Long before crowds of bikini-clad babes lined the beaches of Los Cabos and adventurous fisherman sought trophies from beyond its shores, Baja California captured the imaginations of adventurous travelers. After conquering mainland Mexico in the 1500s, Spanish conquistador HernĂ¡n Cortez was looking for a nice retirement destination. Tales of a paradise called Calafia -- which was widely believed to be inhabited solely by wild "Amazon" women -- reached Cortez, and so he set out for Baja California to find it. Upon his arrival, Cortez was run off by fierce locals; among them -- surprise, surprise -- were male warriors. Cortez fled, but others were soon drawn to this land of azure waters, dramatic landscapes, and diverse wildlife.

Too bad Cortez didn't understand that a little planning goes a long way and can make the difference between a good trip and a great trip. When should you go? What's the best way to get there? How much should you plan on spending? What festivals or special events will be taking place during your visit? What safety or health precautions are advised? In addition to these basics, I highly recommend taking a little time to learn about the culture and traditions of Mexico and Baja. The more you understand this paradoxical land, the more likely you'll be to turn a simple getaway into the vacation of a lifetime.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.