The Baja peninsula is loaded with natural wonders, historical sights, and cultural marvels. From small wine regions to impressive cave paintings and natural waterfalls, there’s lots to explore. Here are some of our favorite—and lesser-known—gems along the peninsula.
The Antigua Ruta del Vino
Location: South of Ensenada, BC
Why We Love it: The secret is definitely out about the incredible wines of Baja, and the Valle de Guadalupe has been getting worldwide attention, long with the visitors to go with it. But the lesser-known Antigua Ruta del Vino (historic wine route) comprises grape-growing valleys south of Ensenada where there are a handful of wineries with the same great wines, but without the crowds. Valle de la Grulla has MD Vinos and Palafox winery and Valle de Santo Tomás boasts the namesake Bodegas de Santo Tomás winery with their famous tractor-pulled wine tasting in the vineyards. Learn more about the region in our Antigua Ruta del Vino article.
When to Visit: The wineries are open year-round. Summer has traditionally been considered peak season but can bring excessively hot weather. Palafox winery is only open on weekends.
How to Visit: If you’re looking to spend a full day at the wineries, it’s best to plan to stay in Ensenada. The wineries are about an hour to/from Ensenada depending on traffic.
DBTC Insider Tip: Unlike the Valle de Guadalupe, there are no restaurants near the wineries along the Antigua Ruta del Vino. If you have a larger group and are visiting on a weekend, you can make arrangements in Valle de La Grulla advance with either MD or Palafox wineries to make food for your group. Otherwise, you’ll need to plan to eat back in Ensenada or at El Palomar in Valle de Santo Tomas.
Cañon de Guadalupe Hot Springs
Location: Sierra de Juarez, BC
Why We Love it: This paradise is a lush oasis located within the Sierra de Juarez, boasting mineral hot springs, natural swimming pools, and palm trees. Each campsite has its own natural hot springs pool to enjoy. There’s beautiful hiking in the area with waterfalls and natural pools to explore as well as rock climbing and cave painting sites.
When to Visit: The campsites and hot springs are closed for July and August because of the heat.
How to Visit: Most people plan to spend at least a weekend camping at the hot springs. There are two points of access, both from Highway Mexico 2 between Mexicali and Tecate. The graded road, turn off at Km. 28 at Laguna Salada, is the recommended route.
DBTC Insider Tip: There are two different campgrounds—Guadalupe Canyon Hot Springs and Guadalupe Canyon Oasis—both in the same family who has owned over 1,000 acres here since the 1950s. You should plan on bringing all water, food, and supplies with you.
San Borjitas Cave Paintings
Location: Sierra de Guadalupe (north of Mulegé), BCS
Why We Love it: These are some of the most impressive cave paintings on the peninsula that can be visited in a day trip on your own (unlike the Sierra de San Francisco cave paintings which involve hiring a local guide for a multi-day pack animal trip). The cave paintings are carbon-dated to be 7,500 years old and are the oldest cave paintings in North America. The 100-feet-long cave/overhang is an impressive canvas for the more than 80 larger-than-life “monos” or human figures, painted half black and half red.
When to Visit: San Borjitas is open year-round but summers are extremely hot. Much of the dirt road into the cave paintings is through a river bed so there may not be access after heavy rains.
How to Visit: If you have a high-clearance, four-wheel drive than you can drive most of the way on your own and then hire a guide (and pay the INAH fees) at nearby Rancho Las Tinajas. The guide will lead you from the ranch to the parking area for San Borjitas and will guide you on the 20-minute hike to the cave. Getting to Rancho Las Tinajas involves a rigorous 20-mile, 2.5-hour off-road drive through riverbeds, deep sand, and large rocks. The turnoff for San Borjitas is at km. 165 on Highway Mexico 1.
DBTC Insider Tip: If you don’t want to drive on your own, you can hire a guide to take you from Mulegé for the day. The guide can also take you to the nearby La Trinidad cave paintings.
El Triunfo Colonial Town
Location: South of La Paz, BCS
Why We Love it: El Triunfo is a tiny colonial town full of big charm. The old mining town was once the cultural center of Baja Sur and that can be seen today in the beautiful colonial architecture and small museums in town. The old Music Museum is open for visitors as well as a new Museo de Plata museum that chronicles the history of the region. There are a few—but excellent—restaurants in town.
When to Visit: El Triunfo is seasonal, with restaurants shutting down for summer and reopening mid-October for the fall/winter/spring season.
How to Visit: There are no accommodations in El Triunfo, but it’s an easy day trip from La Paz, Los Barriles, or Todos Santos.
DBTC Insider Tip: Don’t miss a walk through the old mining grounds for a chance to see “La Ramona,” rumored to be designed by Gustav Eiffel (of Paris’ Eiffel Tower).
Cañon de la Zorra Waterfall
Location: Sierra de la Laguna (near Santiago), BCS
Why We Love it: Just outside of the small town of Santiago, nestled in the lush biosphere reserve of the Sierra de la Laguna, are the natural pools and waterfall of Cañon de la Zorra. The 30-foot waterfall cascades into natural pools below, and the surrounding rocks are perfect for lounging and sun bathing.
When to Visit: Access is available year round. Go in the morning to get the most direct sunlight, as the sun disappears behind the mountains putting the water into shade by early afternoon.
How to Visit: From Santiago, follow the signs for “Cañon de la Zorra” and “Sol de Mayo” from Francisco J. Mujica street in town. The dirt road will take you to Rancho Ecológico Sol de Mayo (GPS: 23.499002, -109.790511) where you’ll pay a small admission fee (about US$6 per person) to access the biosphere reserve and will hike about 10 minutes down to the pools and waterfall.
DBTC Insider Tip: If you have a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle, the nearby Santa Rita hot springs are serene and lovely and can be visited in the same day as Cañon de la Zorra.
2 thoughts on “Peninsula Picks: Baja Hidden Gems”
I love the piano concerts held on some Sunday afternoons in the piano museum where Laureate Angela Zanevsky plays beautiful classical piano. It is a very ethereal and spiritual experience, with fabulous music drifting over the ancient buildings. Angela is a spectacular musician, as is her husband who provides a narrative in perfect English.
There is or was a tiny 2 room B&B in town, basic but charming. And of course the bakery……..
ps: ANGELA AND HER HUSBAND ARE FROM RUSSIA AND SHE HAS PERFORMED AT A PRIVATE CONCERT FOR PUTIN.