Baja California Sur

Travel Guide North America Mexico Baja California Sur

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Introduction

Cabo San Lucas Beach

Cabo San Lucas Beach

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Baja California Sur is one of the 31 states in Mexico and comprises the southern half of the Baja peninsula in the northwest of the country. It is the second smallest Mexican state by population and the 31st admitted state of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, make up the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico.

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Geography

The state is divided into five regions: Central Desert, La Serranía, the Vizcaíno Desert, the Magdalena Plains and Los Cabos. The Central Desert has desert plants, green appears during short and irregular rains. The La Serranía is the high mountain areas with tree species, a number of which are commercially valuable. The Vizcaíno Desert runs along the Pacific coast around the Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio lagoons and contains lower mountain ranges such as the San Francisco, San Alberto, Las Tinajas de Murillo and El Serrucho, along with the El Azufre and Las Vírgenes volcanos. The Magdalena Plains is a large, flat area near the Pacific coast, and the Los Cabos region is distinguished by microclimates determined by the geologic change in the area and rain patterns.
Most of the surface water on land is in the form of seasonal streams, which are fast flowing and only active during rains. Most of these empty into the Pacific Ocean with a number flowing south into the Bahía de Ballenas.

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

San Javier is a charming little village located in the mountains behind Loreto. Most Baja visitors stick to the coast and miss a lot of the charming, very rustic little villages located in the interior backcountry. There's an impressive church, a few places to eat and drink, and a basic hotel. You can drive to San Javier, but the best way to go is to hire a horse or mule for the journey from Loreto.

Baja California Sur has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Rock Paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco and the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino

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Events and Festivals

Most of the fiestas of the state of Baja California Sur are related to the anniversaries of the foundation of municipalities, the celebration of local Roman Catholic patron saints or exhibitions of the most popular produce of the particular region. The majority are observed at the local level and, given that the greater part of the municipalities have few inhabitants, the festivals can be a bit austere.

Day of the Dead

Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries except Mexico (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensily celebrated in Mexciowhere where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.

Other Events and Festivals

  • Grito de la Independencia - September 15th is Mexican Independence Day! A massive celebration involving plenty of singing, dancing and fireworks takes place in the Zócalo. Everyone here awaits an appearance from Mexico's president who rings a bell from a central balcony of the Palacio Nacional overlooking the Zócalo. The president then shouts out the Grito de Dolores, or the Cry of Dolores which was Father Hidalgo's famous call to arms against Spanish rule in 1810.
  • Dia de la Candelaria. Candlemas is held February 2nd and commemorates Jesus being introduced into the temple 40 days after his birth. This nationwide celebration sees many different ways of celebrating and many towns Baja California Sur hold processions, bullfights and dances. Of course, plenty of delicious, traditional foods are served during Dia de la Candelaria as well.
  • Carnaval is held in late February or early March throughout Baja California Sur and all of Mexico. This big party is meant to celebrate the 40 day penance of Lent. Carnaval always takes place during the week or so prior to Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday. Mexicans celebrate this holiday with fireworks, food, dancing, parades, dancing and drinking.
  • Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a huge celebration which starts on Palm Sunday. This is a very popular time for Mexicans to take a short break; as a result, it seems most of the country is on the move, with buses and hotels often booked out. As for the celebration of Semana Santa, expect colorful processions and many masses at churches everywhere.
  • Día de Nuestra Seňora de Guadalupe, or Day of our Lady of Guadalupe, is held December 12th. There is a week-long build up to this religious celebration in honour of the Virgin who appeared to the indigenous Juan Diego in the year 1531. Since then, the Lady of Guadalupe has been Mexico's religious patron and her veneration is very significant. It is traditional for young boys to be dressed as a Juan Diego and for young girls to be dressed in indigenous garb and brought to a special mass, held at many churches throughout the country.
  • New Year's Eve. Mexicans celebrate New Year's Eve or locally known as Año Nuevo, by downing a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one. Mexican families decorate homes and parties, during New Year's, with colors such as red, to encourage an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow to encourage blessings of improved employment conditions, green to improve financial circumstances and white to improved health. Mexican sweet bread is baked with a coin or charm hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, the recipient whose slice contains the coin or charm is believed to be blessed with good luck in the new year. One can expect a lot of firecrackers, fireworks and sparklers being fired. At midnight there is a lot of noise and everyone shouts: "Feliz año nuevo!" People embrace, make noise, set off firecrackers, and sing Auld Lang Syne.
  • Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. The victory of the smaller Mexican force against a larger French force was a boost to morale for the Mexicans. A year after the battle, a larger French force defeated Zaragoza at the Second Battle of Puebla, and Mexico City soon fell to the invaders.

