Baja California serves up the ultimate terrain for off-road and dune buggy exploration. Just off the tourist track, the dirt
playground features washed-out arroyos and dusty trails, a rough and rambling arena that can challenge your skills behind the wheel. Kick up dust, dirt and mud as you launch over hard-packed sand jumps on a genuine Chenowth Baja 1000 racer — the same type of vehicle used in the world-famous SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race.
A number of local outfitters such as Terramar, offer day or multi-day excursions through the vast countryside. Car rental companies such as Payless Car Rental and Budget Rent a Car are well stocked with a wide selection of 4x4 vehicles such as Jeep Wranglers, giving you the option to do some solo exploring on your own time. Turn up along Highway 19 on the Pacific side to the artisan town of Todos Santos, or take a day trip to the eastern part of Baja California Sur
to experience the wondrous beauty of La Paz. If you’re feeling really adventurous, rent an ATV and patrol the vast, undeveloped sandy expanses along the East Cape beachfront; then stop surfside, unpack your fishing gear and get ready for some rod-bending action.
You can opt for an experience that’s between full throttle and walking speed on a mountain bike. Transcabo can set you up with a mountain biking tour that traverses the rugged terrain and includes a knowledgeable guide, a light meal and plenty of rugged fun.
For a slower pace and a more personal approach, strap on a backpack and hike the Cabo Real Ecological Reserve along the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range. This intimate adventure will bring you closer to nature. Go eye to eye with lizards, quail, roadrunners and maybe even an elusive ring-tailed cat. Hikes sometimes tread over the soft sands along beaches and at other times through the challenging rocky terrain of washed-out arroyos. The best time to head out on foot is in the early morning hours — roughly 6 to 10 a.m. — before the desert sun sends all the wildlife to their midday siesta. After your mountain hike through the Sierra de la Laguna trail, take a refreshing dip at the natural springs.
Take selfies in front of El Arco, swim with sea lions, go fishing, dive the depths, snorkel among massive schools of fish or simply sunbathe on deck. The options are endless and they’re entirely yours to take. Aboard the 96-foot Buccaneer Queen — a fully functioning pirate brigantine — guests are entertained with pirate shows, sunset sails, snorkel tours to Chileno Bay and party cruises. Cabo Sails offers a less raucous, but more hands-on adventure on their 44-foot Espíritu Santo. Feel the sea breeze as you sail past the breathtaking beauty of El Arco’s whimsical rock formations. For a customized experience on the high seas, outfitters such as Pisces Yachts, offer seasonal whale watching, sunset cruising and snorkeling excursions to Chileno Bay and Santa María Bay. Pisces’ fleet of standard, mid-size, large and luxury cruisers can take you just about anywhere around Los Cabos in true style and uncompromising comfort.
Water lovers flock to Los Cabos to immerse themselves in a realm teeming with sea creatures. World-class snorkeling opportunities abound at Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, known as the only living coral reef in western North America. Snorkeling is one of the top activities for beachgoers and can be enjoyed in many of the shallow, protected bays. The calm waters of Santa María Bay can have you observing schools of thousands of brilliant butterfly fish. Chileno Bay offers a slice of Technicolor heaven, as schools of fish can even be seen hugging the knee-deep waters all along the shoreline. Land’s End, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, is also a haven for snorkelers, with damselfish, puffers and queen angelfish cautiously taking in your presence. More experienced divers can explore a little deeper, down among the parrotfish and odd-looking goatfish, just like Jacques Cousteau once did. Top outfitters like Transcabo provide just the right gear for all manner of underwater exploration. More experienced water enthusiasts can down an air tank and dive down to any one of the 14 dive sites throughout Cabo Pulmo or the surrounding dive spots in Cabo San Lucas Bay. Greater depths of 35 to 70 feet are home to larger ocean-dwelling species like manta rays, grouper and snapper. With visibility often running 30 to 50 feet, both beginner and advanced divers can fully enjoy a visit to The Abyss (just off Land’s End), the varying depths of Pelican Rock and the awe inspiring Sand Falls — an underwater sand cascade whose banks slide and plummet to the canyon below. Undersea thrill seekers can make the 28-mile trip out to the wreck of the El Vencedor, where hammerhead sharks, yellowfin tuna, striped marlin and neon moray eels emerge from within and around the ship's remains. For optimal conditions, dives are best planned from April through October.
One moment you’re gliding fast, barely skimming the water’s surface, and the next, you’re up in the air. Both kiteboarding and windsurfing offer that one-two punch. From mid-November through early March, Baja California’s famous El Norte winds sweep the Sea of Cortez. Morning onshore winds pump out 20-knot gusts, and afternoon breezes can run upwards of 25 to 30 knots, setting you on the ride of your life as you push off the surf’s swells and launch into the sky. Beaches such as La Ventana, Punta Chivato, Playa Hermosa and Los Barriles are top spots. These beaches are ideal for catching a good breeze and riding the ocean’s surface like a bolt of lightning, ramping off waves and performing gravity-defying stunts. Rise higher — way higher — 300 feet above the ground, tethered to a rope and zip-lining from one canyon wall to the next. Or take in a panoramic view of the sweeping landscape parasailing or on an ultralight flight.
Many kayak outfitters offer three-and-a half-hour paddle tours of Santa María Bay and Chileno Bay. You will get to experience the diverse ecological systems of the Sea of Cortez, which is brimming with angelfish, sergeant majors and other brilliant beauties. Make time to skim through the glassy waters at Los Chopitos — a magnificent area of the bay containing shallow, vibrant coral bars where eye-to-eye encounters with curious fish are the norm. Surfing is what keeps local blood pumping in Los Cabos. Chase down some gnarly waves at the Cabo Surf Hotel at Km. 28, where the Mike Doyle Surf School guarantees you will get up on a wave at the beginner-friendly Acapulquito break. Travelers searching for the ultimate ride can motor along Highway 19 to Km. 64, where they’ll find Los Cerritos break. The protected cove there generally harnesses an ocean swell, so consistent four- to six-foot surf can be enjoyed. Other challenging breaks in the area include Zippers off San Jose del Cabo — Km. 28–29 — Playa Cabo Real at Km. 20 and Playa Cabo Bello, nestled between Km. 5 and 6. An off-the-beaten path break that’s less frequented, shipwrecks is best accessed by four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Though many choose to visit Los Cabos to enjoy taking in its sights, culture and activities, a good number of visitors come with a very specific purpose in mind. Whether pursuing one of the largest cash prizes in the world on a fishing tournament or gearing up for the heart-stopping action of the off road racing that takes place across the Baja California peninsula, there’s action for all tastes. And some like to be right in the middle of it. In 41 competitions across 20 countries, men and women in an optimal state of fitness swim, bike and run in Ironman competitions worldwide. Those who take part in Ironman Los Cabos swim 2.4 miles in the Sea of Cortez and then bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles along a path across The Corridor. This is one of two Ironman competitions that take place in Mexico, and participants, supporters and fans descend upon the area to enjoy sweeping views of seaside cliffs, expansive desert terrain and an impressive mountain backdrop as they put all their physical and mental strength to try to complete the grueling trial. While just finishing is a feat in itself, the 40 qualifying winners move on to challenge other winners at the world Ironman trials in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.