Sitting alongside the 775-mile-long Baja California Peninsula, the Mexican state of Baja California Sur has long been a magnet for travellers in search of their own adventure in paradise. No matter what kind of traveller you are, you can find a home in Baja California Sur. From discovering the beautiful coastline and vibrant marine life near the cultural metropolis of La Paz, or heading south to Los Cabos to relax and indulge in the playground of the finest 5-star luxury resorts.
Transportation and Location
What we really love about Baja California Sur is the ease of moving around this multi destination paradise, especially by car, with straight forward roads through the dramatic mountains and desert landscapes making it the ultimate road trip. Whether you are renting a car, using a local DMC (travel agent/company) or hiring an Uber , it has never been easier to visit so many places in one area, from the glamorous beach resorts of Los Cabos to the historical cultural towns of Todos Santos and La Paz. Roads are easy to navigate and there are two airports in the region flying internationally and also across Mexico.
With sunny skies being the norm in the arid desert, weather in Baja California Sur is wonderful for most of the year with around 10 hours of sunshine a day. The summers are long and hot with winter comfortable and dry. The best time to visit is undoubtedly between October and April when the whale sharks and whales are in abundance.
There is a reason that so many of the most renowned restaurants in mainland Mexico rely heavily on seafood from this region, dangling between the Pacific Ocean and The Sea of Cortez has created a nutrient rich ecosystem for producing the best quality seafood. Baja California Sur triumphs when it comes to freshness and variety, organic food and farm to table so this is a hot destination for gastronomy.
San José Del Cabo
The team at Transcabo made our arrival in Baja California Sur easy with an airport transfer from Los Cabos (SJD) to our first hotel. It is simple to find them at the international terminal since they are all wearing bright orange polo shirts and they were professional, efficient and fast. One staff member warmly greeted us, checked us off the list and within minutes our luggage was being carried into an impressive Escalade that was waiting for us with bottles of water and hand sanitizer provided.
Where to stay – Viceroy Los Cabos
We started off in an all-white watery oasis: the Viceroy Los Cabos, which manages to balance a striking minimalistic design with a relaxed atmosphere. Nestled along the sandy beachfront, the hotel has eight blocks of buildings with mirrored water flooring all along the edges of the building with a pathway leading to the iconic bird-nest restaurant and central islands of the oval pool.
Technology is a big part of the stay here, with all rooms having customizable lighting, aromatherapy, and a personal Alexa. Decked out with 65-inch smart TV and an iPod dock – the high-tech infusion has been created in a way that feels natural and welcoming. Our room layout is an open plan space with light wood accents allowing the natural setting to speak for itself, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean through the floor-to-ceiling windows which open onto the private balcony with a very alluring jacuzzi.
There is an endless list of facilities located within the property, including four restaurants on-site, the most Instagramable of which is Nido. The dramatic Nido restaurant has a unique structure blending with the outdoor pool which resembles a bird’s nest and serves cuisine inspired by Mexico and Japan. The fitness centre is also worth mentioning as it includes the latest workout equipment, a very spacious studio, and is designed by celebrity trainer Harley Pasterna.
What to do – explore the town
First thing to do is start exploring the town! With lively colours, cute shops, street food vendors, art galleries, and endless authentic taco places, there is even a Sotheby’s Realtor for those looking to browse through luxury villas. With plenty to do around the town, I recommended heading to the Baja Brewing Company for some local craft beer and good vibes. Visit on Thursday nights as the town’s galleries and shops stay open later for the Art Walk – a popular street party! Immerse yourselves with the Mexican charm and walk along the streets where you will see colourful bunting decorations fluttering in the breeze which are called ‘papel picado’ which means ‘cut paper’ in Spanish and are commonly used for celebrations and national holidays.
Where to eat – Los Tamarindos
Tucked away along the countryside, Los Tamarindos is a culinary destination set on a former sugarcane farm dating back to the 19th century, with their ethos for farm-to-table dining, there is nothing quite like looking out onto the flourishing 17 acres of organic farm that provide the most fresh ingredients to your plate. Focusing on sustainability and the freshest produce in season, the team here uses only produces grown and raised on the property and acquire their seafood from local fishermen and meat from local ranchers. Los Tamarindos has developed a loyal community of visitors who come for the freshness and range of cooking classes throughout the year.
Wildflowers in mason jars and views overlooking the fairy lights roped across the sprawling farm set the scene for this rustic spot where the menu is based on the seasons harvest. The cuisine is described as Mexican-Mediterranean. Those looking for something innovative and fresh, try the shrimp tacos in which instead of using traditional tortillas they ingeniously use thinly sliced jicama – which are similar to water chestnuts. Being the table’s favourite, the shrimp tacos provide a satisfying and refreshing crunch, really tasting the freshness of the ingredients, beautifully mastered by chef Enrique Silva.
