The mother of all Baja road trips is the ride down iconic Hwy. 1 from start to finish — a must for surfers, seekers, and latter-day Steinbecks. More than a thousand miles of tarmac slice south through desert, mountains, and coast, and once you're on it, you're on it. This trip is for road junkies only. Although you can drive Highway 1 year-round, winter is best, offering less-punishing desert temperatures and a chance to commune with migrating whales.
Day 1: San Diego to Ensenada
If you're bringing your own car, take I-5 south from San Diego, California, and cross the border, where you'll buy Mexican car insurance if you haven't already done so online. If you're renting a car, use an office in Tijuana. Once through the border, simply follow the signs for Hwy. 1, and you're on your way. The first overnight stop is Ensenada, about 1 1/2 hours south, where you'll take in the sea breezes with your fish carpaccio at Muelle Tres, right on the seaside malecón. Tour Santo Tomás winery or catch some waves at San Miguel before bedding down at Casa Natalie.
Days 2 & 3: To Laguna Ojo de Liebre & on to Loreto
On day 2, it's 7 hours of road through Baja's surreal desert. Your destination is whale-happy Laguna Ojo de Liebre near Guerrero Negro. Spend the night here so that on the morning of day 3, in the January to March gray whale calving season, you'll be ready bright and early for a play date with the gregarious giants. After communing with the whales, drive across the peninsula to the Sea of Cortez, and you're halfway to Cabo. Stop in Santa Rosalía for a sweet snack at El Boleo, then keep driving to Loreto, where you can relax with a cold microbrew at 1697 or a hot Jacuzzi at Las Cabañas.
Day 4: Day off in Loreto
By day 4, you've earned some R & R. After brunch at Los Mandiles, amble down to the harbor for a trip to Isla Coronado. In the afternoon, stroll the cobbled streets around Loreto's historic mission before taking a taxi out to the pebbly beach at La Picazón for a plate of fresh snapper.
Days 5 & 6: To La Paz & Los Cabos
The drive on day 5 cuts right through the copper mountains of the Sierra Giganta on the way to La Paz, southern Baja's quirky capital, where you'll spend the day soaking up the sun on La Concha beach and the evening soaking up the atmosphere at Café Corazón. On the morning of day 6, sleep in. From La Paz, Hwy. 1 winds south around rocky cliffs and the occasional oasis, but by the time you stop for sweets in San Bartolo, it's smooth sailing. You'll hit San José del Cabo for lunch at one of old town's excellent restaurants and a few hours strolling the Art District's galleries and shops. Then, the home stretch: The last 29km (18 miles) of Hwy. 1 bring you to Cabo San Lucas, otherwise known as Land's End. Turn off that engine and go enjoy the sunset — you made it.
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.