Temperatures in Central and Southern Baja soar to over 100 degrees in the summer so stick to the north until the mercury drops in October. Here are come cool—in both senses of the word—destinations.
Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe produces 90% of all of the wine that comes from Mexico and is growing famous worldwide. You’ll find more than 50 boutique wineries, gourmet restaurants, and chic hotels, some of which have even been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the LA Times.
If you’re coming from San Diego, enjoy the ride along scenic Highway 94 from Lemon Grove through Jamul and Barrett Junction to the Tecate border, then sweep down the newly paved Mex 3 with its smooth sweepers. There can be rocks in the road, and at night a cow or two might be lounging on the warm asphalt, so please don’t go too fast.
Playas de Rosarito
Less than an hour south of downtown San Diego, you’ll arrive at the quaint Mexican beachside town of Playas de Rosarito. This may or may not be the place where Lowell George found Rosarita, but enjoy this classic as you read on.
With its beautiful beaches, delicious food, artisan shops and welcoming locals, Rosarito is perfect for a quick weekend escape or a weeklong getaway vacation. Cruise Benito Juarez and follow your nose to find the perfect taco stand. Treat yourself to sweets at the dulcerias with their galaxies of piñatas hanging above, and browse the streetside stalls to buy traditional Mexican arts and souvenirs. Restaurants are surprisingly diverse, ranging from traditional Mexican to Asian cuisine. Got an inflatable surfboard? Pack it on your pillion and catch the waves at K38! Read more about Rosarito here.
Further down the peninsula the coastal city of Ensenada is only about two hours south of San Diego. It’s the third-largest city in Baja and is an important commercial, fishing and tourist port. The harbor welcomes multiple cruise ships a week and tourism is an important part of the local economy. The city is bustling! You’ll find gourmet food, beautiful resorts, large beaches, surf spots, nightclubs and shops full of artisan crafts.
Don’t miss the seafood market on the bay. Here’s a video review by famed chef Rick Bayless for a mouth-watering look at the treats you can expect, including lots of history and instructions on how you can concoct the Baja fish taco at home.
Sierra San Pedro Martir and Meling Ranch
Head up to the Sierra San Pedro Martir National Park and plan a relaxing retreat at Rancho Meling. (Rates are $70 for two people to $300 for a casa housing 11.)
About 100 miles southeast of Ensenada, you’ll enjoy the cool weather and pine trees on these mountains that are covered in snow in the winter. You may want to ride all the way up to the observatory.
The ranch has been in the Meling family for over 100 years. There are 25 miles of trails for bicycling, horseback riding and hiking that wend through the rocks, mountains, and trees on this 10,000 acre ranch. If you’re towing your dirt bikes, or riding them in from the border, owner Christian Meling assured me that you can take them on the trails, too.
During your stay, you can lounge by the pool while the ranch hands work the cattle and tend to the horses, chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep, and rabbits.
Entry… and re-entry
One last note. Entering Baja is easy from any border, but returning to the US the San Ysidro lines can be very long and slow. So try to take Otay-Mesa or, preferably, Tecate. Tip: Don’t idle in line with the cars. You’ll get dehydrated, and if you’ve got an air-cooled bike, you know it’ll overheat. So ride past the cars to the front. They have never failed to let me through.
Lane “sharing” is legal in California. In Mexico and many other countries it is a common practice.
Don’t leave without these essentials
Don’t forget your passport, vehicle insurance, and tourist card. Get details here. And just because it’s hot doesn’t mean you shouldn’t gear up. Safety first! I wear Olympia mesh gear but there are a lot of mesh jackets, pants, and even gloves to choose from.
How about you? Got a cool summertime destination to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
Carla King has been writing about her motorcycle adventure travels since 1995. Read about her misadventures in North America, China, Europe, India, and Africa, and current adventures in Baja at CarlaKing.com.