Cabo San Lucas
Where to stay – The Cape, a Thompson Hotel
The Cape, a Thompson Hotel is set in a secluded spot located right on Monuments Beach – this is where the Pacific Ocean merges with the Sea of Cortés, with panoramic ocean views at every angle. The Cape’s mood is an intimate atmosphere, where we even witnessed a wedding ceremony behind the scenic backdrop, this place offers a serene retreat by day and a vibrant nightlife scene in the evening.
Designed by the renowned Mexican architect Javier Sánchez, The Cape is architecturally designed with a modern Mexican twist and slightly retro appeal of a relaxed 60s Southern California-meets-Baja-aesthetic. The sprawling open-air lobby looks out onto the perfectly groomed vertical gardens that lead you down to the spa and two pools, one is a chic infinity pool that has a swim up bar and the other is a saltwater infinity pool built within the natural rock formation.
The beach is open to the public, however, the stretch of sand below the pool area radiates a private feeling. Those with experience of surfing can enjoy the rare surf breaks, but best left to experts as the water is not swimmable however there are numerous blue flag beaches.
Out of the five restaurants here within the hotel (six if you count the beach shack), the most acclaimed is Manta – Chef Enrique Olvera’s signature restaurant, which showcases a contemporary fusion of Mexican and Pacific Rim flavours, with the focus on fresh local seafood. Breakfast is served on The Ledge for an ambient start to your day.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, is that all one hundred and sixty-one rooms have spectacular views of the ocean and the iconic arch known locally as “El Arco,” is made even more enjoyable with a private balcony and swinging day bed that sway in tandem with the therapeutic crashes of sea waves. We are guilty of a few unplanned naps! The hotel’s elegant approach to laid-back luxury is exemplified within the rooms’ graceful furnishings with accents such as copper bathtubs, regional art by José Noé Suro and vintage surf photographs by LeRoy Grannis. Just to top it off, a bottle of welcome tequila awaits every guest.
Where to eat
Setting the standards high for quality authentic tacos, La Lupita has excelled at becoming a foodie hotspot with two locations (in Cabo San Lucas/San Jose del Cabo) and has garnered a devoted cult (which I am part of). The outdoor seating area at the San Jose del Cabo branch feels like a big backyard BBQ party – lively music, sizzling smoke and of course… cervezas!
The value for money here is extraordinary and the secret to the addictive tacos are their made-from-scratch tortillas. A station where a constant flow of handmade corn tortillas of all different colours, plus the combination of different meats cooking in the background emanates a seductive aromatic smoke. The simple-but-mighty menu has something for the timid and adventurous types alike, we recommend starting with the tortilla chips and fresh side of guacamole, then chipotle shrimp – a juicy and creamy bite topped with fragrant fried parsley. For those living on the wild side, we suggest the shredded beef tongue. The meat melts in your mouth with tingling sensations of spice from the Serrano peppers and fresh green onion.
For something more refined, head to Flora Farms near San Jose del Cabo. The beautiful 25-acre family farm at the foothills of the Sierre de la Laguna Mountains offers a farm-to-table kitchen restaurant, organic farm, and grocery store. Sitting in Flora’s Field Kitchen, you will feel at one with nature – surrounded by beautifully maintained rows of flower beds, homely vegetable beds and mowed green lawns; everything is grown on the farm or at the ranch a few miles away. Everything from the jams to the house-made sausages and table decorations are from the farm. There is no surprise as to why this place is a celebrity haunt, hosting weddings for music icons such as Adam Levine. We went for brunch, and we recommend trying the authentic Huevos Rancheros here – a popular Mexican breakfast dish meaning “rancher’s eggs” in Spanish. The carefully charred corn tortilla and sunny side up egg topped with a generous serving of fresh pico de gallo and refried beans is the perfect hearty meal to start your day on the organic farm.
What to do
The golf scene in Los Cabos is unlike any other in the world, offering golf enthusiasts stunning views of mountains and the Sea of Cortes along with perfect year-round weather with bunkers and tees built into the natural landscape. The area has Long been an irresistible lure for golfers of all experience levels, where breath-taking landscapes and unlimited budgets, meaning there are a host of dazzling courses designed by golf legends such as Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus. Home to 18 world-class courses, four of which have been ranked within the 100 world’s best courses by Golf digest in 2018, Cabo has it all from the perfect course for beginners, to challenging holes for even the most experienced golfers out there.
