5 Best Places to Visit in Baja California Sur for Outdoor Adventure

Epic beaches. Amazing wildlife. Incredible scenery. Explore the best Baja California Sur destinations for outdoor adventure with this guide.

Sierra de Laguna desert landscape in Baja California Sur

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Baja, Mexico is an outdoor haven just south of the US border that boasts world-class opportunities for whale watching, surfing, hiking, and exploring beautiful, white sand beaches.

While many travelers know Baja California Sur because of the glitzy Cabo San Lucas, there’s so much more to this part of Mexico than all-inclusive resorts and golf courses. If you want to learn about the best outdoorsy destinations in Mexico’s Baja California Sur, this guide is for you.

I rented a car in Cabo San Lucas for my trip and visited some of the most scenic spots in the region like La Paz, Magdalena Bay, Todos Santos, and Loreto. 

I spent 8 days road tripping Baja, but I encourage you to plan more time to visit the best places in Baja California Sur, as this part of Mexico is truly diverse and vast, with many places boasting gorgeous hidden corners and less-explored spots.

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    Where is the Baja California Sur?

    The Baja peninsula is the long strip of land that extends over 700 miles south from the US-Mexico border below California.

    It’s made up of two states, Baja California (also called Baja California Norte) in the north and Baja California Sur in the south. While Baja California has some great destinations, my favorites are in Baja California Sur.

    Baja Mexico map
    Photo: MexConnect

    How To Get To Baja California Sur

    If you want to fly to Baja California Sur, your best option is Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) located about 25 minutes away from Cabo San Lucas. This airport has direct flights from many destinations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and offers a convenient starting point for your adventures.

    Other options are La Paz International Airport – Manuel Márquez de León (LAP) and Loreto International Airport (LTO), both of which have flights to the US and mainland Mexico. These are smaller airports, so plan to pay a higher ticket price and have fewer flight options than Cabo.

    If you’ve got more time to spare, consider a road trip down to Baja California Sur from California. That way you can explore all of the best places to visit in Baja California on one trip.

    Baja California Sur Transportation Options

    Some of the best beaches in Baja can’t be accessed by public transportation, and taxi or Uber is not always accessible, especially in small towns which often serve as gateways to some of the best adventures in the region.

    Since public transportation is scarce, your best bet is to rent a car to explore the peninsula.

    You can browse available options through DiscoverCars, a popular platform for renting vehicles where you can enjoy budget-friendly rates and flexible cancellation policies. I booked my car with Avis via DiscoverCars, and would recommend their services.

    A two-lane road in baja California
    I highly recommend renting a car in Baja so you can really explore

    Best Baja California Sur Destinations

    1. La Paz

    La Paz is the capital city of Baja California Sur (not to be confused with La Paz in Bolivia), and a getaway to adventure that offers natural beauty, cultural experiences, outdoor activities, and wildlife encounters. For this reason, it’s at the top of my list for the best places for outdoor enthusiasts to visit in Baja. See this blog post for a full 4-day La Paz itinerary.

    Located on the eastern side of the peninsula, La Paz is renowned for its stunning beaches, including Playa Balandra, Playa Tecolote, and Playa El Tesoro.

    These beaches are teeming with marine life and are considered one of the most biodiverse seas in the world — perfect for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, and kayaking.

    Balandra Bay in La Paz Mexico lined with palapas  (or thatch roof beach umbrellas) and turquoise blue water
    Playa Balandra is the most popular beach in La Paz

    In addition to visiting the beaches, here’s a few of my favorite things to do in La Paz:

    • Visit Isla Espíritu Santo, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is a short boat ride away and can be visited only with a tour due to its protected status. It has impressive rock formations, clear waters, and a rich ecosystem. Tours allow you to explore the island’s hiking trails, snorkel with sea lions or whale sharks (depending on the season), and enjoy the unspoiled natural beauty.
    • Walk around the charming historic downtown area with colorful buildings and local markets. You can explore shops and art galleries.
    • Enjoy traditional Mexican cuisine at local restaurants. My favorites are El Estadio Tacos, Gorditas El Cacheton, Tacos Perrones, and El Paisa.
    • Water activities, like kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing, and sailing. The calm waters of the bay make it an ideal place for beginners to try these activities.
    person snorkeling next to a large whale shark
    Snorkeling with whale sharks

    2. Puerto Magdalena (Magdalena Bay)

    Magdalena Bay is a large bay on the western coast of Baja California Sur. This bay is renowned for its ecotourism which allows visitors to experience close encounters with diverse marine ecosystems and wildlife.

    It’s a designated reserve, which reflects the efforts to protect and conserve its diverse ecosystems and wildlife. It’s one of my favorite places to visit on the Southern Baja Peninsula.

    Here’s an overview of the top things to do in Magdalena Bay:

    • Whale Watching: One of the main attractions of Magdalena Bay is its importance as a calving and breeding ground for gray whales. From January to March, gray whales migrate thousands of miles from their feeding grounds in the Arctic to the warm waters of Baja California to give birth to their calves. Visitors can take a guided whale-watching tour to observe these magnificent creatures from a close distance.
    • Birdwatching: The bay’s diverse ecosystems make it a haven for birdwatchers. The extensive mangrove forests, mudflats, and dunes provide habitats for various bird species, including pelicans, herons, egrets, and more.
    • Mangrove Ecosystems: Magdalena Bay is home to extensive mangrove forests, which serve as breeding and nursery grounds for various marine species. The mangroves also contribute to the bay’s ecological balance by filtering water and providing shelter for marine life.
    A grey whale surfaces in Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur
    Grey whales in Magdalena Bay

    3. Loreto

    Loreto is a hidden gem of Baja California Sur on the eastern coast of the peninsula. One of the oldest settlements in Baja California Sur, this town was founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries. 

    It’s somewhat off the beaten path, which means it’s relatively uncrowded compared to popular places down south like Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos, and even La Paz. Whatever activity you choose to do, you will be able to enjoy the spectacular scenery without having to battle the crowds.

    The waterfront of Loreto Mexico at dusk with mountains in the background and a pelican flying through the sky
    The Malecon in Loreto

    Here’s a few of the best things to do in Loreto:

    • Downtown Loreto is well worth the stop with colonial-style architecture, cobblestone streets, and a tranquil atmosphere.
    • The Mission of Our Lady of Loreto is one of the most important landmarks in town built by the Jesuit missionaries. This mission was the first of its kind on the Baja California Peninsula and played a significant role in converting indigenous people into Catholicism.  The mission served as a center for converting the local indigenous populations to Christianity and Spanish ways of life.
    • The Jesuit Missions of Loreto Museum located right near the church is where you can get a glimpse into the region’s rich history. 
    • The town is surrounded by natural beauty, with the Sea of Cortez to the east and the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range to the west. This combination of sea and mountains is a playground for outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and ATV riding.
    • Like Magdalena Bay, Loreto is also a place for casual whale watching. The waters around Loreto are frequented by several whale species, however, the density of whales isn’t as great, so if you’re really trying to see whales, head to Magdalena.
    • Just off the coast of Loreto sits Loreto Bay National Park (Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto), one of the most spectacular places to visit in Mexico where you can enjoy pristine beaches, spot marine wildlife, and enjoy a scenic boat ride.
    • Scuba diving: Some of the most popular islands around Loreto are Isla Coronado, Isla Carmen, and Isla Danzante.
    Mission of Our Lady of Loreto in Baja California Sur
    Mission of Our Lady of Loreto

    4. Mulege

    While it might not be as well-known as some of the other best places to visit in Baja California Sur, Mulege is a must on your Baja California itinerary. It’s a gateway to some of the best beaches in Mexico like Playa Burro, Playa El Coyote, and Playa Requesón in the Bahia de Concepcion.

