Baja California is one of my favorite regions to explore for its variety of ecosystems and landscapes. On 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. 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.
➢ Do I need travel insurance in Mexico? Yes, you do! I can never stress enough what a lifesaver it can be in unexpected situations. Although I hope I never need it, it gives me peace of mind to know that whatever happens, I am covered. I have been using Safety Wing, and I find it quite fair, covering a lot for its pricing level. Depending on your needs or you can compare different insurance companies on this useful site, TRAVEL INSURANCE MASTER. Make sure you read carefully what’s included before making the purchase. If you are undecided yet, you can read my post on the best travel insurance for Mexico for more clarity.
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. I recommend checking on Discover cars because it allows you to compare prices from different car rentals.
✅ 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 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, for supermarket baggers, Gas Station stuff, and 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 Maps 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 itinerary Map
10 days Baja California road trip
Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
This itinerary is not set in stone. It’s just a sample of what I would do to cover all the amazing things to do in Baja California Sur, 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, and 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 into 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.
This is in my opinion the place where you can experience the best whale watching in Mexico.
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 tours available.
Otherwise, you can check in to 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 heads 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 yourself 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 a 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 – is one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico in my personal opinion, great during the day, and romantic at sunset.
Check out some hotel options in La Paz
Todos Santos is a very special place, with a huge bohemian community that 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 are the two destinations in a nutshell for the end of your amazing road trip in Baja California Sur. 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
- Mexico City in May for Weather, Events & Travel Tips
- Mexico City Altitude Sickness Guide: Symptoms, Tips & Remedies
- 10 Best Teotihuacan Hot Air Balloon Tours in 2023
- Mexico City in June for Weather, Events & Travel Tips
- Downtown Mexico City Historic Center: 15 Places to Visit + Tips
✨ Mexico Travel Planning Guide ✨
👉 Do I Need Travel Insurance to Travel to Mexico?
I would do it if I were you. You never know what can happen and know that no matter what, you will be covered with any expenses will give you peace of mind, and make your travel worry-free. You can check out SafetyWing which I have used and find it affordable and comprehensive and also Travel Insurance Master which is great because you can insert all your information and what kind of insurance you need and their system will pull out the best insurance for your need.
🚰 Can I Drink Tap Water in Mexico?
No, you can’t! Maybe in some areas or in some homes where they have installed water filters but to be on the safe side, I would say, never drink tap water in Mexico. Carry a water bottle with you and fill it up where you find available potable water sources. Most of the hotels have those.
🚗 Is It Safe to Drive in Mexico?
The short answer is: depending on where you are. Although in general if you stick to the main roads and don’t drive at night you should probably be safe. In lesser tourist areas you should probably check the local news to stay up to date. Driving in the Yucatan Peninsula is easy everywhere, even at night, although I would still avoid it. I recommend Discover Cars because the site offers the option to compare prices among different car rentals and you can add their own full coverage.
Read more on my guide on Renting a car in Mexico.
📱 Will My Phone Work in Mexico?
It will probably work, especially if you have a European or US phone, but your roaming rates may be to the stars (check with your SIM provider). Even if have an affordable international rate, you will be much better off by buying a Mexican SIM Card. It’s cheap, easy to set up, and it will keep you connected with your friends, family, and, more important, google Maps so you will never get lost!
🤕 Is It Safe to Travel to Mexico Right Now?
The short answer is, yes it is. However, there are parts of Mexico that are indeed troubled and you should avoid for now, and others that are super safe and easy to travel around.
Regardless of where you are you should always use some common sense rules such as, never flaunting expensive clothing, accessories, electronics, or money and keeping a low profile.
Read more on my detailed guide on safety in Mexico. If you are traveling to a specific destination I have got you covered as well:
💉 Do I Need Any Vaccine to Travel to Mexico?
No, there is no vaccine requirement (of any kind) to travel to Mexico
🇲🇽 Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Mexico?
If you are coming from the US or Europe you don’t need a VISA to enter Mexico. Once you get in you need to fill out a form that you need to keep with you until you leave. If you don’t have it you will pay a fine.
Although the tourist visa for US and European travelers used to be 6 months long which you could easily renew by leaving the country for a couple of days and going back, nowadays they have been stricter. You may be asked how you would sustain your living and other similar questions. Sometimes they even ask you to show your credit cards.
It seems odd but they can do that. If you intend to stay longer than a usual couple of weeks’ vacation time, just be honest and explain your plans. If you are not from the US, check this site to see if you need a visa
💸 Where Do I Find the Best Travel Deals for Mexico? 💸
A trip to Mexico can be expensive if you love to travel with all the comforts (like I do). There are a few tricks that will help you find the best deals. Here are my tips:
👉 DON’T travel in the high season, which is Holy week, Christmas and winter in general, and August.
👉 Book months in advance to find early booking discounts
👉 Use aggregators such as Discover Cars to find price comparisons and VRBO for vacation rentals!
👉 Look for packages flights+hotels on Expedia.
👉 Check on Booking.com or Hotels.com for hotel deals