The Arch is a landmark you cannot miss. It is locally known in Spanish as “El Arco” due to its dramatic rock formations, it has undoubtedly become one of the most treasured landmarks within Cabo. Formed over thousands of years of coastal erosions against the Land’s End, located on the most southern tip of the Baja California Sur peninsula, El Arco emerges from the important meeting spot of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. An excursion worth visiting, whether you are wanting a romantic sunset cruise along the landmark, or an adventurous family day out with sea lions who often frequent the area, or just something picturesque for Instagram – there is a tour to El Arco perfect for everyone.
All-Inclusive experience options
Mexico is king when it comes to an all-inclusive holiday and no trip to Baja California Sur is complete without an all-inclusive experience for relaxation in the sun, tequila and making new friends. Kicking back and indulging is a normal way of life here, and the toughest part is choosing from multiple dining options, multiple pools, and an overflowing list of activities.
Grand Velas Los Cabos
Grand Velas Los Cabos is the holy grail of luxury all-inclusive experiences, their motto is “beyond all-inclusive, beyond compare” – redefining the all-inclusive concept and by doing so at the most elevated level with incredible attention to detail. This spectacular paradise has been awarded the prestigious title of AAA Five-diamond resort; the sophisticated service really represents what an all-inclusive should be.
The Grand Velas Touch
Arriving at the property might seem intimidating due to the colossal size, but once you enter the universe of pure luxury, you will realise the personality matches the sheer size. Our helpful butler Michell arranged meal reservations and takes care of all your needs. She was always available to us as needed and checked in throughout the duration of our stay.
For the room key, we opted for a futuristic touch: a digital key which was downloaded via an app onto our phone – a cool and super convenient way of getting into our room.
Our Ambassador Suite Ocean View (no.916) is the epitome of five star luxury, spanning 1,100 square feet of all-inclusive indulgence. Taking in the dramatic ocean view from our own private balcony, and Grand Velas’s signature style of rows of manicured vibrant pink Bougainvillea flowers on all the balconies.
Hotel & Facilities
All 304 rooms are suites, and all boast sea views due to the clever design of the property. The strikingly sculpted resort is built in a sail-like design, an architectural nod to the surname of the family-owned hotel company (vela is Spanish for “sail”).
With so many facilities on the property, there’s little reason to leave. The resort offers 3 infinity pools with areas reserved for adults only, a 35,000-square-foot spa, and one of the biggest hotel gyms in the region with every treadmill offering beach views.
In typical grand all-inclusive fashion, Grand Velas offers 2 all-day restaurants, 5 gourmet dining restaurants, plus a coffee shop on the property. Breakfast and lunch are served at the casual beachfront restaurant called Azul with quality buffets. We recommend sitting outside for the sea view and the chance of seeing whales. Local wildlife such as humpback whales and dolphins are common sights – make sure to listen out for the bells from the whale gong when something is spotted!
Dinner options include Frida which is a modern gourmet Mexican restaurant with a tasting menu and a la carte. Cocina de Autor is the resort’s flagship restaurant. The adult-only space serves a 10-course tasting menu with a wine pairing created by a two-Michelin star chef, Sidney Schutte.
The joy of an all-inclusive is unlimited cocktails, and with 5 bars to choose from you are spoilt for choice! Browsing through the impressive selection of premium, local and international tequilas, we discovered the grand jewels: Clase Azul Tequila. This elusive and ultra-premium spirit is sought after by collectors and is one of the most talked about tequilas on earth.
Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos
The all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos is a relatively newcomer within the all-inclusive scene, only opening in 2019, the hotel has already garnered an impressive reputation for itself for providing world-class services. Offering a family-friendly property with private adult-only spaces, the hotel caters to the needs of everyone, including your pets!
Our ubiquitous all-inclusive wristband also doubles as our room key, opening our room with the swipe of my wrist. Its contemporary designs using blue and yellow accents add a sense of relaxation. My favourite aspect of the room was the spacious balcony, complete with an outdoor sofa and spa tub overlooking the pool area, an incredible spot for sunset.
Those familiar with Hard Rock’s concept knows the musical pulse and trademark ‘rock and roll’ memorabilia creates an enhanced experience connecting you to the music. With a full schedule of daily and nightly entertainment (don’t worry – music is turned down at 11pm), the hotel gives off a fun and high energy atmosphere inside and out, while also providing areas to relax with their laid-back approach to luxury such as The Rock Spa. The hotel has a total of 5 pools, and each pool has its own swim-up bar which means mezcal, margaritas and mariachi bands on tap!
