From resorts to ranchos, mansions to pensions, Los Cabos and Baja have it all -- but they don't come cheap. Average accommodations prices here are at least 50% higher than in comparable properties and destinations on the Mexican mainland, and in some cases, much more. If you're looking for a luxury getaway, look no further: Los Cabos's top resorts, for example, are consistently ranked the very best in Mexico and Latin America. Budget travelers, however, will have to do some creative planning. As a general rule, accommodations in Los Cabos are the most expensive in Baja, and prices fall as you move up the peninsula and away from major tourist routes. Note that prices here are usually listed in U.S. dollars, and despite Mexican law to the contrary, often do not include 11% VAT and 3% hotel tax; some hotels also tack on a mandatory daily service charge.
One way to keep your costs down is to consider traveling out of season. In Los Cabos and Baja, this isn't as limiting as it sounds: most hotels list high-season prices only for Christmas and New Year's holidays, and drop to mid-season prices for the rest of the winter and spring. Summer stays are discounted up to 50%, and carry the advantage of swimmable warm water in Baja's two seas. And with the ongoing Mexican tourism crisis, driven by bad press and the economic downturn, there are deals to be had. Keep an eye out for air-hotel package deals, and don't be shy about asking hotel reservations reps if they can offer a discount -- many small properties will. Also pay attention to whether breakfast is included in your rate; a la carte breakfast in swish Baja resorts can add $10 to $30 per person per day to your bill, and on resort properties, there's often no alternative.
Vacation rental properties and home swaps are available in nearly every destination. These offer the advantage of space, privacy, and the opportunity to cook your own meals, at a wide range of prices. Local real-estate agencies offer extensive listings; start with Cabo Property Management (www.cabopropertymanagement.net) for Los Cabos, Wolf Property Management (www.wolf-pm-rentals.com) for Los Barriles and East Cape, Baraka En Todos (www.barakaentodos.com) for Todos Santos and the Pacific Side, Rentals Loreto (www.rentalsloreto.com) in Loreto, My San Felipe Vacation (www.mysanfelipevacation.com) for San Felipe, and Ensenada Real Estate (www.ensenadarealestate.com) for Ensenada. Vacation Rentals By Owner (www.vrbo.com) and Home Away (www.homeaway.com) are excellent international portals for vacation rentals that cut out the middleman. Many rental properties also list directly on their own Web pages and can be found on your friendly local search engine. And with a vacation house swap, of course, there's no rental at all; find out how to trade your home for one in Baja at www.homeexchange.com.
Since the early days of road-tripping surfers, Baja travelers have enjoyed sleeping under the stars. Although we don't cover each campground in this guide, you'll find a campground of some kind in most every Baja coastal town, and where you don't, you'll find plenty of free spirits parking their RVs on remote beaches all winter long. The exception is the northern Pacific beaches between Ensenada and the U.S. border, where crimes targeting campers in recent years have made this a spot where you're better off with a roof over your head. Although many campgrounds cater mostly to RVs, most will show you a spot to pitch a tent for under $10. Campers without their own gear can rough it for a night or two with a hiking, kayaking, or whale-watching tour or go "glamping" at one of the Sea of Cortez's luxury camps. Be aware that Baja's desert nights are chilly, and firewood is hard to come by.
Hotel Cost Category System, in U.S. Dollars
Standard double price per night before tax
Very Expensive $300 and up
Inexpensive below $80