Ah! The joy of traveling alone.
From San Jose del Cabo to Santiago is only a 1-hour drive.
After the tour, which is normally from 9 to 14, you will drive to Cabo Pulmo and settle in your previously booked hotel.
Cabo Pulmo is a very renowned destination for divers and snorkelers, because of the incredible wealth of marine life, and whale watching.
Winters are usually packed and it might be challenging to find a place to stay, especially on weekends. I would suggest you book in advance.
Day 3- 4 Cabo Pulmo
2 nights and one full day in Cabo Pulmo is good enough unless you are a diver. But that’s for another post. There are many different tours available but snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo is the most complete and rewarding experience because you basically combine two tours in one. It’s a 3 hours excursion where you do 3 snorkeling stops, the last one being with the funny sea lions.
The bonus of this tour is that you will see humpback whales as well, and it’s an amazing memorable view that you will cherish for life. To see these giants jumping and dancing out of the water right in front of you makes you wonder at the beautiful perfection of mother nature.
Even the guides that see those scenes every single day, were over-excited at the sight of the whale and her baby.
Cabo Pulmo is a great place also for birdwatchers. I was lucky enough to meet some professional birders who let me join their birdwatching walk one morning, just outside the village. It’s amazing how many birds you see if you can just observe.
You can do it on your own. It’s just about staying quiet and observing but you must be there around 6 am.
Day 4 – Adolfo Lopez Mateo
Today is a driving day, probably the longest you will be in your car. You will reach Adolfo Lopez Mateo where you will have an amazing encounter with the grey whales.
It’s about 6 hours drive for 428 km/ 265 miles
But worry not because you will be very well entertained. The road is a spectacular endless concrete path cutting through the vast infinity of the orange rocky desert. It feels like a movie. Just make sure you stay focused on the road, and be on the lookout for the random animals that might cross, and when you want to admire the view, just pull over and enjoy it.
If you get to the destination around 3 pm you are still on time to get to the marina and check with the tour companies if they have any tour available.
Otherwise, you can check-in in your hotel and wait for the following morning.
How to book your tour in Lopez Mateos.
The way Lopez Mateos’ fishermen are organized for whale watching tours is very practical and perfect for solo travelers. That’s why it’s my favorite place for whale watching in Baja California.
Basically, you get to one of the ticket counters and tell them you want to do a whale watching tour and for how many people.
They will check if they have any groups available that you can join or they let you wait around and call you when they have availability. You will always find other people like you or couples that want to share the boat.
The tour has a fixed price per boat, so depending on how many people are in your boat, you will split the cost.
Insider tip: Although the boat can hold up to 12 passengers, I wouldn’t go with a full boat.
I believe 6 to 7 is the maximum number, especially if you want to take pictures. You need to have space to move quickly without causing any unpleasant situation such as falling off the boat, for example.
The gray whales are very friendly animals. Obviously, they are free in the ocean but they come into the protected bay to give birth and mate because that’s where they find protection from the ocean predators. They are totally at ease with humans, they get close to the boats and stick their huge head out as if they wanted to bond and connect with the excited tourists. It’s an amazing experience.
I am so crazy about whales that I took two tours in Lopez Mateos, one in the afternoon and one in the following morning before driving to Loreto.
Also, know that Alfonso Lopez Mateo is a tiny village with just a couple of hotels and two or three restaurants.
Day 5 – 8 Loreto
The drive to Loreto is a short one. About 150 km, 2 hours, if you don’t continuously stop to take pictures, like me.
Especially once you reach the coastal area, you will have access to spectacular views, and you will want to stop all the time, but the road doesn’t always allow it.
Here is where you need to be more careful as there are a lot of unexpected curves and that’s where the goats are hiding and suddenly getting in your way.
So drive slowly, keep your eyes on the road and pull over when you can if you want to admire the breathtaking scenery.
When you arrive in Loreto you can use your time to familiarize and explore the tiny historical center. Take a nice walk to the Malecon, and get a coffee in one of the nice cafes in the plaza.
Loreto is a pretty historical town, proclaimed by the Mexican tourism association as one of the Magic Towns, for its charm and its interesting natural resources.
This is where the Spanish conquerors landed on the peninsula for the first time taking the Jesuits with them who founded their missions.
If you have time I suggest you should visit the Local Museum right in the Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the first founded Mission. It’s very small but interesting if you are curious to learn about the history of Baja California.
There are many things to do in Loreto but since we have limited time, I would go for a tour to Coronado Island, and one for blue whale watching.
They are both worth the money and your time, without a doubt.
Coronado Island tour
Coronado Island is one of the many islands located right off the coast of Loreto Bay. The tour will take you to one of its spectacular deserted beaches washed by an unrealistic turquoise sea. Here you will have some free time to snorkel and swim or just admire the paradisiac scenery.
On the way to the island, you will make a snorkeling stop to swim with the funny sea lion. But the most spectacular view is one of the dolphins that will surround your boat.
Whale watching tour
The blue whale is the biggest animal on earth. Seeing it from so close is an overwhelming feeling that you will remember forever. The blue whale is not so playful as the grey whale, also because due to its dimension it is better if it doesn’t get that close. However, seeing their tail sticking out of the water with such grace despite its humongous size, is really a beautiful experience.
The boat ride to the site where the whales are located takes about 2 hours. However, during the trip, you will be delighted by the spectacular sights of hundreds of dolphins flipping and swimming around the boat. I had never seen so many dolphins together. It was like a miracle. This site is not mentioned as part of the tour because it cannot be guaranteed 100% but the guide explained that they see them very often.
10 days Baja California itinerary day 8 – 10 Todos Santos or La Paz?
Now is the time to drive back south and you can decide whether you want to end your trip in La Paz or in Todos Santos.
It really depends on what you are looking for and I will leave it up to you.
I am just sharing some information on both destinations to help you decide.
Consider that Todos Santos is at 1hr 30’ drive from Los Cabos airport and 2 hours from La Paz, so you might want to plan your flight out accordingly.
Although La Paz is the capital city of Baja California, it doesn’t look like one. On the contrary, it has maintained the laid-back fishing town feel, especially if you hang out around the Malecon (the promenade), to enjoy spectacular sunsets, great boat tours, and delicious restaurants.
There are many amazing things to do in la Paz, however the most popular are:
- Whale sharks tours (winter only)
- Espiritu Santo boat tour (all year round)
- Playa Balandra – one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico in my personal opinion, great during the day, romantic at sunset.
Todos Santos is a very special place, with a huge bohemian community who enjoys the good life, art, surf, and beach time.
There most interesting things to do in Todos Santos are:
- enjoying the world-class culinary scene,
- taking some surfing class
- watching the pro surfers flying over the crashing waves.
- Spending time on the beach at sunset.
- Join a yoga retreat
Todos Santos is also home to stylish world-class hotels and yoga retreats.
It’s a place for relaxing and reflecting.
So, here the two destinations in a nutshell for the end of your amazing road trip in Baj California. I am curious to know which one you will choose and why.
I hope this sample itinerary around Baja California was helpful, but I am available for any questions you might have.
For further reading
- the Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Valle de Bravo Mexico
- Valle de bravo – Mexico: a travel guide to the Mexican Hamptons
- Airbnb Cozumel: the 11 pretty homes to rent for a perfect vacation
- Las grutas de tolantongo – the complete guide
- Renting a car in Mexico: everything you need to know not to get ripped off