Can you believe it’s already December and 2020 is just around the corner? I can’t. Another month has slipped by and we are still in Southern California. This is the longest we’ve been stationary in over a year!
Disappointed? I hope not. We’ve been able to go crazy with new blog posts, update core areas of the website, and do a lot of behind-the-scenes work. We still have tons of content to share and more updates coming, so keep an eye out for more going up soon.
The call to get back on the road is growing strong though. And it’s happening soon! Our excitement and anticipation for Baja is building like crazy. Kristina, as usual, can’t wait to hop in the water and say hi to all of her marine friends. Since I’ve never explored most of Baja, it’s hard to say what I am most excited about. There’s just too much to look forward to.
So what it is exactly that attracts us to Baja? Why are we going there and what does our itinerary look like? Here’s a sneak peek at our plans for exploring Baja!
Crossing the Border
When we hit the road, we’ll cross into Mexico at one of the entry points close to Tijuana, just south of San Diego. Since the San Ysidro is the busiest border crossing in the world, we’ll likely go through the town of Tecate to avoid massive crowds. And to grab a quick beer at the Tecate brewery, of course.
But first comes customs and immigration. I will have to stop to get the usual tourist card (known as the FMM) which permits foreigners to stay in Mexico for a maximum of 6 months. The clock starts ticking.
Importing the car is not a big deal since we’re only traveling in Baja which is part of a special exclusion zone. Valid US registration and Mexican car insurance allow us to take in our car with no fee for six months. If we were going to other places, I’d have to put up a sizable deposit and get a temporary import permit.
Then we’ll be able to cruise all over the Baja peninsula for six months! And that’s exactly what we plan on doing.
Northern Baja California: City Life, Wine Country, and Big Mountains
Right away, we’re going to be overwhelmed with adventures to conquer. We could spend a lot of time in Tijuana, exploring the many new restaurants and attractions that are part of a recent push in development. While we will cover a few aspects, life in a city of 1.5 million people isn’t the focus of our trip.
We’ll start cruising down the Pacific coastline and quickly get to Ensenada, a lovely coastal community with about 500,000 people. Tourism is a major part of Ensenada and plenty of people visit here from the United States with their RVs/cars and from short cruises originating in California.
Then comes wine country! Valle de Guadalupe, just northeast of Ensenada, is a thriving wine region with a rapidly growing reputation. How could we possibly miss stopping here? It isn’t going to be peak season for the grapes, but I’m sure we’ll be able to make the best of it.
After that, we’ll continue south along the Pacific coast before taking a sharp turn inland, where the road will start to rise. Eventually, we’ll visit the highest-elevation area in Baja: Sierra de San Pedro Mártir (Mountains of San Pedro the Martyr).
How high do you think it is? If I said 10,000 feet (3,000 m), would you believe me? Well, you better. The highest peak is Picacho del Diablo at 10,157 ft (3,096 m)! It snows here! While it probably doesn’t look too much like the Colorado mountains, I’ll probably feel a bit at home here. I can’t wait to hike in this area.
Bounce Down the Peninsula
After we explore the mountain region, we’ll continue south and will be bouncing back and forth across the peninsula. There is simply way too much to go over in this short update, but here are some of the biggest highlights.
Bahia de Los Angeles is one of the first areas on the Sea of Cortez with beautiful bays and stunning marine life. Popular with campers and RVers, I am sure that we will have plenty of company in this area but hopefully we can find our own little spot of seclusion. Whale sharks come through here each year, but the season is in late summer and early fall, so we probably won’t witness this.
But we are going at the right time for gray whales! Back on the Pacific side of Baja, we’ll approach the cities of Guerrero Negro and San Ignacio. The large bays near both of these cities are visited by migrating gray whales during the winter months and we should be able to see them!
Sea of Cortez: Hidden Bays and Serious Camping Adventures
After that, we’ll spend a lot of time on the Sea of Cortez (aka Gulf of California), going through three towns I have heard countless stories about: Mulege, Loreto, and La Paz. This is Kristina’s favorite part of Baja and is often the first thing that experienced Baja travelers bring up in discussion. My guess is that this area is going to be the highlight of the trip.
Incredible marine experiences including awesome snorkeling, scuba, and kayaking are the focus here. We just picked up a nice inflatable kayak so that we can explore more secluded areas on our own.
Finally, we’ll visit the southernmost point of the Baja Peninsula, which is where “Los Cabos” are located. Cabo San Lucas is the major tourist area, while San Jose del Cabo is slightly less so and has a bit more authentic Mexican culture. We’ll explore to see what we can discover to help those who visit here and want something off path.
From there, we could potentially take a ferry over to mainland Mexico. However, since I can only be in Mexico for a maximum of 6 months right now, we are leaning toward heading back north. We can regroup in the US then decide where to go after that. While we have some ideas floating around, I’ll let that be a secret for now. Any guesses?!
The Trusty Tahoe
There are a lot of ways to explore Baja. Long weekenders out of Los Angeles drive down to stay at hotels and eat at restaurants in the northern part of Baja. Winter snowbirds spend the entire winter all over the peninsula in their RV. And of course, some people fly into Cabo San Lucas and never leave the side of the pool at their mega-resort.
We will be exploring in our Chevy Tahoe which has been converted into a basic overlanding rig. It will allow us to check out the places the RVer’s go but also have the ability to explore more isolated areas on less ideal roads.
No, it’s not a massive rig that we’ve dumped $100,000 into. And it’s not a giant RV which would have trouble on roads requiring 4WD. It’s a simple SUV with everything we need to be self-sufficient for days at a time, which we built on a tight budget and with a modest set of tools. But it has a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping area, closet space, general storage areas, and even a small solar power station.
Trust me, there’s a lot packed in this little guy and I will continue to share more about it as we explore.
We’re going to be camping as much as possible. Sometimes we’ll stay on private land where you pay a small fee to stay overnight, essentially RV parks and other camper-friendly sites. Sometimes we’ll just find a secluded section of beach and camp for free with no utilities or other people in sight. And at times when it’s appropriate, we will stay in hotels and inside of cities.
We will battle the constant need for more gas, food, water, and ice. Of course, we don’t want to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, but with the multitude of RVers around Baja, our needs are pretty similar to a lot of other people visiting.
Do you know what I’m really excited about?! It’s nothing major, but some of the camping places have vendors that deliver goods to your site! Need more ice and beer? Flag them down and never leave your camping area. What a great idea!
We have a few other practical concerns, such as finding good places to work with some sort of internet connection or cell service. Emergency car repairs are nearly certain to come up, and I’m bringing a small assortment of tools to be prepared. And of course, general safety and awareness are always a concern when traveling.
Why does this matter to you? Well, we want you to know that what we are doing is not something so crazy and radical that you can never follow suit. We understand you might not have as much time and may be a bit more hesitant to go off path in Baja, but we’re covering Baja from a realistic perspective with a focus on giving you the knowledge and ability to decide what you want to visit yourself.
Maybe we’ll inspire a big road trip. Perhaps we’ll convince you to rent a car and leave the mega-resort pool for a day. Maybe you’ll only experience Baja vicariously through us.
Whatever happens, we are happy to share this world with you and seriously cannot wait to get going.
Are you starting to feel it? The countdown to Baja is on. As we all welcome in the new year, Kristina and I will be hitting the road. We’ll show you Mexican wine country, mountain tops you never knew existed, and all sorts of marine adventures. Anyone else feeling this excitement?!
Until next time,
Michael (and Kristina)