Your Ultimate Baja California Road Trip Itinerary

Oceans, mountains, valleys, desert, giant cacti, whales, sea lions, tacos and beaches – taking a Baja California road trip down Mexico’s famous Ruta 1 (Route 1) gives you a lot to play with; over a thousand kilometres of coastline to play with, in fact.

I visited the Baja California peninsula for the first time a few years ago but I only managed to explore the south. This summer, I returned to complete the real dream – to travel from tip to toe down the Baja California peninsula, driving from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.

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Your Ultimate Baja California Road Trip Itinerary

In under 2 weeks, I made the drive south and what follows is my suggested Baja California road trip itinerary including the best places to visit in Baja California, where to stay, driving tips, practical details like when you need to refuel (there’s a long stretch with no gas stations for hundreds of kilometres/miles), visas, and the question that will be on many of your minds – is Baja California safe?

If you have more that 2 weeks for your itinerary, I’ve included a few extra stops you can make. And if you’re on a tighter deadline, you might want to consider flying between the north and south, to skip a couple of days’ driving. Whichever way you do your Baja road trip, it’s going to give you an epic experience that you’ll be recounting for years…probably decades to come.

I’ve included a map of my route at the end.

If you’re in La Paz as part of a longer Mexico trip, you might be interested in my post about taking the Baja Ferry between Topolobampo (for Copper Canyon) and La Paz.

Tijuana

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Tijuana Monumental Arch

What to see and do in Tijuana

Tijuana has a reputation that precedes it. Whether your nervous because someone who’s never been has declared it the most dangerous place on earth (it’s not – and there are statistics to back this up) or you imagine Tijuana to be akin to the wild west with shootouts to match, you’re going to have your expectations pleasantly (or disappointingly, depending on your viewpoint) shattered.

If you’re coming from the USA, Tijuana is likely to be the starting point for your Baja California road trip. Don’t just skip through – it’s an exciting city packed with things to do. Here are some of my favourites.

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Beach in Tijuana

Hit the beach at Playas de Tijuana

It took me two trips to realise that the best of Tijuana is ocean side. About 10 minute by car from the border, you can dip your toes or snack on fish tacos until your heart’s content. Stay for the sunset.

Check out the craft beer scene

Tijuana’s nightlife isn’t just neon cocktails and cheap tequila shots. The city produces some fine craft brews which you can consume in some very funky brewery settings.

Go shopping at Mercado Hidalgo

Tijuana is busting with shopping opportunities but if you’re looking for something more than Nike, Mecado Hidalgo if focused on local produce and goods.

Photo opportunities: Monumental Arch and the banderas monumental (gigantic Mexican flag).

Where to stay in Tijuana

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Street Art in Tijuana

Aqua Rio Hotel – A budget hotel in a good location with very friendly management. I’ve stayed here before and would happily recommend it.

Lifestyle Hostel – if you’re on a very low budget, you can’t beat this hostel for price and location (across the road from the beach). I’ve also stayed here.

Tijuana Marriott if you want a more upmarket stay, the Tijuana Marriott is going to be one of your best options in the city.

Tip: check reviews before you book. Accommodation is generally safe but some hotels prey on the quick turn around of tourists and will help themselves to your valuables while you’re out. Stick to hotels that have plenty of positive reviews.

Check out my related post: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Tijuana from San Diego which includes what to see and do, where to eat, tours to take and practical details like how to cross the border from San Diego to Tijuana.

Where I didn’t get to but you might want to

Tecate – a short drive east of Tijuana, Tecate is the town where they brew one of Mexico’s most popular beers called… Tecate.

Rosarito beach – a 30 minute drive from Tijuana, Rosarito beach is home to a gigantic film studio where ocean scenes from Titanic and Pearl Harbour were filmed. It looks fun but if you have limited time, I’d press on south where you’re going to find much more beautiful beaches.

Tips for driving from Tijuana

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Ruta 1

  • if you’re hiring a car for your Mexico road trip, I’d recommend doing it in Tijuana rather than the USA. This avoids paperwork for taking your car over the border (you need permission) and the rental is typically cheaper.
  • there are plenty of big brand rental companies at Tijuana Airport (a short taxi drive if you cross the border by foot). I used Rentalcars, which was the cheapest at the time I booked.
  • if it’s your first time in Mexico and you’re a little nervous (consuming mainstream media will do that to you), take a few days to acclimatise in Tijuana. You’ll quickly become comfortable with Mexico.

Driving from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas? Check out my related post:

3 Days in San Diego – What to See and Do

Ensenada

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary wine tasting in Ensenada

What to see and do in Ensenada

Less than 2 hours south of Tijuana, Ensenada is a great second stop on your Baja California road trip, not least because the nearby Valle de Guadalupe has vineyards that can compete with those up in Napa Valley for a snip of the cost and with a fraction of the tourism.

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary wine tasting in Ensenadag

Go wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe

Wine tasting is top of my favourite things to do in Baja California. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I wrote a whole post about it: How to Go Wine Tasting in Ensenada.

I booked with Baja Wine and Sun Tours because, you know, don’t drink and drive, kids. I’ve also managed to get you an exclusive 10% off with this tour compamy. Just use the code INDIANAJO when you email to book. You can find out more about Baja Wine and Sun Tours here.

Visit La Bufadora

Who doesn’t love a sea geyser that shoots water into the air? I confess, I didn’t quite make it to La Bufadora (I blame the wine tasting and the GPS). To make sure you get there, you might want to book a tour.

Go ziplining over the canyons

Baja California is canyon country which screams – ‘zipline’. You can book a ziplining adventure here.

Don’t miss: Two for one beers in Hussong’s – Ensenada’s oldest bar where you can listen to mariachi play all night.

