Baja California Sur: Welcome to the edge of civilisation


‘Below the Mexican border the water changes colour; it takes on a deep, ultramarine blue—a washtub bluing blue, intense and seeming to penetrate deep into the water; the fishermen call it ‘tuna water.’

Steinbeck. The Log from the Sea of Cortez

In the beginning




A different planet.

There’s an unworldly feeling about Baja California Sur from the moment you first set foot on this lunar landscape. 

Overrun with cactus and barring a few sleepy towns, the tide of life here is gratifyingly, mind numbingly slow. Once you come here, the vast emptiness of the dusty landscape makes you feel insignificant. You feel very much alone with the elements here. There are no hip hotels, fast food chains or throngs of beachgoers. You come here for the very fact that they haven’t arrived yet. 

It is late November, very much off season in these parts. Yet, temperatures are in the mid 20’s, perfect late Spring weather for us in Europe. Barring a few snowbirds, odd dozen RV campers, we have the pristine Bahia Concepcion coastline to ourselves. With a bunch of incredible beaches to choose from, on the northern side of Mulegé, we plump for El Burro, one of the most unspoilt beaches in the region. Framed by a crescent shaped golden beach, the waters here are crystal clear with a gradient blue shimmer. The water is surprisingly warm and the bay is calm with no current, perfect for novice kayakers.


After a refreshing dip, we discover, right on the beach, a wonderful cafe called Nomadico. Serving handcrafted coffee, using beans from their roastery in Cholula Puebla in mainland Mexico, this cafe feels like you could be in Brooklyn or Berlin. We later dig into a local lunch of ceviche and seafood tacos, prepared on the beach by a team of local fisherman. Some days in your life feel surreal, a special gift from the heavens above but then again, we were in some kind of indefinable dreamscape that is Baja California Sur. 


Before sunrise

The cobalt blue waves crash slowly against the boulder lined strip they call the malecón. 

From the malecón, you can see all forms of life. In the distance there is a lone fisherman in his boat. The sea is calm, flat like a pristine slab of blue marble. Superimposed against the breathtaking backdrop of the mountainous craggy Isla Carmen, the boat looks unreal. Like the perfect oil painting you never thought could exist in real life. Further up the malecón is a small harbour with an impressive whitewashed lighthouse. Usually the marina is heaving with fishing and tour boats heading out to sea but it was quiet.

I am in the sleepy Pueblo Mágico town of Loreto. Loreto marks the northern border of Baja California Sur and it feels like a town lost in time. While enjoying my wonderful buffet breakfast at the Hotel Oasis, my eyes wander the horizon, following the solitary beach doggo as he roams the vast stretch of black sand beach that cradles the Sea of Cortez. On the flip side of the town, while walking the streets, you feel the watchful gaze of the impressive Sierra de la Giganta looming in the distance. 

One of my main reasons for coming to Loreto was to explore the dazzling Loreto Bay National Marine Park, often referred to as the Galápagos of Mexico thanks to the 800-plus aquatic species that call the waters home, from blue whales and Humboldt squid to sea lions. It is November and still too early in the season for whale watching so instead, I drop by the small fishing community of San Bruno. Our destination – the Playa Los Arquitos, located on the desolate island of San Marcos, which is famous for being home to the second biggest gypsum mine in the world.

Out to sea

It was hard to tell the difference between the sky and the sea that morning. They had both been painted that majestic tuna blue that Steinbeck had referred to. The sun was a big yellow ball of hazy happiness, burning slowly through the tuna blue. I had reservations about jumping on a boat that morning but it was such a beautiful morning and there was that inner voice, urging me to defy my fears, strap on the life jacket and hop on the boat. I had expected a bigger boat but when we arrived at the harbour, this wee fisherman’s boat with a 50 hp engine, greeted me. I was nervous but the sea of Cortez looked deceptively calm from land. It was only when we broke away from the harbour, out of earshot of the deafening chorus of pelicans seagulls and albatrosses, the boat thudding fiercely against the bigger waves that I felt my stomach turn. As someone who cannot swim, you can imagine the mortal fear that grips you when you are surrounding by the vast infinite blue of the sea and a boat defying gravity. I I think I had turned tuna blue myself and everyone could see the fear in my eyes. Rafa, our driver who was in front of me, then calmly resting his hand on my shoulder advises me to change position and face the horizon, side on. I felt a little better and focused my eye on the big ocean of blue. We were alone, a blip in this big beautiful ocean and then I saw the unusual undulating peaks of island san Marcos unfurling in the distance. 


