In this post, I will tell you all about my 14 days Baja California Road trip, an amazing travel itinerary in Baja California Sur, which ended right in time before my lockdown in La Paz started.
What started as a general Baja California road trip, became a whale watching tour as I grow my addiction for the whales after my first sight in Cabo Pulmo.
Also, you will find all the possible insider tips from my experience and alternative options that you might want to choose.
It’s indeed a full guide about Baja with links to other related posts to elaborate on a specific topic.
After reading this post, you will be ready for your road trip in Baja California Sur.
Before renting a car, you might want to check out my post on the honest truth about renting a car in Mexico
In a hurry? Here is the short version of my 14-day itinerary in Baja California Sur
- Day 1 – Arrival, car pick up, and drive to Santiago in the Sierra de la Laguna
- Day 2 – Hiking in the Sierra de la Laguna and drive to Cabo Pulmo
- Day 3 – Snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo (and whale watching)
- Day 4- Bird watching in Cabo Pulmo and drive to Los Barriles
- Day 5 – Relax on the beach and Los Barriles (or take a bike ride to the waterfall)
- Day 6 – Drive to Adolfo Lopez Mateos and take a tour to see the whales (Grey Whales) in the afternoon
- Day 7 – Take another tour and see more whales and drive to Loreto
- Day 8 – Whale watching in Loreto (Blue Whales)
- Day 9 – Hike in the Sierra de la Giganta and visit the Mision of San Javier
- Day 10 – Boat tour to Coronado Island
- Day 11 – Drive to Guerrero Negro
- Day 12 – Whale watching in Guerrero Negro and drive in San Ignacio
- Day 13 – Whale watching in San Ignacio and drive to Loreto / or Mulege
- Day 14- Drive to San Carlos and do another whale watching tour ( I couldn’t do it and here below I explain why) and back to Los Cabos
- Alternative stops: Include La Paz and Todos Santos and skip San Ignacio and Guerrero Negro.
Day 1 – Arrival at Los Cabos
My arrival at Los Cabos airport was smooth, mostly because I was on a domestic flight so no immigration hassle.
The car rental representative was there waiting for me to take me to the office and do the paperwork.
This time I booked a new car rental and I am quite satisfied with them. Paperwork and delivery were fast and seamless, with no fee surprises.
They were a little uncomfortable when I told them I didn´t book any hotel, but then they relaxed.
I was a little nervous but when I took the highway to my destination, excitement took over.
Manà song was playing, the endless road was disappearing in a horizon of green and brown mountains on both sides cacti scattered around the bare land.
I was ecstatic.
In 40 minutes I arrived at my first stop.
Santiago, an oasis in the middle of the desert. That’s the hub from which you would start your hikes into the rocky desert of Baja Sur in the Sierra de la Laguna.
I settled into my hotel, the only one in town, Don Julio (Mob +52 6241591909), and I walked around in search of some food.
The town is everything but charming but, the views are breathtaking, especially from my balcony.
Restaurants, if there are any, close at 5 pm.
So I managed to buy some fruits and crackers for my first dinner in Baja. I was happy.
The hotel is simple but nice and clean, for 700 pesos it was a real luxury.
It was chilly in the night and the morning was nothing warmer.
It was nice to wake up to that views of tropical vegetation embraced by rocky mountains in the horizon.
I was wondering where my guide would be taking me. I hoped I was fit enough.
You don’t need to stay in Santiago. You could stay in San Jose del Cabo or Los Barriles and drive to Santiago de following morning as the tour leaves at 9 which gives you plenty of time.
Day 2 -Santiago hike and Cabo Pulmo
I had an appointment at 9 am in the plaza.
So I managed to have a light breakfast with the fruits I found the previous day in the market.
I met Edoardo in the plaza of Santiago as planned. I was the only foreigner wandering around the plaza so he immediately found me and welcomed me with a sweet genuine smile and his cute lovely dog.
Too bad she was not allowed to come along.
Edoardo is a happy guy, born and raised in Mexico City, and moved to Baja about 20 years ago where he settled and managed to transform his passion for outdoor activities into a business and lifestyle. He lives in Santiago with his wife and kids and offers great exclusive tours around the Sierra de la Laguna a place that he loves and knows to the core. You can browse through his website and check out all the amazing tours he offers. There you also find his contact details.
I was glad to find out that there were more guests to join my tour, two lovely ladies from Juneau, Alaska. Of all the places in the world they are exactly from the place where I was supposed to be going in a couple of months.
If this is not serendipity I am not sure what it is. Eventually, I had to cancel the trip due to the crazy global crisis, unfortunately, but still.
