visit baja california sur

Baja California Sur | Ultimate Traveler’s Guide, According to Locals [2024]

Home to the world-famous resort destination of Los Cabos, the Mexican state of Baja California Sur is one of the most visited regions in the country. However, far too few travelers take the time to explore beyond the bounds of Cabo; those who do fall in love with a region rich with diversity, cuisine, and incredible things to do.

Ready to get up close with wildlife, explore desert oases, and plunge into the calm waters of the Sea of Cortez? Read on for our guide to Baja California Sur according to the locals. You’ll find everything from the best things to do in Baja California Sur, and the places that make the region so special.

baja california sur
Luc Rousseau / Shutterstock

This post contains affiliate links that may reward me monetarily or otherwise when you use them to make qualifying purchases – at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, please read our disclosure policy.

Baja California Sur

Baja California Sur is the Mexican state located at the southern end of the Baja California Peninsula. Stretching from the UNESCO-protected El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve south to the dual towns of Los Cabos – Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo – Baja California Sur is a dramatically varied destination offering so many unique experiences.

Breezy, laid-back beach towns dot the coastline on both sides of the peninsula. To the east, the Sea of Cortez hides incredible wildlife and is a world-class destination for diving, whale watching, sport fishing, and more. On the west, the waves of the Pacific have long made the coastline a surfer’s haven, through an increasing number of cool communities along the way give travelers even more reasons to love this side of the coast.

A “van lifers” paradise, you’ll see northerners head here in droves the wintertime, posting up at beach towns and in gated communities. Few oversized beach resorts outside of Los Cabos give the region its laidback feel, even as each winter seems to bring more and more visitors to increasingly popular shores.

Many travelers access Baja California Sur via the well-served international airport in Los Cabos, which is one of the busiest airports in the country. However, Baja California Sur is so much more than just Los Cabos. Whether the Los Cabos you’re picturing is a tequila-soaked spring break paradise or unrivaled relaxation at some of Mexico’s best resorts (both exist!) is just the tiniest taste of Baja California Sur.

Why Visit Baja California Sur?

It may sound cliché, but Baja California Sur has a bit of everything. Adventurers will love off-roading, hiking desert gorges, and diving in underwater canyons, while wellness-seekers will melt into age-old hearing practices and sunrise yoga lessons. Whatever you’re looking for, Baja California Sur does it well – somehow better than you could ever expect.

With an arid, desert-like landscape sprinkled with soaring mountains and punctuated by calm, crystalline bays replete with marine life, it’s totally unique to Mexico and breathtakingly beautiful at every turn.

Is Baja California Sur Safe?

Baja California Sur is generally a safe destination for travelers, especially when taking basic travel safety precautions and practicing street smarts as you move around the peninsula. The crime rate in Baja California Sur is generally low, especially in comparison to other areas in Mexico.

When traveling, make sure to ask for and heed local advice, such as which areas to frequent and which to avoid. As always, make sure to stick to populated areas, don’t dress in a flashy way, take care of flashing expensive electronics, and avoid walking alone at night. It’s the easiest way to enjoy a perfectly uneventful vacation.

Baja California Sur Map

Baja California Sur vs. Baja California Norte

While Baja California Norte, with major cities like Tijuana and Ensenada, tends towards being a close-to-home escape for travelers visiting after crossing the U.S.-Mexico Border, Baja California Sur is a destination worth traveling for.

Baja California Sur also has a much more developed tourism infrastructure than its northern neighbor, with more hotels, resorts, beach towns, and activities overall to attract visitors. For most travelers, the choice of destination is an easy one.

los cabos baja california sur
ChavezEd / Shutterstock

Places to Visit in Baja California Sur

For many travelers, Baja California Sur has long meant just Los Cabos at the dramatic southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. No more; there are so many more places to visit in Baja California Sur that are worth your time. These are some of the most worthwhile destinations in Baja California Sur to add to your itinerary:

Los Cabos

Comprising the towns of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, plus the increasingly developed stretch of resort-peppered coastline between the two towns, Los Cabos is what draws countless visitors to Baja California Sur.

Long an escape – somehow, simultaneously – for both margarita-soaked spring breakers and wealthy Californias looking for a posh retreat, Los Cabos has changed so much over the past few years, turning it into a much more well-rounded travel destination.

If you’re not planning on holing up in one of the area’s spectacular luxe resorts, you’ll love discovering how much there is to do in Los Cabos. From Thursday night art walks in San José del Cabo to farm-to-table dining experiences everywhere you look and world-class tequila and mezcal tastings, the way to spend a vacation in Los Cabos are endless.