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Weather

Baja California Sur has an arid climate with just around 250mm of rain falling a year, mostly in September and October. Summers last from May to September when temperatures average around 30-35 °C during the day with some days hitting over 40 °C. Nights are warm, well above 20 °C and sometimes nights don't drop below 28 °C. Winters are far more pleasant with days of around 25 °C between December and March, nights averaging 16-18 °C.
Note that temperatures are for coastal areas, like Cabo San Lucas and La Paz. Inland, temperatures can even be a little higher during the summer days and colder during winter nights for example. It also rains even less inland.

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Getting There

By Plane

Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) is the sixth largest airport in Mexico, located near Cabo San Lucas, and mainly has flights within Mexico and to the United States and Canada. Most airlines from these countries serve Cabo San Lucas, and destinations include Mexico City, Guadalajara, Mazatlán, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta, Tijuana, San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Denver, Las Vegas, Detroit, Phoenix and Edmonton.

La Paz Airport (LAP) has some flights as well, mainly to other Mexican cities and to Los Angeles.

By Car

The town of Guerrero Negro sits at the border of Baja California and Baja California Sur. There is an agricultural check point of sorts to go through when crossing this border, about 1 mile north of Guerrero Negro. The underside of your vehicle will be misted with a chemical spray meant to kill any insects brought from Baja California considered invasive to Baja California Sur.

By Bus

Buses from points north arrive at all the major cities and towns in the state. For detailed information on fares, carriers, schedules and station locations, check out Rome2rio.com

By Boat

Baja Ferries arrive to La Paz from Mazatlan and Toplobampo, both in Sinaloa state.
Ferry Santa Rosalia arrives to the town of Santa Rosalia from Guaymas in the state of Sonora 3 times a week.

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Getting Around

By Car

There is one main road running the entire length of the peninsula from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas - the Transpeninsular Highway. Although in mostly decent condition, this road is not for the feint of heart! There is no shoulder on the side of the road and very few guard rails to protect motorists. Filling stations are often hours apart from one another and livestock commonly crosses the road throughout the day. Having said that, a trip down the Transpeninsular Highway remains a classic road trip and is full of opportunities for both beach and desert camping.

By Bus

For an overview of schedules and connections, check thebusschedule.com. Also check out rome2rio.com.

By Boat

Baja Ferries transports vehicles and foot passengers from La Paz to Mazatlan and to Topolobampo in Sinaloa state several times a week. Baja Ferries offers a range of ticket classes for the 18 hour passage across the Sea of Cortes, ranging from private sleeper berths to row seating in the passenger lounge. NOTE: - Much of Mexico is on vacation during the months of July and August - book passage well in advance during this time.

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Eat

Seafood

Since the peninsula is surrounded by the ocean, seafood of all varieties is on offer. Mexican seafood restaurants here are often palapa-style establishments serving an incredible variety of dishes at very reasonable prices. Shrimp, clams, octopus, conch, ray and oysters fill the menu along with countless varieties of scaly fish, all cooked dozens of different ways.

Fish Tacos were born here years ago and remain a form of Baja comfort food to this day. Chunks of white fish are battered and fried, then served in flour tortillas with a slaw dressing. Garnishes like cucumber, salsa, cilantro are served on the side.

