Carlos receives letters from Baja aficionados from all over the planet, inquiring about 'this and that' in Baja. This column is designed to answer those questions, and to share that information with other interested "Cactus Heads". The perfect way to learn more about Baja!
My boyfriend and I are considering a trip to Baja. We are trying to choose between Loreto and Los Cabos, because they both have International Airports. We just want to get away and relax for a few days. Which location do you recommend? Do both locations offer kayaking?
Both destinations are great places to visit, and they both offer kayaking. But if you really want to relax I'd say Loreto is your best bet. Not that you can't relax in Los Cabos, but there are so many options in Los Cabos that it can be hard to sit still! Loreto is a very quaint and relaxed seaside town with all of the amenities you will need for a good getaway. You might want to try an excursion to Mision San Javier for a half day getaway! Check out the Loreto section of Baja Expo for more information.
I was getting excited about an upcoming trip to Cabo San Lucas, until someone mentioned that Cabo has been "ruined" by development. Now I'm not sure that I still want to go. What do you think?
I say go and have a great time, and don't invite your friend! I have heard that same type of comment more than once, and it is usually made by some hard-core fishing nut who first went to Cabo San Lucas when it was a sleepy fishing village with only 3 hotels. True, Cabo was a remote and wonderful destination back then, but it is still a fantastic destination today. You can still walk the main part of town on foot, and most of the qualities that made Cabo a great place in the 60's and 70's are still there today. There has also been significant development along the Los Cabos Corredor, which is the 20 mile strip of beach between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. But that stretch has been developed in a very controlled manner, and is a good example of planned growth in a resort area. If you want to experience Cabo the way it used to be, just head up the East Cape dirt road. Pristine Baja still awaits you! -
I understand that I might be stopped by the Mexican Army while driving in Baja. Is that true? If so, what should I expect?
The Mexican government has a series of official checkpoints along Baja's main highways. The number of these checkpoints can vary, but on a normal trip down the entire peninsula, a Baja traveler might expect to run into a total of 6 to 8 checkpoints. The purpose of these checkpoints is to help stem the flow of guns and drugs in Mexico. Assuming you have neither, these inspections should not cause you any problems. Even though the very young uniformed men with the guns may seem hard to take seriously sometimes, it is wise to respect them and the work they are performing.
A friend just got back from Baja. She had a great time, but said she had to pay a fine because she lost her Tourist Card. Do I need a tourist card if I am just going to Baja for the weekend?
Mexican law requires you to file a tourist card and pay a $20 fee if (1.) you will be staying in Baja more than 72 hours, and (2) if you are traveling below Ensenada or San Felipe. If you are traveling further south into Baja, especially for more than 72 hours, having a Tourist Card can save you a lot of headaches. If you are flying to Baja, the airline will provide you with this Tourist card. If you are driving to Baja, you must STOP at the immigration booth either at the border or in Ensenada, fill out the simple form (it's free), and get it stamped by the official. You then have 72 hours to pay the $20 fee at a Mexican bank. If you are unable to provide this card when returning home from Baja, it will cost you time and money (up to $50 U.S.). Keep it in a safe place!
I keep hearing about a 'toll road' as the best way to drive the coast from Tijuana to Ensenada. What's the scoop?
There are two road heading south from Tijuana to Ensenada. The "Scenic Road" runs along the coast the entire way, and really is a beautiful drive. In addition, it is a good road, and traffic moves along at a decent clip. There are 3 toll stations, each costing about $2.30 U.S. as of 2010. The first toll station is just as you leave Tijuana at the coast, the second is at the very south end of Rosarito Beach, and the third is north of Ensenada, just before San Miguel. Dollars are accepted, and so are pesos. They do NOT, however, accept a combination of U.S. currency and pesos together.
The 'free' road (Libre) from Tijuana to Ensenada takes you through the hills behind Tijuana, skirts the coast for about 25 miles, and then heads back inland before dropping you into the back side of Ensenada. Be prepared for local (slower) traffic. For a fun trip, some folks take the toll road down, and the free road back home, or visa-versa.
