I was invited to visit and explore a part of beautiful Baja California/Sur – South of the Border, specifically La Paz, Loreto, Los Cabos, and Todos Santos. Other than driving the Baja 500 or Baja 1000, the best option is to fly from Tijuana, San Diego or Los Angeles. Luckily Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air flies directly from Los Angeles in 2 hours 20 minutes, making for a beautiful flight with outstanding scenery all the way. The time went quickly.
I give Horizon Air special mention as I enjoyed a really friendly trip from the ticket counter in LAX to the 76-passenger aircraft. They even allowed u s the option of carrying our suitcase to the plane on the tarmac and watch as it was loaded on board with the other luggage. The two flight attendants graciously assisted everyone get aboard and prepare for departure for La Paz. Our return was from Loreto back to LAX.
I noticed that most of those boarding the plane were heading to either La Paz or Loreto, because they have a second home there and could skip the winters in the northern USA. My sitting partner was a wealth of information about La Paz, having lived there part-time for over six years and loves to visit from 3-6 months a year. Everyone on the plane seemed to have a similar story.
Why do these passengers come to this part of Baja Sur? They enjoy the hospitality of the Mexican citizens. They love the quietness of the area. And they like the cost of living there compared to their hometown in the USA. My seat-mate told me that one could live on $800 per month and enjoy the beauty of Baja, from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean on the western part.
Many mentioned that they enjoy these two sleepy seaside towns, La Paz and Loreto, and are very active playing golf, fishing, island hopping, snorkeling, whale watching, kayaking, scuba diving, fishing and hiking. You don’t see panhandlers walking the streets, and the friendly shopkeepers just give you a warm “hello” as you browse their shops. I like that.
Upon my arrival in La Paz, I was greeted by my host and driven a short distance to the Grand Heritage Residence Club located in the Costa Baja Resort area. This new area is an overwhelming resort with open air reception, surrounded by the marina that supports beautiful yachts and boats, with water surrounding the area. The mountains and sun beaming over the water create a peaceful silence. Just beautiful!
The Costa Baja Resort & Spa would be the perfect place to retire and enjoy all their amenities. Yes, even the Restaurant is named after John Steinbeck, the writer who loved Baja California. Quite the lovely restaurant where service, quality and hospitality make you feel like family. The resorts rooms are new, very elegantly presented, and with all the features you would love to have at home. The vista of the water from the balcony is quite calming and offers a beautiful view.
Next day I explored the region with a scheduled visit to Playa de la Paz, a development which features a wonderful golf course with almost a 360 degree view of mountains and water plus magnificent views of cacti, mixed with the green grass of the golf course and flowers in many colors. I had the opportunity to take a short boat ride to visit Island Living in the Baja! Otherwise, the property of Paraiso del Mar is located in La Paz, where the golf course is built along with beachfront Condos and Casas.
It was not easy to leave this pleasant Paradise with its scenic surroundings and unique resorts, but it was time to depart La Paz and head towards Todos Santos to enjoy more of Baja California. I visited Hotel California, one of the famous hotels in Todos Santos and enjoyed lunch at a unique boutique hotel which opened recently, Guaycura Boutique Hotel & Spa. I was told that this building used to be the former police station before being turned into a boutique hotel, which is quite different, unique and inviting. Something travelers might wish to explore for a couple of nights lodging.
Todos Santos is located on the western part of Baja Sur, 78 miles south of Cabo San Lucas and is also popular for surfing, with their beaches surrounded by the Sierra de la Lugana Mountains.
Driving from La Paz to Todos Santos is about 51 miles from Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean with interesting desert scenes and part of the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 mile racing events that are quite popular. Desert splendor!!
The town is also unique and quite quaint. It is very inviting to walk around the shops and enjoy a very appealing feeling of “Old Mexico”. One must stop at the Mision de Nuestra Senora del Pilar which dates back to 1697 and was established as one of the first Jesuit Missions, plus the central plaza, Museo de Barrio par alas Artes Plasticas, along with the many handicraft shops along the streets.
Finally, arriving in Loreto, I could see a cruise ship anchored in the harbor and it was tendering in guests to explore the Loreto Malecon walking area along the Sea of Cortez, enjoy the shopping and take in a special Mexican-flavored luncheon. Naturally, a Margarita or Mexico beer might be in order as well.
I found that in the town of Loreto the shopkeepers pride themselves on not bothering the tourists and requesting them to buy from their stores, but you may see a nice lady who is baby-sitting in her shop, who is friendly and is willing to answer questions about the ceramic, wooden artifacts or other special curios that she has for sale. And, yes, you will even find wood carvings from Oaxaca, which are always a treat to bring home as gifts.
Finding a place to stay in Loreto is very easy as there are many pleasant and reasonable hotels and resorts in the city and the surrounding area, most centered on the Sea of Cortez.
Many of the guests who visit Loreto come for the pleasant surroundings and the lack of hustle and bustle. Most gear their time towards hiking to Tabor, Island Hopping, Snorkeling Tours, Whale Watching, Kayaking, Scuba Diving, Fishing and naturally taking the Mission Tour. I found that all hotel can arrange tours for guests and the prices are very reasonable. I decided to take the one-hour Whale Watching cruise to observe and enjoy the whales. I learned that the baby whales are born in Magdalena Bay in the Lopez Mateos area and after giving birth, mom and baby will later head north.
I had the opportunity to visit Inn at Loreto Bay and Hotel Oasis in downtown, but I decided to stay at
La Mision for a unique experience with a front ocean view. This property with its 66 spacious rooms overlooks the Sea of Cortez in front and at the back is surrounded by the Sierra de la Giganta mountains. Quite a setting. This property has become a 5-star hotel, thanks to its developer Scott Serven who put in many long days extensively restoring the hotel. He is also adding four more condominiums on the top floor, which are still under construction. The property also has its own water system which filters through the fresh sea food that is served in his restaurant. The hotel is well on its way to being one of the most unique properties in Baja Sur. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
Well Baja Sur, you’ve done a great service to travelers wishing the opportunity to just lay back, enjoy mother nature and at the same time, be wined and dined from La Paz to Loreto, truly a great treat to visit. No wonder there were so many ‘gringos’ walking around town who live there, retire there, and visit all the time, as it’s only a two-hour flight from Los Angeles to a “Piece of Paradise“ aboard Horizon Air.
Photos by Dick Slaker
SANPATA Ambassador to Baja, Mexico