Other Specialties

  • Mollete is an open faced sandwich consisting of a bolillo roll smothered in refried beans and melted cheese.
  • Carnitas are slow braised meats usually bought by weight. These often come with tortillas to wrap the meat in. Any meats cooked in this fashion are always tender and very rich in flavor.
  • Cabuche is the flower from the biznaga cactus. this edible flower is a delicacy in San Luis Potosi state. There are many dishes this flower can go into and many ways to prepare it on it's own.
  • Chiles en Nogada - this dish is meant to represent the Mexican flag's 3 colors; red, white and green. The red portion of this dish is a garnish of pomegranate seeds, the white from a cream sauce and the green from poblano chili pepper.
  • Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on organic corn ears due to the lack of anti fungal chemicals introduced to the crop. When cooked and added to certain dishes huitlacoche is very earthy in flavor.
  • Pozole - Choose either red or green pozole. This corn and chile based soup is very tasty and is served at many comedors and loncherias in marketplaces throughout Mexico.
  • Rosti-Pollo - Roast chicken is a hugely popular meal in Mexico and represents an astounding value for travelers on a budget. Order a whole, or half chicken. Each order comes with french fries, unlimited tortillas and salsa.
  • Birria Stew - Birria is typically goat meat but many establishments prepare it with beef. The broth is a tomato and chili based one although it is not too spicy. Fresh diced onions and cilantro always accompany birria stew as a garnish. Of course, unlimited corn tortillas are served with each bowl.

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Drink

Beer

Since this is Baja Mexico, Pacifico is the best beer to accompany your seafood and makes for a very refreshing drink. In fact, nothing could be finer than a fish taco or a giant plate of seafood washed down with a cold Pacifico. This brand is widely distributed throughout the state.

Mexico has many brands of national beer that are quite good. Corona, Rio Negro and Pafico are some very popular brands. Pacifico is oddly not well distributed across Mexico and the same can be said for other brands; Montejo, Leon, Victoria, Superior, Carta Blanca and Estrella are national brands that can be difficult to find at times depending on where you are in Mexico. Lately, both Tecate and Indio brands have become the most widely distributed beers next to Corona. Many of the beers mentioned are brewed by Mexico's brewery powerhouses - Modelo and Cuauhtemoc.

One of the traditions in Mexico is to add lime to beer, adding a pleasant acidity. Another popular way to drink beer in Mexico is to mix it with lime, tomato juice, spices and assorted chili-based sauces. This drink is known as a Michelada and is very popular in hotter climates throughout Mexico and actually makes for a very refreshing concoction.

Tequila

For many, Mexico is synonymous with tequila. There are countless brands of tequila, ranging from absolutely horrible to some that are smoother than water. Remember though, you don't have to eat the worm! A good tequila will have a smooth, peppery flavor.
Tequila is the signature firewater of Mexico and nearly all of it hails from the state of Jalisco. Here, small agave plantations and larger haciendas churn out a staggering number of brands. Of those brands, there 5 varieties of tequila:

  • Oro, or gold is possibly the poorest quality of the lot. That gold color this variety is known for is artificial and this tequila really burns the throat. It is best used in cocktails and margaritas.
  • Plata is also known as Blanco and represents the next lowest quality of the 5 varieties but tastes better than the Oro variety. This is unaged and the flavor is much less complex, making it suitable as a mixer rather than a shot for sipping.
  • Resapado means rested and this variety is aged for up to 9 months. Flavor profiles become more complex and respado makes for a good introductory sipping variety. Expect a clean, sharp taste with a subtle peppery finish.
  • Aňejo. This aged variety, conditioned in oak barrels for up to 1 year, is very smooth and sweet. Many people enjoy this variety as an aperitif, or even an after dinner drink. Certain brands of aňejo represent a very good value, especially considering the amount of nuanced flavors created by each distilleries' aging techniques.
  • Extra Aňejo, or vintage, is a relatively new variety. This is aged for 3 years, often using other types of barrels aside from the traditional oak ones. This is best sipped neat. Extra Aňejo has boosted the craft tequila market in Mexico.

Mezcal

Mezcal is a very intense drink, mainly drunk in southern Mexico. Some of the poorer varieties have a terrible after taste, but the nicer ones can be ok.
Mezcal can sometimes be as high as 60% alcohol, so enjoy this drink with caution! Mezcal is made from 1 of around 20 different species of agave, some of which
can take decades to mature. Only once will a mature agave sprout the flower whose sap is fermented to make this potent potion. Some varieties include:

  • Minero is distilled in clay pots and is a very high quality variety. Subtly smoky in flavor and very smooth.
  • Arroqueňo tends to be a subtly sweet-tasting Mezcal. Many find this to be the most pleasant variety. The flavor begins a bit bitter but quickly finishes sweet and warm.
  • Joven means young, and this variety is simply unaged and therefore a little bit rough.
  • Tobalá is named for an actual variety of agave plant, grown in mountainous regions.

