San Ignacio, with more date palms than residents, is a true oasis that sits in sharp contrast to the desert scrub, prickly cactus and volcanic rock of the Baja desert that completely surround the town. The palm covered oasis of San Ignacio is a welcome sight to many Baja travelers. The date palms and citrus orchards were planted by the Jesuits who built a mission here in 1728. A whale skeleton on Highway 1 marks the halfway point on the long drive from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas and also marks the turnoff into the small town of San Ignacio.
The beautiful lagoon on the road into town is actually part of the Río San Ignacio, one of only two real rivers in the entire state of Baja California Sur. The lagoon looks more like a lake than a river and is a reminder of how dry much of the rest of Baja really is. There is a small restaurant (snack bar) on the shore of the lagoon which is a pleasant spot to enjoy a snack and a cold drink. This is a great place to take your kayak out for a leisurely paddle and contemplate your next siesta.
As you enter town through the towering groves of date palms, you will see numerous places to park your RV, some provide full-service and some have just the bare essentials. The Desert Inn Hotel is on the left, just before the entrance to town.
The town itself is not very big although it is somewhat spread out and is genuinely unique. Entering San Ignacio is like taking a step back in time. The main part of town, laid out around a traditional town square, remains much the same as it was when it was built. The pace of life is slower here and if you arrive during siesta hour, not many of the local businesses will be open. San Ignacio is very small, even by Baja standards, with a population of less than 2,000. Enjoy this little piece of the “The Real Baja” while it remains as it is.
The San Ignacio town square is great place to stop, after a long drive, and grab a taco, cold drink, some refreshing ice cream or have a relaxing picnic in the shade. There are a couple of restaurants and a long distance office along with some smaller stores that sell groceries and supplies.
A nice Bed & Breakfast Inn, a block off the town square, is Casa Lereé. Although it has only 3 or 4 rooms, the B&B is really interesting, with lots of local history. Stop by and look around, even if you’re not staying in San Ignacio. The owner’s photo collection gives a look into the early days in San Ignacio and is well worth a look even if you have no plans on staying.
The church, that is one of the major attractions in this small village, was rebuilt over the original, by Dominican missionaries and completed in 1786. The Jesuits, who built the original mission, had been expelled from México in 1768.
The church was constructed entirely of volcanic rock that is so prevalent in the surrounding area. The church dominates the town square which takes up a major portion of the town. There are some outstanding photo opportunities in and around this charming little town.
San Ignacio is the gateway to Laguna San Ignacio, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, which is one of the best whale watching areas in all of Baja. Laguna San Ignacio is a peaceful natural lagoon that opens to the Pacific and lies some distance (40 miles) to the west of San Ignacio. This area is the only lagoon visited by the California gray whales, that is still completely undeveloped. Whale watching tours can be arranged at Ecoturismo Kuyimá on the southwest corner of the plaza. If the whales are present (Dec. to April) you should try to make time to visit them, it is sure to be an experience you will remember for rest of your life. See: Whale Watching
Another activity, based out of San Ignacio, that is really worthy of your time, is an excursion to the incredible cave paintings in the mountains of the San Francisco de la Sierra. Tours to the cave paintings range in length from seven hours to a few days, and a licensed guide must accompany you. To see the best of the cave paintings, you must hire mules and donkeys to take you along with your food and supplies, into the mountains. If you want to experience ultra tranquility along with some great insight into the earliest Baja inhabitants…do this! There are tours that can be done in 1 day, but you should allow 4 days (minimum) in San Ignacio, for an incredible 3-day tour. We have done the 3-day tour and it really was an extraordinary experience.
A variety of different tours to the cave paintings may be arranged at Ecoturismo Kuyimá on the southwest corner of the plaza. They also have some very good books on Baja, the whales and the cave paintings.