The Mexican state of Baja California Sur is located on the southern half of the Baja Peninsula, and encompasses the glamorous beach resort area of Los Cabos, laidback towns like Todos Santos and La Paz, nature preserves, pristine beaches, historical mission towns, and more. It is bordered to the north by the state of Baja California, to the west by the Pacific Ocean, and to the east by the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez). The state includes islands in the Pacific (Natividad, Magdalena, and Santa Margarita), as well as several islands in the Gulf of California. Here's what you should know if you're planning a visit to Baja California Sur.
Quick Facts About Baja California Sur State
- Capital: La Paz
- Area: 44 380 square miles (71 430 square km), 3.7% of the national territory
- Topography: Mountains and coastal plains with altitudes ranging from sea level to a maximum of 6,857 feet above sea level in the Sierra de la Laguna (2,090 m)
- Climate: Most of the state has a dry, desert climate. Maximum temperatures may exceed 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) in the summer and the minimum is less than 32 F (0 C) in the winter. In Los Cabos, the climate is hot with an average annual rainfall of 10 inches.
- Flora: The arid soil favors cacti like the cardón (giant Mexican cactus), shrubs and sagebrush, and trees like torote (elephant tree), oak and pine
- Fauna: Numerous species of reptiles, coyotes, bighorn sheep, raccoon and deer, migratory birds like golden eagles and ospreys, and marine life including grey, blue and humpback whales, and orcas.
El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve
Baja California Sur is home to the Reserva de la Biósfera El Vizcaíno, Latin America's largest protected area with an extension of 15 534 miles² (25,000 km²). This vast desert with scrub brush and dense cacti stretches from the Vizcaíno Peninsula on the Pacific across to the Sea of Cortez. In the heart of this nature reserve, the Sierra de San Francisco is a declared Unesco World Heritage Site, due to the spectacular prehispanic rock paintings in some of its caves. The small town of San Ignacio is a good starting point for excursions to the Sierra and here you can also see Baja’s most beautiful church, the 18th-century Dominican mission church.
Whale Watching in Baja California Sur
From the end of December through March, great gray whales from Siberian and Alaskan waters swim 6,000 to 10,000 km to the warm waters of Baja's lagoons to give birth and raise their calves for three months before starting their long journey back to their feeding grounds. Seeing these whales can be an amazing experience!
San Ignacio is the gateway to one of Baja’s main whale watching areas, the Laguna San Ignacio south of Vizcaíno Peninsula, besides the Laguna Ojo de Liebre, also known as Scammon’s Lagoon south of Guerrero Norte and Puerto López Mateos near Isla Magdalena as well as Puerto San Carlos in the Bahia Magdalena further south.
Baja California Sur's Missions
Loreto is located on Baja California Sur's east coast and is considered one of the state's oldest settlements. Founded in 1697 by Father Juan Maria Salvatierra as Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto, today it is a water-sports paradise: world-class fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, and diving attract thousands of visitors year-round. After Loreto, the religious order of the Jesuits built a new mission approximately every three years. When the Spanish King Carlos III expelled the Society of Jesus from all Spanish territory in 1767, the 25 missions in the southern part of the peninsula were taken over by Dominicans and Franciscans. Remains of these missions (some of them are well restored) can still be seen in San Javier, San Luis Gonzaga, and Santa Rosalía de Mulegé, among others.
Following the main road southbound, you reach La Paz, the peaceful, modern capital of Baja California Sur, with beautiful beaches and some charming colonial buildings and flower-filled patios dating back to its foundation in the early 19th century. La Paz' pre-Lent carnaval with dancing, games and a colorful street parade has become one of Mexico’s finest.
You can visit the nearby islands of Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida as a day trip from La Paz, where you can swim with sea lions and enjoy pristine beaches.
Los Cabos and Todos Santos
Just south of the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve, a nature paradise for experienced hikers, Baja’s most touristically developed area begins. Beautiful beaches and luxurious resort hotels line the peninsula's southern tip from San José del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas, catering to sun lovers, party animals, surfers, and golfers. Read more about Los Cabos.
Todos Santos is a quieter, more bohemian-style town with art galleries, chic boutiques, and some of the most beautiful beaches of the entire peninsula, as well as the famed Hotel California.
How to Get There
The following international airports serve Baja California Sur: the San Jose del Cabo International Airport (SJD) and the General Manuel Marquez de Leon Airport in La Paz (LAP). A ferry service, Baja Ferries runs between Baja California Sur and the mainland, with routes between La Paz and Mazatlán.