Where to stay in Ensenada

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Mariarchi in Ensenada


Hotel Coral & Marina
 – as well as being one of the best hotels in Ensenada, you get the benefits of a pool and proximity to the centre.


Hotels Sausalito
 – a clean and safe budget option (under $50) just off Route 1. Bonus: there’s a fun craft beer brewery, Agua Mala, just opposite. This is where I stayed.

Tips for driving from Ensenada to Baja Sur

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Pemex

  • I’m not going to dance around it – there is not much to see or do after leaving Ensenada so you’re going to be faced with one very long or two longish days of driving. For the first few hours the cacti will amaze you with their grandeur. By hour nine, you might be contemplating taking one of the spiky thorns and injuring your co-passengers just to bring an end to the drive.
  • The winding, one lane road is spectacular – no doubt – but it makes for slow going as you face trucks and blind bends every few miles. My tip is to start out early and take as few breaks as you safely can to cover as many miles to get yourself south.
  • There is one solid stretch between north and south where you won’t see a gas station for close to 400 km (250 miles). Your last chance to refuel is in El Rosario (details below), which is south of Ensenada. You’ll find fuel again in Guerrero Negro. Likewise: water and snacks so stock up. Just type ‘Pemex map baja’ into Google and a map with the Pemex stations will pop up. 

Don’t confuse your Rosario, Rosarito(s) and Rosalia

If you had to read that title twice, you’ll have an idea how easy it is to end up in the wrong town in Baja California. Not something you want to do when you have over 1000 km of road to traverse.

Going from north to south you have:

Rosarito – close to Tijuana – the place with the film studio mentioned above.

El Rosario – nearly 400km (6hr 30) drive south of Tijuana and the last chance to refuel before heading south to Guerrero Negro. It’s a tempting overnight stop to carve up the long distance between Baja Norte and Baja Sur…except there is nothing there for tourists. I think I saw one taco shack in the rearview mirror. 

Rosarito, near Santa Rosaliíta – also en route to Guerrero Negro, also nothing to be seen here.

Santa Rosalía, over on the east of the peninsula. I didn’t make it on this trip but I believe it’s a beautiful stop between Guerrero Negro and Loreto.

Guerrero Negro

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Route 1

What to see and do in Guerrero Negro

Here’s the rub with Guerrero Negro – visit during peak (whale watching) season and you’re in a prime spot. Visit when the whales aren’t home and Guerrero Negro is like an out of season beach town, which is how it was when I visited. Either way, this is likely to be your first overnight stop since leaving Baja Norte and you’ll love the place if only for the promise of getting out of the car and resting your head (and back) for a while.

Out of season, most visitors roll in for the night and are out by the first light of day. If you’re there when the whales are around, clearly you’d spend a day doing that.

Whale watching (December to April)

And we’re not talking about any old whales here – we’re talking about Californian grey whales and, in particular, their (not so little) baby calves. Looking for a video to share with you, I was horrified at the number of ‘petting grey whales’ videos that I saw – because as responsible travellers we all know not to interact with the wildlife. But then I read this article on National Geographic by a man who’s been photographing whales for 20 years. Apparently, the whales in this part of Baja are different – they initiate and court human attention, making this experience all the more special. Next time I take a Baja California road trip, this is going at the top of my list.

You can find a selection of whale watching tours on TripAdvisor.

Rest & Refuel

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Hote Guerrero Negro

If you’re visiting Guerrero Negro outside whale watching season, you’ll spend the first 10 minutes thinking ‘I wish it was whale watching season’. Once you get over that fact, you’ll just be glad to have a rest from the road. My room had a little patio where I enjoyed a beer and read my book under the Mexican sun before feasting on food that didn’t come out of a plastic packet.

I opted for a room just off Ruta 1 to continue the journey in the morning –

Hotel Los Caracoles
 – which came with a small patio and a decent shower. I ate at Malarrimo Restaurant, a restaurant just down the road which had excellent fish and a pretty garden-style courtyard to relax with a glass of wine.

Where I didn’t get to but you might want to

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary mulege

Guerrero Negro was the first sensible pitstop after leaving Baja Norte and Loreto next on my list. However, there are a few additional stops between Guerrero Negro and Loreto if you have time.

San Ignacio – a tiny mission town set on a lake, San Ignacio offers inland water – a sight you won’t have seen for a while.

Santa Rosalía – a big bay and black sand beach, I would have stopped here but having visited the south before, I was focused on getting to La Paz.

Mulegé – you’ve got canyons, beaches, kayaking and – literally – palm fringed shorelines. In fact, some of Baja California’s most iconic beach shots are taken in and around Mulegé. Please visit and tell me how much I missed out, because I feel like I did miss something when I skipped past Mulegé. I can only blame car brain for my decision.

Loreto

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Mexico Loreto Mission

What to see and do in Loreto

I don’t know whether it was the prospect of a couple of nights in the same spot or having finally made it two thirds of the way down the peninsula but I was overcome with happiness when I reached Loreto. It could also be that this mission town is just so beautiful that it became one of the highlights of my trip.

Wander the historic streets

Missionaries moved into Loreto in the 1600s and the there is a real sense of history as you wander around the old town.

Stroll along the malecón

By the time you reach Loreto, you’re in Baja Sur proper and en route you’ll have seen the ocean that probably drew you to this part of the world in the first place. Enjoy it without a plate of windscreen in front of your eyes – take a stroll along the malecón.

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Loreto sign

Tip: don’t forget to get a shot of the Loreto sign by the beach. There’s a sister sign in La Paz if you want a matching set.

Where to stay in Loreto

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Loreto malecon

La Mision Loreto – on the sea front and right in the centre, if you’re after historic boutique luxury, La Mision is hard to beat.

Hotel Plaza Loreto – spacious, affordable rooms in a great spot in the centre of Loreto with a cute courtyard for relaxing at night and an attached cafe for coffee in the morning. This is where I stayed.