With one of Mexico’s busiest airports, the accessibility of Los Cabos is unmatched, no matter where you’re traveling from. Just don’t let it be your only taste of the region – the rest of Baja California Sur has so much to offer, too.

Where To Stay in Los Cabos

loreto baja california sur islands of loreto

Loreto

Perched on the Sea of Cortez and surrounded by desert mountains and red rock canyons, Loreto is the ultimate beach town in Baja California Sur. Its walkability extends far beyond its beautiful malecón oceanfront promenade, and the impressive islands of Loreto offshore give even more drama to its ocean views.

Despite its sleepy feel, there’s plenty to do in Loreto; even after five days based in Loreto, I felt there was so much more I still had yet to do in the area. Settle into a wellness-focused vacation in Loreto with SUP paddleboard yoga and cacao ceremonies, or use the town as a base for some of the best diving, whale watching, and sport fishing in the area.

While it’s a bit far from larger cities in Baja California Sur – with La Paz being a four-hour drive south – Loreto makes a fantastic base for discovering one of the most picturesque areas of the region, even beyond just the islands of Loreto. Its affordability is a huge plus, as well.

Where To Stay in Loreto

balandra beach
Matt Gush / Shutterstock

La Paz

The capital city of Baja California Sur, La Paz is a bigger, buzzier beach town located on the Sea of Cortez side of the peninsula. The mix of beautiful scenery and the convenience of a slightly bigger town makes it a popular place for visitors to base themselves as they explore.

La Paz is the starting point for numerous sailing excursions in the Sea of Cortez, with its larger marina making it a destination for yachts and other sailing day trips that are a highlight of any visit to Baja. Plan on diving, sailing to nearby Isla Espiritu Santo, and spotting whales and dolphins as among the highlights of your stay.

Balandra Beach in La Paz is one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, itself making it worth the visit to La Paz. Between Balandra Beach and Bahia Concepción in the northern part of Baja California Sur, you’ll wonder why the Yucatán gets all the beach love in Mexico rather than Baja.

La Paz is a bit busier than some of the beach towns further up the peninsula, meaning it might be just a little too lively and built-up for those looking for those feet-in-the-sand, beach-town vibes – head north to Loreto for that. However, just two hours north of Los Cabos, it’s a convenient and easily accessible coastal haven that will feel like a total escape.

Where To Stay in La Paz

beaches in baja california sur
csp / Shutterstock

Todos Santos

A small beach town at its heart, Todos Santos is increasingly a favorite among travelers heading to Baja California Sur. Its laidback vibe and the killer waves at nearby beaches – next-door Los Cerritos is legendary with surfers – have made it a haven with artists, hippies, and the cool kind of retirees who prefer flip flops over fancy escapes.

Overall Todos Santos is a great place to stay for a while in Baja California Sur, with an ever-increasing number of cool places to stay and things to do. Just an hour north along the coast from Los Cabos, it’s a great addition to an itinerary in the region, especially if you don’t have time to go further up the peninsula.

Where To Stay in Todos Santos

sierra la laguna
HTurner / Shutterstock

Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve

If you’re looking for a beautiful break from built-up Los Cabos or a memorable day trip from La Paz, Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve is a must. Home to waterfalls and crystalline swimming holes, it’s a totally unique part of Baja’s landscape.

You’ll find plenty of guided tours and excursions to the Sierra de la Laguna, particularly from Los Cabos, and they’re the easiest way to visit the area without renting a car. Day trips include hiking and swimming in the natural springs and under waterfalls. Hiking the indigenous Pericu road, just a four-hour hike through the reserve is another popular way to explore the area.

Sierra de la Laguna can be visited as a day trip from either Los Cabos or La Paz, though more tend to come here from Los Cabos, it seems. Therefore, accommodation options in the immediate area are scant.

Make a stop at La Garita on the way. While this restaurant isn’t much more than a thatched roof structure covering bare earth with a scattering of tables and chairs, it is renowned for having incredible and authentic Mexican food. It’s a popular stop-off point for travelers along the way.

Reviews and Bookings:

bahia concepcion

Bahia Concepcion

Located in the more sparsely-populated northern section of Baja California Sur, the dramatic Bahia Concepcion is one of the most beautiful beach destinations to visit in Baja, and a must if you’re visiting this part of Baja California Sur. When asking multiple locals about their favorite beach in Baja, this was the winner, every time.

The bay’s El Requesón beach is easily one of the best in Mexico, though there are several in the area worth visiting. The protection of the bay makes beach conditions ideal, and the more remote location of the bay, rimmed mostly by tiny towns, means it’s never busy.

