A Guide To Land's End
Pull out that map! One thousand miles of open road belongs to you. Taking time to explore the
unexplored riches of Baja California is a life changing experience. My sis and I took our first road
trip to La Finisterra in 1993 in my '73 VW Beetle; packed to the roof. We exchanged one US dollar for 3,200 pesos (this was before the peso crisis), stuffing the bills into bags, feeling very rich with the freedom of the road beckoning.
Today, crossing the border into Mexico the peso hovers around 14 to the US dollar. Stop
at immigration for your FMM tourist card - it's easy and costs just over $20. Tijuana can be a bit
daunting for the first time traveler. However, if you want to make the dive into a rich culture, you'll
find Tijuana is emerging as a dramatic destination place in the 21st century. You can easily spend a
weekend exploring the Tijuana Cultural Center, fine art galleries, world class gourmet restaurants,
quaint bistros, micro breweries and wines of northern Baja.
Rosarito Beach, just 45 minutes south, has made its own changes in the last twenty years. When I first
visited, the town was a dusty two lane road with dirt parking in front of the Don Pisto liquor store; my
sister's favorite first stop. The town was known as a place for the Spring breakers to come and tear it
up. Now, there are four lanes running through town, modern condominiums, a Walmart; making it feel
like you never left the US. South of town and headed to Ensenada you can't miss the Sacred Heart
of Christ statue and receive his blessing or the four-story home, built in the shape of a voluptuous
mermaid. Most recently Rosarito claims the first eco-friendly Earthship home built from old tires,
bottles and cans. Gorgeous, self-sustained living with a million dollar view.
At La Fonda you will pass through La Misión, a tiny community that
once was a mission site. You can opt to take the “free-road” on the old highway 1 to Ensenada or stay on the toll road.
If you prefer the free road option, there is a lovely drive east into wine country. The
Guadalupe Valley has almost one hundred wineries and artisanal wine producers. Baja California wines
are poised at the threshold of discovery, just as Napa Valley was in the 70s. It is soon to be recognized
as a region where fine wines are produced including the rich Nebbiolos and the delightful organic
Mision Red. The Vine and Wine Museum gives a comprehensive look into the valley's history.
Ensenada has a scenic harbor where great cruise ships seem to emerge from the sea. It takes a hearty
ocean breeze to unfurl the majestic Mexican flag over the plaza. Near here is Lopez Mateos with a touch
of old world. Gift shops, restaurants and coffee houses invite you in. Hussong's is the lusty night life for
a true traveler's experience. Continuing on out of town towards the destination of La Bufadora, agricultural
farm land stretches out in all directions. At this point you make your way through the dusty town of
Maneadero. I have a funny memory about this town when my sis yelled, “Tope! Tope!” just as we
slammed into an unmarked speed bump. She couldn't switch to English soon enough. Laughing I said,
“Well that is one way to learn Spanish!” La Bufadora, or blow hole, is on a point of land overlooking
the Pacific. At high tide the plume of sea water shoots into the sky accompanied by Ohs and Ahs.
On the way to El Rosario, small towns with stores and gas stations dot the coastline. El Rosario is the
last gas stop, and the next real gas station on Highway 1 is 222 miles south. Crossing over a long bridge, many people say that this is
where the real Baja begins. Swinging up through the hills and mountain passes, over the top and sliding
down through switchback turns, the traveler meets the boojum, elephant trees and the gigantic
cardón cactus all set amongst boulder fields as if by design. Just after a rain, the desert literally comes
is a wide spot in the road, approximate 150 miles beyond El Rosario. A beautiful
hacienda hotel sets in the midst of this wonder. Cataviña is easily reached within 6 hours from
Ensenada. This is a great 3 day weekend destination. Guerrero Negro is a working town that exports sea
salt and tours are given. However, it is most well known for the seasonal migration of the gray whale.
People meet eye to eye the mammoths of the sea and come away with a rare experience of interspecies
communication. After leaving town there is a nice side trip to Bahía Asuncion on the Pacific for surfing,
fishing and the best shrimp tacos anywhere.
Crossing the volcanic landscape and jumbles of red lava is San Ignacio, an oasis in the desert, with a
fresh water river lined with date palms. It is a bird watchers delight. An overnight stay can include a
day of whale watching or meeting the son from a long line of Vaqueros, the original cowboy,
who shares his extraordinary leather work. Before the Spanish arrived
there were tens of thousands of Indians living on the peninsula. Here you can arrange a tour to a
Cochimi cave painting. Heading east toward the Gulf of California the road cuts through mountains
and desert with only a rancho along the way. You can't miss the Tres Virgines, three ancient volcanic
cones. Dropping down a steep grade into Santa Rosalia, the copper mining is at first a disturbing
welcome to the town, however the stunning carillon blue gulf waters and the red purples of this region
catch the greater attention. This whole area has a rich wild west past with a French influence.
Just 45 minutes south of Santa Rosalia is the small fishing village of Mulege and Bahia Conception, a
place of the most beautiful beaches and inland protected waters. Enjoy Kayaking to pristine islands,
a pig roast or relaxing in town to meet the locals over a cold beer. The historic mission and prison
without doors are within walking distance. Mulege still observes the siesta and has a laid back
quality hard to find these days. My sister and I were so smitten with its simplicity and extraordinary
beauty, we delayed our departure an entire week.
Loreto, two hours south, has created a National Park of protected waters and outer islands. Off the
malecón and into town you will find Misión de Nuestra Señora where singing voices of the
faithful float out into the charming plaza. Everything is within walking distance; art galleries, gourmet
foods, great oven “fried” pizza and silver shops. Many people fly into the airport here. A two night stay
will allow you to travel into Sierra de la Gigantia to Mision San Francisco Javier, the most beautiful of
all the missions founded throughout Baja California.
La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, is built on the water front and sweeping bay. The malecón
is a favorite for romantic strolls in the warm evening breezes. It has become a tourist resort that is a
gateway to Los Cabos. There are two routes to Lands End at this point. Highway 1 will take you to San
Jose del Cabo and the airport or you can go by way of Highway 19 to Todos Santos and on to Cabo
San Lucas. Sis and I chose to go the wilderness route into the artist community of Todos Santos, a
quiet and charming pueblo.
Only 48 miles from Cabo San Lucas we had time to stop at the top of a hill
gazing down on the breathtaking view. The land penetrated into the shimmering Pacific Ocean like
a great prehistoric backbone. We were thrilled by the completion of the 1000 miles of extraordinary
experiences. Back then, Cabo was a quiet town with warm sleepy streets and sensuous night breezes.
Time was transformed. We explored on a shoe string budget and made friends with the locals. We fell
in love and vowed to return. An impossible task this is to pluck a few words from the infinite beauty
that is Baja California. Like gems they become an invitation for those who would make the journey to
Updated: Sep 21, 2018 02:35 PM