Land’s End

We planned a day car trip to Cabo San Lucas from our campsite in La Paz. Touristy and congested, we really weren’t that interested in Cabo but the main event was a boat ride to see Lands’ End, the very tip of the Baja Peninsula.

A fitting capstone to our trip down the length of Baja.

It is a couple of hours from La Paz to Cabo, with little surfer hangouts like El Pescadero. This town has grown much just as many others in this area. It’s really is popular with beginning surfers and is apparently one of the few places in the West Cape that’s good for swimming.

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas to lots of traffic. Spring breakers were in town, though since it was morning, not many were around. We headed to the marina where a guy immediately approached us asking if we wanted a boat ride. After discussing the rate, he said we’d have to wait about 40 minutes and if no one else showed up, we’d have the boat to ourselves.

When we thanked him and started walking away, he came after us and said one of the boats was leaving immediately and we could have it to ourselves for the same rate. Off we went.

As we headed out a “pirate ship” was headed back in. There is lots of boat traffic here as everyone wants to see the spectacular rock formations and of course, Land’s End.

It is a very short ride out to the amazing rock

 

The boat tours go by the pretty but small Lover’s Beach which straddles the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. The Pacific side which is too rough for swimming is referred to as Divorce Beach. Divorce Beach is much larger than Lover’s Beach because well, you know.

They will drop you off and pick you back up on a later boat ride if you’d like but we chose not to stop.

It really is a stunning place, and I couldn’t help but think how sweet it would be to visit in a quieter time if there is one.

El Arco, the famous arch, also called La Finisterra for Land’s End is beautiful as we expected. The tour takes you out around the point into the Pacific side so you can see it from both sides.

The boats all make space for each other and take turns in front of it so that the guides can take a photo without other boats in the background. A neat bit of choreography as it is really packed out there with boats of all shapes and sizes.

What we didn’t expect was to find out that this was not in fact the tip of the Peninsula. Our captain, Ivan, a charming guy, told us that the real end of Baja is a jagged lonely rock. The rock had a seal sleeping on top who refused to be bothered by all of the boaters.

As we headed back, we picked up a few guys from Lover’s Beach. This angle gave us a good view of what’s referred to as “the Corridor”, the area between Cabo San Lucas and the town of San Jose del Cabo. On the Sea of Cortez side, this area has the most beautiful beaches and lots of super expensive resorts.

Once back in the marina, we noticed many huge yachts, party boats and other vessels including some pretty unique ones like two story floating disco platforms and such.

We took a brief walk along the tourist shops, selling lots of wares. Some funny juxtapositions like a T-shirt with a picture of Heisenberg from “Breaking Bad” alongside a T-shirt with a picture of the famous Mexican actor and comedian Cantinflas.

Lots of restaurants and bars with guys asking you to join them. This place was just too crowded for us. Clearly a place set up for massive partying.

We headed east past the corridor towards San Jose del Cabo for lunch. A quick stop just to see it. It has a very pretty colonial square with a big church and more shops. It felt more like a real community but was expensive and full of Americans and Canadians.

Headed back to La Paz we made a very brief stop in Todos Santos. This is another “Pueblo Magico” with a pretty colonial plaza. It’s become an artists’ colony popular with, you guessed it, Americans and Canadians.

It was pretty quiet although it was a Saturday and one of the shops had an “end of season” sale indicating that snowbirds were now heading back home.

We stopped in at the Teatro Marquez de Leon, a historical structure that represents the cultural heritage of the town and is one of the reasons it was designated a “Pueblo Magico”.

One shop we stopped at had gorgeous handmade items including furniture, textiles, sculptures, jewelry and more. They feature a beautiful garden in the back named the “Jardin del Amor”.

There was a wedding in the church and we peeked in along with some other tourists. A lovely church with beautiful stained glass and lots of light.

Our last stop was at the Hotel California (we were looking for a bathroom) and found some of the most creative bathroom gender designations that we’ve seen.

