What You Can Expect in Baja California
South of the border, down the way by Mexico, there’s always plenty to do, see, eat, and experience. As the world’s second-longest peninsula, Baja California covers more than 1,200 kilometers of natural beauty, stunning wildlife, historical and cultural artifacts and fun by the bucket load from the northern border town of Tijuana, that straddles the USA, to Los Cabos in the Baja California Sur.
But, this being Mexico, there’s always more. Mexico is, after all, all about fun and food and your first stop, Tijuana, is no different. One must-see stop on any visit to Tijuana is to visit the Hotel Caesars, home of the world-famous salad. Like a lot of Tijuana’s biggest draws, you’ll find it on the Avenida Revolución in the center of town. The hotel boasts an expansive menu, but let’s be honest, you’re there for salad, which they prepare at your table in front of you. Hail, Caesar!
Tacos in Baja
Mexican food, especially street food, is among the best in the world, and while the streets of New York and London might be flooded with popular burrito restaurants, there is nothing like the real thing. Take tacos, for instance. Tijuana claims to be the home of fish tacos, although so too do Ensenada and San Felipe. Either way, fresh fish tacos are delicious and available throughout Baja.
Who doesn’t love tacos? Delicious corn topped off with tender, flavorsome and preferably spicy fish or meat garnished with salsa and guacamole. And don’t forget gorditas, fajitas, burritos, tamales, quesadillas, tortas, tostadas, and empanadas, which are all brilliant too, and when made with the freshest meats, fruits, chilies and vegetables, the food alone makes Baja worth visiting.
Wildlife in Baja
Moving on to wildlife in Baja California, which has come to be known as one of the world’s top whale spotting locations. You can swim with whale sharks at El Mogote near La Paz in the south of the peninsula or in Bahía de Los Angeles much further north. At various times of the year, you even can see a wide variety of these magnificent giants passing Mexican waters, with some coming right up alongside your boat within touching distance.
There are plenty of whale viewing points, too. From Ensenada, Todos Santos and Los Cabos in Baja’s southernmost tip, famous for the naturally occurring limestone arch carved by the elements known as El Arco de Cabo San Lucas. This and other viewing spots have been designated sanctuaries for the whales to use as calving areas, the furthest north of which is Guerrero Negro, which is not far from the U.S. border.
Other top locations are Bahia Magdalena, Laguna San Ignacio, and Laguna Ojo de Liebre, which is home to dolphins and sea lions, a bird sanctuary as well as the world’s largest salt plant. Note the high season, when whales such as the gray passing by on their migration south from Canada’s Bering Sea to their Mexican breeding grounds, runs from January to March, with sightings possible in windows either side of these dates. Be warned though, only registered operators can legally offer trips as these gentle giants have been protected for over a century.
Excursions like this can be included in an island-hopping itinerary, which, regarding ocean life, should also include scuba diving in the Sea of Cortez, crowned “the world’s aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau. Separating the Baja peninsula from the Mexican mainland, visitors are advised to make a stop on the Isla Espíritu Santo in La Paz, the capital of Baja California, which was founded by Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador from whom the sea gets its name, and where you can dive with sea lions.
Back on land and for whales of a different kind, visit the Caliente Casino Revolución on the Avenida Revolucion. Always a fun night out, the casino offers a fun gaming area, plus visitors can enjoy live music and comedy in the Pasaje Foreign Club that is situated inside. If you are there for the games, it’s a good idea to hone your skills by practicing before your visit.
Painted Donkeys in Baja
Oh, and while you’re in Tijuana, though it may not be for everybody, take time to look out for painted donkeys, known as zonkeys or “Los burro-cebras,” which are probably one of Tijuana’s most enduring cultural icons. It may fool no one, what with zebras coming from an entirely different continent and the fact that a donkey in disguise is still a donkey, but it has become a symbol of the city all the same. In fact, the first-known photo of a tourist posing with a zonkey goes back to 1914, so many believe that these animals are a part of the city’s heritage. Either way, you’ll also find these critters on the Avenida Revolución.
Soccer in Tijuana
While you’re in town, take in a Xolos soccer match at Estadio Caliente. Named after the Mexican hairless breed of dog, this team was only founded 11 years ago but have already been crowned national champions after winning the Liga MX in 2012. You’ll find them playing their home games at Estadio Caliente in the east of the city.
Lands End in Baja
From the top of the peninsula to the bottom, you should make time to visit Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach). It is a tranquil getaway only accessible by boat and hidden away amid the rocks of Land’s End or Finisterra where the Baja coast come to an end. Fittingly, for an area of such pristine natural beauty and elegance, it doesn’t go quietly but rather in the most scenic way imaginable as rock formations, such as the El Arco and its wealth of aquatic wildlife slowly take over.
As you can see, from the cultural to the historic, from the man-made to the natural, such as the cave paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco, one of many prehistoric painting sites in the area, the Baja California peninsula is one of the world’s must-see destinations packed with enough to do that nobody will ever get bored of this place.