Nearby attractions include the desert oasis of La Purisima with its Spanish colonial mission. Stay in a bayfront rental or at one of the basic hotels in Mulegé, a dramatic oasis town where a river slices through the desert. To see the lush green riverbeds fringed with palms against stark, arid sands and mountains is an impressive sight, itself worth the visit.

Visitors can spend a day or two in the area, though others will prefer to make it a day trip from Loreto.

Where To Stay Near Bahia Concepcion

sea of cortez whales
Courtesy of Visit Baja Sur

Things To Do in Baja California Sur

1. Go Whale Watching

The Sea of Cortez is known as one of the best places in the world for whale watching, with numerous species of whales migrating to the sea every winter to feed and give birth in the protected cooler waters. The whale-watching season generally lasts from late November or December through April, though visitors have the best chance of spotting whales in January and February.

Whale-watching tours in Baja California Sur are quite regulated but allow travelers to get an impressive distance. You can find whale-watching tours departing from Los Cabos, though destinations further north on the peninsula are known for offering much more intimate tour experiences.

The islands of Loreto, particularly, offer highly protective conditions for whales and their babies, making them a great destination to encounter whales.

2. Enjoy Next-Level Wellness Experiences

With everything from the standard massages and facials at the best resorts in Mexico to more out-there experiences like moon-bathing and temazcal ceremonies rooted in ancient Mexican traditions, Los Cabos finds itself on the cutting edge of wellness. Wellness retreats hosted by and for the rich and famous and buzzy new outposts of major international wellness brands like The WELL make Los Cabos a destination increasingly known for wellness.

However, Los Cabos is just one option for travelers looking for a wellness getaway in Baja California Sur, and generally an expensive one at that. The region’s smaller cities like La Paz and Loreto are much more suited to those looking for wellness on a budget, offering everything from yoga classes to adventure sports to help unwind amidst the beauty of Baja.

On the western coast of the peninsula, the stunning desert landscape outside of Todos Santos is home to Paradero Todos Santos, a one-of-a-kind, design-forward hotel known for its wellness offering. Everything from sound bathing and yoga classes to temazcal ceremonies and adventurous excursions to empty beaches offer next-level relaxation.

the islands of loreto
Courtesy of Visit Baja Sur

3. Spend A Day Beach Hopping

While the beaches of Baja California Sur generally can’t compete with the unending, pristine sands of Mexico’s Caribbean-facing Yucatán Peninsula, they’re one of the region’s gems.

Beaches in Los Cabos generally aren’t swimmable, despite the area’s increasingly impressive stretch of oceanfront resorts and hotels. However, the stunning Playa del Amor and nearby Playa del Divorcio, dramatically perched at the arch at Land’s End, are must-visit stretches of sand.

Further up the coast, the beaches get much more impressive. On the Sea of Cortez, Balandra Beach near La Paz is considered one of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches, while hidden cove beaches dotting the islands of Loreto are perfect spots for snorkeling and lunch breaks amidst days of sailing.

North of Loreto, Bahia Concepción near Mulegé is another Sea of Cortez beach destination worth traveling the distance. Facing the Pacific, beaches tend to be wavier, with Los Cerritos beach among the best spots in the Pacific for surfing.

4. Go Diving

The impressive seasonal whale migrations aren’t the only reason to take to the water on the Sea of Cortez. Once called “The World’s Aquarium” by oceanographer Jacques Costeau, the Sea of Cortez is rich with marine life ranging from sea lions, rays, and whale sharks to colorful fish and dramatic corals for an unforgettable dive experience.

Two hours north of Los Cabos, the protected waters of Cabo Pulmo National Park offer the region’s most well-known destination for diving. Known for offering up-close encounters with larger marine life like sea lions and rays, it’s a must for any diver.

However, destinations further up the peninsula, such as the protected islands of Loreto, are another dive destination par excellence with dramatic underwater landscapes.

farm to table cuisine Baja California Sur

5. Enjoy Farm-to-Table Cuisine

Farm-to-table cuisine… in the desert? It’s more realistic than you’d think, with Los Cabos birthing a farm-to-table cuisine moment that will make even the most casual foodie swoon. With well-known farm-to-table favorites including Acre, Tamarindos, and Flora Farms, plus newcomers like Monte Cardón, Los Cabos has plenty of ultra-fresh culinary options to enjoy.

New farm-to-table culinary destinations continue to sprout up beyond Los Cabos, too. Outside of Loreto, San Javier Farm in the shadow of the historic San Javier Mission is an oasis respite that makes the drive from the coast even more tempting. The farm-to-table kitchen at Jazamango, led by renowned Baja chef Chef Javier Plascencia, is a highlight in Todos Santos.

