February 6-14, 2014—After lovely month in Todos Santos on the Pacific side of Baja, we were off to the gulf side and La Paz, Baja California Sur’s capital and largest city at around 250,000 hab. We only booked a week here and by the end of our time we had wished we’d booked longer.
The casa (Casa Cuevas) we rented was along the malecon and we had beautiful views of the turquoise Bahia de La Paz. The weather was beautiful and constant—70s during the day and 50s at night and just like in Nopolo it was funny to see locals dressed up in long pants, long sleeved shirts, winter jackets, and even scarves when it was 75 and sunny! I guess when the temps are in the 100s in summer though it’s all relative.
La Paz is a locals’ town with a sideline of international tourism. The malecon while touristy is also a place where you’ll find local kids riding bikes, families strolling on evenings and weekends, abuelos and abuelitas walking their perros, people exercising early in the morning, and folks just enjoying the view out to sea.
Julie took the week off since our stay was short and we crammed in the as much touristy stuff as possible. While there we kayaked around Balandra Bay, took a panga trip out to Isla Espiritu Santo, watched humpback whales wave hello, snorkeled and goofed around with sea lion pups, lunched on fresh ceviche at a breathtakingly beautiful beach, snorkeled over a school of hundreds of small manta rays (this was serendipitous!), swam with whale sharks, and took a road trip up to Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos to give a gray whale mama a rub on her chin while her baby splashed around her. The sea life in this area is amazing and we can definitely see why Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the ‘aquarium of the world.’
We will definitely be back!
- If you like craft beer, check out The Beer Box for cervezas artesenales from Mexico and beers all over the world.
- Plan a trip out to Isla Espiritu Santo and Los Islotes to snorkel with the sea lion pups. We highly recommend Espiritu and Baja Tours.
- Swim with the whale sharks; it’s great exercise!
- Walk the beautiful malecon and snap some pics of the many sculptures at sunset.
- Take a trip up to Magdalena Bay, Adolfo Lopez Mateos for a whale watching excursion.
- Stop by Al Forno for a delish slice of pizza.
- Don’t miss Gelateria Giulietta e Romeo for gelato and La Fuente, famous for it’s frozen treats and fresh juices (watch for the polka dot trees).
Jan 6 to Feb 6, 2014—We left Nopolo and meandered south spending one night in La Paz at a nice little boutique hotel, Posada LunaSol, near the waterfront. We figured it’d be good to get a feel for the city as we’d spend about 10 days there in February. We’re not big city fans but La Paz—population est. 250,000—left a great first impression on us as we walked the malecon, wandered through some of the local markets, and made our way to the historic plaza. Since we were in the ciudad grande, we stocked up on supplies and then were off to Todos Santos.
We spent a month enjoying beautiful warm sunny days and cool nights two miles north of Todos Santos in Las Tunas. The casa we rented was just up from the beach so at night we would fall asleep to the sound of the Pacific surf with a cool ocean breeze drifting through the windows. During the day, we’d see grey whales pass by and mobulus rays flip-flopping across the water. No swimming at the beach though; we were warned that there was a dangerous riptide and that people had died trying (no thanks). Next time, we’ll have to learn to surf!
The first night of our stay we wandered down to the beach for a beautiful Pacific sunset and stumbled across Tortugueros Las Playitas. We stuck around to learn a bit about sea turtles (winter nests won’t survive in the wild so are relocated by volunteers to a greenhouse), see a nest being cleaned out, and watch a hatchling release as the little guys made their slow and steady way to the ocean sans interception by birds, dogs, etc. Very cool!
The town of Todos Santos was charming and artsy with more restaurants than we could eat at in a month. We caught a couple nights of the Todos Santos Music Festival created by Peter Buck of REM that benefits local charities. At the cozy Hotel California venue, we discovered Sonido Gallo Negro, a funky psychedelic South American garage cumbia band, that got our hips shaking and feet moving. We caught the SuperBowl at ShutUp Frank’s a popular ex-pat bar: Great time, good ribs, and a pretty good split between Denver and Seattle fans. But mostly, we got back into the routine.
