Cabo is Baja California Sur’s most recognized and visited area, but a majority of Cabo visitors don’t get past the resorts and golf courses, missing out on a plethora of incredible attractions within just a few hours of Cabo. Coral reef diving, natural hot springs and waterfalls, quaint colonial towns, and beautiful empty beaches are awaiting travelers who are willing to explore just off of the beaten path. All you need is a couple of days, a high-clearance vehicle, and a sense of adventure to have a truly authentic Baja experience just outside of Cabo.
Day 1: San José del Cabo to Cabo Pulmo
45 miles, 2 hours 45 minutes
Depart San José del Cabo to the east, driving along the dirt Camino Cabo Este (East Cape Road), hugging the coast. Enjoy the beautiful Sea of Cortez views as you wind around the East Cape to the small town of Cabo Pulmo. Here, divers and snorkelers will enjoy exploring the marine life of the 5,000-year-old coral reef. As one of only three coral reefs in North America, Cabo Pulmo is home to sea turtles, rays, whales, and a large variety of fish. Head to Los Arbolitos Beach (or Los Frailes if it’s windy) for some snorkeling and sun bathing. After an afternoon at the beach, the casual La Palapa restaurant in town is a great place to grab a beer and some dinner while watching the dive boats come in from the day. Stay the night at Baja Bungalows or Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort.
Day 2: Cabo Pulmo to Buena Vista via Santiago
45 miles, 1 hour 30 minutes
Depart Cabo Pulmo and head inland to the Sierra de la Laguna to take advantage of some of the natural attractions that the mountains have to offer. First head to Cañon de la Zorra, just outside the small town of Santiago. Here you’ll find a 30-foot waterfall surrounded by natural pools and large rocks, perfect for swimming and enjoying the morning sun. If you’ve got a four-wheel drive vehicle, head to the nearby Santa Rita hot springs where you’ll find beautiful natural hot springs with sandy-bottomed pools nestled between large granite boulders. Head back to the coast for the evening to stay at one of the beautiful beach hotels in Buena Vista such as Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort or Rancho Leonero.
Day 3: Buena Vista to Todos Santos
80 miles, 1 hour 40 minutes
Leaving Buena Vista and heading northwest on highway Mexico 1, you’ll be driving inland to cross to the other side of the peninsula. Make a pit stop for few hours in the small old mining town of El Triunfo where you can walk around the mine ruins and enjoy some food and drinks at Bar El Minero. Grab some baked goods to go from Caffé El Triunfo before leaving town. Continue to the junction of Mexico 19, where you’ll drive south to arrive in the quaint artist colonial town of Todos Santos on the West Cape and the Pacific Ocean. Spend your afternoon in town perusing the boutique shops, artisan goods, and the numerous artist galleries. Check into your boutique hotel in town, La Bohemia Hotel Pequeño and enjoy a mojito or margarita under the central palapa near the dipping pool to unwind. For dinner, walk over to the town plaza and enjoy a decadent meal of lobster ravioli at the famous Café Santa Fe. For a nightcap after dinner, head the historical bar La Copa Bar with a classy setting and nice selection of wine, craft beer, and cocktails.
Day 4: Todos Santos to San José del Cabo
65 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes
Enjoy breakfast at one of the favorite locals’ spots, La Esquina. Surfers will want to take advantage of one of the beautiful surf spots along the West Cape such as La Pastora or San Pedrito. Non-surfers can enjoy a walk along any of the stunning and mostly empty beaches. Have lunch at the new Jazamango restaurant where Chef Javier Plascencia is bringing Northern Baja’s incredible culinary scene to the region.
After lunch, continue south 15 minutes to the small town of El Pescadero and grab a coffee at the popular Baja Beans or a specialty cocktail in the beautiful garden setting at Hortaliza Hierbabuena. Drive another hour south on highway Mexico 19 to arrive back in Los Cabos.
Travel Logistics for your Baja Road Trip
- Fly into the Los Cabos International Airport (SJD, tel. 624/146-5111), located near San José del Cabo. Direct flights arrive regularly from the U.S., Canada, and other areas of Mexico.
- Most car rental companies in Cabo will quote you at a price that does not include the mandatory auto insurance. Many travelers are surprised to arrive and find out that the cost of their car rental is four times more expensive than they thought it was going to be. Either be prepared for this, or go through a rental company like Cactus Rent a Car that will quote you with the insurance and all costs included so that there are no hidden surprises when you arrive. It’s best to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle for this trip if possible, but a two-wheel drive with high clearance will suffice.
- Many small towns outside of Cabo operate on a cash-only basis and have no banks or ATMs in town. Be sure to get pesos out of the ATM before leaving Los Cabos.