Baja California is a Mexican State, south of California, and borders the Mexican states of Baja California Sur to the south and Sonora to the east. It has a population of 3,233,744; Tijuana is its most populous city with nearly half of the entire state’s population. The Baja Peninsula is made up of two distinct Mexican States, “Baja California,” and “Baja California Sur”. Officially, the capital of Baja California in Mexicali, but the most recognized cities by tourists are Tijuana, Rosarito, San Felipe, and Ensenada.
History of Baja California
In 1853 William Walker with 45 men captured La Paz and declared himself President of “Lower California”. Ultimately, Mexico forced him to retreat a few months later. Then, in 1930 the peninsula is divided into North and South Baja. Then, in 1952 Baja California becomes the 28th State of Mexico. And finally, after the 1973 completion of the Federal Highway 1, Baja California Sur becomes the 31st Mexican State (1974).
Geography and Environment
With just more than 27,000 square miles, Baja California has many different ecosystems giving its landscape and climate a dramatic air. Its diversity is consists of mountains, desert lands, forests, and, of course, its coastlines. Mountain ranges like Sierra de San Pedro Martir, Sierra de San Luis, and the Sierra de Juarez impact the topography which is mountainous and hilly. On the other hand, the state’s islands, such as the Coronado Islands, offer a glimpse into Baja California’s marine character. Also, the coasts, which boast a decidedly Mediterranean flavor. The desert region around Mexicali has some of the hottest temperatures recorded in the country. However, the coastal areas are famous for their comfortable climate.
Flora and Fauna
In many ways, visiting Baja California is a naturalist’s paradise. Its diverse flora ranges from forests of pine to Manzanita. Many species of cactus and desert-loving shrubs and grasses tenant the desert landscapes of the state. On the other hand, it isn’t uncommon to spot the vibrant plant life you can find in California. The ocean and sea that border the state teem with sport fish, whales, dolphins, crustaceans, and various species of sharks. Land-based animals in Baja California include cougars, antelope, bobcats, bats, coyotes, eagles, and many types of reptiles.
History of Baja
In many ways, the history of the state reflects the history of the Baja Peninsula itself. The earliest peoples to the region began to settle throughout the landscape as much as 11,000 years ago. Some of these hunter-gather peoples include the Cochimi, Cocopa, Quechan, and Kiliwa. Besides practicing hunting and gathering, many groups took part in fishing as part of their sustenance. Eventually, even small-scale agriculture played a part in life for many areas of the peninsula where herding animals or planting crops was geographically permissible.
In 1530, a monumental occurrence hit the peninsula when Spanish conquistadors arrived. Unlike other parts of Mexico, the Spanish threat to the indigenous people came centuries later. The harsh climate was a deterring factor to Spanish settlement just as the sea, desert, and mountains made travel there particularly difficult. Also, the indigenous people were openly hostile to the Spanish and rebelled against any form of subjugation by foreigners. A few centuries after the Spanish “discovered” the peninsula, missionaries like the Jesuits began to settle in the region of Baja California. Eventually, this upper part of the peninsula was annexed to Mexico as a state with its lower “Baja California Sur” remaining as a territory until 1974.
The state of Baja California is known for its many charming small villages. In contrast, are the large towns of Tijuana, Mexicali, Ensenada, Tecate, and Rosarito. These towns offer many historical and cultural attractions but are also known for their entertainment venues, restaurants, and fun.
Tourism in Baja
While there are many populated parts of Baja like Tijuana, there are also remote sections that add to the charm. In contrast, aside from the beach activities along the coast of the state, there are also eco-tourism opportunities. For example, whale watching, environmental tours, and rock climbing adventures name a few. In addition, visitors find luxury hotels as well as affordable travel lodges. Baja California is a popular tourist destination.
Visiting Baja California
While the small towns of the state draw visitors, most tourism settles in Baja California’s major cities. Those cities include Tijuana, Ensenada, Mexicali, Rosarito Beach, San Felipe, and Tecate. The cities attract many tourists with their scenic attractions as well as historical and cultural venues. Their nightlife and entertainment attractions also make the state a world-famous holiday destination. The beaches of Baja California and the water sport are, perhaps, its most viable calling cards. People come to the state to scuba, snorkel, kayak, sport fish, and surfing in Baja. On land, off-roading, horseback riding, touring the wineries, camping, and hiking the remote landscape are also popular activities. The state’s various parks and reserves offer historic and scenic appeal. From prehistoric cave paintings to luxurious spas and resorts Baja California is a captivating vacation land.
- As one of the biggest industries of the state, fishing is a way of life for many on the coast. Vacationers head out on boats to the best waters for sport fishing. Red snapper, marlin, yellowfin tuna, and sailfish are just a few types of fish one is likely to hook.
- San Felipe sits adjacent to the Sea of Cortez. This beautiful beach city is famous for its camping, sports fishing, restaurants, hotels, and thrilling vacation experience!
- The Todos Santos Islands draw surfers from around the world. The waves that hit are said to be the biggest anywhere in North America.
- The Valle de Guadalupe is in Ensenada and is known for its boutique wines and vineyard tours. In short, tourists flock to the local wineries and boutique hotels where wine tastings and delicious foods are hallmarks of vineyard tours.
- Mexicali Chinatown is where the city is famous for its quaint shops and tasty restaurants.
- Rancho La Puerta: is in the mountains of Tecate and is one of the best spas in the world.
- The San Lorenzo Marine Archipelago National Park is on the Sea of Cortez. Above all, it helps to protect the delicate marine life and ecosystems of the region. Additionally, visitors like to see killer whales, sperm whales, swordfish, dolphins, and more!
- San Lorenzo Marine Archipelago: This national park is on the Sea of Cortez and has a designation to protect the marine ecosystems of the region. Tourists come to witness marine life like sperm whales, orcas, swordfish, and dolphins that swim in these waters.
Things to See in Baja California
The Coronado Islands
Though not inhabited by people, these islands are full of wildlife that attracts eco-tourists. The islands also have great kayaking and snorkeling experiences.
The Rock Painting of Sierra de San Francisco
a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The rock shelters and paintings date to prehistoric times.
El Vallecito archeological site
- Near the City of Tecate, El Vallecito archeological site dates to 8000 B.C.
Parque Nacional Constitucion
- The Sierra de Juarez range is near the city of Ensenada. This beautiful woodland area is famous for its pine trees and wildlife.
Sierra de San Francisco Caves
The caves and rock shelters are under the protection of the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. The prehistoric cave paintings were crafted by indigenous peoples in the region thousands of years ago.
- Valle de Guadalupe
Driving to Baja
Before you cross the border in your touring vehicle, make sure to check these links:
- Mexico Border Crossing Checklist
- Mexico RV Insurance
- Mexican Car Insurance
- Motorcycle Insurance for Mexico