Another birthday, another celebration in Baja. It feels like I was just writing the blog post about my birthday in Valle de Guadalupe, and here I am, 6 or so months later, writing another post about another adventure — Jay’s celebration down in Baja Sur.
It was actually the first time either of us had been this far down the Baja peninsula. Living in San Diego, Baja Norte is our mainstay, but with the CBX crossing at the Tijuana airport and catching the right flights at the right price, it was a no-brainer to venture south for some warmer weather.
The Cross Border Xpress from San Diego to the Tijuana airport is seriously awesome. It makes flying within Mexico a breeze and allows you to save some money. This is especially true for longer distance destinations — places like Mexico City, Oaxaca, etc.
To get there, you can plug “Cross Border Xpress” into Google maps or head toward the Otay Mesa border entry where the crossing is located. Tickets cost $40 for one-way and $60 for roundtrip. The walk from the entrance in San Diego into the Tijuana airport is ~10 minutes long.
After an Indio and a shot of tequila (this was a birthday celebration, afterall), we boarded our fight on Volaris Airlines from TJ → La Paz. The flight time was just under two hours which was great, because any longer and the lack of legroom would have been unbearable.
Renting a Car
Before booking this trip, renting a car was the number one reason we ever hestiated. We had read horror stories online and ultimately understood the process to be nothing short of a nightmare. Large holds were being placed on credit cards ($4,000 – $5,000), prices were one thing online and another at the rental car office, and insurance costs were through the roof, but never properly communicated.
However we decided, regardless of all this, we were determined to go. We dug a little deeper and found, through some of our favorite online forums, that those few successful car rental stories typically involved using your credit card’s insurance, so that’s what we decided to do.
We rented our car through Budget which also seemed to go by the name PayLess. After deboarding and collecting our luggage, we went straight to the Budget office which had no line (unlike most of the other car rental agencies) and were in and out in 10 minutes. I was honestly kind of shocked. I thought Budget would give us a problem for using our credit card’s insurance, but when we stated that’s what we wanted to do, the Budget employee didn’t bat an eye. I sort of saw this as the first birthday present of the weekend ????.
We only had one night in La Paz and we spent it at CostaBaja Resort & Spa.
This place was gorgeous and we would definitely stay again. CostaBaja was like a little town with multiple restaurants, a private beach club, and golf charts to chauffeur you to all of these places.
The staff were magnificent and the location of the hotel was private, which we liked. If you’re looking to be where the action is, I’d recommend staying closer to the city center. CostaBaja is about 15-20 minutes from there, but what’s closer is Balandra Beach — our primary reason for visiting La Paz.
From Google maps, you can already catch a glimpse of what Playa Balandra might be like.
From a Google image search, that glimpse is made much clearer, and Balandra Beach is even more stunning in-person.
From our hotel, the drive to Balandra was about 20 minutes on completely paved roads. There is free parking once you get to the beach and a food-truck type vehicle that sells things like beach toys, snacks, beers, and bathing suits.
One interesting thing about Balandra and other beaches on the Sea of Cortez is their insane tide swings, they can range anywhere from 12-16ft. When we arrived at Balandra at 10am, we actually thought it was low-tide. After about 2 hours of exploring (and finding a private beach!) we ventured back and noticed the tide was even lower. It actually made what looked like a series of mini beaches. There were tons of sandbars and people wading through the inches of water that separated them, and each little sandbar had groups of people with lounge chairs and beers. I’ve never seen anything like it.
After exploring Balandra for a few hours, we hopped in our Nissan X-Trail and set out for Todos Santos. This is a drive that takes you from one side of the peninsula to the other, and it’s literally just one straight road with a very tiny town in the middle. It doesn’t feel desolate, the scenery is desert-like, and it takes about an hour and 10 minutes. More importantly, or at least this was our biggest worry, is that the roads are paved. About 20 minutes south of the town of Todos Santos is El Pescadero, home to a beach well-known amongst surfers, Playa Cerritos.
This weekend being Jay’s birthday weekend, we, of course, stayed at the hotel that was as close as physically possible to the waves (literally). Hotel Cerritos Surf Town is broken up into two sections — the hotel and the eco-bungalows. We stayed at the hotel in what they call a Villa which was located on the sand of the beach with a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a king bed. The eco-bungalows were nice, cheaper, but if shared bathrooms aren’t your thing, we suggest you go the villa route like we did ????.
At the hotel is an awesome pool, restaurant, bar with plenty of tequila, and nice couch-like loungers. The staff, again, were very attentive and they offer services like yoga in the morning and surf lessons. What we particularly loved about this hotel was the location, for a surfer and a surfer’s girlfriend, alike. Jay was able to wake up, sip his coffee, and wave-check from our patio. I was able to lounge on the beach while he surfed, but if I needed access to our room, it just was a few steps away.
Food & Drink
Another thing we loved about where we stayed was the town that came with it, El Pescadero. It’s not as well-known as Todos Santos, but in my opinion it delivered more than what I would have expected for the size & aesthetic.
Almost every road off of the highway in El Pescadero is dirt. The road we first turned down to get to our hotel was dirt. So one starts to wonder what could possibly be down these dirt roads… not much? Wrong. So much!!
Down the dirt roads of El Pescadero were restaurants that rivaled restaurants I’ve been to in both San Diego and New York. Tacos and craft cocktails at Barracuda Cantina or farm-to-table al fresco dining at Hierbabuena, it was seriously all there. We did check out the hot spot of Todos Santos, Jazamango, Chef Javier Plascencia’s place, and it was great. Think: Finca Altozano in Valle de Guadalupe (surprise surprise, also his restaurant).
All in all, it was a very successful trip. Everything we had worries out turned out to be fine, actually pleasant — rental cars, paved roads, and exploring new territory. We’re already planning another trip back to La Paz & Todos, so it’s safe to say we recommend you go and check it out 🙂