Driving tips from Loreto

  • by the time you hit Loreto, the driving becomes plain sailing (if you get what I mean). Journeys rarely take more than four or five hours, the views are varied and there are plenty of fuel stops along the way.
  • if you’re sick of driving, you might want to continue on by bus – connections are good, prices reasonable and most bus terminals are located within the major towns and cities in the south.

La Paz

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary La Paz

What to see and do in La Paz

Baja California is one of my favourite places in Mexico (said by the girl who’s visited nearly half of Mexico’s states). And within Baja California, La Paz is my favourite spot. I first visited a couple of years ago and on this return trip to the Baja peninsula, it was the promise of La Paz that helped me push on through the long desert drive.

Swim with the Sea Lions in the Sea of Cortz

Apart from the turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez, the major benefit of swimming with the sea lions in La Paz, versus whale watching, is you’re not tied to the seasons. Take a day-long boat trip and get to explore some of the areas best beaches on Isla Espiritu Santo.

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary La Paz

See the sunsets

The sunsets in La Paz are sublime. They set over the water, right in front of the malecón which handily has plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants to complete the experience.

Go sculpture spotting

La Paz is dotted with impressive sculptures, usually with a nautical or ocean theme. You don’t need to walk very far before stumbling across a giant peal that is twice the size of your average human.

Tip:  There is a lot to see and do in La Paz so I’d recommend staying a few nights here. It’s much less touristy than Los Cabos so unless you’re looking to tuck yourself away in a resort surrounded by US vacationers, La Paz will be the better place to linger.

Check out my related post: 10 Best Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Where to stay in La Paz

Baja California Road Trip Mexico La Paz

Hyatt Place – a beautiful spot in the marina with a trusted brand that gets great reviews.

La Perla – one of the most prominent large hotels that is slap-bang in the centre of La Paz.

Hotel Lorimar – just a block from the sea, this is a great budget choice for under $50 a night. This is where I stayed.

Todos Santos

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Hotel California

What to see and do in Todos Santos

Todos Santos is en route from La Paz to Los Cabos and absent the very famously named hotel, this spot would barely be on the map. As it is, Hotel California draws the crowds and tourism in the form of tequila bars, restaurants and souvenir shops have popped up as a result.

Visit Hotel California

There is significant dispute online about whether the famously named Hotel California in Todos Santos is the hotel behind the well-known Eagles song of the same name. The band deny it and, I believe after legal action, the hotel no longer claims it. However, there is a significant body of fans who can’t shake the similarities between the location of the hotel and the lyrics of the song:

“On a dark desert highway..”  which is where you will find Todos Santos.

“Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air..” colitas is a word used in Mexico to describe the tip of the marijuana plant.

“I heard the mission bells…” and there is, of course, a mission in Todos Santos (Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz).

Regardless of the truth behind the song and the hotel name, visiting Hotel California is a fun stop on your Baja California road trip. I’d highly recommend spending at night here because, if nothing else, you’ll get a high-end, beautifully decorated hotel with a cute plunge pool.

For the record: It was possible to check out any time you like AND you leave, which was a relief because I had a flight to catch.

Tip: There isn’t a huge amount to do in Todos Santos besides visit the hotel. There are a few nice restaurants and cafés (I enjoyed Todos Pecados for dinner and CAFELIX for breakfast). So, if you’re pushed for time, I’d recommend you just drive through.

Los Cabos

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Mexico Cabo San Lucas

What to see and do in Los Cabos

Let’s start with the name – Los Cabos is the collective name that covers both Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Most people will be more familiar with the former, which is home to big resorts and Americanized restaurants like Señor Frogs, payment is usually in dollars and it doesn’t take a great deal to forget that you’re south of the USA border.

San Jose del Cabo still has some of these trappings but offers a much more local experience. The two Cabos are connected by a short motorway corridor and I’d recommend visiting both to compare the two.

Hit the Beach

You’ve travelled from tip to toe down the Baja California peninsular – I think you’ve earned some beach time.  Try Lover’s beach (or the connected Divorce beach if you prefer).  You’ll find surf at Zippers. Just avoid the main public beaches unless you want to play sardines in a tin.

Explore the art galleries in San Jose del Cabo

If you’re sick of the souvenir stands touting t-shirts with ‘One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor’, spent some time browsing the local art galleries of San Jose del Cabo.

Party like it’s spring break

I once ended up, quite by accident, in Cancun during spring break… with my father. I know, I know, not one of my proudest moments. But it gave me enough insight to suggest that you skip Los Cabos over this popular holiday. However, if you want to cut loose and get your party on, Cabo San Lucas is by far the biggest party town to do it during your Baja California road trip.

Where to stay in Los Cabos

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Mexico San Juan del Cabo Casa Natalia

Casa Nataliaby far and away my top recommendation for this road trip. Casa Natalia is boutique luxury in San Jose del Cabo. You can read my full review of this hotel here.

The Resort at Pedregal and Esperanza – An Auberge Resort are the two to choose between if you’re looking to throw down some cash for a luxury resort experience to wash away the wear of the road.

Baja Cactus Hostel is one of only two hostels in Cabo San Lucas (the other is Bed & Breakfast 1 Block from the Beach). I stayed at Baja Cactus on my first trip to Baja California and it was a great budget option as a solo traveller.

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Baja California road trip – Useful information

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Drive

How long do you need to drive from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas?

The drive from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas is 1,625 km and, according to Google maps, takes about 20 hours in total.  Of course, you’re not going to drive this all in one go. The itinerary above features seven stops and in theory you could drive one way in seven days. However, I wouldn’t recommend it. You’d spend most of your time in the car and the rest of your time decompressing your spine from hours of driving. That would leave very little time to explore the destinations.

