With beautiful architecture, a rich history, and plenty of Mexican charm, Baja’s colonial towns are a draw for many tourists traveling the peninsula. We bring you some of our favorites and our tips for how to best experience them.
Why We Love It: The town of San Ignacio functions as the gateway to the San Ignacio Lagoon (about an hour south of town on a road that is nearly all paved), the premier spot for gray whale watching on the peninsula. San Ignacio is a popular overnight stop for those traveling up and down the peninsula because of its location along Highway Mexico 1 just south of the state line.
What to Do: The heart of this sleepy town is the plaza where you can relax under the shade of the trees, walk the surrounding streets to check out the old colonial buildings, or visit Mission San Ignacio Kadakaamán, one of the most beautiful and accessible missions on the peninsula. January through April, go out to the lagoon for a single or multi-day trip to have up-close encounters with the friendly gray whales. If you’re planning to stay in San Ignacio for a few days, some of the easier-to-access cave paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco such as Cueva del Ratón can be visited in a day trip.
Where to Stay: Ignacio Springs Bed & Breakfast (DBTC members receive a 10% discount) offers yurtz set along the river and a delicious breakfast in the mornings. Or if you prefer to stay in town, La Huerta hotel offers modern, clean, and affordable accommodations and even has a new restaurant on the property.
DBTC Insider Tip: End of January through early April is prime gray whale season. If you’re looking for a truly special gray whale experience on the peninsula, we recommend staying for a few days out at the lagoon where you’ll be able to hear the gray whales at night and have plenty of opportunities to go out and get your fill of whale hugs and kisses. Antonio’s EcoTours is great because of the warm hospitality and the flexibility they offer (day trips, multi-day trips, staying in eco-cabins, or camping on their property).
Why We Love It: This lush oasis town is situated on a river with plenty of date palm trees and stunning nearby beaches. The town itself has a handful of restaurants housed in old colonial buildings, and a beautiful stone mission, Santa Rosalía de Mulegé, set up on the hill overlooking the river.
What to Do: Many people who visit Mulegé spend their days down at Bahía Concepción (a half-hour drive south of town) where the shallow turquoise bays and white-sand beaches are prime for kayaking, swimming, and relaxing. The cave paintings of San Borjitas and La Trinidad can be visited in day trips from Mulegé.
Where to Stay: The iconic Hotel Serenidad (DBTC members receive a 10% discount) is famous for their deliciously potent margaritas and pig roast dinner buffets.
DBTC Insider Tip: Bahía Concepción is one of the main tourist draws for the peninsula, but unless you’re planning on camping on the beach, Mulegé will be your closest spot for hotels.
Why We Love It: As one of the most charming towns on the peninsula, Loreto is a destination that truly has something to offer everyone.
What to Do: There’s no shortage of incredible things to do in Loreto such as enjoying a great meal along the historic town plaza, checking out the first Spanish mission in the Californias (Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó), shopping for authentic Mexican artisan goods, taking a boat ride out to the surrounding islands, or enjoying a slew of outdoor sports like fishing, hiking, golfing, and kayaking. There are also a number of great day trips to take from Loreto such as a visit to San Javier. For more information, read our Three-Day Getaway: Loreto article.
Where to Stay: We love Las Cabañas de Loreto for the intimate charm and prime location near the malecón and town plaza.
DBTC Insider Tip: While Loreto is a great overnight stay for peninsula road trippers, you’ll want to plan on staying for a number of days to really take advantage of everything Loreto has to offer. If you don’t want to drive down, there are quick flights directly to Loreto from the Tijuana airport (take the new Cross Border Xpress)
Why We Love It: This quaint colonial town had its heyday as a mining town decades ago, but has recently been revamped and given new energy as a tourist destination, making it a fun day trip when you’re in Baja Sur.
What to Do: Take a walk around the historic mining grounds to see the old mining equipment and smokestacks (note the tall stack named “La Romana,” rumored to have been designed by Gustav Eiffel of Eiffel tower fame). There’s a small music museum to check out, and don’t miss a meal at Caffe El Triunfo or Bar El Minero, the two food and drink spots in town. For more details, check out our article The Renaissance of El Triunfo.
Where to Stay: There are no accommodations right in El Triunfo. Most visitors explore El Triunfo on a day trip from La Paz or Los Barriles.
DBTC Insider Tip: Because El Triunfo operates chiefly as a winter tourism town, establishments are seasonal (closing for summer months) and even during peak season, may be closed a few days a week. Be sure to check opening days and hours in advance.
Why We Love It: This picturesque colonial town has become a chic haven in recent years for ex-pat artists, surfers, and the bohemian set. With stylish boutique hotels, great restaurants, nearby beaches, and picturesque colonial streets, Todos Santos has quickly become a must-visit destination for jet setters.
What to Do: Animal lovers visiting during the winter will want to head out to the beach to see the sea turtle hatchling release. Back in town, the old colonial buildings house plenty of shops and art galleries to peruse. Enjoy some of the delectable cuisine in town such as Javier Plascencia’s new Jazamango, or go for Italian at Tre Galline or Café Santa Fe. There are a number of venues in town that offer live music on a regular basis during peak season.
Where to Stay: For a delightfully chic stay right in town, we love La Bohemia Hotel Pequeño (DBTC members receive a 10% discount) where you’ll enjoy a charming oasis in the heart of Todos Santos. If you’re looking for a tranquil beach experience, try a stay at the beautiful Villa Santa Cruz.
DBTC Insider Tip: Winter holiday season is a very busy season for Todos Santos, as is January during the music festival and March during the film fest. While you should always make Todos Santos hotel arrangements in advance, you’ll need to book particularly far in advance during these times.