Baja California itinerary

Baja California Itinerary: How To Plan Your Trip

Spanning 760 miles south of the border with the United States, Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula is a land of contrasts. The dry, seemingly empty desert is home to lush fruit orchards, hidden oases, and mountain chains with deep canyons that are home to ancient petroglyphs.

Add incredible beaches and groves of tropical fruits, and you get a real paradise. Driving around Baja might feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, but this is not true: Baja California is a popular destination that attracts millions of tourists, and while distances between major cities are long, exploring Baja California is a lot of fun!

In this article, I will give you a detailed overview of how to plan your Baja California itinerary and make sure you don’t miss any Baja highlights during your trip.

Where to begin your Baja California itinerary?

You can begin your Baja California itinerary either in the north after crossing the border in Tijuana, Tecate, or Mexicali, or after flying to Cabo San Lucas International Airport (SJD). If you fly into Cabo San Lucas, you will need to rent a vehicle for your trip.

Where to rent a car for your Baja California trip?

Most car rental companies in Cabo San Lucas are located near Cabo San Lucas International Airport, and renting a car in Cabo San Lucas right after you arrive is a good idea.

Find Your Rental Car

Why rent a car with Discover Cars?

DiscoverCars is a great platform for renting cars in Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and Tijuana – the three major cities in Baja California. They work with major car rental companies in Mexico and offer some of the best prices on many types of vehicles. You can also add a full Mexican insurance for you car rental for less than $10 per day when booking your car with DiscoverCars.

Check my complete guide to renting a car in Cabo San Lucas.

From Cabo San Lucas, you can make your way up north, and explore some of the best things to do in Baja California.

How many days do I need for my Baja California itinerary?

I recommend no less than 2 weeks for your Baja California itinerary. This is a vast region, with some of the best beaches in Mexico, world-class diving, and wonderful outdoor opportunities, and you will need a good amount of time to explore everything that Baja has to offer.

How to plan a Baja California itinerary?

Renting a car in Cabo San Lucas

Day 1: Arrive at San Jose Del Cabo International Airport 

If you are starting your Baja California itinerary from the south, it’s a good idea to begin your trip in Cabo San Lucas, the main tourist hub of Baja California Sur State. When you arrive in Cabo, you can rent your car near San Jose Del Cabo Airport and spend a couple of days in the area. 

Make a stop in San Jose Del Cabo

San Jose Del Cabo is a small cousin of Cabo San Lucas and has a more residential feel to it. While San Jose Del Cabo was overlooked by many visitors not so long ago, things are quickly changing, as more tourists stop here to explore its Art Walk, and enjoy the cute downtown and main square. 

There are also many beachfront hotels in San Jose Del Cabo that are perfect alternatives to pricey resorts in Cabo San Lucas. San Jose Del Cabo also has a turtle conservation program that allows visitors to release newly hatched turtles into the ocean. 

Day 2-3: Spend a few days in Cabo San Lucas 

Although Cabo San Lucas is mostly known for its resorts, this popular destination has so much more to offer! You could easily spend a few days enjoying some of the best things to do in Cabo San Lucas. Here’s a brief overview of some of the popular activities in the area:

Best things to do in Cabo San Lucas

  • Los Arcos – the famous arch is a trademark image of Cabo and is a must-stop on your Baja California itinerary. You can catch a boat ride to Los Arcos from the Cabo marina for about 300-500 Pesos. 
  • Kayaking/paddle boarding – This is one of the most popular activities in Cabo that is typically done early morning before the waves pick up. Book a fun kayaking tour here.
  • Visiting local beaches – Cabo San Lucas is home to several beaches that you should visit during your trip. Don’t forget to spend some time beach hopping in the area. 

Best tours in Cabo San Lucas

Check my complete guide to the best things to do in Cabo San Lucas to plan your stay. 

Day 4-5: Go hiking in Santiago/Dive in Cabo Pulmo National Park

Santiago is a small town about 50 minutes north of Cabo San Lucas that makes for a perfect stop on your Baja California itinerary. This small town is a hidden gem of the region where you can find many cool trails in the Sierra De La Laguna Mountains and jump in the hot springs.

Many travelers miss Santiago when visiting Baja California, and I also had no idea about it, until a local told me about this place.

You can also go diving or snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo National Park outside of Cabo San Lucas. Cabo Pulmo is a popular getaway from Cabo with many people coming here to enjoy water sports and camping. The road to Cabo Pulmo is a bit rough, so it’s better to rent a high clearance vehicle.