I would recommend spending two weeks if you’re driving one way and adding another four days to a week if you’re doing a return trip by car. There are some fun spots in the north, a few decent sites around the centre but the real highlights are to be found in the south so I’d suggest focusing most of your time there.

Driving one way or both ways

I drove one way and I was very relieved that I wouldn’t have to ply the same route back. For the first four hours, Baja California’s immense desert landscape and gigantic cacti (which are some of the biggest in the world) will drop your jaw. Anything after that is just repetition and spending an additional 20 hours re-seeing the same sites didn’t strike me as a fun way to spend my life.

If you plan ahead, you can usually pick up cheap flights from Cabo or La Paz back north (check here with Skyscanner). If flying into the USA is too expensive, look at flights to Tijuana and cross the border by foot.

Most car rental companies will allow you to collect and drop off your rental in different locations. This usually adds to the cost but some of that money will be recouped by not having to pay fuel for a return trip.

Hiring a car

As I’ve already mentioned, it should generally be cheaper and easier to hire a car once you’re within Mexico rather than bringing it from the USA. Rentalcars was the cheapest when I did my car hire and they have offices in most of the major stops in Baja California.

Obviously, if you’re driving your own car you will need to make the return journey so make sure you build in enough time.

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Road

Do you need a 4WD?

I  didn’t have a four-wheel-drive or off-road vehicle and was able to get to every place I wanted to explore.

What about taking the bus?

You might be pleasantly pleased to find that there are very decent bus connections throughout Baja California. In fact, the first time I visited, I travelled around Baja Sur just by bus. And, if you get south and are sick of driving, getting between Loreto, Todos Santos, La Paz and Los Cabos is an affordable breeze. I’ve not tried the busses in the North but I imagine it’s equally easy to travel between Tijuana and Ensenada. What doesn’t look fun is sitting on a bus travelling between north and south. However, if you’re travelling solo and on budget, getting around by bus is do-able. Just hook up with some local tours to get to those spots that the buses don’t go.

You can read more about taking the bus within Baja California in my related post about La Paz.

End to end, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas by bus, the journey takes about 24 hours and costs around $100, one-way. There are at least two buses each day and you can find the schedule and prices here.

Driving time

While Google may predict 20 hours, the real-time will be longer when you add in stops and, inevitably, getting stuck behind slow-moving trucks on winding mountain roads. As an estimate, I think I took an extra 5 to 10 hours during the whole drive for coffee breaks, taco snacks and sitting behind lorries.

What’s the time in Baja California

On the topic of time, there is a one-hour time difference between Baja Norte, which is on Pacific Standard Time and Baja Sur, which is on Mountain Standard Time. So, you’ll lose an hour when you leave the north and hit the south (it happens at the north/south border).

Routes and maps

It’s pretty hard to get lost in Baja California – get on route 1 and stay on it until you hit the bottom. And in a world of Google Maps and Maps.me, you might wonder why I’m mentioning maps at all. Well, because cartoonesque maps by Got Baja are the cutest maps you’ll probably ever see. You can pick them up in most stops in Baja California and there are interactive maps online here if you’re planning hotel and restaurant stops.

Refuelling along the way (gas and food)

Baja California Road Trip Itinerary Tacos

You really need to plan your fuel stops as you pass from north to south Baja California (more details above under driving tips from Ensenada).  Pemex (the popular gas station in Mexico) is otherwise ubiquitous in both the north and south of Baja.

And it’s not just your car that will need refuelling. In and around the major towns and cities, there is no end of food options. However, on that long stretch from Ensenada to Guerrero Negro, there was just one taco stop and if you don’t like swarming flies with your carne asada, you should pack a picnic (clearly not the tacos above – they were divine). Calimax is a popular supermarkets chain with good fresh food and water. OXXO (equivalent to 7-Eleven) will serve your packaged snacks and coffee needs.

Packing tip: I travel with a Swiss Army Knife which includes a can opener, bottle opener, knife (good for slicing avodado, cheese and tomato) and a saw (perfect for cutting bread). Here’s the one I use.

Related post: The Only Packing List You Will Ever Need (with printable checklist)

Road safety

Far be it for me to give you a lecture on road safety.  But I do want you to come back to my blog and you need to be alive to do that so… being alert is probably going to be your biggest challenge when the scenery starts to feel samey, just as you’re tackling bend after bend with no coffee stops in sight. Stock up with energy drinks if you think you’ll need them, get some (offline) playlists stored on your phone and take a rest if you need to.

I wouldn’t recommend driving during the dark. As well as having to deal with sheer drops and unlit roads, carjackings have taken place on Ruta 1 and we all know that criminals work best at night when there are no other cars around.

Booking rooms

I travelled during July and August and was able to book rooms as little as a day ahead.  If there is a particular hotel you want to visit, I’d recommend planning things a bit further ahead. However, the advantage of booking last-minute/as you go is that you can see how you feel when you get to each spot. Do you want to rest? Do you want to explore? Do you want to press on?

Mobile signal along the route

Largely, you’ll have mobile signal in the north and the south but during that central stretch where fuel stations disappear so does your mobile connection.

Do you need a visa?

Want to find out about Mexican visas? See my related post: Visiting Tijuana from San Diego – The Ultimate Guide

How much does it cost?

I took a basic car (but got an upgrade!) and generally stayed in budget hotels with one splurge at Hotel California. I drank to my heart’s content but I’m not much of a shopper. Against that background, here’s what I spent:

$475 – Car hire

$130 – Fuel (including a few toll fees at around $2 each time)

$485 – Accommodation

$425 – day to day expenses (food, activities etc.)

Is Baja California safe?

I’ve written about Mexico and safety more than once. You can read my more detailed posts here, here and here. I’m going out on a limb when I say this but I have no concerns recommending a Baja California road trip. I’ve done it twice and had no worries or problems either time. Of course, shit can happen but you’d have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, which can happen in any part of the world, not just Mexico.

