TLC: Mexico Recommendations (1/3): Baja California
If you’re wondering if you should go to Baja California, you should. It’s neither California or mainland Mexico, but as the name suggests, it’s a marriage of both places on one small peninsula. Tijuana and Ensenada are starting to meaningfully compete with San Diego’s craft brew scene. Farm hands from California’s wine region are returning home and helping to build Baja’s own budding wine region, Valle de Guadalupe. Chef’s like Javier Pascencia and Drew Deckman are turning attention away from the star chef’s in Mexico City and highlighting Baja cuisine. And of course the legend of untamed surf locations are a lot closer than those in Oaxaca coast.
If you’re planning a visit, The Long Cruise recommends:
Valle de Guadulupe
Why: Because good wine is just good wine and this region has it….for cheap.
Camp next to the vineyards at Vinos Bibayoff for $5/night
Lots of cute, modern resorts popping up for non-campers
Bring your mountain bikes and pedle towards the mountains or tour the rolling valle roads.
The bread alone is worth a visit to Finca Altozana (@faltozano_valle). Chef Javier Pascencia blends Mediterranean and Mexican flavors that are Michelin star worthy. Word of advice, save a little bread to soak up the juice from their grilled octopus dish.
The open charcoal grill pit in the center of the dining experience at Deckman’s lets you know something different (and special) is happening here. Chef Drew Deckman elevates classic barbecue into a white linen worthy experience, without the pretense or price tag.
Coordenadas at Vinos Pijoan is a must buy at $18 (Napa would charge $80 for the same bottle). For those of you skeptical about Mexican grapes, rest assured, 33% of the grapes are from their French vines.
If you can walk away from Tres Valles without purchasing a case of wine, you should unfollow us. Every bottle is something you want to open on any night of the week and the tree house tasting room lets you know they don’t take themselves too seriously.
People to Meet:
Andre at the pouring room at Vinos Pijoan. His passion for the region is almost as contagious as his smile.
Why: Because if the swell is right, you can ride a wave for minutes, not seconds.
Right on the water above the break and watch the surfers from your tent. Hot Showers and (very) limited Wifi at the Restaurant
Surf, sleep, surf, sleep, surf, eat
Pro Tip: Look at the calendar to time your visit with the bioluminescent and you’ll have a midnight surf session you’ll never forget
Walk over to the boats and buy fresh fish from the local fisherman
People to Meet:
Everyone at the campsite. The sense of community is alive and well with the fellow campers. Host a sunset happy hour to make fast friends.
Why: It combines European colonial charm with a desert settler mentality. And just far enough from Cabo to keep the drunken tourists away.
Drive through town and camp right on the beach at Playa Tortugas
Rent an Airbnb from one of the many cool expat bungalows with palapa roof decks
Let your inner tourist come out and enjoy strolling through the shops
Surf at Playa Tortugas year round, with Cerritos and Pescadero a short drive away
Short drive to La Paz, a “real” city with nightlife and day trips to keep you buys for many days.
Sample artisan mezcals at El Refugio Mezcaleria
Get al pastor tacos at one of the many open aired restaunts around town.
People to meet:
Find an expat and say hi. They all have stories.
Shrimp tacos at Tacos Mi Ranchito El Fenix, up scale pasta and fresh Oysters at La Concheria
Tour the local fish market “mercado negro” and stock up on cheap calamari and sea bass!
Sea of Cortez side, Muleje North and south:
The stunning beaches and crystal water well makes up for the lack of surf. This is the place where you can have a beach to yourself.
General travel advice for this region:
Stop frequently at local fish taco stands. We guesstimated that we ate over 100 tacos while in Baja. Shrimp tacos at Tacos Mi Ranchito El Fenix were our favorite!
Stock up your fridge in the US or Ensenada. The smaller towns have very small grocery stores (tiendas) with limited fresh food options.
You don’t need a 4x4 to go to baja! But a 4x4 will give you near unlimited options when seeking out new locations. Bonus points for dune buggy.
Because of the Baja 500 and NAFTA, there is an Auto Zone in every single city if your vehicle needs repairs. The local Taller shops have fixed everything under the sun before, and you american truck/van/car is a piece of cake for them.
Be friendly at the checkpoints and you shouldn’t have any problems.
If you plan to ferry your car across to mainland from La Paz, make sure to get your FMM stamped AT THE BORDER. We didn’t and had to drive all the way back.