It’s quite a lovely hotel with beautiful crystal chandeliers, although it has no connection to nor was it the inspiration for the Eagles song. But they still play various versions of the namesake song amongst a variety of rock songs.

Then it was back to La Paz and more adventures on our way back north.

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Paz

We really looked forward to visiting La Paz. Besides Playa el Tecolote for kayaking, the diversity of islands and sea life across from its bay and Carnaval, there was the beautiful Malecón Alvaro Obregón, a pretty plaza with its cathedral, a couple of interesting sounding museums and more good food.

We stayed on the north end of town at Campestre Maranatha RV park. Check out my review of the park here.

La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur, with the largest population in the state and the fourth largest on the peninsula (about 220,000). Perhaps because of this, it felt less overwhelmed by North Americans than some other towns on the peninsula.

The Pericú Indians squashed several attempts at colonization of the town including four missions. Thus, the Spaniards selected Loreto as their base for expansion and the peaceful Cochimí there as their first converts, and later Loreto was declared the territorial capital.

European diseases ultimately wiped out the Pericú. La Paz was settled mostly by fishermen and farmers and only became the capital after a hurricane destroyed much of Loreto.

Another interesting part of La Paz’s history is its pearl harvesting which began in the 16thcentury. During the Jesuit mission period, the Spaniards began to cultivate pearls and ultimately the pearl beds were depleted. The beds were attacked by disease and the pearl trade ended around the time of World War II.

Lacking the lovely colonial buildings of Loreto, it still has a sweet little plaza with trees, a gazebo and benches for some peaceful moments.

And, of course there is a cathedral, although it’s modern by mission standards. And although the malecón, the three-mile esplanade along the La Paz waterfront, is the most bustling area of the town, the plaza seems to get plenty of foot traffic.

The malecón gives the town an urban vibe, with people bicycling, roller skating, roller blading, skateboarding and strolling along its length. The restaurants and bars across the street are lively as well.

And of course, the Carnaval parades and other activities all took place along the malecón. Generally, this is not a city that has tons of nightlife but there are some very nice restaurants and bars in town.

We visited the lovely Centro Cultural La Paz where some of the Carnaval costumes were displayed. The Center also had one room devoted to historical panels about the area as well as an exhibition of beautiful whales made of wood and/or paper by local artists.

The art exhibit, Ballenas Morfas (Morphed Whales) included strong cautionary environmental messages by some of the artists. The sculptures were gorgeous and intricate.

The Mercado Maduro is open every day with a great variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood and other food items sold by individual vendors. I had a funny experience there. After buying some fruits and vegetables from a lady, I told her I had my own bags. She stopped what she was doing, looked me straight in the eyes and said in earnest “thank you so much for taking care of our environment. I’ve seen many dead turtles and am really worried.” There are also some very nice once a week farmers markets in town, but we got our fill at the Mercado.

After Carnaval, two snorkeling outings and dealing with some mechanical issues, (more on all of that in later posts), our eight days week in town felt short.

Some continuing mechanical issues forced us to return to the city for a couple of days.

The silver lining in the cloud was that we saw Malecón Alvaro Obregón clear of all of the Carnaval booths and stages.

And we bicycled across the malecón with the locals. Its beauty was fully revealed, with white beaches and turquoise waters, pretty copper sculptures and iron benches.

La Paz has much to offer, a small but charming city in a spectacular setting.  A world away from the tourist frenzy of Cabo to the south.

We will return someday.

 

 

Isla Espíritu Santo

The tour from La Paz to Isla Espíritu Santo is one of the boat tours that we’d read about and signed up for. It’s about six hours long and takes you across to the beautiful island that is rich with marine life.

It took a long time to cruise over to the island and the anticipation was high. After a long boat ride, we finally reached the largest sea lion colony in the Sea of Cortez, Los Islotes, an island inlet at the north end of the island.

When we reached the colony, one of the the park rangers was leading a rescue of a sea lion that had been caught in a net. They didn’t allow us to stick around so we continued.

There was an area on the island closed to snorkeling they called the “kindergarden” where there were lots of sea lion cubs laying around on rocks including juveniles, adults and huge males.