It was great to be in the same spot for more than two weeks plus have lots of space to spread out. We biked, hiked, and ran the roads and trails around Las Tunas, worked (yea for zippy Mexican Internet!), read our Kindles on the rooftop deck, made daily jaunts into town to wander or grocery shop, enjoyed cooking fresh local produce in a fully stocked kitchen, and took long walks on the beach. And then our time was up and we headed back to La Paz.
If you’re thinking about or will be visiting Todos Santos:
- Check out Wanderlust Casey’s blog about living in Todos Santos
- Sign up for the Baja Western Onion’s e-mail list
- Get the best tortillas de harina (wheat) and refried beans at the California Mini-Super next to the JuiceBar/Gym north of town
- Find the white van parked on the corner across from Alma’s restaurant in town for fresh organic produce on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
- Don’t miss luscious organic strawberries from the Agricole Mercado just north of Pescadero
- Wander down to Punto Lobos in the early afternoon to watch panga drivers literally beach their boats and then check out their catch of the day
- Spend a sunset watching sea turtle hatchlings make their slow and steady way to the Pacific
- Take surfing lessons at Playa Los Cerritos south of Todos Santos (on our to do list next time we visit!)
January 2014—While in Todos Santos (TS), we took a few day trips south to Los Dos Cabos (Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo) for food, bike parts, beer, and art. Los Dos Cabos are very popular tourist spots so we purposely avoided staying in the cities but at least wanted to see why so many people vacation there.
Cabo San Lucas, Day Trip 1: Taking Stock
Our first trip to Cabo San Lucas was not to hit the infamous tourist strip for tequilla shots but to stock up on gringo groceries and household goods that were hard to find in Todos Santos’ tiny mercados. At Costco, we were in awe of the view of iconic El Arco and Bahia de San Lucas from the parking lot (below, complete with parasailer). Inside the store, we found our big bag of almonds, some delicious granola from the bakery, Greek yogurt, and a pint of heavy cream for our Todos Santos neighbors.
At Walmart, we were amazed by the seafood display, the beautiful produce, and—the secret’s out Cabo—folks in fancy chef jackets headed to the register with Walmart cheesecake and pies in their basket. Oh, and the taco stand at the entrance seemed too good to pass up…fresh shrimp and steak tacos to go.
Loaded up with supplies, it was back to Todos Santos. But first, a quick sightseeing tour past Squid Roe, Hard Rock, and Margaritaville thanks to our navigator (me) missing the right turn north. Lucky though, the one crappy tourist magazine in the car had a map with just enough roads on it so we could find our way back through town to the highway. Doing the tourist thing in Baja’s big cities? Check out GotBaja maps.
Cabo San Lucas, Day Trip 2: Seeking General Hospital
Our next Cabo visit was in a quest for a bike part not found in Todos Santos: Specifically, the bolt that held Jim’s bike seat on the post—and while he can ride a bike without a seat—it would not be fun riding standing up for the next couple months.
First stop the tourist bike shop where the only option was a brand spankin’ new carbon fiber $100 post (no thanks). The friendly bike shop guy said try Home Depot (no luck), El Rey del Tornillos (the king of screws which sounded way too hard to find), and then there was the “local bike shop.” The shop was near Soriana (a Mexican supermarket) and we’d passed that on the way down should be an easy peasy drive over there.
Directions in Mexico often go something like this:
- Go to the road that passes [insert landmark name here].
- At the next stop, turn right.
- Just past the intersection, turn right.
- At the fork in the road veer left.
- Near the [insert landmark name here], go left again.
- The [insert destination name here] should be a block up from [insert landmark name here] on the right.
Why landmarks and no street names? From our experience, because a lot of streets aren’t signed even in a bigger city like Cabo.
The directions to Hospital General were to take a right at the road past Walmart, stay left at the Y, take the next left several blocks up and we would find the bike shop near the hospital—a big white building with ‘Hospital General’ in blue letters—by looking for a side street that had a bunch of bikes out on the sidewalk. Simple enough, right?
