The 800-mile-long Baja California Peninsula begins at the San DiegoTijuana border and tapers into a rock arch between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez at Cabo San Lucas. The Transpeninsular Highway (Hwy. 1) twists and turns for 1,000 miles through two states—Baja California and Baja California Sur—past 30-foot high cardón cacti, spindly boojum trees, towering boulders, and plateaus that look like UFO-landing strips. The highway turns inland at Guerrero Negro, crosses the Sierras, and descends toward a panorama of turquoise sea. Loreto, site of the first California mission, is the first major resort on the Sea of Cortez, followed by La Paz. Los Cabos is 120 miles father south.
WHEN TO GO
September to June is the ideal time to visit (be warned, though: in March and April, college students on spring break invade). During summer, temperatures can soar and there is a risk of storms.
HOW TO GET THERE
Los Cabos International Airport is eight miles north of San José del Cabo and 29 miles northeast of Cabo San Lucas (loscabos.aeropuertosgap.com.mx). It has regular service from Aeromexico, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, America West/US Airways, Continental, Delta, Frontier, Mexicana and United. Non-stop flights or convenient connections are available from Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, California; Houston and Dallas, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Kansas City, Missouri; Atlanta; Chicago; Cincinnati; Denver; Detroit; Las Vegas; New York/ Newark; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; Seattle and more.
The busy airport is being expanded with additional landing strips and a fourth terminal. International airports in La Paz and Loreto receive a few U.S. flights. Tijuana's international airport receives no flights from the U.S. and primarily serves Baja and mainland Mexico.
The border between California and Mexico is less than 20 miles south of San Diego. Some U.S. rental car agencies allow their cars to be taken across the border as far as Ensenada. All drivers must purchase additional Mexican auto insurance, as U.S. policies are not valid south of the border. Baja California Tours (858-454-7166; www.bajaspecials.com) runs day and overnight trips from San Diego to northern Baja.
Driving is the easiest way to get around in Baja except in Tijuana, where it's easy to cross the border on foot. Driving the peninsula's length takes about three days on a decently paved, unlit highway. Unexpected hazards including meandering cows, hulking vultures, unexpected potholes and laboring freight trucks keep speeds low.
Rental cars are available in all major resort areas and driving is relatively easy in La Paz and Los Cabos. Taxis are abundant in all major towns, and fares are low except in Los Cabos, where it costs about $30 to travel one way between the two towns.
For information on all the destinations included here, contact the Mexico Tourism Board (800-446-3942; www.visitmexico.com). You can also contact one of the regional tourism offices below:
Baja California State Tourism
Tel: 52 664 682 3367
Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau
Cabo San Lucas
Tel: 866 567 2226 (toll-free)
Tel: 52 624 143 4777
La Paz Tourism Bureau
Tel: 866 733 5272 (toll-free)
Tel: 52 612 122 5939
Tijuana Convention & Visitors Bureau
9365-201 Paseo de los Héroes
Tel: 52 664 684 0537