Super cute.

I had snorkeled with sea lions before, and they can be quite curious and cute, in some cases swimming right up to people, so I was excited.

We bought new wetsuits and snorkel gear last year just for the Sea of Cortez but I was still worried about jumping into the cold (68 degree) water. But my new 3mm wetsuit did its job and I was comfortable.

We snorkeled for about half an hour and during that time only a few sea lions decided they wanted to be in the water with the humans. It wasn’t quite the sea lion experience that I had hoped but a few swam near us in the water and one swam between Hector’s legs.

There were lots of tropical fish in the water, a beautiful reminder of our scuba diving days. We look forward to returning to some diving sometime soon.

Next we cruised to the center of the island to a campground that’s run by our tour’s organization. On the way we saw lots of impressive rock formations. As we passed through an opening in one, the guide pointed out a part of the rock that was shaped just like the Baja Peninsula. Very cool!

Then we watched a pod of dolphins as they frolicked in the water.

The campground was on a pretty beach with some tents and a compost toilet. This time of year is too cold at night for me to tent camp, but it looked like a sweet place to spend a few days.

We spent a couple of hours on the beach. The guides served a nice lunch of ceviche, bean burritos, guacamole and tostadas and we took it easy for a bit.

They had kayaks and SUPs available so we took two kayaks out. Unfortunately, they were old kayaks with seats whose back was really loose. They were uncomfortable so we didn’t take them out as far as we had hoped to which was a disappointment. But we did get to a couple of rock outcrops nearby where there were lots of birds, including Hector’s favorites, the pelicans.

Back on the beach, we walked around for a bit along with some others. The water was crystal clear and some ladies spotted a huge sea star that we ran over to look at. So beautiful!

The island was covered in beautiful desert vegetation. It looked like a great place to hike.

After our time on the beach, we headed back out towards the other end of the island where there is a frigate bird colony. We’d never seen frigate birds on the ground, apparently they can’t walk, they can only perch and fly.

They also can’t land of the water, so they have to pluck their fish out of the water. Some of the males were in full display and there were lots of juveniles with their white heads.  This area also had the ruins of a pearl farm that’s part of the history of La Paz. Very cool.

I told the guide that I was interested in seeing blue footed boobies and he said they were not normally on the tour. But he asked the captain to go by a smaller island where they sometimes perch, alas there were none there.

On the last leg of our trip the captain spotted some whale sharks. They were moving really slowly through the water while feeding so we got a really good look at their dorsal fin and their tails on top of the water. The captain got a bit closer and one of the whale sharks swam up to and right under our boat.

A beautiful sight! That made up for not seeing the blue footed boobies.

All in all a pretty good day on the water.

 

 

Chilling at Playa El Tecolote

Our next stop was north of the city of La Paz, written up as the best boondocking spot in all of Baja California! Back to the Sea of Cortez, which is now one of our favorite bodies of water. It was time for chilling at Playa El Tecolote. Check out my review of  the  beach here.
This was another wide beautiful beach but with several beachfront restaurants in the middle. There were quite a few RVs parked on the east end of the beach but there was lots of open space. We parked about 100 yards away from the next RV in a nice private spot.

We took a walk on the beach and decided to have an early dinner. As we returned, the RV looked so close to the water that Hector kept checking to make sure that high tide wouldn’t reach us.

That evening we were treated to a spectacular sunset. And the next morning we awoke to a commanding view of the south end of the island of Espíritu Santo amidst beautiful turquoise water.

We hadn’t had much downtime and had covered many many miles so we decided to take it easy and relax and read for a couple of days.

The next afternoon a couple that we’d met at the RV park in Bahia de los Angeles drove in to spend the night.

We hung out with Chuck and Teri and their cute dog, Kokanee. They brought a little firepit and lit a nice fire that evening and we enjoyed another fabulous sunset.

Later that night Hector and I came back out to watch the stars which were beautiful.