We spend the morning relaxing, swimming in the sheltered bay of Playa Los Arquitos exploring its unusual rock formations and caves, a legacy of Baja’s volcanic origins. Some of the group go fishing with the owner of the boat, Daniel. Having worked 30 years on the mines on the island, Daniel retired 5 years ago and besides running fishing expeditions to the island, also runs a very popular Palapa la Abuela restaurant. They bring back a bountiful catch of several fish that include Barracuda, yellowfin tuna and marlin. Daniel makes a tuna ceviche tostada for starters. I think I might have had ceviche almost everyday of our trip in Baja California Sur. For mains , we had grilled marlin with rice and salad. So fresh, tasty with extra slices of avocado, lime wedges and coriander for garnish along with 3-4 varieties of hot sauces for extra heat. That lime, avocado, chilli and spicy sauce combo has to be one of life’s great pleasures. 



‘We don’t have the attractions of a big city. We live in small towns., rancheros. All we just have is this pristine rustic beauty. You can see the thermal geysers. You can see the cave paintings and see fossils. It’s very quiet here. We built these cabanas here for tourists and locals to enjoy the volcanic landscape. Go for a hike. Plus, you come here for the people. There’s a warmth here, a natural flair for welcoming people for centuries in Baja California Sur.’

Oscar Castañeda, Eco Tour Las Tres Virgenes


We sat in perfect silence waiting for sunrise over the volcano. We had arrived late at night under the clearest night sky full of millions of stars. Before calling it a night in our humble cabanas of our eco lodge, we gather around a roaring fire and gaze in awe at the sky. Unfortunately being a full moon night, it wasn’t the perfect night for star gazing. But the moon did illuminate the night sky like a billion watt bulb. Hidden behind a plume of white clouds, we could barely make out the mighty silhouette of the 3 volcanoes, the Las Tres Virgenes as they are called. We would have to wait till sunrise before a better look. We file into our rustic and creaky cabins. It is simple but cosy. Oscar turns on the hot water (solar-powered) before bed so we have a quick shower before crawling under the covers. All for just $400 MX (€20). 

Sunrise. From the viewing tower we have a perfect 360 degree view of the landscape with not a soul in sight. The vegetation is sparse here with the main landscape dotted with multiple cacti of varying heights. Our guide and host, Oscar reminded us that the cactus sometimes grow only a few milliliters and that many of the cacti in front of us were 500 years old. 

As the sun rises, a beautiful kaleidoscope of colours emerge to the eye, from red rouge, to beige and green, that give the landscape an even more beautiful surreal look. The only real sign of life is a plume of smoke in the distance where a geothermal electric plant is located. Other than that, nothing much exists here.

As the sun burns through the clouds, the mighty Las Tres Virgenes emerges in full view, rising steeply and majestically from the desert floor. You can still see the lava tracks from previous eruptions. It is a 5 mile loop from the lodge but time is short so the next best thing was to see the hot springs ride in the nearby  El Azufre Canyon. We hop back on the car and after a short 15 minute hike from the main road, we find the viewing point, the smell of sulphuric gases reminding us that we are still within the vicinity of an active volcano. Mexico has more than 2,000 volcanoes, however only 40 are active. The Las Tres Virgenes volcano last erupted in 2001 and is still monitored. 

The end is just the beginning

It has been a few weeks since we left Baja California Sur and I still sometimes find myself lost for words when I think of this place.  The surreal landscapes and fragile environment really push the boundaries of your mind. Everything you know and recognise as familiar, cannot be found here and realise just how small and insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. 

I will let Steinbeck say a few words.

Trying to remember the Gulf is like trying to re-create a dream…There is always in the back of our minds the positive drive to go back again. If it were lush and rich, one could understand the pull, but it is fierce and hostile and sullen. The stone mountains pile up to the sky and there is little fresh water. But we must go back if we live, and we don’t know why.”


Steinbeck who died in 1968, never made it back to Baja. Maybe, he did not need to return. Baja is that kind of place. A fantasy. A dream, that lives on within you, long long after you have said goodbye. 


Disclaimer: This once in a lifetime adventure was made possible thanks to the trip planning platform, HipTraveler and the Baja California Sur Tourism board.

For the full itinerary of our Baja California Sur trip , please checkout the HipTraveler website.

Eternal gratitude to John, Swati and Luis for bringing us to Baja California and also love to the dream content team- Melvin, Nina, Garrett and last but not least, Sabrina.

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