After deciding the itinerary off we went. We jumped on Edoardo pick up, which was trailing our bikes for the second part of the adventure.
A pleasant surprise, as I didn’t know we would have the chance to ride back.
Only later on I understood why he was not so clear about the itinerary.
Because it always depends on the physical abilities of the group, following the weaker.
In this case, one of us was slightly injured so the hike would have been mild.
I was so relieved.
I have been running and exercising in the past month but I wasn’t sure up to which level my strength could get.
So as it was my first hike of the trip I was happy to have an easy start.
Anywhere in the Sierra Laguna would be amazing, and most of all, new to me, so I was excited regardless of the trail chosen.
After a 30 minutes walk we went down in a small canyon where I could show my absolute clumsiness in dealing with boulders, especially the ascent.
I felt totally useless.
Luckily Edoardo helped me when I absolutely didn’t know where to put my feet.
The funny thing is I love hiking through boulders.
So I accept my limits and I go regardless.
That’s the way I live my life and the way I face my fears.
We are here to learn so we better face our obstacles.
When we finally reached the emerald green natural pool I looked around for the best shots, took some pics and then joined the others into the water.
The freezing cold water got into my bones and lungs.
I couldn’t breathe for a moment.
It was painful and energizing at the same time, but after a few minutes once my body got used to it.
We were a great small group.
The two ladies knew Edoardo from before as they did other tours with him in the past, so they had a lot to catch up in turns.
And I loved both my solitude moments and the chats with them.
The weather was generous with us.
It was freezing cold when we left Santiago, so much that I had to wear a winter jacket, then while we were walking, our swimsuits and shorts were totally fine.
We left the first pool and head to the next one at about 15 minutes walking, another beautiful oasis in the harsh rocky desert.
The trail was a very easy one almost all flat, but I still managed to sting my hands with some cactus needles.
“How did I do it” you might ask, I just grabbed it as if it was a normal tree, to hold myself… how can I be that silly?
Instinct I guess. I wasn’t looking, anyway.
Don’t do that.
It still hurts like hell as I am typing this, one week later.
There we settle for a couple of hours, eating lunch, sunbathing and swimming.
The way back was shorter and I loved the fact that it was not a challenging hike, so I could really enjoy the surrounding vegetation, the dry landscapes, interrupted by the towering cacti.
The green mountains embracing the reddish canyon we were walking.
When we took our bike and rode halfway towards Santiago, we could appreciate even more the spectacular rocky landscape.
The sky was also playing its part in this surreal movie.
I was a little disappointed that we didn’t meet any rattlesnakes along the way, as I was told they are coming out at this time.
I am scared to death of snakes but being with a group gave me the courage to face my fears.
Besides, it could have made a great picture.
I have always been fascinated by the sky in Baja, and I would like to know what makes it so different, but there is always something about it, and even this time it didn’t disappoint me.
The bright blue roof was interrupted by white strips forming an unlikely perfect pattern in the sky.
If you had drawn it, it wouldn´t have been so neat.
At a certain point, where the road was becoming hard and boring to ride, Edoardo picked us up on his track, and off we went back to Santiago where the trip ended.
After hugs, number exchange, and promise to see each other again, each one went our own way.
I walked to my hotel where my car was parked and left for my next destination.
I was excited both for what had been and for what was to come.
My only frustration was that a headache was starting to hit and if I know myself when it comes is not for a short time.
I didn’t pay attention to it, or I tried as I was enjoying my ride to Cabo Pulmo, 1 hour 15 minutes drive, half of which was on a dirt road which required attention if I didn´t want to break the car suspensions.
The more I drove the more intense and painful my headache became.
I finally arrived at Cabo Pulmo and I was desperate to find a coffee that could have helped relieve the pain.
Unfortunately, I found out that there are no coffee places in the afternoon, only for breakfast.
I would later realize that even the breakfast coffee, I would rather do without. They really cannot make coffee in Cabo Pulmo.
But they have great snorkeling so you must come and live without coffee for a couple of days, or just pour a lot of sugar to hide the burn taste.
It was 6 pm when I found a decent and not expensive place to stay and I decided to skip dinner.A
After a brief walk to the beach, I would call it a night with the hope that the following day I would have felt better.
Day 3 Cabo Pulmo
Excited for the day to come after a quick salute to the sun and some lovely shots I wanted to secure my snorkeling tour for the day before going for the so much needed breakfast.
I booked at Cardamon tour agent but there are many others all around the tiny village.
The Cardamon team turned out to be super professional.
In this detailed post, I explain everything about Snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo and every little detail of this cute little village, a paradise for sea lovers, where you can find a community of locals dedicated to sea conservation in Baja California..
