DRIVING DOWN TO CABO SAN LUCAS
Like a lot of other things in life, the joy of the drive down to Cabo San Lucas from the U.S. border is the journey, not just the destination. If the drive down the Baja Peninsula is the cake, then the arrival in Cabo is the icing on the cake. A well deserved reward for a spectaculat journey successfully completed.
Driving to Cabo San Lucas via Baja's Transpeninsular Highway stirs the imagination of many people. Simply stated, driving the Baja Highway from the U.S. border on the north to Cabo San Lucas on the south is an experience not to be found anywhere else on the planet. If you enjoy a good cross country-type drive, then driving the Baja Blacktop is the ultimate road trip!
The distance from the U.S. border to the end of the highway in Cabo is approximately 1,067 miles, if everything goes as planned. Fortunately, one of the nice things about Baja road trips is that things never go as planned! You see, our good friend Senora Baja is a crafty ol' soul, and she is capable of whipping up many side shows and distractions along this thousand mile adventure! It is literally impossible to do this drive with a set itinerary. Indeed, put another way, it would be a darn shame to shun the serendipity that goes along with any good Baja road trip!
Travelers who come from the United States will try to draw parallels to some of the wide open drives of the western U.S. It's not even close. Those who come from a land where the highways are 'littered' with Adopt-a-Highway signs will find little common ground in the land of Baja, where one can drive for hours and see little evidence of human existence. The expanse of open country is awesome.
The first part of Baja Highway One skirts the west coast of the Peninsula, and through a relatively populated section of the state of Baja California. Tijuana, Rosarito Beach, Puerto Nuevo, Ensenada...it's all part of the trip down. And maybe a stop at Hussong's Cantina for a taste of Baja history. When the road hits El Rosario and heads east, hello open spaces! From El Rosario south, for hundreds of miles, the terrain is mostly open and untamed. The spectacular cactus and large rocks found on the way to Catavina offer a surreal landscape, as if from another planet. And the La Pinta Hotel there has served many a Baja traveler for decades. After running mid-peninsula for a bit, the Transpeninsular makes one more mad dash to kiss the west coast at Guerrero Negro, before deciding to head back to the warmer climates towards the Sea of Cortez on the east side.
Starting at the beautiful oasis of San Ignacio with it's spectacular plaza and mission, and heading further south through Santa Rosalia, Mulege, Bahia Concepcion and Loreto, tourists and locals become more common, and the enticements to stop and relax become harder to resist! If you can drive by the unbelievable beaches of Bahia Concepcion without slowing down for a better view, or a quick dip in the warm Sea of Cortez, you are missing the whole point of the Peninsula drive. It is these side excursions that are the Baja! This stretch from Mulege to Puerto Escondido south of Loreto offers many of the flavors of Baja that tourists are looking for. Lazy villages, spectacular fishing, crystal clear coves for snorkeling and kayaking, secluded marinas, oceanfront golf and much much more await those who drive this stretch of the highway. In fact, there are so many things to see and do along this particular coastal area, many Baja travelers just throw in the (beach) towel on the remainder of their Baja drive, and hang out here with the fresh ocean breezes for the duration!
South of Loreto The Highway ribbons southwest through the hills until it reaches Ciudad Insurgentes. From this point south, for dozens of miles, a thriving agricultural economy works the fertile soil of the Magdelana plain. Complete with traffic signals and taco stands, this area of the blacktop is a temporary but rude awakening from the barren lands prevalent to the north and south. As the road again heads towards the Sea of Cortez, La Paz dangles her cosmopolitan flair and seaside beauty to entice those who want to enjoy this large seaside city. The downtown oceanfront Malecon and the beaches at Tecolote should not be missed. On the way to Cabo, the abandoned mining town of EL TRIUNFO is perfect for photography buffs, and the coastal settlement of Buena Vista - Los Barriles offers excellent opportunities for a view of a very special Baja.
Although the natural geography all along the Baja Peninsula is much of the value of any Baja drive, the true treasures of any good Baja road trip is the people you meet along the way. Whether it is a humble Mexican woman serving you home made burritos made with goat cheese at a roadside "Lonche" shack, or a fellow traveler that you start up a conversation with on a beautiful stretch of beach, the people you meet in Baja are the unexpected "icing on the cake" of most Peninsula adventures!
So if you are thinking about getting away from your daily grind of voice mails and that nagging cell phone, and want to take on an adventure of unforgettable proportions, the Baja Highway to Cabo awaits you. And you might as well put it in your calendar this year, because if you don't, you'll just be one year older when you finally do!
I have driven from the U.S. Border to Cabo San Lucas more times than I can count. Each trip is unique and spectacular. Put it on your bucket list...before it's too late!