Which side of south Baja is better, the East Cape or the Pacific Ocean?
I get asked this question a lot.
And my answer is always “Let’s talk a little bit about both and see which is a better fit for you”.
The Sea of Cortez hosts a myriad of swimmable beaches, crystal clear water, and Cabo Pulmo, the only living coral reef in the Sea of Cortez. Beautiful, pristine beaches and plenty of places where the only footprints will be yours. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing, both kite and board, all up and down the East Cape to Los Cabos.
Yet the Pacific Ocean has its fair share of the ocean pie, so to speak. Cerritos Beach is a great beach for families as the water is shallow for quite a ways in. The kids can practice their skimboarding and swim in waist-high water. Cerritos also has great surfing for all levels. Walk or jog along the shoreline for an energizing workout and then cool down at any number of beach bars and watering holes that dot this beach.
El Pescadero has a few spots where you can jump in and cool off, just be careful to gauge the swell on certain days. Head north to La Pastora for much more challenging waves for the experienced surfer. Our motto for both East Cape and Pacific swimming? “Never turn your back to the ocean”. Monitor the waves, the depth, and the currents and you should be fine.
East Cape did not get its reputation as the wind-surf, kite-surf capital of the Baja for nothing. Great gusts of wind in late winter and early spring make it the perfect spot for aerial antics. Lord of the Wind’s annual Kiteboarding Competition started in 2010 and brought worldwide recognition to Los Barriles. Typically hosted in January, the epic north winds made this an exciting event to attend and participate in and put Los Barriles and La Ventana on the map.
Heading around the cape, the Sea of Cortez ends where most would think is the Pacific Ocean, right about El Faro beach, the old lighthouse. Nope. This is the true southernmost point of the Baja where the two bodies of water converge, and the gusts here can blow up to 25 mph. No worries, head further north to El Pescadero, and both the wind and the pounding waves die down dramatically.
You will also find the temperature drops substantially on the Pacific Ocean side leading to warm days and cool nights. Winter evenings on the Pacific side can also be downright chilly making beach bonfires and Mexican serapes a regular part of the winter months. The micro-climate of Pescadero and Todos Santos makes year-round living comfortable without air conditioning or heating in most of the homes.
Pacific summer days and nights are typically ten degrees cooler than La Paz, Los Cabos, and the East Cape; areas where the temperatures May through October can get into the high 90’s, low 100’s. September and October are hot everywhere! Sunrise is East Cape and sunset is Pacific. Are you an early bird or night owl?
Both East Cape and Pacific sides have miles and miles of unspoiled beach but the high-density beachside resorts dot the coast from Los Cabos up to San Jose del Cabo and are now creeping into the East Cape in La Ribera with Costa Palmas. The Pacific side hosts scattered boutique hotels and private residence rentals. No big-name hotels yet although we hear a Hyatt branded property will be inaugurated in El Pescadero in 2022. Still, under 100 rooms we are told, and small by Los Cabos standards.
Mosey up to the East Cape on Highway 1 where the road turns into a two-lane just past the airport. To access the beach towns, exit this route on any number of side roads, some paved, some not, and head towards the ocean. As this area is still very much ranch land, watch out for livestock on both highway and ranch roads; avoiding goats and cattle mostly. Burros occasionally appear and appreciate any treats or an ear scratching while you pull over to stretch your legs. “We break for burros, cows, and goats”
Fifteen years ago, Highway 19 up the Pacific coast was also a narrow two-lane-artery but the Mexican government saw the need for quick travel from the port of La Paz to Los Cabos and built a wide, four-lane highway making travel up the Pacific side safe, comfortable and fast. Drive north and find yourself in Cerritos in thirty minutes, Todos Santos in forty-five minutes, and La Paz in just under an hour and a half from Los Cabos.
SHOPPING, RESTAURANTS, AND NIGHTLIFE
Nowhere is the concept of Baja Midnight falling at 9:00 pm more evident than in the sleepy towns of Todos Santos and Pescadero. Yes, they have bars and nightlife but roll up the sidewalks typically before 10:00 pm. This “early to bed and early to rise” concept also applies to the East Cape. For late-night revelry, Los Cabos is the place for you. A hearty three a.m. bowl of menudo awaits the party animals in many streetside taco stands.
Mega-shopping is found in Los Cabos while East Cape and Pacific towns offer eclectic boutiques, artisan bakeries, fabulous art galleries, seasonal organic produce markets, and mom and pop tiendas. Numerous food options abound in all locations so no one goes to bed hungry.
So, you see, it really is a toss-up as both East Cape and the Pacific have their own special vibe and attractions. Keep in mind that whatever side you choose, there is a lovely mountain road traveling from just north of Todos Santos directly to Los Barriles. You can head in either direction and make a fabulous day trip or weekend getaway and enjoy the best of both worlds. Stop halfway in El Triunfo for a quick history lesson of this charming town built on the gold mining industry.
And look me up in Todos Santos. I will be happy to show you my “Pueblo Mágico” and my favorite fish taco stand.