The tour was great, we saw huge schools of fishes and other solitary ones browsing around the colorful corals.
But the highlight was the huge humpback whale with the baby jumping right in front of our boat.
It was a beautiful moment, like every time I share my space with mother nature, it feels like home.
The water was chilly and not even the double wetsuit could help to protect me from shivering.
But I was there and I wanted to make the most of it.
It was a short but amazing trip all worth the money.
I was also lucky to have very nice travel companions.
We even decided to hang out for dinner as well while exchanging our own travel stories and laughing a lot.
This is one of the things I love the most about traveling. Mingling with total strangers as if you have always been hanging out together.
Things to do in Cabo Pulmo
- Beach basking
- Bird watching
Day 4 Cabo Pulmo misadventures and next stop
The following day was even better than I would have ever hoped for.
The lovely ladies from Alaska that I met in Santiago were here as well and I have introduced them to my new friends since they are all passionate birders, besides being professional botanists and biologists, so I was sure they would get along so well.
So we all went birdwatching together early morning.
It was a great slow walk in the dry vegetation of the desert.
I actually didn’t expect it to be so green.
We saw so many birds and Robert, one of the new friends, was so patient in explaining all the different species and their characteristics.
It was a lovely couple of hours that ended up in an even more exciting way, as Sue invited us to have breakfast in their colorful and stylish spacious bungalow with a stunning view over the bay.
I enjoyed the company so much I was even sorry to leave them although excited to continue with my journey and curious to see how it would unfold.
What other encounters will I have and what other exciting adventures?
We shall see.
I rushed to my hotel as I had to check out from my room by 12, only to find out that the maids who were supposed to do the room were in no rush at all.
In 10 minutes, I was out, car loaded and ready to head to the next destination, Los Barriles, but not before exploring further south of Cabo Pulmo as I was told about a couple of nice beaches at only 9km (about 7 miles) from the village.
The first stop would be Los Frailes beach.
I say “would” because I never made it there. Right before the destination, the road gets really rough, with some bad bumps and rocks. I tried a couple of times but the wheels would slide and I was scared to break the car. So I head back to the other beach, closer to Cabo Pulmo, Playa Arbolito.
It wasn’t a sunny day but that didn’t really affect the spectacular view.
It was a very quiet bay, a wide stretch of white sand embraced by the rocky mountains and only a few people enjoying the cloudy sky. There you can either camp for a small fee or just spend the day for only 40 MXN.
You have bathrooms and showers. And you can rent snorkeling gear.
Since you are still within the premises of the Cabo Pulmo Natural Park, you have a few rules to follow:
- You are allowed to snorkel for only 30 minutes per site.
- Use only ecological sunscreen
- Wear the life-vest
- There is a restaurant serving only in the high season from Easter through October.
- There is a guided tour available that takes you on a mild hike all the way south and you will snorkel all the way back.
- The tour costs 700 pesos (30 USD) but it’s really something you can do it on your own.
I just walked on the beach to take some shots and I didn’t have to pay.
Misadventures and a slight change of plan
When I was ready to leave, the beach keeper, who had previously given me all the information, made me notice that I had a punched tire! Damn it!
He kindly helped me change it.
I feel bad that with all the road trips I have, I haven’t learned how to change a tire, yet.
But I saw by the look in his eyes that he didn’t regret it when I gave him the generous and all deserved tip.
He saved me from spending 1 hour trying to change it myself.
He also gave me the number of somebody who would be able to repair the tire but he was out of reach.
I decided to have lunch in Cabo Pulmo, and cheat on my usual healthy vegan diet as I wanted to try the fish tacos so bad.
I regretted it right after the first bite, as the tacos were tasteless, but I don’t like to throw away food and I was starving so I decided to eat it up.
The reward was that the guy from the restaurant suggested that I should go all the way to the next town where I could have my tire fixed at a much cheaper cost.
The restaurant was El Caballero, one of the few in Cabo Pulmo, so you don´t have really much choice.
I am sure I just chose the wrong dish. Breakfast was delicious there, though, except coffee, but you don´t find good coffee in all Cabo Pulmo so, just live with it 🙂
So It was 3.30 and I left Cabo Pulmo not after pondering if I should have stayed an extra night and go diving…but I knew I had lots of other stops waiting for me and I could have come back later on in the next couple of months during my stay in Lapaz.
It’s only 3 hours drive from there.
(Little did I know at that time that I would have locked down myself in La Paz with no chance to move, due to the pandemic!- Darn!)
“Lesson learned: Never Say I’ll do it later!”
I wanted to explore La Ribera, another small beach town on the way to Los Barriles, but I didn’t want to get to Los Barriles too late so I just skipped it and looked for the tire repair shop first.