Other Drinks

  • Chamoyada is a sweet and spicy type of shaved ice, or raspado or Mango sorbet, prepared with chamoy. It is a part of Mexican cuisine, and is also common in regions of the United States with significant Mexican-American populations. The drink is usually sweetened with mangoes or apricots. It is essentially a combination of chamoy sauce, shaved ice, chili powder, and fruit chunks. In certain variations, a whole fruit popsicle, or paleta, is added to the drink and mixed with the shaved ice. The drinking straws served with chamoyadas also often have tamarind candy on the outside. Chamoyadas do not contain any dairy products. The different flavors of chamoyadas can include fruits like mango, lemon, guava, tamarind, pineapple and strawberry.
  • Champuraddo is a warm and thick chocolate-based drink, prepared with either masa de maíz (lime-treated-corn dough), masa harina (a dried version of this dough), or corn flour (simply very finely ground dried corn, especially local varieties grown for atole); piloncillo; water or milk; and occasionally containing cinnamon, anise seed, or vanilla. Ground nuts, orange zest, and egg can also be employed to thicken and enrich the drink. Atole drinks are whipped up using a wooden whisk called a molinillo (or a blender). The whisk is rolled between the palms of the hands, then moved back and forth in the mixture until it is aerated and frothy.
  • Liquados are a Latin American handmade blended beverage similar to smoothies, made with milk, fruit, and usually ice.They are also sometimes called "preparados" (meaning "prepared"). Licuados and other fresh fruit juice drinks are ubiquitous throughout Mexico. They are sold by street vendors, and in special licuado shops, restaurants, and fruterias (restaurants specializing in fresh fruit).
  • Aguas Frescas, (Spanish for "cool waters", or literally "fresh waters") are light non-alcoholic beverages made from one or more fruits, cereals, flowers, or seeds blended with sugar and water. Some of the more common flavors include tamarind, hibiscus, and horchata. Aguas frescas are sold by street vendors, but can also be found in bodegas (convenience stores), restaurants and juice bars.
  • Atole, also known as atol and atol de elote, is a traditional hot corn and masa-based beverage of Mesoamerican origin. Chocolate atole is known as champurrado or atole. It typically accompanies tamales, and is very popular during the Christmas holiday season (las Posadas).
  • Café de olla is a traditional Mexican coffee beverage. To prepare café de olla, it is essential to use a traditional earthen clay pot, as this gives a special flavor to the coffee. This type of coffee is principally consumed in cold climates and in rural areas. In Mexico, café de olla is made with ground coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo (known as panela in other countries).
  • Jarritos is a popular brand of soft drink in Mexico, founded in 1950. Jarritos is made in fruit flavors and is less carbonated than popular soft drinks made in the United States or Canada. Many Jarritos varieties are naturally flavored. The word jarrito means "little jug" in Spanish and refers to the Mexican tradition of drinking water and other drinks in clay pottery jugs. Produced in Mexico, they are sold throughout the Americas.

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Sleep

As is typical with all of Mexico, accommodation options in Baja California Sur run from budget hotels and hostels to fancier lodges and resorts, although accommodations here on the peninsula tend to be higher than on the mainland. Every city and town caters to the traveler as many people traverse the country by bus and often find themselves staying overnight along the way, especially on long-haul routes. Because of this, many hotels can be found around bus stations and in small towns those accommodation options will extend well beyond the transportation terminal. You will find an accommodation type to suit any budget in Baja California Sur.

Many hotels in Mexico (and Baja California Sur) list their prices at the front desk and haggling for a reduced rate for a stay of a few days or more is acceptable. Many hostels have become more expensive than hotels, especially for a couple traveling together. It is very common to find clean, safe, comfortable and centrally located hotels for 200 pesos. Wi Fi is almost always available at these hotels and sometimes cable television and air conditioning are included. Prices for these same types of hotels are at least double on the Baja Peninsula. It is also acceptable to ask to see a room before paying. Ask to see another room if the one shown to you doesn't suit you. Street noise is a problem in Mexico (and Baja California Sur is no exception); rooms facing the road can be very loud. Ask for an internal-facing room if possible. Hot water is often an issue in Mexico and may only be available during certain hours.

View our map of accommodation in Baja California Sur

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Accommodation in Baja California Sur

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Baja California Sur searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Baja California Sur and areas nearby.

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This is version 22. Last edited at 16:44 on May 15, 19 by road to roam. 8 articles link to this page.

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