After a thrilling week in Mexico City we still had three more weeks up our sleeve to explore more of the country. We had two options given this was my second time in Mexico. Go west to the sites and (likely) busy crowds of Yucatan or go east to the (unlikely) undiscovered peninsula of Baja California Sur, promising a natural encounter at every turn. We opted for the latter and chose the south of the Baja California Sur as our base.
By the time we arrived in La Paz, we had roughly plotted four places we wanted to explore. Even still, the need to travel slowly was tugging at my sleeve. If you can believe it, after ten months of travel, our three night minimum was already beginning to feel too short. We split our time rather evenly from the west and east coasts of Baja. With a luxurious stay in the middle to celebrate a special someones birthday (it was me!).
Public transport wasn’t really an option for us to road trip the peninsula. Instead we hired a car from La Paz airport and dropped it back in Cabo San Lucas three weeks later.
We made sure our time was a pleasant mix of relaxing and exploring. With plenty of time set aside to try and plan as much of our cycling trip across the US from afar. As it turns out, very little.
La Paz was the perfect entry point for our time on the peninsula. Relaxed atmosphere, friendly locals and just the right amount of tourists to make you feel like it’s not too crowded. But first, it was time to go snorkelling with whale sharks!!!
Sure, we were a little hesitate with this activity, seeing as most encounters with sea-bourne animals tend to be largely unscrupulous. Often operators will feed animals to attract, they’ll get too close or they allow touching. Moo had done some research and found a great operator for us to experience the docile creatures. We hastily booked and hoped for good weather. PS: There’s always good weather in Baja.
The experience was a timely one, given the bay is protected, only three boats can be out at one time. Only one boat load can be in the water at a time. Usually no more than 5 people in the water with the whale sharks. So we had to wait our turn, rather impatiently. By 10:30am, our boat was finally called. Life jackets doned, wetsuit zipped up, snorkel and mask applied, it was finally time to get in the water.
It literally took my breath away
The water that is – it was bloody freezing! How we had taken the humid waters of Panama for granted.
But then, as I kicked my flippers into gear, there it was, the great beast. Just going about it’s day as if he were merely passing another fish in the sea. Looking from above, you would assume the six-meter long whale shark was travelling as slow as a snail. In the water we kicked frantically just to try and keep up.
We had three opportunities to jump ship and the longer you were able to keep up, the longer you had with the whale sharks. Needless to say I was glad I had been keeping up my fitness over the last few weeks.
There are a LOT of other tours you can do in La Paz such as; swimming with sea lions, visiting the grey whales, snorkel an uninhabited island. (But we decided against them all.) With our budget waning and the prices all in USD, we opted instead to enjoy the town. We found delicious coffee, delightfully fresh fish tacos and walked the malecon (coastal promenade) more times than I care to admit.
With our last day we opted to drive up to Balandra beach (which made it to the New York Times 52 places 2020 list). Note: you’re unable to reach this beach without a car or tour group. I have to say this was a serious highlight. Take the picturesque tides of the Whitsundays, add a dramatic coastline and combine it with a typically Mexican backdrop (cactus a-plenty!). You can see for yourself from the pictures below, it was a sight for sore eyes after a week in the city.
The beach was busy sure, but it certainly wasn’t overcrowded. We did however, experience a rather vexing tourist spot called ‘mushroom rock’. We watched as everyone stomped along the length of the bay to get their photo with the rock. However, after a little reading, we realised that the rock actually fell down some years ago, but because it was such a tourist attraction, it had been concreted back together. I’m not bitter, it’s just not pictured out of principle.
Wow! This little place blew me away (it’s also super windy). We had such a wonderful time here. Made better by the fact that I got to spend my 33rd birthday in style. But it wasn’t all about me, La Ventana is a beaut kite surfing spot, so Moo got to spend the day doing what he loves too. We booked for two nights and ended up staying for six.
We stayed at Casa Tara Retreat for the first three nights (many thanks to Moo’s parents for the generous contributions). It was absolutely divine here, before then moving across the road into an Airbnb. (Which wasn’t as bad as it sounds.) Casa Tara Retreat was a new level of luxury. We’ve stayed at some pretty swish places on the trip such as the Inn at Whitewell in the UK, Gondwana Game Reserve in South Africa and Casa Rosie in Panama. I would go as far as saying this has been my favourite.
Daily yoga and a two course breakfast, use of their stand up paddle boards and kayak, as well as the onsite infinity pool and heated jacuzzi were all included. Bedding was uber luxurious and rooms were spacious. The staff were excellent and their singing of Las Mañanitas (Happy Birthday) was a memorable one. The food here was unreal (try to octopus!), they also make a mean orange margarita. I thought my facial at the onsight spa was just okay.
I’ll be honest and say our time here was spent mostly lazing about.
But wouldn’t you?
Amongst the local coterie there is a mix of expats and locals of all ages. We enjoyed getting to know people in the community; whether at yoga, at the bar or whilst practising some salsa (me, not Moo!). PS: The Ventana View is a great website to see ‘what’s on’ if you’re passing by!
We continued the ‘good food journey’ by trying slow food at Nomada Organics eatery as well as locally made tamales at the weekend farmers market. Mariscos El Cone was unreal for bacon wrapped king prawns, the buddha bowls were immense at Namastaste and the fish tacos from food truck Baja Bites was a budget friendly highlight.
Before leaving town, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the natural hot springs. Located right at the tip of town, you can literally sit in warm waters below as the cool sea washes above.
From La Ventana, we did a day trip to Cabo Pulmo National Park, famous for their untamed hiking trails and unrivaled snorkelling. A must for anyone visiting Baja California Sur. But for that, you’ll need to wait until next week!
Until then xo
PS: Have you been to Baja California Sur? Did I miss anything cool to do?