They fixed it in a blink of an eye and for only 100 pesos.
My full insurance would have covered it but I would have wasted so much time waiting for them to come.
So I decided to take care of it.
Sometimes time is worth more than money, most of the time for me, at least.
Arriving at Los Barriles
I probably had too high expectations but my arrival at Los Barriles was very disappointing.
I was hoping to find a lively town with nice houses, a structured layout and nice coffee shops and, last but not least, a nice place to stay.
I found a road with lousy shops and restaurants 2 quite shabby beach resorts and no boutique hotels, let alone Airbnb places.
I had a peak on the beach which looked amazing, but I had to think about where I would sleep that night.
The original plan to stay for two nights immediately changed to one night, as I just wanted to run away.
Such a weird energy overall.
I had asked around and after a few disappointing answers, I have finally found a lovely place at a low rate.
A brand new apartment, small but with luxurious finishings and a kitchen. I asked for a deal and I ended up staying for 2 nights.
The idea of cooking my own food and eating healthy again, with fresh veggies and the vegan yogurt I just found in the deli shop, made me fell in love with Los Barriles. 🙂
I just cannot live on junk food for too long.
I was so happy for that great deal only 55 USD per night for such a luxury.
It was already 6 pm and I was ready for a nice warm shower and slip into bed to check out all the pictures and videos I took in the past day.
How happy I was to be there alone and do exactly what I wanted to do.
Day 5 Los Barriles – a lazy day
I woke up early and had a nice short run.
I started to run since I returned to Mexico during my month spent in Playa del Carmen and I didn’t want to lose the good habit just because I was on vacation. So whenever I could I would just go out and do some exercising. Besides I loved to explore the town when everybody was still asleep.
It was a quiet and peaceful morning. Los Barriles is supposed to be a kite surf place for the strong winds that normally blow here but today nothing was moving.
After my run, I entered one of the lateral roads that lead to the beach.
Le beach was huge but it appeared even wider since nobody was there, just an endless carpet of yellowish sand.
As I approached the shore and looked at the horizon the first thing I saw was two eagle rays jumping in and out of the water flapping their wings as if they were competing on which one would jump higher.
I have never seen such a thing. It was beautiful to watch.
I kept walking and noticed a few pretty beach houses, each one with its own motor home parked inside the porch. People walking their puppies, so many of them.
On my way back I wanted to check out a coffee shop that I have spotted the day before but was closed then.
I definitely made peace with Los Barriles, asked for a coffee and a biscuit (I deserved it after the run) and I could finally enjoy a fine tasting cafe.
Oh yes, I am now at peace with Los Barriles indeed.
I went back to my place and made myself a hearty breakfast, chatted with friends and headed back to the coffee place to continue working on the blog and finalize the accommodation for my next destination, Loreto.
Things to do In Los Barriles
I have seen here people renting polar cars and ATV and get to a nearby waterfall. I didn’t dare go on my own and I had a very quiet day in Los Barriles.
Here you can find a list of the things to do in Los Barriles:
- Have a tour in ATV to the waterfall
- Rent a mountain-bike and go for a ride
- Enjoy the beach and relax
- Take Kitesurfing lessons
- Explore the surroundings
Alternative itinerary after Los Barriles
If you don’t want to see all those whales and you prefer spending time exploring other sides of Baja, here is when you can make a stop to La Paz for a couple of days before getting to Lopez Mateos, for me the best place to see whales.
Then you can skip San Ignacio and Guerrero Negro
I wrote a full guide on La Paz but in a nutshell here is what you can do in La Paz:
- walk around the city center and admire the beautiful graffiti
- visit the spectacular Playa Balandra and stay until the sun goes down
- take a boat tour to swim with whale sharks from January through April
- take a boat tour to Espiritu Sando island to swim with the sea lions
- drive all the way to Las Ventanas and watch kitesurfer flying in the air (very strong winds)
Day 6 – On the road to Adolfo Lopez Mateos – Chasing Whales
I left Los Barriles around 8.30 after a good coffee’ in my favorite place and withdrawing some cash.
It’s always useful to have some money with you when you travel as you never know if the credit cards will always be accepted or convenient to use.
A very long trip was ahead of me and I was excited to see the landscape I have been dreaming of, since my first road trip in Baja California 2 years ago.
That time I was with friends.
We had fun, but I was happy to be alone this time and go at my own pace, deciding every day what to do next.
I arrived at destinations at about 2 pm earlier than I thought, despite the multiple stops to take some pictures.
Before searching for accommodation I wanted to check out the marina, where the tours would start.
Best choice ever.
Not so many people were there but just enough to share the boat ride and go out for whales.
