Baja California is both the northernmost and westernmost state of Mexico. Also called Baja California Norte, it is situated on the northern end of the Baja Peninsula with the Pacific Ocean on its western edge and the Sea of Cortez separating it from the rest of Mexico on its eastern edge.
Because of this geographical division from Mexico’s mainland, visitors might discover that it feels a bit more like being in the United States than in Mexico. Yet, other than its magnificent championship golf greens, Baja California’s diverse topography looks similar to much of the rest of Mexico. Baja California is a place of wonderful contrasts, ranging from hot desert lowlands to stimulating warm ocean breezes to the heights of cool majestic mountains. Amongst it all, are glistening resorts and tourist attractions galore.
Baja California is subdivided into five municipalities, which include Tijuana, Rosarito Beach, Ensenada, Mexicali, and Tecate. The first three are part of the famous Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast, really a gold mine for tourists, is one of the most visited places in Mexico and one of the wealthiest, most educated, and most developed areas in Mexico. The Gold Coast extends down from the southern California city of Oxnard in the US and runs along the northwestern coastline of Baja California. The largest Mexican cities along this prestigious Gold Coast strip are Tijuana, Ensenada and Rosarito, where tourists flock to the beaches and hit the golf courses during the day and enjoy the numerous nightclubs and other hot spots by night.
The Gold Coast is probably best known for its fast-paced resort town of Tijuana, the most visited border city in the world, where enthusiastic party-people and beach-lovers dash off to on weekends. But, a little known fact about Tijuana is that is it a great Metropolis (really an extension of San Diego’s Metropolis) that serves as an art, music, culture, sports, and innovation center on the Gold Coast. Tijuana has cultural and sporting attractions and extensive shopping to match its excellent large breaking waves for surfing, its fine-sand beaches, and its championship golf courses.
Rosarito Beach along the Gold Coast is famous for its water sports, (gringo) golf resorts, The Titanic Amusement park – it was the setting for the movie, and its seafood.
The tiny community of Puerto Nuevo within Rosarito’s municipality is well-known as the "Lobster Village" a tourist/culinary destination of Baja California. It was originally a fishermen's village where the daily lobster catch, doused in butter and accompanied by rice and beans, was offered in their living rooms. Today, “Lobster Puerto Nuevo Style" is advertised across the Baja, and in this little port you can get the real thing!
Ensenada, while a fantastic resort town with excellent breaks for surfing, has within its realm the Guadalupe Valley, a wine locality that boasts responsibility for the famous wineries in Napa Valley of the San Francisco Bay area in the US. Ensenada is a cruise ship destination as well as a fantastic sport fishing marina, loaded with amenities. Other nearby marina communities are La Salina and Baja Mar.
In Ensenada, if you’re not on a wine tour, you can join a sport fishing excursion or hit the town’s beautiful beaches for swimming, surfing, and other exciting water activities!
Rustic and peaceful describes Bahia de San Quintin, a less tourist populated area within the Ensenada municipality. San Quintin is a small community known for its hunting, fishing, sailing, and cultural opportunities but San Quintin's beautiful bays are fast becoming popular with surfers, scuba divers, swimmers, and beach lovers. San Quintin is also a great location for bird-watching and clam digging.
The smaller cities and their coastlines along the Gold Coast, like Puesta del Sol and El Sauzal, are under development and may prove to be quieter tourist destinations with many attractive amenities in the future.
In the quiet, but fun, town of El Desconso, visitors can find great Mission tours, Mexican markets, ancient haciendas, as well as participate in some terrific adventure sports like rock climbing, rappelling, scuba diving, cave diving, mountain trekking, and much more.
The Pacific Ocean’s Isla San Martin is renowned for its incredible camping, sport fishing, diving, and surfing opportunities. Its bays are also a hotspot for clammers; bring your pitchfork and mesh bags!
There are numerous beautiful beaches on Baja California’s east coast as well. If you are looking for a less-developed tourist destination, check out the towns off the Sea of Cortez, such as San Felipe and Bahia de los Angeles.
San Felipe is where the fish taco originated. By day, it’s a quiet haven, where visitors can relax in peace and quiet, fish, or clam on its beautiful beaches. At night the city comes to life in its bars and clubs, and on its "Malecón" where you can listen to live mariachi music all night long and watch the moon’s reflection in the sea. San Felipe is considered Baja California’s sleepiest resort boomtown.
Bahia de los Angeles is a serene fishing village, which has long been a haven for RVers, campers, and sport fishing enthusiasts. Today, visitors can enjoy many water sport activities and boat excursions. Off its shores you will see a host of marine life, including friendly dolphins, playful sea lions, nesting sea birds, and several whales species. Its picturesque restaurants serve delicious fresh seafood as well as typical Mexican fare.
If you’re looking for a vacation with more culture than water, check out some of Mexico’s border towns. Mexicali has numerous attractions of the cultural, historical, and entertaining variety. Tecate is a quiet, medium-size town situated about an hour east of Tijuana. While famous for its wine and beer industries, it is also a great launching place for surrounding tours, such as one to the vineyards or beer processing facilities; or head to La Rumorosa for hiking and views of cave paintings.
Located a short distance west of Mexicali is the Guadalupe Canyon, a desert oasis of spectacular waterfalls, thermal springs, and cooling water pools, set within the Sierra de Juarez mountains. At its base is the enormous Laguna Salada. Treat yourself well with a restoring stroll along canyon paths, exploring wall paintings, enjoying the variety of flora and fauna, and then soak in the healing thermal waters or swim in the refreshing lagoon.
For a rustic adventure, visitors shouldn’t miss the state’s two national parks: Parque Constitucion de 1857 and Parque Sierra San Pedro Mártir. These are excellent locations for camping, bird-watching or swimming in beautiful lagoons. The Hanson and Chica lagoons within the Parque Constitucion de 1857 are very popular tourist attractions.
Whether you enjoy water activities are trekking through canyons, you’ll leave Baja California with a renewed spirit, full of fun and memorable experiences!