Road trips to Baja always start off a thing of beauty. You say to yourself – "This time I'm definitely going to kayak over to Espiritu Santo and camp in a protected cove with the incredible wildlife. No, really...this next trip, I truly do intend on surfing a break besides Cerritos. Honestly, I really believe that this trip I'm gonna finally track down that lady who lives at the top of an enormous mountain and slaps up the best tamales ever (or so a fisherman once whispered). It's all going to happen on my next trip." But, then, road trip reality sets in hard and you find yourself doing none of these things.
Instead, you are SUP'ing and jet skiing in Buena Vista; you are cavorting with rescued puppies in a beautiful church in San Javier; you are chowing on smoked fish in a sports bar in Los Barriles; and you watching the Academy Awards al fresco in a new wine cafe in Todos Santos. No, things never go down as planned once you hit Highway 1, but the final result ends up being more exquisite than anything you ever dreamed. Simply because the surprises all came at a time when you needed it most – a time when the road has beat you down so hard, all you can do is drift into the next available town and see where the dust settles. And, yet again you always manage to happen upon the most delightful finds that make Baja one of the most intoxicating places to visit on the planet.
Here are 5 surprisingly luxurious thrills in the Baja that are almost worth the trip alone.
1. Fresh Baked Bread at Roadrunner Café & Bakery – Los Barriles
Man can only have so many tortillas a day before he just simply eschews them forever. As in you never, ever want to see flat dough again. But bread becomes appealing once again the moment you enter this cheerful expat café just off the 1 as you enter Los Barriles. The heavenly scents of fresh baked scones, breads, cookies, and pastries tickle your nose as you enter the front door and any caloric sense you might have had is immediately obliterated. Still warm bread fresh from the oven is tossed on the table with breakfast and not knowing, you just slather on a little butter and jam out of habit. It’s only upon first bite that the dark absoluteness of gluttony gently embraces you. Yes – you are about to wolf down 4 slices of bread…and bravely ask for more to go with your meal. No other bread on earth should be served but the loaves coming out of this kitchen. It’s just that good.
2. French Rosé at Loreto Islas - Loreto
Oh, the margaritas in Baja are sublime. No need to tell the bartenders how to make them; they just know what a killer marg is all about. But, sometimes – the tummy can turn from a bit too much acid. Enter vino. It’s the next best thing and somehow dresses life up a notch. Suddenly, you’re feeling sophisticated and charming all over again. The way you might have felt before you became a road dog. Not many places in Baja know good wine outside of Cabo and Valle de Guadalupe, but all you have to do is enter the colorful seafront oasis of Loreto Islas to get back to some crisp grape in the form of rose. What a dazzling item to spot on the menu at this top rated seafood restaurant on the malecon. Their French rose is perfectly sweet, perfectly chilled and perfectly bubbly – a gift from the wine lords after a long trek through the desert.
3. Massage by Sergio at Agnes’ Boutique – Loreto Bay
If there was a ever a place Thai masseuses were needed in spades, it’s at every Pemex station in Baja. Sadly, that is never to be. But, there is a place just south of Loreto where you can get a massage worthy of a traditional Thai massage house – one that will simply blow your mind. In a super cute boutique owned by a doll named Agnes, there is a back room. In this room, you will find loads of candles flickering, fragrant cotton sheets folded down and a sturdy massage table ready to be collapsed onto. Agnes (a masseuse herself) knows that when folks come in shattered from the road, the person to hand them over to is her husband, Sergio. He’s build like a brick house, he’s studied massage in Thailand, and he never says a word during your session. He just knows how to pull, knead, stretch, elongate, and stroke all the bitter elements of road tripping right out of your body…and does so with the grace of a Zen master. Go for 90 minutes – you’ll wish you did 2 hrs. No harm in popping by on the way back North though…he’s available daily to make your body sing again.
Contact: cale_mx(at)yahoo.com or 011-52-613-114-9691
4. Blended Margarita at Palapa San Javier – San Javier
The road to San Javier from Loreto used to be all treacherous dirt paths and heart attack material. Now, it’s just a splendid day in the country since it’s been pristinely paved and conditioned to be one of the better roads in Baja. At the top of this trek is a tiny village with a beautiful mission; one of the best preserved in the whole peninsula. However, what is even more astonishing is the tasty blended margarita that Ernesto whips up at the bar/restaurant that flanks the church. It’s a wildly addictive mix of silver tequila, fresh lime, orange liquor and lots of ice that magically does not melt. The village mutt’s keep you company as you sip away and contemplate what life would be like living in a small Mexican village at the end of a beautiful paved road. Sounds wonderful…and oddly doable.
Contact: No phone, but if you are facing the mission – it’s on the right
5. Shower at Hotel Jardines – San Quintin
This oasis of a hotel is a sight to behold when you need a stop over point from lower Baja to the border. It’s about ½ mile off the 1 and literally awash with greenery - a vibrant jungle in the middle of muddy roads and pet friendly to boot. The rooms are cheap, the wi-fi free and fast, and the coffee in the morning is on them. But the most phenomenal thing ever is the water pressure in the shower. The hot water is freakishly instant and the intense blast of steam and agua you get are practically reason enough to stay another night. Ah, but the border calls. Time to head home, just so you can day dream about the “Next Time” road trip you’ll be obsessing about the minute you exit Mexico.
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Never had to use it. But glad I had it.