For 600 pesos I was on the boat with 2 lovely couples.
We were only 5 in total the perfect number to share the costs and have enough space on the boat to move around and see the whales.
In fact, we saw tons.
Other boats were out, just like us, and it seems as if the whales knew that they should go to say “hi” to everybody.
Sometimes they were close to us, right under our boat, some other far away.
They were having a blast, just like us.
You could see that they love to be petted. Like puppies.
It was hilarious.
Those were grey whales. You can find them all along the west coast of Baja where they come from the north to bare their babies, finding shelter from the predators in the bay.
They trust human beings apparently.
They know we are protecting them.
I will tell you more about them on a different post.
After the great 2-hours tour I went to check out a hotel that I have seen online.
It looked a bit to upscale for me, but it was right on a river, and I wanted to check it out.
In fact, it was one of those places that are made to be upscale but you feel like there is something missing and you don’t know what.
Anyway, the room was nice and it was right on the river, peaceful and quiet.
It cost 1500 pesos, about 75 USD I thought it was worth it.
A friendly guest approached me while I was parking. I thought he was from the hotel but I would find out later that he and his wife are habitual customers as they come here often to go fishing with a local guide.
They invited me out for dinner with the guide and his wife as well and although I was a bit skeptical, I accepted.
They were so enthusiast about their guide and keep praising him and trying to convince me to go on a tour with him. It was kind of awkward and at that moment I thought I should have stayed in my room, instead.
Those are the moments when I realize how I am better off on my own than with a bad company.
Day 7 – The last goodbye to the whales in Adolfo Lopez Mateos and off to the next destination
The following morning I left early and went back to the Marina because I wanted to take another tour.
Even that time I was lucky.
I met 2 couples and 1 guy, all very nice and enthusiastic travelers.
We were all genuinely excited to see those gracious giants of the sea and we ended up paying an extra half an hour to stay out on the boat and see more whales.
It was incredible.
I never get tired of watching them.
I have even touched them this time.
Their skin is so smooth and rubbery.
We had a blast.
We went back around midday and after saying goodbye to my new temporary friends, I went for a good brunch and then off to my new destination.
I was feeling so blessed and excited both for what I have seen and what was to come after.
On the way to Loreto
From Lopez Mateos to Loreto was just 2 hours drive, which would give me room for some stops along the way for some pictures.
I recall breathtaking viewpoints from the last time and I didn’t want to miss them.
The first hour was quite boring, the landscape was flat and tedious.
However, just before getting to the coast, it started to get interesting.
Curves, cacti covered hills, canyons, and spectacular views on the sea of Cortez.
I needed to be careful and pay attention to the road, but the spectacular landscape was an easy distraction.
Right before the curve onto the coastal road I remember there was a detour to a beach called Agua Verde.
The scenic road was sneaking through a spectacular valley, with tropical vegetation, boulders, and hills, some goats here and there. I was curious to see where it would end.
I drove for a few miles but I was getting nervous, as I had no signal on the phone and nobody was appearing.
I was completely alone, and I started to get scared, at the thought to have a punch tire, and nobody would be able to help me.
As soon as I saw the road become a dirt road, I just turned around and gave up on my exploration.
I arrived in Loreto at around 5 pm and before checking into my Airbnb home that I had previously booked I met up with my guide.
Meet up with my guide in Loreto
Roberto is a great guy who has been recommended by a friend who does tours in Baja and knows the territory very well, besides having many connections.
She had only praises for him and told me he would help me arrange my tours in Loreto.
I knew already what I wanted to do, but a local hand would have been so helpful, especially to explore off the beaten path roads.
We met at a coffee shop and he helped me organize my boat tours, but most of all he offered to take me to some hiking spots in the Sierra de la Giganta, Loreto’s backyard.
He was very accommodating and helpful as he knows many people and the territory very well.
He’s now creating is own official travel agency, Waate tours to take people around to discover that area that he loves so much.
I would really recommend getting in touch with him if you are planning a trip there.
After our meeting, I checked into my apartment which was kind of disappointing for what I had paid.
It was a nice house from the outside, in a quiet area, the room was ok, and clean, but the kitchen, although with a lovely view, was kind of shabby. Such a shame.
Didn’t complain though. I would have been out most of the time.
I was excited for the next day as Roberto managed to book a whale watching trip for me.
It was hard because we were at the end of the season and not many tourists, so the tour agency wouldn’t have enough people to fill a boat.
So I felt so lucky.
Day 8 – Whale watching tour
The appointment was at 7.30 at the Marina pier. I was way early and enjoy the sun rising from the sea on the horizon.
I said my gratitude prayer while waiting for our boat to leave.
