Around the Cape in Seven Days
Travelers with a week or more can experience the many dimensions of the lower Baja Peninsula by making a circular route around the region via paved highways Mexico 1 and Mexico 19. Extending a total distance of approximately 564 kilometers, this route takes visitors along the lower slopes of the Sierra de la Laguna, through the sierra’s former mining towns, across the plains of La Paz, and along the coastlines of the East and West Capes as well as the Corridor between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
It’s possible to complete the loop by bus, but expect to do a fair amount of walking to get from the stops along the highway to the scenic coastal areas. A rental car affords more flexibility and convenience, and you can park easily in all the towns along the route.
This loop can be driven in two or three days, but since there are many towns worth exploring and activities to enjoy at each stop, most travelers prefer to allow a week or longer. For more of an adventure, consider widening the loop by taking the sandy Camino Rural Costero (Rural Coastal Road) from San José del Cabo to La Ribera.
Arrive at Los Cabos International Airport (SJD); transfer to a hotel in downtown San José del Cabo and spend the evening around town. Browse galleries in the Historic Art District and Mexican fire opal stores downtown before sitting down to a leisurely dinner of contemporary Mexican cuisine.
Drive to Cabo Pulmo via Mexico 1 (1–1.5 hrs.), exiting at La Ribera and heading east to pick up the coastal road. The last few miles will be on dirt road. Head straight for the beach and spend the rest of the day snorkeling the live coral reef that comes all the way into shore. Order fish tacos and an icy michelada at one of several outdoor eateries. Book your activity of choice, such as fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, or diving, for the next morning.
Excursion: At Santiago, head west to reach the Cañon de la Zorra and a 10-meter waterfall, just a 10-minute walk from the parking lot.
Alternate Route: To avoid the off-road driving and relatively primitive accommodations, skip Cabo Pulmo and stay on Mexico 1 until Los Barriles, popular with anglers, kiteboarders, and stand-up paddlers.
Spend the morning out at sea, and in the afternoon continue north along Mexico 1 to La Paz (1.5–2 hrs.), stopping to explore the ghost towns of San Antonio and El Triunfo along the way. Check into a downtown hotel and walk the malecón at sunset. Enjoy seafood cocteles at Mariscos Moyeyo’s or arranchera at Rancho Viejo; then head out for drinks at Tailhunter Bar & FUBAR Cantina or Bar Salipuedes on the malecón, or catch a music performance at one of many cultural venues around town.
Take a panga shuttle to Isla Espíritu Santo for a day of kayaking and snorkeling, or book a day of diving. Alternatively, paddle or drive to a few of the beaches along the Pichilingue Peninsula. Enjoy the views from one of the waterfront seafood restaurants at Playa El Tecolote. Spend the next morning exploring the Museo Regional de Antropología e Historia in downtown La Paz and shopping for pottery and other crafts.
Depart La Paz in the afternoon, heading south on Mexico 1 to Mexico 19, which leads to Todos Santos (45 minutes). Check into a boutique hotel in town, such as the Todos Santos Inn or Casa Bentley, or choose a vacation rental near the beach. For dinner, savor tacos al pastor at El Pastorcito, tapas and made-in-Baja wines at La Casita, or homemade Italian fare at Tre Galline.
Excursion: In winter, travelers with extra time can add a day for a gray-whale encounter in Bahía Magdalena, approximately 3.5 hours by car from La Paz.
Walk the historic district in Todos Santos, with brick buildings and colorful facades that date back to the late 19th century, when the town was Baja’s sugarcane capital. Admire the artwork in a few of the town’s dozen galleries. Drive north along the coast to Playa La Pastora or south along Mexico 19 to Playa Los Cerritos, at Km. 64, to stroll the beach in the afternoon. Continue south along Mexico 19 to reach Cabo San Lucas before dark (1 hr.). Check into a hotel in downtown Cabo San Lucas or a resort along the Corridor, such as the Sirena del Mar Welk Resort. For dinner, make a reservation at Patagonia steakhouse or Romeo and Juliet for an Italian meal.
Hire a water taxi, paddle a kayak, or rent a WaveRunner to visit Playa del Amor, or plan a day of fishing or diving out of Cabo San Lucas. Wander the shops and enjoy afternoon cocktails at The Nowhere Bar or the Giggling Marlin along the marina. Take a nap so you can rally for the nightlife at Cabo Wabo or El Squid Roe after dark.
Schedule a massage for your last morning in paradise. Take a dip in the pool, hit the shops, and return to the airport with sand in your shoes.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition