Best time to visit Baja California

Best time to visit Baja California


February is peak month for both grey whales and visitors, and whale watching trips take place in Magdalena Bay and San Ignacio Lagoon. If you’re here just for the sea kayaking, the best time to visit Baja is the end of Oct-early Dec, as well as Mar-Apr, as the wind drops and the Sea of Cortez is clear and calm. Other whale and dolphin species can be seen at this time – or take a combined trip when the grey whales visit. For whale sharks, head to Bahia de la Paz from Oct-March. Jun-Oct are brutally hot, with a risk of hurricanes.

Things to do in Baja California


Things to do in Baja California…

Baja California’s raison d’être for most tourists is the grey whale. Virtually every grey whale on Earth swims here to mate and give birth between February and March, clustering in sheltered lagoons. But this is no ordinary whale watching experience; the greys are known as “the friendly whale” and appear to see out boats to play with, meaning this is one of the most up close and personal whale encounters in the world.
Dozens of islands and islets lie scattered between La Paz and Loreto in the tranquil Sea of Cortez, and one of the best ways to explore them is in a kayak. Multi-day kayaking trips take you from island to rocky island, with the opportunity to stretch your legs by trekking across the dunes, or cool off with a snorkel. Sea lions and pelicans frolic on the islands, while dolphins leap offshore. At night, far from light pollution, you can enjoy sleeping beneath bright stars – or swimming with glowing bioluminescence.
Paddling is not the only way to island hop – small ship cruises in the Sea of Cortez are a super comfortable way to explore. With paddle boards, yoga mats, wetsuits and snorkels onboard, this doesn’t need to be the lazy option either – it just means you get to choose how active and adventurous you want each day to be, with the hot tub and massages definitely falling into the more relaxing end of the vacation spectrum.

Things not to do in Baja California…

Spending all your time in “the world’s aquarium” is a thrilling prospect, but don’t overlook Baja’s land-based delights. This strange, coastal desert is dominated by the Sierra de la Giganta, whose highest peak reaches 1,176m. An extraordinary amount of otherworldly flora thrives in this virtually rain-free environment, including the giant cardón cactus, Dali-esque Boojum tree and “creeping devil” cactus that crawls slowly across the desert floor. Birdlife is abundant; with woodpeckers drilling into the cacti, roadrunners (actually cuckoos) dashing past, and ibis and giant kingfisher inhabiting the mangrove swamps.
Focus solely on the nature. The little town of Loreto and tiny whale camps offer great opportunities for meeting sudcalifornianos; this is Mexican village life at its best. Companies working here will employ bilingual, local guides, serve up traditional dishes made with local produce (including the incredible, abundant seafood) – or recommend local restaurants – and support craftspeople creating handmade textiles and jewellery.
Leave anything behind. Our vacation companies working in Baja have pack in – pack out policies, meaning they take all their litter back out with them, as well as traveling in small groups and where possible, produce is purchased locally. Baja’s communities have worked hard to ensure that – despite an increase in visitors – Baja looks much the same as it did decades ago, with low-impact eco camps instead of huge resorts, or simple spaces to pitch tents, and it’s everyone’s duty to help them preserve this fragile landscape and rich marine environment.

Baja California travel tips


Michelle Darnell, from our supplier ROW Adventures, shares her top Baja travel advice:

Kayaking tips

“The great thing about the Sea of Cortez is that it’s a fairly sheltered body of water so we can take all levels – novice to experienced paddlers. If somebody is experienced, we can point them to an itinerary that has a bit more paddling, more challenging days, longer distances… and then we have a lot of great trips for novices, for families and even for children as young as nine. We use mostly tandem kayaks which provide really great stability and make the paddling easy. And it allows us to bring the kids because they can partner up with a parent or another adult It’s also nice because there is so much wildlife that if a pod of dolphins passes by or we get a awesome show of flying manta rays jumping out of the water, we can stop and one person can take pictures – the tandems are great for that.

Whale watching

“We have two whale camps on the Pacific side of the peninsula – one in Magdalena Bay, and the at San Ignacio lagoon. They are both set up with full height canvas tents, we go out a couple of times a day in pangas – local fishing boats – and the whale watching is all grey whales on the Pacific side. There’s an incredible density of whales in quite a small area, so even from our Magdalena Bay camp you can sit on the beach at night and you can watch whales passing by or spyhopping or breaching out in the lagoon, so it’s really quite a unique experience. In Magdalena Bay we’re actually out on a barrier island, it’s just this beautiful sand dune island and beaches, and so it’s quite a unique cam setting as well.”

Cultural advice

“Something that’s really important to us is that we share the local culture. We don’t bring in guides from the US; we hire and train local guides who are Spanish and English speaking. Our guests love hearing about the culture, whether it’s the history, legends or cooking lessons while we’re at camp. Loreto and the whale camps are very small, so you get this great cultural exposure just by the nature of where you’re at. It’s not a large city, there’s not a lot of tourist distraction, so you get a pretty good glimpse into what the life of these people is. It’s really what our guests tell us they love most about our trip – they love the guides, they love the cultural interaction. We try to keep an authentic menu, they really have a lot of fresh local ingredients so it’s absolutely incorporated into all of our trips.”

Packing tips

Dr Nic Slocum is a marine zoologist and senior tour leader at our supplier Whales Worldwide. He has been observing whales in their natural habitat for over two decades: “Baja is remote so make sure you take everything you need for your vacation as many goods may not be available or have run out. Always pack a wide brimmed hat and quick drying slacks. The type that transform to shorts are the most useful. Thick soled rubber sandals are essential because cactus spines may be present on island beaches. Lastly, the average Mexican wage on Baja is very low and they rely heavily on tips from visitors. Tip appropriately, but not too generously."
Photo credits: [Temp chart: ryan harvey] [Helpdesk: ryan harvey] [Kayaking tips: Mary Fairchild] [Cultural advice: marc uhlig]
Written by Vicki Brown
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