A friend and I are driving to Cabo. Is there anything we shouldn't bring with us into Baja?
There are three things you do NOT want to drive or fly into Baja. Guns or ammo, drugs, and fruit. Yes, that's right, fruit! Most visitors to Baja are smart enough not to bring in guns and drugs (no, not even a little bit of pot!). But these same visitors often do not know the laws about the importation of fruits and vegetables.
This tends to be a bigger problem in Baja California Sur, than in the tourist zones of Baja California in the north. When driving into Baja California Sur, you will be stopped at the inspection station just north of Guerrero Negro, about half way down the Peninsula. They will ask you if you have fruits or vegetables, and if you do, they will keep them! To add even more color to your adventure, they will then fumigate your car (this costs about $1 U.S. and you get to stay inside the car while the man with the funny outfit pumps in the poison!). I'm sure there is a really good reason for this major crackdown on bananas and grapes, but don't worry about the details. Just eat your mangos before you get to Guerrero Negro!
The same hold true for flying into Loreto, La Paz, or Los Cabos. However, if you get caught with the forbidden fruits at these international airports, it could cost you a fine and the loss of your peaches!
I am a U.S. citizen, and I'm planning on flying to Loreto for kayaking around the islands this summer. Do I need a passport?
Yes! Travelers heading south beyond the border towns are supposed to have passports. Although this new law is not being enforced consistently heading south into Baja, it's best to be prepared. Most airlines will not let you on the plane without the necessary legal documentation.
My friend and I are going to Cabo San Lucas for Cinco de Mayo. We are staying at the Finistera Hotel. We want to have a really good time, as far as the nightlife is concerned. Is our hotel a good hotel...are we in for a good time? - Ceci
Ceci;I've stayed in Cabo on Cinco de Mayo several times and there was lots going on! The hotel you are staying at is a very good hotel, and the location is perfect for what you want to do. It has a killer beach and an amazing pool area on the Pacific side, and it's just a short walk to all of the restaurants and clubs) on the front side. For nightlife, you may want to start of at the Giggling Marlin...they start off with a very good dance-type show at around 9:15 - 9:30 p.m. After the show, open dancing begins...and it gets real crazy on Cinco de Mayo. There's plenty of other places to stop and party as you head up the street, before ending up at Squid Roe for early morning dancing. I'm sure you'll have a great time!
We're driving the Baja Peninsula to Cabo San Lucas in June. We want to avoid any problems with gasoline for our car. Any suggestions?
With just a little bit of planning, you shouldn't have any problems. The availability of gasoline in Baja has come a long way in the last few years. All of the gasoline available in Baja (and throughout all of Mexico) is via the government owned PEMEX stations. The price of gasoline is fixed, so whether you are getting filled up in a big town, or out in the boonies, the price should be the same. Gasoline is sold in liters, and prices are in pesos, so prepare to work on your calculator each time you get gas, if you are concerned about monitoring the process. By and large most of the workers at the PEMEX stations are honest, so it is unlikely that you will be overcharged. Gasoline prices are similar to the prices in the U.S., so it's a good idea to have an understanding as to the cost of filling up your tank before heading south.
When heading south, be sure to get gas in the San Quintin-El Rosario area. The next gas availability south, in Catavina, was inconsistent in 2010, and there is no reason to think that will be any different in the years ahead. The PEMEX station on the left (east) side of the highway in Catavina has been closed for years, and the PEMEX pumps at the Deset Inn Hotel are also closed. There is always somebody selling gas from 50 gallon drums across the street from the Deset Inn. If you fill up in the San Quintin-El Rosario area, you don't have to worry about getting gas in Catavina. South of Catavina, the next two reliable options for gasoline are Jesus Maria (usually open - except late at night), and Guerrero Negro. In a pinch, gas can often be obtained at the Bahia de los Angeles junction from barrels, across from the permanently closed PEMEX station. From Guerrero Negro south, gasoline is readily available all the way to Cabo.
When getting gas, pull up to the pumps marked "Magna Sin" (without lead). For a fill-up, just say 'lleno' (yae-no).