The tour started off in the best way when I saw we were only 7 on the boat and continued even better when we had our first encounter.
While riding towards our ultimate destination, which was where the whales would hangout, suddenly the most crowded pod of dolphins started to flip around our boat.
It was incredible, I have never seen so many dolphins at one time.
It was like a festival, they were competing with our boat flipping around, having so much fun.
I was ecstatic.
We hang out in there for about 30 minutes.
It was an unexpected surprise for sure, that made this special trip, extra special.
Once we reached the bay where the whales normally hang out, we stopped the motor and waited.
Not for too long.
The first whale came right after and we learned the pattern. The would dive about 6 or 7 times in a row before taking the last deep dive and showing the tail. The moment that everybody was waiting for.
We spent the rest of the day there and saw so many of such rituals, some from very close some other from afar, but it was always a very emotional moment. I couldn’t get enough of watching it and taking pictures.
By 2 pm we were back at the harbor.
I couldn’t wait to see the pictures and I was hoping to have a couple of good ones.
A walk around Loreto
I took a walk around the lovely town of Loreto but not before checking in with another tour agent to organize my next tour to Coronado Island.
That would be in a couple of days. Which means the day after I would have had the time to go with Roberto for a hike. I was lucky he was available and everything fit in perfectly well for my schedule.
Loreto is a cute little town and I enjoy hanging out during the day, after my tour.
I remembered if from the last time I was there and I had a good feeling about it.
The historical center is really tiny but not short of charm.
The plaza was surrounded by restaurants and a cute girly decorated cafe, which became my headquarter for my daily caffeine doses and sweet binging.
A spectacular boutique hotel, Posada de las Flores, fits perfectly well with the colonial atmosphere, and even if you are not staying there it’s definitely worth a visit. It’s a piece of history and the views from the rooftop are worth the stairs.
The kind receptionist will be happy to give you a little tour.
Opposite to it, a short lane will take you to the old church and the local museum.
It’s tiny but worth a visit if you are interested in learning a little history of Loreto and the area.
It would only take 30 minutes and 2USD, a little contribution to support the maintenance.
Besides, you will have a great view of the church as well.
When it started to get dark I went back home and cook some dinner while thinking about the amazing day I had.
Dolphins, whales and penguins are my favorite animals and today I covered two of them in one day.
I felt so fortunate and blessed.
I went to sleep full of gratitude and joy.
Day 9 – exploring the Sierra de la Giganta y Guadalupe
You might not realize it from La Paz but the Sierra de la Giganta is a mountain chain, the spine of Baja California Sur that begins in La Paz and stretches all the way up north for 356 km up to Mulege where it becomes Sierra Guadalupe.
You can see its harsh red hills from the scenic winding road that cuts across Baja, and you cannot help but pull over and stop driving for a few minutes to admire such beauty.
Pictures don’t give it justice.
The hostile grounds have been explored by biologists and researchers to study the territory and its inhabitants.
Over the years this region has been also home of the indigenous people of Cochimis and Guayacuras, the Spanish conquerors, the Jesuits missionaries, and the first “rancheros”.
Nowadays about 5000 people live in the Sierras making their living with agriculture and livestock.
Tourism has also been increasing over the years.
There are many trails that you can hike and also 7 old missions to visit.
And that’s what I did on the 8th day of my road trip in Baja California.
My private guide, Roberto, knows the area very well and wanted to show me some of his beloved Loreto treasures.
We meet early in the morning and drove to the beginning of a trail, a short one, just to get the feeling of the area.
After driving for about 10 minutes at the foot of the Sierra, we parked the car and start walking in a canyon shaped trails.
So much fun as the path is not very well marked and you need to find a way through boulders of different dimensions.
We got up to a certain point where my climbing skills were not good enough to go any further.
Still, it was a pleasant and peaceful walk in the rocky desert.
Our second step was the mission of San Javier, at one hour drive from Loreto. The crooked road in itself is breathtaking, with spectacular views over the sierra.
San Javier is a tiny village in an oasis in the middle of the desert. Besides visiting the old church you can have access to the gardens and museums and you can purchase some local wine and sweets if you wish to help support the local business.
I would recommend eating in the restaurant by the church and just enjoy village life.
By the time we returned to Loreto, it was mid-afternoon and I ended my beautiful day with a walk in the Malecon and a nice coffee in the plaza.
Day 10 – Coronado island boat trip
This is a relaxing trip to the nearby island of Coronado.
It lasts from 9 am to 3 pm, approximately.
Even this time, I was pretty lucky.
Only 7 of us on the boat, and we meet flocks of dolphins both on the way in and out.
I was in awe.
