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How to Spring Break in Baja Without the Crowds

Marisa Megan

8670 Aljezur, Portugal

Los Cabos is a prime getaway spot, but at Spring Break, the crowds that flock to the tip of the Baja Peninsula can be overwhelming. Just outside of the popular party town of Cabo San Lucas, however, true seekers can find hidden gems on the Baja Peninsula. If you’re looking for a chilled out, authentic Baja spring break escape, skip the Cabo crowds and check out these three places instead.

San José del Cabo

Just 20 miles northeast of the party mecca sits Cabo San Lucas’ sister city, San Jose del Cabo. Together, these two cities form “Los Cabos.” While development in Cabo exploded, San José del Cabo took another path, quietly evolving into a classy getaway that’s become a haven for artists, foodies, and savvy travelers.

Start your adventure at Plaza Mijares, the heart of the historic district, where the streets are lined with colorful galleries and shops like Shima Shima, a Made-in-Mexico design boutique with goods to drool over. Quell your rumbling tummy at La Revolución Comedor, a brick oven eatery redefining surf and turf, or head to the backyard bar at La Lupita for awe-inspiring Baja-style tacos.

When you’re done perusing the quaint streets, drive out of town into the desert at dusk where an unnamed dirt road will take you to the palm tree oasis that is Flora Farms. In the evening, this birthplace of organic farming in the Sierra de Laguna Mountains sparkles with twinkling lights and lanterns, setting the scene for a more-than-magical dining experience.

Wake up the next morning for a peaceful walk along San José’s quiet sands. While the town’s beaches are blissfully free of revelers, San José del Cabo is still a city. If you’re looking for a truly quiet Baja spring break escape, jump in the car and head north to Cabo Pulmo.

Cabo Pulmo

Divers near Cabo Pulmo National Park, Cabo Pulmo, Mexico.
Divers near Cabo Pulmo National Park, Cabo Pulmo, Mexico.

Once upon a time, Cabo Pulmo was a tiny, yet thriving fishing town, whose rich waters brought in a seemingly endless supply of fish to the fishermen’s nets. Commercial fishing operations moved in, and by the 1980’s the same fishermen, whose livelihoods depended on the sea, had virtually emptied the nearby waters. Worried about their ocean, the fishermen banded together and collectively agreed to stop fishing.

The town worked instead to create a protected marine zone off of their shores. In 1995, Mexico officially recognized the Cabo Pulmo National Park, a 27.5 square miles marine area that protects most of the Cabo Pulmo reef from any and all drilling, mining, and fishing operations.

At around 20,000 years old, the Cabo Pulmo reef is the oldest of only three coral reefs on the west coast of North America. Since the park was created, the tiny town’s residents have made it their mission to keep the seas thriving. In under a decade, the newly protected area saw an increase in total biomass — the total mass of all the living animals on the reef — of more than 400%. It’s considered one of the greatest success stories in reef conservation history.

These days, Cabo Pulmo is a thriving eco-tourism hotspot, and it’s one of the most biodiverse dive sites in Mexico. Many credit the success to the residents, who help to enforce the park regulations, clean the beaches, and protect important animals like nesting sea turtles.

Marine lovers on a Baja spring break should visit this underwater mecca, which is home to over 6,000 marine species, including the area’s famous sea lions, humpback whales, whale sharks, groupers, turtles, and even the occasional reef shark. The best diving season is from December to March, thanks to cooler temperatures and clearer seas. Even non-divers can grab a snorkel or visit the sea lions on the sand. If you’re lucky, the lounging sea lions might be the only souls in sight.

Todo Santos

Twilight surf, Todos Santos, Mexico.
Twilight surf, Todos Santos, Mexico.

On the other side of the Baja Peninsula, up the Pacific Coast from Los Cabos, there’s one magical village that can’t be missed. Todo Santos was named one of Mexico’s Pueblo Mágico’s in 2006, and with its bohemian roots, breathtaking mountain, and laid-back surf culture, it’s no wonder why.

Todos Santos is a haven of pristine beaches and quiet streets, where dry desert heat, a cool ocean breeze, and a vibe of pure relaxation pervade the scene. The locals are fiercely protective of the natural landscape that makes Todos Santos so special, and have worked hard to keep large development projects at bay.

Instead, you’ll find charming hotels like La Bohemia, an eight room boutique bed and breakfast run by a couple of Californian expats, adorable boutiques like Étnica selling beautifully embroidered caftans, or even Baja Beans, a tropical-hipster coffee shop that also hosts the neighborhood farmers’ market in high season.

Todos Santos is as much a bohemian enclave as it is a surfer’s getaway. San Pedrito and Los Cerritos are both known for their A-frame peelers, and the shorebreak at Playa Cerritos is a popular spot for the learn to surf crowd. Rent a board or arrange a lesson from Mario Surf School, where friendly locals will have you hanging ten, or at least standing up, in no time.

After your surf, sink your teeth into battered and deep-fried Baja-style fish tacos at La Copa Cocina, then stop in at the Profesor Néstor Agúndez Martínez Cultural Center to learn a bit more about the town’s history and cultural happenings. Todos Santos is especially popular with artists, so set aside time to peruse the town’s many beautiful galleries.

As evening hits on your mellow Baja spring break, head back to the sands for the town’s best spectacle — sunset. With the Sierra de la Laguna mountains as your backdrop and a cold cerveza in hand, sink your toes in the sand and watch as the breathtaking sunset fades into a breathtakingly starry night sky.