Map of my Baja California road trip itinerary


Click here to open this in Google Maps

And that’s my guide to taking a Baja California road trip. Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them. 

Want to reward the author?

I pay for 99% of my trips out of my own pocket. If you found this article helpful and want to make a small donation, it’s appreciated. Even $1 can help me find a new coffee shop or street food stall to recommend. All funds will be poured back into my travels which will be fed back into this blog. Thanks!




You can read more of my guides and tips for travel in Mexico including travelling the Copper Canyon railway and exploring the Yucatan peninsula here.

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Guide to a Baja California road trip in Mexico driving from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas including a recommended itinerary, things to do in Baja California, where to stay, driving tips and safety.

72 thoughts on “Your Ultimate Baja California Road Trip Itinerary”

  1. Would we call planning during a pandemic, “covidreaming?”

    Glad I found your blog! I’ve an aging dog who cannot be away from me, so I thought I should pack the two of us up in my car and head for an adventure. I’m almost 40 and have yet to take a true solo trip, so this would be a first. Thanks for the inspiration and all the great recommendations!

    Now just waiting for the borders to open… 🙁

    Reply
    • Covidreaming – love it and I’m definitely doing a lot of it. I hope the borders swing in your favour soon and what a brilliant trip to take as your first solo trip. I’m 44 and can say it’s a wonderful decade of life. Enjoy and give your doggie a tickle from me 🙂

      Reply
  2. “ I’m not going to dance around it – there is not much to see or do after leaving Ensenada so you’re going to be faced with one very long or two longish days of driving. ”

    Thank you. This is the part of baja many of us journey from around the world to visit. Keep the lemmings in all the tourist spots.

    Reply
    • Did you just call me a lemming ;p It would be beautiful in a camper but in a car without any realistic options for a slow journey/stopping through the area, it’s two days of the same scenery that are beautiful for the first few hours at the beginning and end of the day as the light changes.

      Reply
  3. Great blog! A lot of info I had questions about! But I wanted to ask you if you got the (FMM) the tourist visa when you took that drive? My bf doesn’t have a passport you think he’ll be ok with his social and birth certificate?

    Reply
    • Hi Joanna, I’m British so I need a passport to travel to Mexico. I have just checked the details on the USA travel.state.gov website and it states that USA citizens require a passport to enter Mexico. I know that’s not the answer you wanted but why not convince your bf to get his passport – it really is a ticket to the world and there are so many great places to explore out there. Have a great trip.

      Reply
  4. I would like to caution everyone that is planning this road trip in a motorhome. Four of us set out in a Class A to Todos from San Diego. First day to San Quintin was made with no problem. Then on that long lonesome portion of route 1, north of Guerrero Negro, things got interesting (read scary). The road is not built for an 18 wheeler and a motorhome passing beak to beak. In most places we had about three inches between centerline and coach and another three between edge line and coach. Did I mention there are NO shoulders either? Edge line then drop off anywhere between six inches and two feet. No place to go. Each time passing a truck there would be audible gasps and an occasional scream from the cheap seats, then wonder as we still had our mirror. After a too close for comfort pass and dropping the right front wheel off the pavement, the leveling jack hold up spring was broken then planted itself in a rear tire. After a late afternoon/evening of repairs we turned around and headed across on the new road to San Felipe for some heavy eating and drinking.

    I would love to make the trip in a SUV or car, but no place for a full size motorhome.

    Reply
  5. Isn’t there a way to go across Ensenada to the Sea of Cortez and go down that way or do you have to go the route you took and cross over at those places? I’d like to include the following in my Baja trip:
    Puertocitos
    Bahia de Los Angeles
    Mulege
    Loreto
    La Paz

    Thanks in advance,
    Scott

    Reply
    • Hi Scott, there is one main road down Baja California, Ruta Una and to get from Ensenada to La Paz, you will need to drive most of it. You can alter the stop-offs to suit your own interests or fly but mostly you will be heading down Route One. Have a great trip!

      Reply
  6. Thanks for the great blog Jo! Many years ago my brother and I traveled to Cabo and stayed on the beach. We had a great time drinking cheap Dos Equis and margaritas and inhaling tacos. I learned to windsurf while down there. Your blog has brought it all back to me. We flew from SoCal and had a great time. Keep blogging. You have a knack.

    Paul

    Reply
  7. Hi Jo! Thank you so much for this super informative read. I know you did 2 weeks overall, but can you break down how many nights exactly you spent in each place? Thank you so much for your help.

    Reply
    • Hi Brienne, I don’t want to be prescriptive which is why I didn’t include it but I spent around 2-3 nights in the places north and south and just one night in each of the places along the way with the exception of Loreto because I wanted a break from the road. 1 night only in Todos Santos. I hope that helps.

      Reply
    • Brienne:

      February of 2020 will be my 5th trip up and down the Baja, from Breckenridge, Colorado to San Jose Del Cabo since 2005.

      I do it in 4 days from Colorado. My first night over the border is in Ensenada staying at the Coral Marina Hotel $120 for a gigantic room. Food at the restaurant there is awesome.

      The next day can be a long one depending on traffic. Watch the potholes north of Guerrero Negro. If you stay in Guerrero Negro Massiminos? has a great restaurant. The rooms are kinda crappy but you’ll be exhausted anyway. Real cheap.

      San Ignacio Springs about an hour and a half east of Guerrero has the coolest place ever to overnight or hang for a day or two. It’s a Yurt type camping place but better. It’s on the lagoon and they do family style dinner and breakfast. It’s a hoot. Was run bu a great Canuck family but they just sold it. I’m sure it’s still great.

      Loreto is about 5 hours from San Ignacio. Santa Fe Hotel in Loreto is great and maybe $55 a night. Restaurant next door is the best $18 you’ll ever spend on a meal. There is a real good Italian place downtown as well.

