The Best Things to Do in Baja California Norte

Mural at Paseje Rodriguez, Tijuana
Painting in Paseje Rodriguez, Tijuana

Since 1952, Baja California, also known as Baja California Norte (distinguishing it from Baja California Sur, its southern neighbor), has been Mexico's westernmost state, and one of the country's most beautiful. It has a rich array of geographical features: mountains, rivers, valleys, a desert and beaches galore.

Are you planning to visit Baja California in this summer? Though it can be hot, summer offers lots of water sports, live festivals, travel discounts, whale watching and sea turtles.

Whenever you arrive, there will be exciting things to do. Below you'll find many activities with the best Baja California locales for enjoying them.

  1. Surfing

    Islas Todos Santos are two islands off the coast of Ensenada. Besides a tuna farm and a couple of lighthouses, they're virtually deserted. Yet they hold a warm spot in the hearts of many surfers worldwide. That's because their waves rank among the world's best for riding. In the winter, 40-foot monsters are commonplace.

  2. Diving

    The Bay of the Angels outside the small town of Bahía de los Ángeles is home to incredible fishing and numerous water sports. And, its scuba and snorkeling are second to none.

    In the bay of the same name, you'll traverse waters that turtles, rays, dolphins and other beautiful creatures inhabit. Plus, from July to December, peaceful whale sharks often feast on plankton in this region.

  3. Fishing

    Alex fishing in MexicoEnsenada is a major port, cultural center and tourist draw. It likewise draws in lots of fish: tuna, barracuda and yellowtail among them. The area's kelp forests are havens for marine life, and the nutrient-dense Bahía Todos Santos (Bay of All Saints) is a promising spot to drop your line.

    It's easy to charter a fishing boat here, too; there are many from which to choose.

  4. Whale Watching

    Rosarito Beach, a half hour from Tijuana, is a thriving resort town that's popular with younger tourists. But another group of visitors gets lots of attention each August: the herd of dignified grey whales that migrate past the city. They come all the way from the Arctic.

    As a special treat, every other year, mothers give birth to their calves in these waters.

  5. Beachgoing

    When it comes to Baja California beaches, it's hard to go wrong. Both coasts are packed with gorgeous seaside scenery. Even so, the shores of San Felipe, Mexico, stand out.

    Nestled on the Sea of Cortez, these beaches feature some of the biggest tide changes of anywhere in the world, where the water moves in or out up to a mile. The water is calm, warm and teeming with fish and clams. The sand is perfect for long walks, flat and not rocky. And, because the town isn't a major tourist destination, you'll enjoy plenty of space as you gaze out at the horizon.

    San Felipe also offers some of the best camping in Northern Baja. If you'd like, you can pitch your tent mere steps from the ocean. Keep the tide changes in mind when you do so.

  6. Visiting Museums

    Mexicali, is Baja California's capital, and it has a series of impressive museums. For instance, Museo Sol del Nino is a science museum with an IMAX theater and mini-planetarium. It's dedicated to promoting environmental awareness. As such, it includes gardens, a greenhouse and a recycling center.

    In addition, the Autonomous University of Baja California, a public college, has an on-site museum that displays historical artifacts, animal fossils and more.

    Centro Estatal de las Artes, which debuted in 2005, is worth a visit as well. It presents the works of local and international artists.

  7. Shopping

    For so many tourists, Tijuana is synonymous with shopping. In this lively border city, you'll find sprawling outdoor marketplaces and a huge selection of clothing, jewelry and toys, much of it handmade. The pottery is a major highlight, too.

    When you want to get out of the sun, the Mercado Hidalgo complex has vast indoor and covered stores and restaurants where you can purchase fruit, flowers, nuts, spices, candy, piñatas and many other items. As well, there a few small, authentic restaurants with great food.

    If you want to check out some classic street art as well as cooling off for a minute, make sure you hit Paseje Rodriguez. Inside the tiny, air conditioned, indoor market, which feels like an underground tunnel, you'll find unusual and amazing local art donning the walls.

  8. Eating

    Once again, it's hard to narrow down the options. Great food is abundant throughout Baja California. Nevertheless, a place that really deserves gastronomic respect is Valle de Guadalupe.

    Many of this region's restaurants overlook leafy vineyards, and its fresh seafood, fine wines and local produce make for memorable meals. Indeed, there are exquisite treats to discover: roasted lamb for breakfast, chocolate clams, octopus burritos...need we go on?

Yes, Baja California is a world unto itself, a land where you can joyfully lose yourself. Maybe you want to see the finest museums or beaches. Perhaps you're a sports enthusiast or a shopaholic, a fisher or a foodie. Whatever your favorite pastimes may be, you can indulge them here in grand style.