We ventured out, got caught in rush hour traffic, detoured through construction, and with no sign of the hospital or bike shop, decided we really needed a map of Cabo (yeah, we know, brilliant!). At the nearest OXXO (Mexican 711), the only map available did not have the hospital marked and the store clerk knew of it but couldn’t locate it on the map. She sent us to the gas attendant (rarely do you pump your own gas in Mexico) and with his new verbal directions to the hospital, we found ourselves just past the Soriana but with no big white hospital in sight.
Again, we stopped and asked for directions from a local food vendor and he knew exactly where to send us. Tired of driving through Cabo’s side streets, we walked up the block up to the general hospital—housed in a tiny green building with yellow lettering. How many hospital generals are there in Cabo? And then, we started noticing all the business signs…x-rays, obgyn, urgencias…. Back to the car. We drove several blocks up from Soriana, took a right and there it was! The big white building with ‘Hospital General’ in bright blue letters and just past it on a side street, a sidewalk cluttered with all sorts of bikes. Success!
We found the owner inside, explained the bikey breakdown in our best Spanish, and showed him the broken bolt. He searched his storefront and then his shop, no luck. Bummer. Then, he disappeared into an upstairs apartment and came down with an old post that looked like a match. The owner refused money for the post and told us if it didn’t fit to bring it back. As it turns out the post was a little short but it would do. Yea! Back to biking. We were treated to a glorious sunset over the Pacific on the way back to TS but didn’t stop; it’s not smart to drive at night in Baja (more on that in a different post).
A couple weeks later, we found a longer bike post in La Paz, and on the next trip through Cabo we stopped by the local bike shop near Hospital General, dropped off the borrowed post plus Jim’s old post, and gave the owner a big thanks (muchas gracias)!
Day Trip 3: San Jose del Cabo, Bikes, Beer, and Art
In Nopolo we had tried Baja Brewing‘s tasty IPA and heard their wood-fired pizza was a sure bet. The original brew pub is just off sleepy San Jose’s plaza in the historical art district and the local marina has a permanent exhibit of Leonora Carrington‘s sculptures. A walk through town, lunner, and and a stroll along the water past Surrealist art: a perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday.
Before art, beer, and pizza, we made a stop at the San Jose bike shop. Baja is a whole lot of desert and that means lots of pointy stuff on the trails so Jim’s bike needed new tubes. No luck; he’d be riding on patched tubes the rest of the trip.
Traveling to Baja with 27″ bike tires? Be sure to bring extra tubes; we couldn’t find them even at stores like the one in San Jose that sold bikes with 27″ tires.
After the bike shop, we stopped at the marina to see Carrington’s sculptures. There was a security guard on the way in so we stopped and asked to make sure we were in the right place. He hadn’t heard of Carrington and radioed the office; they said that the exhibit was in a different park. We left with verbal directions but couldn’t find the park that was described so instead parked and wandered around San Jose’s plaza. We passed past loads of tchotchke shops, tequilla tasting bars, past lots of cool galleries and murals, and stumbled upon Baja Brewing along the way. They were out of the IPA so a Peyote Pale Ale and a Baja (oatmeal) Stout were served up. Both were pretty tasty as was the pizza; tourist pricing for sure though. Satisfied, we wandered round the plaza bit more before going back to the marina. This time we drove past security to the parking lot and had a nice leisurely walk along the water past Carrington’s funky and fierce sculptures. Check out Los Dos Cabos set for pics.
Dec 23, 2013 to Jan 6, 2014—We spent a couple weeks in Nopolo, Mexico, a planned community that is various stages of being developed. It was a nice quiet place to spend the holidays. Access to the beach was awesome: On calm days we could kayak south of the point and snorkel; on windy days we could play around in the surf. It was a great home base for a trip up into the Sierra de la Giganta mountains to an oasis to see Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó and a trip north to Bahia Concepcion to paddle around the islands off Playa Coyote.
Jan 1, 2014—Where did the year go? We had all intentions of keeping up the blog but life gets in the way— in a good way that is.
Here’s wishing everyone a great new year! Julie & Jim