      You’re in San Lucas Or San Jose the next day, about 8 hour drive.

      San Jose for us is the best. San Lucas is for ………..you know.

      Driving wise, two things to be careful of. The military checkpoints going south are fine except for the one just west of San Ignacio. Keep your passports and your money on you, do not leave it in the car. Anything of value they will take part of(personal experience, last year). Keep your gas tank full and do not drive at night. Cows and goats and drunk locals.

      Other than that it will be one of the best experiences you’ve ever had.

      Good luck!

      Robo.

      Reply
  8. Hi Jo! Thank you so much for this! My boyfriend and I are planning to do this road trip in early August and are running into some problems renting a car one-way. It’s just so much more expensive! (which makes sense) Did you rent the car round-trip? Or drop yours off in the south? We’re also thinking about camping–I know you stayed mostly in cheaper hotels, but if you have any camping advice that would be great, too.

    Reply
    • Hi Ellis, I actually did the worst of both worlds – I rented the car planning to drive both ways but my mum got sick and I had to fly back to the UK in an emergency, which meant I had to drop the car in a new location without paying in advance. It was very expensive but I was able to claim the fee on my travel insurance. Out of interest, how much is the one-way fee? It will be expensive because it’s a long way! Hope you have a good trip either way.

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  9. Hi Jo: Great blog! Hubby & I rented a car after flying down to Cabo San Lucas where we stayed right in town at a locally owned little hotel for a couple weeks. We put close to 700 km on that car just doing day trips to San Jose del Cabo, Todos Santos for surfing, Agua Caliente/El Chorro Hot Springs, and Cabo Pulmo Nat. Park which I also recommend highly, and just toodle-ing around looking for interesting places. We want to do a drive down after flying to San Diego on our airmiles and walking across the border. Looks like we may need longer than two weeks, and may just get as far as La Paz, which would be fine. We hope to do a bit of whale watching in Feb. I didn’t realize quite how long the trip is but good to know! Still working the plans up anyhow.

    Reply
    • Hi Liana, what an amazing trip. I’m looking at coming back to the area within the next year so thanks so much for the tips. Have a great time!

      Reply
  10. We were thinking of using a RV/ToyHauler to do the Hwy 1 Tour. Our question is would we be allowed to use the same stops as you did to park for the nite for safety reasons ? Do you know if there are designated RV stops along the way ? Would you recommend an RV for this Hwy route ? We will be moving to LaPaz from Canada and packing up everything in the RV/ToyHauler.

    Reply
    • Hi Nancy, I’m afraid I don’t know for sure about RVs but off the top of my head I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t do the same stops – just make sure you find RV friendly spots in each place. Honestly, RV sounds like an awesome way to do this route 🙂

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  11. Hey Jo

    What a great read. We are in the UK and want to do the trip from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucss mid October taking 2 weeks.

    Would you say Oct is a good time for weather and whale spotting?
    Also what are the roads like? I saw mention of some in poor condition but what bothers me is the mention of ‘sheer drops’. Are there many? I’m fine if there are barriers on the edge of the road…are there?

    Many thanks in advance for taking time out to answer.

    Rachel

    Reply
    • Hi Rachel, I’m glad you like the post. I’ve not visited in October so I can’t give you direct experience of travelling through Baja California at that time of year except what the Internet tells me – that the average temperature is going to be a nice 26 °C (78.8 °F). In terms of whale watching, as I’ve mentioned in the post, the whale watching season is between December and April, so October wouldn’t be a good time of year for this as the whales aren’t there. I was personally very impressed with the roads and didn’t notice any sheer drops (i also don’t remember if there were specific barriers but I wasn’t looking for them) – just stay on the paved part and you’ll be fine ;p Have an amazing trip.

      Reply
  12. Hello,
    How is the weather and driving down the Baja in July? I heard temperature in the water is so hot that is uncomfortable to swim in it. I also heard that it’s a low season and many businesses close down for the season.

    Reply
    • Hi Susana, I think you asked the same comment on my La Paz post and I’ve answered more fully there but in summary – it was hot but manageable. I found the water refreshing and if some businesses had closed, I didn’t notice. Hope that helps.

      Reply
  13. Hey Jo!

    My boyfriend and I are thinking about doing a month long trip throughout the Baja. We’ve just begun our planning.. my question is we are intending to take our truck with a truck bed camper on top. Is it safe to sleep in our camper? Are there areas where we can park it? Can we park anywhere?

    Love to know your thoughts on this! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Elli, I didn’t travel with a camper so I didn’t pay a lot of attention to this. I’ve just asked google and there do appear to be RV parks in Baja and many people just camp on the beach – on that front, you won’t be short on choice. As an alternative, if you don’t need a hook up, all the motels I stayed in on the road trip had large car parking spaces. I don’t know if you’d be able to negotiate a night rate for using the car park? I hope that helps?

      Reply
  14. Cerritos beach south of Todo Santos is great surfing beach…rentals also, TS has some outstanding restaurants, lots of better hotels than hotel Cal, …oh and massage on Cerritos beach is a nice unwinding…off highway….2 centavos

    Reply
  15. Wow. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
    In the next 3 – 5 years, I’m selling my sticks and bricks abode, and buying a van to live and travel in. I’ll also be solo and your blog is both reassuring and inspiring.

    Safe travels.

    Reply
  16. Hi Jo

    Holy cow! The ultimate bucket list trip! I’ve never been more inspired to take this on spring of 2019. Friends and family think i’m insane. Shit why not is what I say! Great for you to take it on. You’re an inspiration to many of us…
    I’m riding my motorcycle from Vancouver BC to LaPaz. Ferry over to Mazatlan, and continue the road trip to a lake side town of Lake Chapala.
    I have no idea how long it will take? Maybe a month? maybe two? Who cares! We only live once!