    The town’s residents are known for their warm hospitality and welcoming nature, and you can easily connect with the local community if you learn some basic Spanish.

    El Requeson in Baja California Sur from above. A white strip of beach with turquoise water and cacti
    Playa Requeson in Bahia de Concepcion

    Here’s a few of the best things to do in Mulege:

    • The Santa Rosalía de Mulegé Mission, a historic Spanish colonial mission dating back to the 18th century is the highlight of Mulege. The mission’s architecture and history provide insight into the region’s past. Follow the trail behind the church and you will find one of the best views in Mulege which offers a panorama of the river with many palm trees that were planted by Spanish Jesuits who brought their horses and mules here. 
    • The Sierra de San Francisco is home to ancient cave paintings created by indigenous people. These paintings offer a glimpse into the prehistoric cultures of the region and are a UNESCO World Heritage site.  
    • The surrounding area is great for exploring on foot, by bike, or by boat. You can hike through desert trails, explore the riverside, and discover hidden gems.
    • Finally, the clear dark skies over Mulege offer top-notch opportunities for stargazing since there’s little to no light pollution in the area. 
    Santa Rosalía de Mulegé Mission
    Santa Rosalía de Mulegé Mission | Photo: Daria B.
    the river that runs through Mulege in Baja California
    The lush landscape in Mulege I Photo: Daria B.

    5. Todos Santos

    Todos Santos is one of the best places to visit in Baja California Sur as a day trip from Cabo San Lucas, with many travelers coming here to enjoy a quiet lifestyle and explore beaches that offer opportunities for surfing and swimming.

    Aside from its tranquil setting and gorgeous beaches, Todos Santos boasts some interesting history. In the 18th century, Spanish missionaries who arrived in the area established a Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas to convert the local indigenous populations to Christianity. The mission complex included a church and living quarters for the missionaries.

    After Mexico gained independence from Spain in the early 19th century, the mission system was dismantled, and the town transitioned to a secular community. Todos Santos continued to be a center for agricultural activities, particularly sugar cane production, which was a significant industry in the region.

    In the mid-20th century, the town began to attract attention from artists and travelers interested in its picturesque landscapes and historic charm. The town’s colonial architecture, laid-back atmosphere, and proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra de la Laguna mountains made it an appealing destination.

    In recent decades, Todos Santos has become known for its artistic, bohemian, and cultural character. It’s a designated “Pueblo Mágico,” a designation given by the Mexican government to towns that have cultural, historical, or natural significance. 

    colorful flags over the streets of Todos Santos Baja Mexico
    Todos Santos is dubbed a “pueblo mágico”

    Here’s a few of my favorite things to do in Todos Santos. For more ideas, see this post about how to spend your time in Todos Santos.

    • Hike to Punta Lobos – One of the best things to do in Todos Santos is hike Punta Lobos, a scenic trail that leads to one of the best overlooks in the area. It’s a steep but rewarding hike that boasts 360-degree views of the Pacific and even offers an opportunity to see whales splashing in the azure waters of the ocean. Wear good hiking boots and bring plenty of snacks because this is a demanding hike with a little shadow and some steep parts.
    • Take a guided art tour to learn about the local artist community and ongoing cultural activities.
    • Go shopping – Tourists come to Todos Santos for its galleries, craft shops, and tranquil setting. The town’s creative and relaxed atmosphere, combined with its stunning natural surroundings, make it a unique and attractive destination for travelers seeking a blend of history, culture, and creativity.
    • Go surfing – Located along the Pacific Coast of Mexico (unlike many of the other destinations on this list), Todos Santos is home to many beaches that are suitable for all levels of surfing. Cerritos is the most popular for beginners to intermediates and you can book a lesson or rentals right on the beach.
    Cerritos Beach from above in Todos Santos Baja MX
    Cerritos Beach from above
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    Which Baja California Sur destinations are on your bucket list or have you visited? Let us know in the comments!

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