The Pueblos Mágicos and Barrios Mágicos of Baja California

Although we think that every part of Baja is magical for its own special reason, Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism has put together an official list of Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns) that offer visitors a “magical” experience—by way of natural beauty, cultural riches or historical relevance. The Baja peninsula is currently home to four of these Pueblos Mágicos: Tecate, Santa Rosalía, Loreto, and Todos Santos. With all of the old-world charisma and natural beauty these cities offer, it’s not hard to see why they’ve been designated for their magical charm. A new addition to the program in 2024 is the designation of Barrios Mágicos (magical neighborhoods). The first designated on the peninsula was La Chinesca (the Chinatown area of Mexicali), with more to come very soon!

Pueblos Mágicos



Located just across the border from the U.S., Tecate is a beautiful gateway to Baja that makes for an easy weekend or day trip. But Tecate isn’t your typical boisterous border town—it’s a quaint town full of colonial architecture and surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. It’s a visit deep into the heart of “real” Mexico without having to travel more than an hour from downtown San Diego.

What to Do

-Visit the town’s namesake Tecate Brewery where you can learn how the beer is brewed and spend some time in the newly reopened beer garden. Call ahead of time to see if they can accommodate you on a tour 011-52-665-654-9490

-The Tecate Cultural Center, Museo Comunitario de Tecate, is a bilingual museum explaining the culture, history, and natural geography of the region. The permanent exhibits feature photographs, murals, artifacts, and informative signs that highlight the three periods of Tecate’s history: the prehistoric era, the era of the ranchers, and contemporary times.

-Head out of town to La Rumorosa, an area between Tecate and Mexicali where you’ll find giant rocks with incredible viewing points. La Rumorosa is also home to the Vallecitos cave paintings specifically “El Diablito” which is magically lit up over the winter solstice.

 Where to Stay

-Situated on 3,000 acres, Rancho La Puerta has gardens, hiking trails, an organic farm, several pools and world-famous spas. With three health and beauty centers, the possibilities are endless for rejuvenation and relaxation.

-Located closer to town, Santuario Diegueno offers a luxury stay at affordable prices with lovely rooms and a gorgeous pool area. Asao Restaurante on the property is an excellent dining option offering contemporary Mexican cuisine with local ingredients, complete with sweeping views of the countryside.

 What to Eat

-You can’t go to Tecate without visiting the famous panaderia (bakery), El Mejor Pan de Tecate, and trying the warm rolls and delicious pastries.

El Lugar de Nos is a fun casual option featuring fresh creations like rib eye pizza, jamaica salad, and ahi tuna tostadas. Mismatched tablecloths, vintage furniture, and funky art create an eclectic, charming, and comfortable atmosphere.

-There’s no written menu at Restaurante Amores, but guests can choose from a three-, five-, or eight-course tasting menu with dishes made from local ingredients.


Santa Rosalía, an old French mining town, has a distinct character unlike anywhere else in Baja California. The area is full of relics of old mining equipment and industrial buildings from the 1800s when the French-owned Boleo Mining Company dominated the town. With deteriorating French-style houses with wood siding, porches, and balconies overlooking the narrow streets, many parts of the town look like a Wild West movie set.

What to Do

-Enjoy the unique wooden mining era architecture of the town. The white-painted metal Iglesia de Santa Bárbara de Santa Rosalía church was designed in 1884 by the famous Gustave Eiffel, who also designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The local community still uses the church for regular worship.

-Learn about the rich mining history of the town with a visit to the Museo Histórico Minero de Santa Rosalía, a small museum with a display of mining artifacts and information on the history of Santa Rosalía.

Where to Stay

-On the hillside on the north side of town, Hotel Frances is an old, two-story French building with large wraparound balconies. The hotel is older but has lots of French colonial charm, it gives visitors the unique feeling of being on the movie set of an old Western movie.

-Just south of town on the coast Las Casitas is worth the stay if you can get one of the nice oceanfront casitas looking out at the Sea of Cortez.