    Reply
    • Hi Lou – doing this trip by bike sounds like the read inspiration! Do come back and let me know how you get on! Happy travels.

      Reply
  17. About to drive into TJ and surrounds after 12 years of living in Los Angeles!

    Kids from San Diego always made it seem easy but your post is the all in one info boost I needed. I’m doing it.

    Doing a night in TJ and a night in Ensenada, with possible trips to wine country, lobster beaches, and stargazing!

    Reply
  18. Hi Jo,

    I love you’re blog. I just have a couple of places to point out. Having done the Baja trip many times both by see and by land I noticed you have missed some my personal favorite places in Baja, places well worth stopping at.

    There is a natural reserve a couple of hours south of Ensenada called “San Pedro Martir National Park” It has stunning views where you can see both the Sea of Cortez and the pacific at the same time, it also has one of the best places in the world to see stars, astronomers form all over the world go there for research. There is a terrific place to stay just few miles from there called Meling Ranch, an old charming cattle ranch going back +120 years with a some history (the little cattle ranch along with its neighbors fought Pancho Villa in the Mexican revolution).

    Also between Guerrero Negro and Loreto there is Santa Rosalia, a great little town with lots of history. I noticed you mentioned it, but didn’t have time to stop there, i encourage you if you get the chance to stay there for 1 night at the French hotel. The history of this little town starts when French mining company had the rights to mine the land in the late 1800’s, so the town has a lot of French heritage, there is a good museum, but basically the whole town is a museum. The church and town center where designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same person who designed and build the Eiffel tower in Paris. The old bakery from the early 1900’s is still working and you can go early in the morning to see how the bread is made in those huge wood ovens. The town had been in despair since the mining company left many decades ago, but I heard the mining company has opened again and this little jewel of a town in the Sea of Cortez is a fixer upper.

    South of La Paz there are a couple of small towns which I love staying at for a couple of nights. There is “La Ventana” a small kitesurfing community just shy of an hour south of La Paz (Sea of Cortez side). And my favorite spot for diving a town called “Cabo Pulmo” which is a marine natural reserve and has a biomass like no other place I have visited. I believe is the only living coral reef in North America.

    Keep up the great work. Looking forward to reading more from you!

    Reply
  19. Hi Jo
    Good info. Leaving San Diego in my truck with shell and going solo. Do you think that is wise. Did you?
    No time restraints.

    Reply
  20. Hi!
    Thank you for the blog! Having trouble with the actual map…is there a !ist form in order of your stops which I could match with map? I will driving !my own car fromSD to Cabo and am trying to be knowledgeable. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Jacquelina, the map basically follows the places mentioned in the article so you should be able to make your own list. Have another go accessing them out because it’s fine when I check it. I’ve also included a link in the post to open the map separately. Have a great trip.

      Reply
  21. thank you so much! We’re just back in New Zealand after a months road trip – West Coast usa and every national park in the area we could find! 4500 miles in 4 weeks – we loved every second of it and are planning our next one. We’ll have a month again – and are going to start in La – then San Diego then onwards to this trip. I had just started researching and found you! Can’t thank you enough for writing such an amazing and detailed blog. I think we’ll most likely do everything!! xx

    Reply
  22. Hey Jo,
    Thank you for all the research and time you put into this, and I think the ads are great, gets you pumped up for the trip and for those opposed it takes a nanosecond to bypass. I am a single female driving down myself soon so it made me feel better that you had done it. I am thinking of finding a tandem person or persons or family to tag behind the first day at least since my car is older. Do you know how to get the car insurance? it is better to get it on California or Mexican side?
    Did you get stopped? I am bringing some items down for my condo, do they tax you on items?
    anything else you cant bring over the border besides the obvious drugs, fruit.
    Thanks for this blog very helpful, look forward to reading others of yours.
    Katty

    Reply
    • Hi Katty, Sounds like you’ve got a fun trip planned 🙂 I hired my car in Mexico because it was cheaper and I didn’t have the insurance issue. As for the border, I don’t think the issue is going into Mexico, it’s usually getting back into the USA ;p I wasn’t even checked heading south but there are no restrictions I know of beyond the obvious. Have an amazing trip! PS: nice to know you don’t mind the ads – it makes the site and all my hours viable.

      Reply
  23. Hello Jo,

    I am going on a business trip that included Mexicali, Ensenada and Tijuana. A 3 day trip going from University to University on a rental car. As I look at the map, the stretch from Mexicali to Ensenada seems pretty much desert (mountainenous?), and I am wondering how in the world can that trip happen with not many dots in the earth view that seem to be a gas station forever? If you have done it, can you let me feel a bit comfortable with not having to carry gallons and gallons of gasoline in the trunk? The stretch from Ensenada to Tijuana seems pretty and very populated. I supposed gasoline will not be a problem for that 1.5 hs. drive. Well, I loved your details and I will probably print it and carry with me as one who takes a friend on the road.

    I hope you would be kind enough and have the time to drop me a line or two.

    Thanks,

    Reply
    • Hi Eduardo, I haven’t driven the stretch from Mexicali to Ensenada but my feeling is that there will be plenty of gas stops – the northern part of Baja was much more densely populated than the middle stretch I referred to in my post. This website (Pemex Guide) should help you out with plotting fuel stops if you think you need them. However, Google maps tells me it’s a 3-hour drive. I own a Fiat 500 (a pretty small car with small fuel tank) and I can drive for more than 3 hours without needing to refuel. Hope that helps.

      Reply
  24. Hello and very interesting read. If you had to do this drive in 2-3 days where would you recommend stopping and spending half a day ?

