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Beaches are the East Cape's raison d'être, and it's got enough of them to fill their own guidebook. Starting from San José and traveling east up the coast road, you'll encounter the following:

Laguna Hills is an area once loved for its empty beaches and pristine beachfront wilderness. Today, solar-powered homes and El Encanto de La Laguna, a timeshare development, speckle the landscape beneath three mountain peaks. However, Laguna Hills still retains its out-of-the-way charm, and it's a great jumping-off point for summer surf seekers. Slightly northeast, the stretch of Zacatitos beach is heaven. Although only surfers and a community of homes are there now, locals believe it's being scoped out as a potential development site. The beautiful bay of Los Frailes is just outside of the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, and it's an angler's dream come true.

Cabo Pulmo is a tiny beach town 72km (45 miles) northeast of San José, and here the Sea of Cortez breaks on a coral reef, allowing only the finest bits of sand and smooth pebbles to pad the spectacular coastline. The coral itself is a sight to behold, but the real attraction is the flourishing fish life in this protected marine park. More than seven dive sites, desert hiking trails, secret coves, and some of the most beautiful stretches of beach in Baja make this a superb place to get away from it all.

There's not much in the way of resorts in La Ribera, but this slow-paced fishing village is tops for relaxing by the sea. It's also home to the Buena Fortuna Botanical Garden (No phone; siempresemillas@yahoo.com), which is open to visitors every day but Saturday.

Down the hill from the highway, Buena Vista is an unremarkable fishing town with one great reason to visit: the hot springs in the sea water along the shore, which feed the treatments at the Buena Vista Spa Hotel (Hwy. 1 Km 105; tel. 800/752-3555 in the U.S., or 624/141-0033; www.hotelbuenavista.com) but are available for free along the beach -- just feel for the jets of warm water with your feet. The hills give way to sandy flats as you roll into Los Barriles off Hwy. 1. The exquisite beaches, gentle breezes, excellent fishing, and subdued vibe draw expats in droves; winter winds make this a top kite-and windsurfing spot. Los Barriles has the East Cape's most developed infrastructure, with supermarkets, restaurants, and ATMs. Nearby in Santiago, the Cañon de la Zorra is an easy hike to a spectacular desert waterfall.

The remote coastal retreat of Punta Pescadero is simple in its finery, located on a point named for the top-notch fishing offshore, about 14km (8 3/4 miles) from Los Barriles.

Pacific Side

The Pacific Side is one long beach, extending from west of Cabo San Lucas all the way up to Todos Santos. Due to riptides, big surf, and the occasional rogue wave, most of the Pacific coast is unsafe for swimming, and all of it is wild. Cerritos Beach (Hwy. 19 Km 66) is a notable exception: It's a favorite of surfers and swimmers alike, and has the endless summer vibe that's made the Pacific Side a favorite of beach bums for decades now. To get there, turn in on the dirt road just after Km 66, and drive toward the magnificently overblown orange cliff-top mansion with the bell tower. As you get closer, you'll see a few orange palapa-roofed buildings on the beach, which house the Costa Azul surf shop (tel. 866/546-2102; www.costa-azul.com.mx) and the Cerritos Beach Club (tel. 624/143-4851; www.cerritosbcs.com), a central-casting surfer bar and grill with tables in the sand from which you can watch the show.

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.