There are 8 restaurants on site with cuisines ranging from Mexican, Italian, Indian, Asian, steak, pizza, Teppanyaki, and a 24-hour café. Our favourite was Zen, specialising in Asian dishes. We recommend the Tako Teriyaki which is tender octopus cooked in sake and sweet soy sauce and glazed with seasonal vegetables as well as the high-grade sushi. With no surprise it is popular spot among guests, we advise to pre-book reservations.
For drinks, regardless of whether you are in the 2 pool bars, 4 swim-up bars or 3 lounges – premium name brand liquors are included. Our go to was the Don Julio Blanco. For something more complex, head to Sunlight lounge and ask for a smoked infused cocktail; the mixologist will ingeniously use the impressive cocktail smoke machine.
Todos Santos is a quaint town an hour north from Cabo San Lucas. Many come here to surf the nearby breaks regarded as the country’s best, or wonder cobblestone streets lined with artisan shops, or to the iconic Hotel California, which, contrary to the locals, is not the same place named in the Eagles song. Regardless, the area has been awarded a ‘Pueblo Mágico’ (magic town) – one of just 100 small towns honoured for its cultural heritage, natural beauty, and historical relevance.
Where to stay – Guaycura
An oasis of tranquillity steps away from the middle of the town. The Guaycura Boutique Hotel is a family owned and run establishment, the mid-19th century red brick colonial building has a rich history of being a hub within the community, previously being a police station, post office, and art academy.
Guaycura is the quintessential place for those looking for both relaxation and culture, the boutique boasts friendly and unpretentious services, emitting a vibe that is intimate and homely while having a refined touch with dark wood furniture, terracotta floors, and bright local art covering the walls.
Considering the boutique hotel only has 14 charming rooms, it packs a massive list of amenities from the roof terrace and pool with sweeping views of mountains and the Pacific Ocean, to their restaurant – El Jardin, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in the shaded courtyard. Facilities outside the hotel include El Faro Beach Club & Spa, where you will find an infinity pool and all the essentials needed for the perfect lazy day by the beach, just 2 miles away and the hotel provides a shuttle service to and from for guests.
If you are feeling hungry, Head to El Mirador, the clifftop restaurant just up from the beach club – the best place to combine a cocktail and a memorable sunset which was also voted among the Top 20 most Instagrammable restaurants in the world for 2021 according to TripAdvisor. Open Wednesday through Monday, from 11am to 7pm.
Where to eat – Oystera Santa Terra
Built from the remains of a former sugarcane farm, Santa Terra is a hub for art, shops, culture, and exquisite seafood. The cosmopolitan Oystera bar brings a sense of modern elegance to the historic Mexican town, with future plans to expand this tropical oasis to include outdoor event spaces, glamping, wine patio and much more. A space to definitely keep an eye out for and one of the gems in Baja California Sur.
Serving the freshest seafood I have ever tasted: same day caught scallops still in their shells, creamy local oysters, meaty marlin, and the region’s famous “chocolate” clams – named after their brown smooth shells which contain bright orange fresh, tender and briny magic inside displayed in a glorious oyster and clam platter served with their signature homemade chili habanero paste which packs a kick and has a deep rich flavour – you can buy this from the restaurant too. We also had the outstanding local Po’boy, crispy and lightly deep fried oysters and octopus.
What to do
Surfing is one of the most popular activity in Todos Santos, internationally renowned for its quality breaks, the area is a mecca for the surf lovers. What is appealing about Todos Santos is that the water here is warmer and less crowded than in Northern Baja California Sur. Surfers mostly congregate on two beaches: One is Playa Los Cerritos, only 20 minutes south of Todos Santos and is a favourite among surfers and longboaders. The other is Playa Pescadero, best suited for intermediate and advanced surfers.
Explore Art Galleries
The art community scene in Todos Santos is thriving. Artists have long been attracted to the arid desert landscape that leads directly to the vast Pacific Ocean. Even to this day, artists and designers come to this tiny town to get inspiration from the raw and rugged beauty of Todos Santos. There are dozens of galleries to visit like the Galeria de Todos Santos which shows both Mexican and International artists. There is even a 10-day long art festival in the month of February, highlighting music, dance, and visual art performances throughout the town.
Two hours north of Los Cabos and one hour from Todos Santos is the sunny capital of Baja California Sur. La Paz is an underrated gem boasting a rich history dating back to 1548 by the Spanish conquistadors, with a thriving eco-tourism from the abundance of marine life and holds a rare feeling of a provincial atmosphere, uninterrupted by international tourism.
With so much to do, see, and eat, you will need to take a step back and immerse yourself within the natural landscape of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains and the Sea of Cortez or dive straight into La Paz’s Malecón promenade, stretching 5km long along the beach, lined with seafood restaurants, shops and 13 bronze statues of stingrays, sharks, mermaids, dolphins, whales, pearls and other ocean La Paz related icons.