    Reply
    • Wow – 2-3 days is a very long drive! If you’re going from TJ down to Cabo, around Guerrero Negro would have you about half way. However, I’d say La Paz is my favourite stop if you only have time for one stop and don’t mind a crazy long drive. Have a great trip.

      Reply
  25. Hi Jo,
    Great Read, my husband and I are going to be taking this trip later this year can’t wait to see and experience the trip.
    My question if you know are the hotels pet friendly by chance? we have a little dog we are hoping to bring with us.
    Anyway I am planning our route right now and this has helped a lot with where to stop and stay for the night.
    Great work

    Reply
    • Hi Heather, yikes – I’m afraid I don’t know the first thing about pet friendly hotels… However, I just had a quick look and TripAdvisor has a pet friendly filter. So, you can go in and check the hotels I mentioned and then see if they are pet friendly (there is a very cute paw mark that shows up in the results for hotels that are). Good luck and I hope the three of you have an amazing adventure!

      Reply
  26. Potentially a great blog but way too many ads. There’s more to life than money. You can blog and still have a pleasant selection of limited ads. Be creative!

    Reply
    • David, forgive my impending rant but yours is one of those flippant comments that deserves addressing. You see, you left your glib remark without knowing or even trying to ascertain any real facts, or really thinking about the situation.

      Let me enlighten you.

      It cost me over $3,000 and nearly one month of my time to travel from the UK to Mexico via the USA to do the research for this ‘potentially great blog’. This, of course, relates to just one post. I travel for approximately 6 months per year to do research so that people like you can tap a few search terms into Google and come up with the easy answers it’s taken me days, weeks and thousands of miles to compile into a handy guide like this one. That’s not to mention the days and weeks of drafting, photo editing and publishing my work. Sure, I could pitch companies to fund my travel and pay for my time, and on occasions I have, but I find it’s so much easier to give you the raw, unbiased facts when I’m travelling on my own steam…and cash.

      I’ve been writing this blog, working on it daily since 2010. Save you having to return to Google for the maths, that’s over 2,500 days of work. None of those days were paid. None. Of. Them. So, yeah. I’ve added some ads. But I thought long and hard about it. 5 years of long and hard. 5 years from when I had enough views that an ad network would be interested in me to less than 5 months ago when I finally decided to trial ads on my site. And here’s the rub, a few months after trying to claw back some of the money I’ve spend over years of travel (almost 70 countries now), providing people like you with ‘potentially great’ travel facts and inspiration, the ad network decided to up the ads per page. Why? Because my ‘potentially great blogs’ are so detailed they run long enough to qualify for automatic insertion of… more ads.

      This isn’t about money. It’s about algorithms and html coding, neither of which I’m expert in. Fixing this is at the top of my list of things to do… when I get back from Africa, another + $3,000 trip I’ve self-funded to so I can write more ‘potentially great blogs’ for people to read before they take a trip to this grand continent. I would apologise for no longer giving everything you want for nothing, but I did that for many years and I’ve decided I like to eat, which costs cold hard cash, which I can earn, in part, through ads.

      As to your passive aggressive questioning of my creativity, I’d like to inform you that I’ve won awards and, indeed, been paid in recognition of my creativity. That may sound defensive but I’m fiercely proud of every moment I choose to spend living creatively. Creativity is a fundamental part of everyone’s being and so few people are brave enough to explore this aspects of themselves. On behalf of me and everybody else who has put their work out there, I won’t have my output questioned without putting up a fight. ‘Be creative’? How many times have you demanded the same of yourself? I hope often, and I hope it extends to more than leaving vitriolic comments about other people’s efforts.

      All that aside: my house, my rules. I wouldn’t allow you to insult me in my living room. I won’t allow you to do it here. PS: how’s the weather in Hate-istan? How’s that for creative ;p

      Reply
      • That was awesome! Good for you for fighting back. I am planning a solo motorcycle trip this October to “lands end” and your article is a very useful addition to the other informative articles I’ve searched. I for one certainly don’t mind browsing the ads and it is my prerogative to do so or just bypass them completely. Regardless. your content is very easy follow with or without ads. Well done and keep up the good work!

        Reply
      • You go, girl! Personally, I think it’s a perfectly great blog post, and worth every ad. My hubby and I plan to take this adventure in the first part of 2020. Your post has put Quite a few questions to bed. Now I’m stoked!! We’re working on duration, as we plan to meet friends in Cabos, as well as take a ferry over to Guyamous to explore the mainland side. All total, it will be a month. Thanks for the detailed tips re whales season, hotels, stops, etc. can’t wait to get down there and check it all out!

        Reply
        • Thanks Oly! I’m glad my post has helped you. A month away will be a fantastic trip as well taking the ferry to the mainland – I did that once although to a different destination. Have a fantastic trip.

          Reply
    • Do you want to read ads in your armchair off her blog, or with a flashlight in the dark along the road after 500 miles of 2 lane truck fun ?

      Reply
  27. hi Jo,

    thanks for the great blog! I was googling the train from Los Mochies and found you. I read with great interest and also the Baja trip. We are a group of four leaving from Vancouver Island in Feb/18 for three weeks headed to the Baja. The trip will be much like yours but a lot shorter. We will meet some chums in Porto Punesco and head west to ride down the Baja on moto bikes. Then we will ferry over to either Mazatlan or Los Mochies. From there our chums will continue home and we have decided to do a four day trip on the train. Then head back up to V.I.

    Thanks for the great info. I have shared with my group.

    Also, good info on the independent solo female traveler. I have started to do a bit of trekking with other independent solo female travelers.

    Reply
    • Hi Gita, happy to help! I have yet to write up my Los Mochis ferry trip – make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Each person collecting a ticket seemed to take about 15 minutes which meant I was almost last on the boat and did a lot of fretting at the back of a long queue with an ever decreasing departure time. Sounds like an amazing trip you have planned. Have fun.

      Reply

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