Travel Essential

Don’t head out on your adventure without comprehensive travel insurance! Good travel insurance may cover lost or stolen gear, medical emergencies, delayed or canceled flights, and more. Check out the policies available from SafetyWing or compare plans using Visitors Coverage.

chileno bay resort and residences
Courtesy of Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection

Where To Stay in Baja California Sur

With the large distances between some of the region’s best attractions, it’s important to pick where to stay in Baja California Sur wisely as you plan your trip.

Alternatively, skip the home base in Baja California Sur entirely and jump on the increasingly popular van life trend in Baja! You’ll be impressed with the incredible number of RV parks and other resources available even in smaller towns in Baja, making it an easy way to explore even for those with little prior experience.

These are the top places to choose from as you decide where to stay in Baja California Sur.

Los Cabos

With its well-served international airport, Los Cabos is the perfect first destination to visit on your stay in Baja Calofnria Sur – just make sure you make it past Cabo! The experience of a stay in Los Cabos is totally different from the rest of Baja, but its convenience for many makes it a good first base.

Accommodations in Los Cabos truly run the gamut, with basic budget-friendly hostels in Cabo San Lucas to some of the most luxurious resorts in the entire world along enviable stretches of coastline. Location-wise, Cabo San Lucas is great if you’re just here for a short time before heading on, but San Jose del Cabo is much more relaxed if you’re planning on spending a few days here.

These are some of the best places to stay in Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo at a variety of price points.

Where To Stay in Los Cabos

posada de las flores

Loreto

There’s no better base for exploring the northern and central areas of Baja than the relaxed beach town of Loreto on the Sea of Cortez.

With easy access to the stunning islands of Loreto as well as mission oases like San Javier, there are a number of can’t-miss day trips to choose from in the area. The oasis of La Purisima and Bahia Concepción in the north are also within reach, and Loreto is the best place to base yourself if you want to visit. You could spend at least 4 or 5 days here and still be finding stuff worth coming back for.

Accommodations in Loreto fit squarely with the town’s laid-back beach town vibe. There’s no pretension here, with most hotels being small, quaint, and comfortable. About 45 minutes south, Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto is the closest thing in the area to a true beach resort.

Where To Stay in Loreto

baja club hotel
Courtesy of Baja Club Hotel

La Paz

Convenience is everything in La Paz, yet one more thing to consider when deciding where to stay in Baja California Sur. Its just a one-hour drive to Todos Santos on the Pacific coast and about a two-hour drive to Los Cabos. It’s also the closest large city to Loreto, which is located about four hours north.

A range of accommodation options in La Paz can make it either an affordable place to stay or a beach town with a touch of luxury. With a mix of beach resorts perched along the coastline outside of town and cool boutique hotels and hostels in the walkable city center, there’s something for everyone here.

Where To Stay in La Paz

where to stay in baja california sur
Courtesy of Paradero Todos Santos

Todos Santos

Just an hour north of Los Cabos on the peninsula’s Pacific Coast, Todos Santos can be a great base for exploring Baja California Sur. Kick back on the beach for the duration of your stay, or call Todos Santos home for a few days before heading north to La Paz for the next stop on your Baja California Sur itinerary.

The small town center has numerous affordable places to stay, within convenient distance from beaches. Further outside of town, next-level retreats and slightly swankier resorts become more common. Paradero Todos Santos, a bonafide haven in the heart of the desert, is at the cutting edge of design-forward, wellness-focused retreats in Mexico.

Where To Stay in Todos Santos

Getting To Baja California Sur

While the international airport in Los Cabos (Los Cabos International Airport – SJD) is by far the busiest and most well-served airport in the region, you’ll find there are more ways to access Baja California Sur than you might think.

International airports in La Paz and Loreto give travelers more convenient options if they’re looking to skip Los Cabos entirely. Both airports offer increasingly impressive flight options connecting them to other cities in Mexico as well as cities in the United States and Canada. It’s an option well worth considering

Choose a direct flight into one of these airports if you’re looking to save yourself the drive – this is especially true for Loreto, located six hours north of Los Cabos and four hours north of La Paz.

The distances between cities in Baja California Sur can be deceptively long. While comfortable buses connect cities across the peninsula, they make travel times even longer, so most travelers prefer to rent a car if they’re headed between destinations. Taking shorter flights, like connections from Los Cabos to Loreto to save a nine-hour bus ride, is even an option worth considering.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.