During the trip, you have a snorkeling stop when you can swim with the Sea Lion.
At the time when I did it, it was freezing cold but I faced the pain and boldly jumped in the water.
Not too bad after all and swimming so close to the sea lions was fun, although they are not really as playful as I would have expected.
They completely ignore your presence and carry on with their daily routine, which is sleep, sunbathe, swim, float in the water, repeat.
A very hard life.
We also saw blue-footed boobies that I thought would only live in Galapagos.
I just found out they are also visible all along the northwest coast of Mexico.
Beautiful creatures as well with their funny blue feet.
You might not know that the light blue colored feet belong to the females, while the brighter turquoise blue are the males’.
In Coronado Island, we landed on a pristine beach, like one of those you only see in postcards.
Well, it exists, in Coronado Island.
Here we had all the time to swim and snorkel again, bask in the sun or take a short walk.
It was too cold for me to get in the water again and the view was so beautiful that I was happy with just staring at it.
Its turquoise shades were just hypnotic.
I managed to sneak away from my group, and especially from a way too talkative lady that was messing up my mystical moments, those that I have when I am looking at such beauty of nature.
I just need to stand still and admire it without talking.
Apparently she didn’t feel the same.
On our way back our friends the dolphin paid us another visit, again many of them flipping around our boat in a circle.
It felt like they wanted to communicate something.
I wished I could “hear” them.
My last day ended with a great dinner with my friend Kora, that I met Santiago and then in Cabo Pulmo, remember? from Alaska.
It was nice to catch up and speak about our travels while eating pizza.
And that was a nice wrapping up of my stay in Loreto.
I actually planned to stay 4 days and add another tour but I decided I wanted to reach further north to Guerrero Negro and see more whales.
Luckily my Airbnb host was kind enough to refund me the last night that I have canceled, even if it was last minute.
I really appreciated it.
I have always had an amazing experience with my Airbnb hosts. great places and beautiful people, with just a couple of exceptions but they were just a little lower than my expectations.
Things to do in Loreto
- Whale watching tour (from January through beginning of April)
- Boat tour to Isla Coronado
- Boat tour to Isla Danzante
- Boat tour to Isla del Carmen
- Diving (30 sites available around Loreto bay)
- Visit to the mission of San Javier
- Hiking in the Sierra de La Giganta
- Bask in the nearby beaches
- Play Golf in Loreto Bay Resort and Golf Club
- Horseback riding
- Sunset cruise in Loreto Bay
Day 11 – Driving to Guerrero Negro
I was excited about my next stop, a new place to discover and more whales to see.
One of the tour guides I met in Loreto hooked me up with a guide in Guerrero Negro for whale watching there.
So I was kind of confident that I would have found a great tour.
The driving there was smooth and as beautiful as usual.
Baja landscape never disappoints me.
I passed two military checkpoints which always make me nervous.
But all went well.
Arriving in Guerrero Negro I missed the turn and crossed over to Baja California North where another military team was doing their checks as well.
As soon as I realized I went too far I immediately turned around and only then the agent recognized me and questioned my awkward itinerary.
I just laughed and explained that I missed the turn to Guerrero Negro, he laughed with me (or probably at me) and let me know explaining where I was supposed to turn.
I felt so dumb. How could I have missed a turn?
Anyway, my arrival in Guerrero Negro was smooth.
I went for a coffee’ first of all and then I looked for a nice place to stay.
The town is nothing charming, very shabby, and awkward.
It’s basically a long road with shops and restaurants on the sides.
I found a place to sleep for a modest 600 pesos, about 25 USD, for a private room.
I have to confess I was starting to get nervous because the news of the COVID-19 was getting every day more worrisome and the fear that it was spreading through this side of the world was becoming more and more real.
I had messaged my contact to make sure my tour was confirmed and I was excited to see more whales but worried about the logistics.
And everything I feared, manifested exactly as I have imagined.
Day 12 – Guerrero Negro Whale watching and drive to San Ignacio
We reached the lagoon by a van, which was packed with people, and the boat was just as crowded.
The place by the lagoon was magical and we saw lots of whales.
But I didn’t manage to take many pictures because we were all squeezed together and we couldn’t move around, besides there were a bunch of kids jumping all over and I was even scared that the boat would turn around.
I was even more nervous about the pandemic and I didn’t like to be at such a close distance.
Everything turned out well although it was not the greatest experience ever and, pandemic aside, now I know that Guerrero Negro is definitely at the bottom of my list to see the whales in Baja California.
Right after the tour, I stopped for a coffee and then off to my next destination, San Ignacio, more whales, maybe.
I had been in San Ignacio already on my previous road trip, so I knew what was expecting me and I was looking forward to it.