What to Eat

-One of the best tacos stands in town is Tacos el Faro Verde. It serves the usual fish and shrimp tacos in addition to a unique and tasty chile relleno taco—jalapeño stuffed with cream cheese and shrimp, inside a taco.

-Open since 1901, the Panadería El Boleo is another remnant of the French influence in Santa Rosalía. In addition to Mexican bolillos, the bakery also offers French baguettes.

loreto baja mission


Loreto is the oldest settlement in Baja and home to the first mission of all of California, which was established in 1697. With a quaint little plaza, the beautiful waters of the Sea of Cortez, and the Coronado islands right off shore, Loreto draws tourists who come to fish, dive, snorkel, and relax.

What to Do

-Loreto is a great spot for sportfishing. Yellowtail, sailfish, marlin and dorado are just some of the catches that fishing enthusiasts will find waiting for them in the waters of the Sea of Cortez.

The Coronado Islands, right off the coast of Loreto are a part of the largest marine natural reserve in Mexico. They’re a wonderful spot to take a boat out for the day to enjoy snorkeling or diving as sea life abounds and the waters are clear and beautiful.

-Catch up on your history and visit the Loreto mission, Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, the oldest mission in all of California, established in 1697. For a fun day trip, take the journey to nearby San Javier where another gorgeous mission, Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó awaits you after your scenic drive through the Sierra de la Giganta.

Where to Stay

-With a great location, charming atmosphere, and a lovely pool area, you can’t go wrong staying at Cabañas de Loreto

-If you’re looking for a luxury resort experience, Villa del Palmar is located outside of town and right on the Sea of Cortez.

What to Eat

Orlando’s Cocina Mexicana is a great place for breakfast, lunch or dinner. With the casual atmosphere and great Mexican food, this is true Baja dining.

-For a casual meal that delights both locals and tourists, check out Asadero Super Burrito where the food is savory with large portions and the atmosphere is fun.


This little colonial artist town oozes the charm and charisma of an older, more traditional Mexico. The beautiful, vast beaches right outside town attract surfers who enjoy the relatively uncrowded waves. Todos Santos is unspoiled Baja at its best.

What to Do

-Take a stroll through the colonial downtown and wander into shops and art galleries. There are a number of galleries in town that showcase the works of the many talented local Mexican and ex-pat artists. You can wander through the quaint streets of downtown Todos Santos to find most of them.

-The Leatherback turtles that once lived in the Cabo San Lucas area have been pushed out by the big resorts and crowds and sought refuge in Todos Santos. Join a nightly patrol to help rehabilitate them with Leatherback Turtle Restoration

Where to Stay

-For a delightful boutique stay right in town, La Bohemia Baja delivers beautiful rooms, a charming atmosphere, and even a small dipping pool in the courtyard.

-Just a few minutes from downtown, located on the beach is Villa Santa Cruz. Offering a variety of room types, no detail was overlooked with this stunning boutique property that now boasts a beachside restaurant on property.

What to Eat

-Chef Javier Plascencia’s Jazamango offers an outdoor dining experience drawing foodies with carefully crafted local ingredients and a charming atmosphere.

Barrios Mágicos



Mexicali’s La Chinesca is the largest Chinatown in all of Mexico. Because of the Colorado River Delta and the agricultural lands surrounding Mexicali, the region saw an abundance of Chinese laborers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, La Chinesca is a bit run-down but still has a buzzing energy and can be interesting to walk around. There are fewer than 2,000 Chinese people still living in Mexicali, but the region remains heavily influenced by Chinese culture.

What to Do

-Because of the heat in Mexicali, many buildings in La Chinesca feature basements that were heavily used for living and working. Because access to the underground Chinatown is through private businesses, the only way to truly visit is to take a guided underground tour of La Chinesca. This popular attraction will allow you to visit the basements and stores of Chinatown and learn about the history of the area. Tours are offered Friday-Sunday through Origenes y Secretos de La Chinesca and are available only in Spanish.

-There are over 200 Chinese restaurants in Mexicali where the food has taken on an interesting mix of Mexican and Chinese flavors and ingredients. Most of the restaurants are located outside of La Chinesca and spread around the city. Try Beijing Restaurant or Chinahouse.

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