Is Todos Santos worth visiting?

Day 6: Todos Santos

Todos Santos is a charming small town and one of the few pueblos magicos in Baja California.

Many visitors love Todos Santos for its small-town vibe, slower pace of life, and access to some of the best surfing beaches like Playa Cerritos. There’s a growing ex-pat community in Todos Santos, and most restaurants here have menus in English catering to visitors from the United States and Canada.

When you visit Todos Santos, stay around until the sunset – the most beautiful time in La Paz when the town glows in the golden light. You can also watch the sunset at Playa Cachorro, the closest beach to Todos Santos located right outside of town.

Spend the night in one of Todos Santos hotels like the gorgeous Hotel San Cristobal along the beach.

Read my complete guide to the best things to do in Todos Santos to plan your visit.

Optional stop in Playa Cerritos for surfing

Alternatively, you could also stay in one of the hotels along Playa Cerritos, one of the most popular surfing beaches in Baja California. This is a popular destination with several restaurants, a surfing school, and various services right along the beach.

How to visit Balandra Beach, La Paz

Day 7-8: Explore La Paz

After spending a night in Todos Santos, arrive in La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, and a gateway to adventure. While Cabo is known for its party scene, La Paz is famous for its outdoor activities like scuba diving, swimming with sea lions, and sandboarding along the dunes.

La Paz is also home to Playa Balandra, one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico located just 25 minutes away by car. 

Check my complete guide to visiting Balandra Beach.

I suggest no less than two days in La Paz for your Baja California itinerary because there’s a lot to do here.

Best things to do in La Paz

  • Isla Espíritu Santo – Designated as Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1995, Isla Espiritu Santo is home to tons of wildlife including various birds, sea lions, and dolphins. Most tours to Isla Espíritu Santo include a stop at islotes, a group of islands where you can swim with adorable sea lions.

Want to snorkel with sea lions? Book your tour of Isla Espiritu Santo here.

  • La Paz Malecón – El Malecón aka the Main Street of La Paz is located along the waterfront and is perfect for watching sunsets. It’s also home to many restaurants and tour companies.
  • El Mogote Dunes – Located about 30 minutes outside of La Paz, El Mogote Dunes are popular for sand boarding and sunset watching.

Book a fun sand boarding tour of El Mogote here.

  • Whale sharks – Whale sharks are not your typical sharks, so don’t get scared! They are the largest fish in the world and can grow up to 60 feet long! Swimming with whale sharks is completely safe, as they are just gentle giants. 

This tour led by local marine biologist allows you to swim right next whale sharks!

Best La Paz tours

Find out more about the best things to do in La Paz, in my article. 

Day 9: Loreto

After spending a couple of days in La Paz, take a drive to Loreto, a charming pueblo magico and a hidden gem of the region.

Loreto was one of my favorite stops along the Baja California itinerary. Loreto has an interesting history and a beautiful church located in the Old Town. It’s a perfect place to take a break and enjoy a slower pace of life after being on the road for a couple of days.

If you have enough time, spend more than a day in Loreto because there is too much to do here.

To learn about best things to do in Loreto, check my complete guide.

Bahia De Loreto National Park

The jewel of the area, Bahia De Loreto National Park is made up of a group of islands that boast some of the most gorgeous beaches in Baja California. Malecón (aka the waterfront) is where you can hire a boat tour to explore one of the islands, or do a custom tour package that includes several islands.

Touring Bahia De Loreto National Park is a lot of fun because unlike touristy places like Playa Balandra, it has a wild and rugged feel to it. When I visited one of the islands, most boats had left by mid-day and I had the entire beach to myself, which was cool!

Baja California Itinerary

Day 10-11: Mulege

After visiting Loreto, continue your journey north toward Mulege, a sleepy village that is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Baja California. Mulege beaches are located within Bahia de Concepcion, and most of them have calm waters sheltered from big waves that are perfect for swimming and kayaking.

Most Mulege beaches also have campsites, facilities, and kayak rentals and you should spend a couple of days touring them.

After visiting Mulege, many visitors head straight to Guerrero Negro to see the whales, but there are also a couple of worthy stops along the road.

Day 12: Santa Rosalia

A small village around the coast, Santa Rosalia has some interesting history that dates back to mining and a beautiful church. If you have enough time, it’s worth a day on your Baja California itinerary, but if not, you can also stop here for a couple of hours before continuing your drive north.

