Tijuana, Tecate, Mexicali
The journey into Baja begins at one of the border cities of Tijuana, Tecate or Mexicali. Begin your adventure with a fresh brew, and hit the road.
This sprawling metropolis, home to the world's busiest land border crossing, has grown out of its shadowed reputation of lawlessness. A strong culture of entrepreneurism has attracted artists, chefs, and restaurateurs from México and beyond. The foodie scene is renowned and the variety of hip coffee shops will not disappoint. Between tacos, tostadas and cervezas, fuel up at Nativo Coffee, Omerta Cafe Society, Perimetro or one of the Das Cortez locales. For superb views of the ocean (and great people watching), don't miss Cafe Red Playas.
Just east of Tijuana but feels a world apart; Tecate is a quaint town with a small, walkable centro and a growing wine scene. Start your day at Bocashi Coffeehouse or Cafe Corteza. Enjoy a view of the town plaza at Kilolibra Cafe (followed by a snack at the huge panaderia next door).
Notable for its large Chinese population and underground Chinatown, Mexicali is an affluent city with cool cafe vibes to match. Some local faves: Kalinka Cafe, B19 Coffee Bar, Trigo Salvaje, and Moulu.
When driving south from Mexicali, take the slight detour to visit Los Huertos - located in a surprisingly lush agricultural area surrounded by mountains and wide open spaces. Grab a coffee and soak in the surroundings.
Ensenada & Valle de Guadalupe
The industrial port city of Ensenada is centered in the beautiful Bahía Todos Santos (All Saints Bay) with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and offshore islands. It is located adjacent to México's premier wine region - the Valle de Guadalupe - which experiences a Mediterranean climate and optimal growing conditions for wine, olive oil, and produce. This proximity to local crops combined with an abundance of seafood spawned a type of cuisine known as Baja Med, which refers to the fusion of Mexican cuisine with local Mediterranean-style ingredients and an Asian influence. Ensenada is brimming with renditions of this unique cuisine - from the fish market, to street tacos, to upscale restaurants and cervecerias lining the coast. Soak in the gritty atmosphere of this creative city at one of its many great cafes, such as Fractal Brew Bar, Barra d'Cafe, Xcaanda and Cafe Columba. For ocean views visit BrewMa, a hip spot perched on the edge of a cliff.
No trip to Ensenada should be without a visit to the Valle de Guadalupe (or vice versa). Between wine tastings, recharge at Das Cortez Valle or the scenic Aromas Coffeeshop (known for having the best baristas).
A small, historic town in the most beautiful region in all of Baja: Loreto. Located on the shores of the sparkling Sea of Cortez, backed by the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, and renowned for its marine park featuring 5 protected islands. Mountain biking, off-roading, scuba diving and snorkeling, fishing, hiking, island-hopping, sailing, kayaking, or simply walking the beach - with it's abundance of natural beauty and plentiful activities, Loreto is all about the outdoors.
Appropriately, the town's best coffee shops feature large garden patios to soak in the natural environment. Blackbird Loreto - down a quiet street, several blocks off the main plaza - is an oasis of towering palms and twinkling lights. Pan Que Pan, Cafe Ole and La Route are conveniently located near the mission church and charming shops/restaurants of the centro.
Coffee with a view? Don't miss the cafe at Hotel Oasis, La Hermosa Cafe, or Las Palmitas Foodtruck parked along the waterfront malecon on most mornings. And for those lucky enough to be mooring at Marina Puerto Escondido, the market features coffee and freshly baked goods.
La Paz, La Ventana, El Triunfo
Mexico City meets Baja is the vibe in La Paz. It's slightly industrial with a diverse economy (not solely based on tourism), which makes it an authentic place to visit. Add in spectacular white sandy beaches, intensely turquoise waters (hello, Balandra Bay) and a string of beautiful, protected islands and you've got México magic.
Begin the day with a walk on the malecon and hit the Coffee Bike. Later on, have a coffee para llevar (to go) at the original Doce Cuarenta, Capuchino Cafe or Casanova Coffee House and stroll the streets of the centro historico - lined with old colonial-era buildings, lovely restaurants, shopping, the mission church and a recently built art museum. Take an afternoon espresso at the Baja Club Hotel and you'll probably end up staying for a rooftop margarita.
Less than an hour's drive from La Paz are La Ventana and El Triunfo, both equally worth visiting. El Triunfo, an old mining town that has been under a multi-year restoration process, is home to Cafe El Triunfo - possibly the cutest cafe in all of Baja with the dreamiest garden patio.
The outdoor dining tables at Nomada Organics in La Ventana (popular for kite surfing) evoke the feeling of being in a desert jungle, with layers of cacti, shrub and tall flowing palms, all strung with twinkling lights. Visit in the morning for coffee and you'll definitely return for an evening meal.
Todos Santo & El Pescadero
Located on the west coast of the southern tip of Baja is the tranquil town of Todos Santos. Not long ago it was a sleepy magnet for surfers and artists; today, it is better known for boutique luxury hotels, art galleries, and fine dining (alongside family-run taco stands, of course).
On the outskirts of the centro are La Esquina and Doce Cuarenta Todos Santos. Both feature ample indoor + outdoor seating that'll make you want to stay all day. Amid the cobblestone streets and plentiful shops are Taller 17, Jazamango Cafe, and Caffe Todos Santos. For magnificent Pacific ocean views, head to Benno at Hotel San Cristobal and ask to be seated on the roofdeck (tip: during the months of Feb/March, you have a great chance of seeing gray whales very close to shore).
El Pescadero is a small farming village roughly 15 minutes driving from Todos Santos. Known for great surfing, farm-to-table dining and Playa Las Palmas (a palm oasis in the desert that is home to a small herd of wild horses). Located on Hwy. 1 entering the town is Baja Beans - the perfect pit stop. Deeper down the sandy, windy roads toward the beaches are La Comuna Cafe and Palmar Pescadero - grab a coffee and head to the surf.
The cities of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo - including the area between them locally known as "the Corridor" - comprise the region called Los Cabos.
Cabo San Lucas
Renowned for glitzy resorts, eye-popping views, the cruise-ship crowd, and the Office (if you know, you know). Between cocktail hour and the pool, grab a pick-me-up at Doce Cuarenta Cabo or Baja Coffee Company.
San Jose del Cabo
The historic and walkable centro, farm-to-table dining, and laid-back energy define this charming city, making it a fan favorite for those seeking a less touristy atmosphere. Centrally located near the mission church and plentiful shopping are Pez Gallo, Yumana Kitchen and Coffee Lab Cabo. Definitely don't miss El Wine Shop (Coffee - Wine) and enjoy the short yet beautiful drive to the outskirts of town.