Where to stay – Baja Club
A love story between the new and old, the Baja Club, part of Grupo Habita, is an aesthetic paradise for discerning travellers with an eye for design, once the brick bones of an oyster harvester back in the heyday of pearls and oysters, the hotel kept the original structure of the colonial-style hacienda in the front while a sleek, modernist 4 floor extension is added to the back. The hotel is located on the lively boardwalk amongst the bustle of La Paz, guests can stroll through the laid-back town on foot and reach any of the area’s hotspots.
With 32 rooms, the majority have generous balconies overlooking the peaceful courtyard catching a glimpse of the sea in front. Our room was stylish with wooden panelling separating the bathroom from the cosy bedroom, along with interesting design details such as ceramic lamps, striped fabric reminiscent of the sea, and dark emerald green tiles in the bathroom.
The smell from the fragrant frangipani trees dotted throughout fills the air, as the hotel preserves the microclimate in the courtyard with a lush green garden, while maintaining and restoring the property’s historic pergola, which now serves as an impressive-shaded outdoor terrace for the restaurant. Hidden in the secluded corner of the courtyard holds the splendid suntrap pool next to the exposed bricks is a circular staircase made of concrete spirals up towards the rooftop bar, where panoramic views of the sea, mountains, and hums from the lively town sets the scene for a breath taking sunset.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served inside the restaurant or outside underneath the romantic pergola in the courtyard next to the sleek modern pond.
Where to eat – Hambrusia
The lively place is famous for delicious tacos, craft beers and a wide selection of mezcal. Everyone we encountered in La Paz suggested this place to us, centrally located on the bustling boardwalk, right next to the Baja Club Hotel. The venue has a fun party vibe and offers exotic variations of tacos made from local ingredients.
The menu is in Spanish, so those who speak no Español get your google translate ready (we did). We ordered the exotic Tripulpo, corn tortilla topped with beef tripe, octopus, purple onion, and salsa tatemada sauce with chilies, the unique combination is a match made in heaven. Those wanting a bit of extra heat like we did, ask for the picante here, the spiciest we had in Mexico.
In Mexico, mezcal is generally consumed straight, and that’s exactly what we did. Hambrusia has so many options to choose from, we went for Rey Campero Mezcal, a local favourite traditionally made from tepextate agave, the mezcal is smooth with a flavourful smokiness taste. We loved the Hambrusia so much we came back the next day!
What to do – whale sharks with Baja Adventures Co.
From the months between October and April, you will get the chance to swim with the world’s largest fish, whale sharks, which can reach a size of up to 10m and can weigh 19,000kg. Do not worry as they are not dangerous and are described as gentle giants of the sea. We were guided by the amazing Baja Adventures Co, regarded as the premier tour operators in La Paz for ethical eco-tourism.
Starting our adventure at their headquarters in the Marina Costa Baja, we boarded a 30-minute boat ride out to the plankton rich waters where the whale sharks spend all their days feeding. No need to bring anything as the team provide fins, snorkels, wetsuits, and even refreshments onboard. Due to whale sharks being an endangered species, there are regulations and guidelines to keep within their conservation which were professionally handled by our charming and insightful guide, educating us about the ecosystem and biology of these beautiful creatures.
Once we arrived at the location, we instantly saw two whale sharks and even a turtle passing by, once spotted we geared up and jumped in! Swimming with these majestic creatures puts into perspective the beauty of nature, truly a humbling and exhilarating experience which I will never forget. However, make sure to always stay 2 meters away and do not swim in front of the animals, and for those with cameras, selfie sticks are not permitted.
The Sea of Cortez was described by French explorer Jacques Cousteau as the “Aquarium of the world” with over 900 species of marine life, the Baja Adventures Co offers other educational and thrilling activities.
Why Baja California Sur is so special
Baja California Sur is the definition of a multi destination paradise, offering a dream holiday that creates lifelong memories for every personality and character alike, whether you come for a few days or a few months there will always be something for you to do, eat and see. Saying goodbye to the enchanting landscape and sunny skies is hard, but the hardest goodbye is to the diverse cultural identity of the location, something that’s worth exploring time and time again.
Thank you to the following who gave up their energy and time and made this trip possible.
110PERCEB Ltd. – 110perceb.com
Los Cabos Tourism Board – visitloscabos.travel
La Paz Tourism Board – golapaz.com
All imagery courtesy of the brands featured in Baja California Sur. Leading image courtesy of The Cape, a Thompson Hotel.