The next day we walked over to one end of the beach where there’s a little trail up a hill and hiked up to a road that took us around the bend. And what was over the bend? Another beautiful little beach cove of course. That was the extent of our activity for the day.Some may have noticed that we’ve been wearing hoodies and coats. It’s been unusually cold in Baja but seeing the weather in the States we haven’t dared to complain. Here we finally found the warm weather! On a nice, calm and warm day we went for a paddle. 


There were fish jumping out of the water and of course pelicans and gulls. There were also a lot of frigate birds flying above us which are so interesting with their forked tails.

The water was a beautiful turquoise and swimming pool clear. Just like the pictures we’ve seen that made us want to come to Baja in the first place.

It was a relaxing paddle and a great way to end our restful stay at this lovely beach but  the time had come to hit the big city and their Carnaval celebration.

 

Loreto and the Start of the Camino Real

After yet another beautiful drive along the shores of Bahia Concepcion and across more beautiful desert scenery, we reached lovely Loreto and the start of the Camino Real. Loreto is one of the Mexican towns that has been designated as a Pueblo Mágico.

Pueblos Mágicos offer visitors a “magical” experience by reason of their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions, folklore, historical relevance, cuisine, art, crafts and great hospitality.

Set alongside the stunning Sea of Cortez, Loreto has much going for it. A beautiful plaza where the first mission in Baja California was founded. Other lovely colonial structures. Lots of fine restaurants and shops.

There are beautiful lanes with trees manicured into archways. In fact, this town was the capital of the Californias (Baja and Alta) from 1697 to 1777.

Our first visit was to the mission church, Misión Nuestra Senora de Loreto Conchó, founded as a simple structure in 1697. This was the first mission in California.

 

The stone structure that stands today was built from stone and mortar in 1740. Its bells resonate through the town every hour. It was also the first of what would be an astonishing collection of missions along the second Camino Real (the first went from Mexico City to Santa Fe) that extended beyond San Francisco in present day California.

 

Next to the church is the Museo de los Misiones, with many beautiful artifacts depicting the history of the mission, the town, and the missionary efforts across the Californias. It was beautifully presented with excellent interpretive panels, the nicest museum that we’ve visited in Baja.

The community’s pride in the town was evident as we drove around and saw people constantly painting and repairing structures and cleaning the streets.

During our visit, there was a small farmers market in the morning where we bought quite a lot of produce for almost nothing.

And there was an arts and crafts fair in the evening with live music and performers.

That night we enjoyed walking along the beautiful malecón, with its many pangas ready to take tourists out on the water.

We enjoyed watching an interesting phenomenon the locals call the picazón both from our campground and along the malecón. When the sardines are running, pelicans are drawn to the area for feeding.


We’ve never seen so many pelicans, and they all are participating in a feeding frenzy. It was crazy.

We also had the finest meals to date in Baja. One was in a lovely restaurant called Mi Loreto, right by the plaza where we had a fabulous mushroom ceviche.

To our surprise we were asked if we had reservations when we arrived.  Since we didn’t we were turned away as they were full for the night!  And moments later there was a last minute cancellation.  Lucky for us!

There is a Uruguayan place in town called Mezzaluna where we were treated to a lovely performance by an Argentinean traveler and musician, Martin Bevacua.  A charming fellow with a beautiful voice.

At the other end of the spectrum, we enjoyed some awesome tacos at the famous “El Rey del Taco”. Cheap and fun!

Another great meal was in an enterprising restaurant just outside of town that adopted the name La Picazón as it is on the water in full view of the pelicans. We headed out there on a long bumpy road to what we thought was a casual little place only to find a beautiful restaurant, off grid, but with delicious gourmet dishes including octopus in a tequila reduction.

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That same evening as an extra treat we watched the beautiful full super moon come up over the water.

We stayed pretty close to the center of town at Loreto Shores RV park, steps from the Sea of Cortez. An urban park with pretty tight spaces, it did have an amazing view. Check out our review of the park here.

We’d planned to paddle a couple of times, but one day we’d planned to I woke up feeling under the weather (I felt better later) and another day weather did not cooperate. The famous north winds blew most of the time we were there.