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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Baja California

South of the border, where the rugged windswept desert meets an emerald sea, James Kay shows us some of the hidden splendors that await an adventurous photographer

Labels: Locations
In And Around Baja California

Practical Information
The only news most Americans have heard from Mexico over the last few years has been about the drug-cartel-related violence. Fortunately for Baja aficionados, the southern three-quarters of the peninsula is probably the best place in all of Mexico to avoid these issues. The vast majority of this violence is located along the U.S. border on the Mexican mainland. Areas around Tijuana and Ensenada have seen an uptick in petty drug-gang-related crime over the last few years, with some American visitors being harassed at gunpoint, so it’s probably best to avoid this region of Baja until things calm down. Other than an increased military-police presence on the streets of La Paz, we saw no evidence of drug violence at all and felt very safe during our trips.

Getting There/Getting Around
Driving. To drive from San Diego to La Paz takes about 22 hours to cover the 926 miles. Just stay on the Baja California Trans-Peninsula Highway, also known as Mexico Highway 1. Due to the narrow road, wandering cows and the occasional bandito, it’s best to avoid driving at night. Airlines. Alaska Airlines offers 2-hour, 15-minute nonstop flights from Los Angeles to La Paz every day of the week. Rental Cars. All major U.S. rental car companies have booths at the airport in La Paz. Rent them in town to get a better price.

La Paz
La Paz hasn’t been overrun with resort development yet. It’s an authentic Mexican town and has a completely different feel compared to the tourist Disneyland of Cabo San Lucas. The old town located along the waterfront is friendly and safe. If you stay at the Posada LunaSol with Mar y Aventuras, you hardly need a rental car; it’s only a several-minute walk to the beautiful waterfront promenade known as The Malecón. The locals come out early in the morning to get their workouts in before the heat of the day. Many good restaurants are tucked away on side streets just up the hill above The Malecón. Taxis are cheap if you want to travel further afield. We’ve never been hassled walking around, even at night, and have felt safe at all times.

Todos Santos accommodations: Posada La Poza, www.lapoza.com
Best hotel in Cabo San Lucas for photographing the granite sea cliffs: Hotel Solmar, www.solmar.com

For our most recent trip to Baja, we chose to paddle the 100-mile stretch of mountainous coastline south of Loreto where the 4,000-foot summits of the Sierra de la Giganta Range rise from the water’s edge. In several locations, this rugged escarpment resembles the cliffs of the Grand Canyon. In others, red rock reminiscent of the Navajo sandstone of Utah’s national parks lines the shore. It’s easy to understand why much of this wild coastline is currently being proposed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Locals hope this status will help protect Baja’s last undeveloped section of coast from road building and the rampant resort development that has so heavily impacted the southern tip of the peninsula at Cabo San Lucas.

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