Northern Baja Travel Guide

Carine Brulé

The Baja California Peninsula is one of the largest peninsulas in the world. It is a long narrow strip of land about 150 kilometers wide and 1,300 kilometers long. It is divided into two states of Mexico, Baja California (or Baja Norte) and Baja Sur. Its northern border is the state of California, U.S. The Baja has two coastlines. Its western border is the Pacific Ocean while its eastern border is the Sea of Cortez. The backbone of this peninsula is a series of mountain ranges, dividing the east and west sides of the peninsula. Baja California is the northern state and it itself is diverse in its environment due to its two coastlines.

On the Pacific side the beach towns of Rosarita and Ensenada, with their Pacific winds, claim to have an almost idyllic climate. While on the eastern side of Baja California, the Sonoran Desert dominates the environment with some of the hottest temperatures of Mexico! In stark contrast to the steamy summers, on occasion there is snow to be found on the mountains in winter. The Baja Peninsula as a whole is home to many unique animals and plants. Some of which are found no place else in the world. On the pacific side, there are gray whales in the water, while in the Sea of Cortes there are sea lions and dolphins. The desert houses coyotes, eagles, snakes, puma and pronghorn deer. The landscape is desert, often sparse and sandy. And here is where cacti are plentiful, including the massive cardón (pretty much the "daddy" of all cactus!)

As recent as 1910, this part of Mexico remained virtually uninhabited, except for small populated towns spaced very far apart. However, from 1910 to 1950, the population of the Baja began to grow tremendously. By 1950, there were over 500,000 people living on the Baja. Many Mexican had moved from the mainland to the Baja along with other immigrants from the United States, Germany, France, Russia and China. This ethnic mixture has created a special culinary menu for Northern Baja!

Today, you will definitely want to try a Baja-style Fish Taco or a fresh-from-the-ocean grilled Lobster dinner! And, flavors of the Old World find themselves here, in the Guadalupe Valley where olive trees and grape vineyards flourish, you will find excellent table wines, tanned olives, olive oils, jams and cheeses. Many of these recipes were brought to the Baja by Europeans. And, in Mexicali you will find Chinesca, or Chinatown, this is the only Chinese urban district of any size to be found in Mexico. And, there are Chinese restaurants galore in Mexicali! Most travelers agree that border towns are not their favorite places to hang out.

Tijuana is a huge city with numerous border crossings, and many travelers prefer to cross the border at Tecate. Tecate is a tiny town by comparison. Although a bit out of the way, it is a much more pleasant town. And you can always choose to tour the Tecate brewery!

Below you will find a brief review of the main tourist towns of Baja Norte:

Tijuana: The most visited border in the world! This is a huge and crazy city. Being so close to San Diego, California, U.S. it is a hard to resist a quick visit. Although, recent news stories have definitely put a dent in the cities tourism! Tijuana is famous for seasonal bullfighting, greyhound racing and casinos. As any large metropolitan city, Tijuana has its cultural and entertainment centers, including museums, art exhibits and the OMNIMAX theatre, El Cubo, a Youth Symphony Orchestra and an opera company.

Rosarito Beach: Lobster Capital of the Pacific! This is the first beach town south of the border. Just get through Tijuana and you are here! "Back in the Day", this is where the glamorous Hollywood celebrities of the past came to bask in the Mexican Sun! Today, you will still find Rosarito Beach to be a bustling beach town. Most of the town is located along either side of the main road, with plenty of hotels, restaurants and shopping to keep you busy for days! Rosarito Beach is also home to the Xploration Fox movie studio where the movie Titantic was filmed.

Ensenada: A Harbor, Cruise ships and the Land of Wine! Ensenada is a big city with a busy international harbor. This is an important commercial and fishing port as well as a cruise ship stop. Here you will also find a Mexican navy base, army base and a military airfield. Ensenada is the only deep water port in Baja California. The ships here travel to La Paz, Manzanillo, Mazatlán and Acapulco in Mexico; to San Diego and Los Angeles, in the United States as well as to destinations in Guatemala, Chile, Japan, China and other far-flung corners of the world! From Ensenada to Tecate is the "Ruta de Vino" or Wine Route which is a stunningly beautiful, mountainous drive with vineyards, wineries and historical stops along the way.

NOTE: Please refer to the individual destinations for more details about each of these tourist destinations.

Where to Go in Northern Baja

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Gringo Guide

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