San Ignacio – a tiny mission town, San Ignacio is set on the lake – something you don’t see much when traveling around Baja California inland water

Day 13-14: Take a whale watching tour in Guerrero Negro

Guerrero Negro is the last place you will visit in Baja California Sur before arriving in Baja California. It is a small industrial town known for its salt flats and whale watching. If you are visiting from December through April, stop in Guerrero Negro and go on a whale watching tour with one of the local operators.

Most tourism in Guerrero Negro revolves around whale watching, and you won’t find much else here during the off-season. If you are visiting outside of the whale watching season, you could just stop at salt flats to snap some photos before continuing your journey north.

In case you are traveling from north to south, Guerrero Negro is a great spot to stop for the night after a lengthy drive through the desert.

PRO TIP: You will be on the road for a while when you are traveling from Guerrero Negro to Ensenada, so prepare to spend most of your day on the road.

Day 15: Ensenada

Ensenada is located less than 2 hours south of Tijuana and makes a great stop if you want to spend a few days exploring Valley De Guadalupe. It will be your first major stop when you arrive in Baja California.

Day 16: Valle De Guadalupe

One of the top wine regions in Mexico, Valle De Guadalupe is a must-stop on your Baja California itinerary. This is a perfect place to recharge and enjoy the tranquil scenery, even if you are not a wine lover. Valle De Guadalupe is often compared to the famous Napa Valley in California, but prices here are just a fraction of Napa and it’s nowhere near as crowded.

Finish your trip in Tijuana

After visiting Valle De Guadalupe, arrive in Tijuana, a border city that has a seedy reputation according to what you have seen on the news in America. While Tijuana does have cartel violence, most of it is tied to drug trafficking, and unless you are going to get involved with drugs, your chances of staying safe are much higher.

Mistakes to avoid when planning your Baja California itinerary 

  • Do not cram your Baja California itinerary in 7 days – If time is short, this could be tempting, but you should stay away from doing it because you will miss out on so many things to do in Baja California! Due to the sheer size of the Peninsula and long driving distances, you are bound to miss things, if you have 7 days or less for your Baja California itinerary.
  • Stock up on water and snacks. Parts of Baja California are located far apart and you could be hundreds of miles from the nearest gas station. 
  • Fill up your car – When driving around Baja California, you could be on the road for a while before finding a gas station. Always have a full tank of gas.

There’s one stretch of the road between the town of El Rosario south of Ensenada in Baja California and Guerrero Negro in Baja California Sur, where you will not find any gas stations. Research the locations of gas stations ahead of your Baja road trip. 

  • Take your time driving – Some areas of Baja California have narrow winding roads. To stay safe, take your time driving, and keep your high beams off if you are driving at night. 
  • Watch out for animals – sometimes, cows and other domestic animals could appear out of nowhere on Baja roads. This has become somewhat of a problem, so watch out while you are driving, especially at night. 

Most frequently asked questions about Baja California

Is Baja California safe to visit?

While the Baja California Peninsula is generally safe to visit, traveling around the region comes with some caveats. Check my complete guide on how to stay safe while traveling around Baja California and driving on Baja California roads.

Why visit Baja California?

There’s a reason why so many travelers come to Baja.

It is one of the most beautiful parts of Mexico with more than 300 days of sunshine, perfect weather, amazing surfing beaches, and friendly people. When visiting Baja, you will be able to enjoy cool hiking, snorkeling, and a slow pace of life which makes this region attractive for so many travelers.

What is Baja California known for?

The state’s economy is mainly based on fishing, mining, and tourism. Baja California isa popular tourist destination thanks to its proximity to the United States.

What is it like to drive around Baja California?

Driving in Baja California is a one-of-a-kind adventure. This is a popular region with RV’ers, snowbirds and van lifers, and adventurous travelers. Major roads around Baja might look desolate, but they are well-traveled since this is a popular part of Mexico for road tripping.

When you drive around Baja, some roads have more traffic than others, and your phone signal could disappear in some places, so it’s a good idea to stock up on food and water, and fill up your car, as you could be a few hundred miles away from the nearest gas station.

My guide to Baja California safety covers all aspects of driving in the region, so give it a read.

A final word on planning your Baja California itinerary 

Road tripping Baja California is an amazing adventure.

This is one of the most diverse regions of Mexico where a blend of desert, incredible beaches, and lush groves create stunning landscapes. Whether you begin your Baja California itinerary north or south, take time exploring this part of Mexico, because it’s just too beautiful to rush through. 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I might earn a small commission if you make a purchase through the links in this article. 

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