I checked in in the hotel that I had previously booked, La Huerta, nice and comfortable, and went for a walk in town and find a place for dinner.
San Ignacio is a cute little town, with an interesting history, witness the old missions, one of the 7 still existing in Baja California.
Right in front of the church, a park where locals and curious tourists hang out and on the sides a couple of restaurants.
San Ignacio is one of the most visited places from January through the end of March as many tourists drive through the nice town to reach the lagoon and stay in the well-organized campings along the coast for a full whale watching experience.
Day 13 – Whale Watching in San Ignacio
The following morning I woke up early and at 8 am I was at the Kuyima office to investigate my options.
When I called them the previous days to book my tour, I was told that the road to the lagoon was in bad condition due to recent flooding.
Without a 4-wheel drive, it would have been difficult to get there, but they were working on fixing it.
So I should have checked back on the very same morning.
And so I did. She said the road was fine and I could have made it. But my gut feeling told me not to go.
I wasn’t feeling comfortable and I was not guaranteed that I wouldn’t have been in a boat full of people, another time.
Besides, I already had the San Ignacio experience one time.
So I didn’t go.
After some light breakfast with a coffee and some date bread, a typical local cake made with dates, off I drove back to Loreto, just to find a place to stay before setting off to my next destination.
In your case, I am sure you will do the tour and you could decide whether to spend the following night there or drive back toward Loreto.
I will talk about it more in a separate post with more details, if you see this message it’s because I haven’t completed the post yet, so you can ask me in the comments below if you have any question or send me an email and I will be happy to assist.
In this case, I would stop in Mulege, a charming laid back historical town in-between San Ignacio and Loreto. This will give you the time to explore the beautiful bays that you will encounter along the way.
They are all spectacular and inviting if only the water was not so cold.
I just stopped by for a picture and arrived in Loreto in the early afternoon.
Another time Airbnb helped me to find a nice room to rest before the following day on the road.
Day 14 – San Carlos – whale watching
What was meant to be a Baja California discovery itinerary, became Baja California whale watching road trip.
As I mentioned before I just found myself caught up in my own affection with these extraordinary creatures and wanted to see them as many times as I could and also from different sites, also because I wanted to be able to collect first-hand information and share it with you.
So, San Carlos it was.
The driving was smooth and easy and it took me about 2h and 30 minutes to reach the small town. I was excited to see more whales before arriving in La Paz and locking myself down for the quarantine.
However, to my disappointment, once I arrived at the Marina in San Carlos, everything was shut down with no sign of any whale tours.
One restaurant only was open where I could investigate further.
A kind gentleman, who happened to be the owner of the tour company, told me that it was already at the end of the season for them and, besides, the weather was not favorable. It was in fact very windy and overcast.
To be honest, between the ghost town, the awkward weather, and the recent news about the virus and its victims, it looked like a sort of armageddon.
So I turned around and I went back to La Paz where I checked in to my new apartment, which would have been my home for the next couple of months. I didn’t know it at that time.
However, since I had promised a 14-days itinerary and I am presuming that if you are planning your trip it means that things have gone back to normal in the meantime I will tell you how I would have ended my original itinerary.
Alternative stops for your Baja California road trip
If you don’t want to see all those whales and fit other stops in your trip, certainly Todos Santos is an unmissable destination.
You can definitely skip Guerrero Negro and save two days or, you can also skip San Ignacio and save 4 days that you can use to visit Todos Santos and Cabo.
Todos Santos, is a charming historical town on the Pacific coast, one of the two Pueblos Magicos of Baja California, the other one being Loreto.
Todos Santos benefits from the streams of water coming from the Sierra de La Laguna a mountain chain right in the middle of the southern region of Baja California Sur.
This abundance of water makes it the perfect soil for agricultural activities, which encouraged the development of many organic farms that supply the local community, including the delicious restaurants.
Add to that the scenic jagged coastline, timeless sunsets, world-class surfing spots, and a vibrant artist community, and you have the perfect place to spend a couple of days relaxing, after all that driving around.
In my full guide to visiting Todos Santos you can get all the information about restaurants, places to stay and things to do.
I would spend at least a couple of nights here, relax enjoy the beach try the delicious restaurants.
From Todos Santos it’s only 1 hour to Los Cabos and 1h 20 minutes to Los Cabos Airport.
So plan wisely.
For Further reading about Baja California
- Everything you need to know before traveling to La Paz Mexico
- Amazing hiking trips in the Sierra de la Laguna – Baja California
- The Best Scuba Liveaboards In Mexico
- 25 Amazing things to do in Baja California Sur- Mexico
- The ultimate guide to Baja California whale watching experience