During an economic downturn like this, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more opportune destination than Baja. Lodging costs mere dollars, fish tacos go for pennies, and tequila flows (almost) freely, which means you've definitely chosen a winter vacation for the budget-minded traveler. And while there has been some recent concern about Mexico's safety, tourists are not being target=ed. Of course, the peninsula's close proximity to the States also means this getaway just across the border is no secret. Californians surf the waves in Ensenada and dine on fresh lobster in Puerto Nuevo, but few take the opportunity to explore the best Baja has to offer.
Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Splash into Baja's Sea of Cortez, Mexico
There are many ways to get around this 1,000-mile-long finger of land. If you're into surfing or camping, a car is your best bet. Rental companies such as Avis (800.331.1212) or Enterprise Rent-a-Car (800.261.7331) can provide mandatory Mexican auto insuranceand a list of equipment
If bus tours trigger fears of gray-haired grannies and sore backs, Baja Trek (888.969.8735) takes those images and dumps them at the border. An earth-friendly outfitter, Baja Trek offers custom adventures for budget-bound, eco-minded folks. Their Baja Beach Bus might be Magical Mystery Tour-esque, but it's built to handle Baja's roads and runs on 100% recycled vegetable oil acquired from planned restaurant stops. Trek's two vans are for longer tours and their carbon emissions are offset by their partnership with LiveNeutral.org. Each trip lasts four to 21 days and themes range from whale scouting to beach lounging. Supplies and meals are purchased at local markets, and because of Baja's natural unpredictability, itineraries are unnecessary. Trek keeps each group under 20, and prices begin at $125 which includes 70% of meals, cooking equipment, camping gear, and hostel/lodging fees.
But if you've got the timeand the legs, the self-propelled two-wheel option than any four-wheel vareity are cheaper than four and Mex 1 (especially the southern half) is as scenic as they come. Once across the border in Tijuana, follow the signs to Rosario and look out for libre (the toll-free road)you'll avoid the coastal toll road where bikes are forbidden. After a ten-kilometer climb, cruise downhill to the coast, where you'll find some of the world's finest desert landscape and white sand beaches. Between Decemer and February, you can watch grey whales congregate and give birth in Scammon's Lagoon near Guerrero Negro. But first, cruise in to Esenada and rent a surfboard at Inner Reef Surf Shop, just ten minutes south of Rosarito Beach. You'll also need to purchase a $20 FMT visa at the Migracion office just past the Capitania del Puerto building while in town. Eat fish tacos at Mc LuLu's in Loreto and stay at the Desert Inn Hotel (800.800.9632) in San Ignacio, where the charm of old world Mexico starts at just $67 per night. After reaching the tip of the peninsula, stay at the Cabo Inn Hotel (619.819.2727)an affordable hotel that was once a brothel-in Cabo San Lucas, where rooms start at under $40. After you've rested your tired legs in the Sea of Cortez, catch the bus back up to Tijuana for around $100 at the station on Heróes at Morelos or snag a flight out of San Jose del Cabo [sjdloscabosairport.com]
Amy A. Clark