An alternative, but more complicated, route to Puerto Vallarta is by ferry from the southern tip of Baja California. Bus travelers should cross the border at Tijuana or Mexicali and ride Autobuses Blanca Coordinados (ABC, Tijuana local tel. 664/621-2424) through the long desert to La Paz (about 20 hours). Car travelers also cross at Tijuana or Mexicali and follow good two-lane Mexico National Highway 1, a long 900 miles (1,500 km) south to La Paz.
At La Paz (a pleasant, mid-sized Mexican fishing port town during the winter, although usually very hot in the late spring and summer), you have your choice of two ferry crossings. Baja Ferries (at the La Paz ferry dock, toll-free Mex. tel. 01-800/122-2796, from U.S. dial direct 01152-612/125-6324, fax 01152-612/123-0504, www.bajaferries.com.mx ) ferries passengers and vehicles between La Paz and Topolobampo, near Los Mochis in northern Sinaloa (about $65 per adult, kids $32, cars and smaller four-wheel RVs about $200, motorhomes about double) and between La Paz and Mazatlán ($75, $35, and $230 respectively) in southern Sinaloa. Note: If you’re planning on continuing south to Puerto Vallarta, you should probably opt for the Mazatlán crossing. Although it won’t save you much time (since the bus or your vehicle travels much faster than the ferry), you might save the price of a hotel room and highway tolls (or bus fare).
The La Paz–Topolobampo run goes via the excellent Italian-built 1,000-passenger California Star. At this writing, it leaves La Paz nightly at 11 p.m. and takes six hours. The La Paz–Mazatlán run, via the similarly fine but smaller 600-passenger Sinaloa Star, leaves La Paz Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 3 p.m. and takes 18 hours. Although seats are provided (comfortable bus-style in the Sinaloa Star) you may want to reserve one of their clean cabins with beds and private toilet (about $70 on the Topolobampo run, $40 on the Mazatlán run). Ferry facilities on both runs include bar, lounge, and restaurant, but pets are not allowed, and passengers are not allowed to stay in their vehicles during the crossing. MasterCard and Visa are accepted for payment.
Reservations are recommended at all times, and are a must during the super-crowded Christmas and Easter holidays. You can make reservations either through the website www.bajaferries.com  or directly at any of the many reservations/ticket-sales offices that the website lists. Of all of these, the most useful would probably be their U.S. agent, Native Trails (613 Queretaro, El Paso, TX 79912-2210, tel. 915/833-3107, fax 915/585-7027), or the La Paz sales office, which has English-speaking agents (corner of Isabel la Catolica and Navarro, tel. 612/125-7443, toll-free Mex. tel. 01-800/122-1414, fax 612/125-7444.
Although greatly improved in recent years, Baja ferry service is subject to change. Be sure to check by phone or Internet for the newest ferry information before making the long desert trip south to La Paz.