Did you know Mexico’s Baja California has a wine country? And is home to the second largest marine geyser in the world? You can explore all this and more just a short drive from Los Angeles! Keep reading for tips to plan the best Baja California Road Trip.
PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 1-2
Exchange Rate: 1 Peso = $0.053 USD (as of March 2018)
Baja California Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Valle de Guadelupe- wine tour
Day 2: La Bufadora
Day 3: Lunch in Tijuana, drive back
Getting To Baja Mexico:
If you are already based in Southern California, it’s only a 3 hour drive from LA, or 1.5 hours from San Diego. If you are not based in SoCal, you can always fly into LA or SD and rent a car!
This itinerary is based on driving down to Mexico Thursday night, and coming back Sunday.
Where to Stay:
I recommend staying in the La Misión area, as it is close to Valle de Guadelupe and 1.5 hours north of La Bufadora. La Misión is in between the popular cities of Rosarito and Ensenada, and has a non-touristy local feel.
We stayed at an awesome Airbnbwith beautiful views from the deck and only 1 mile from the cute town of La Fonda!
Baja California Road Trip Itinerary:
Day 1: Valle de Guadelupe Wine Tour
Instead of paying the premium for wine tasting in Napa, head to Mexico’s Valle de Guadelupe wine country for a fraction of the price! Valle de Guadelupe is about a 30 minute drive from La Misión. I recommend booking a tour beforehand through Baja Luxury Wine Tours. The price of the tour ($125 USD total for the 4 of us) includes your driver for the day, wine tastings at 3 different wineries, and a bottle of wine. We had the nicest tour guide- Randy- who picked us up in a van on Friday morning around 10am, greeting us with a bottle of wine and fresh grapes to enjoy on the ride. Randy was very informative and friendly, and brought us to his 3 favorite wineries, per our request. After your first 3 wineries/tasting, you go to lunch (not included in the price) and then can go to any other wineries you want.
Our favorite three wineries were:
L.A. Cetto winery- we liked the wine the best at this stop! They have a nice garden terrace area with outdoor seating and a view.
Decantos Vinícola– Great view from the upstairs balcony!
Sol de Media Noche: very local feel- no view, but they give you cheese and dips/spreads to try with your wine. The chimichurri sauce here was so good we bought some to take home!
Your guide will take you wherever you want to go for lunch. I recommend going to Finca Altozano. We loved this spot- the food was incredible, and the view is amazing! I could have spent hours here. It’s open air seating situated on a large property with a mountain backdrop, and patio areas to hang out outside with your drinks after you finish eating.
After lunch, go to any other wineries you may want to visit (ask your driver for recommendations- there are a lot to choose from!) and then head back to La Misión.
Day 2 of your Baja California Road Trip: La Bufadora
Get an early start to your day to head on a scenic 1.5 hour drive south to check out La Bufadora- the second largest marine geyser in the world (the 1st is in Hawaii). This spot was pretty crowded compared to the relaxing, off-the-grid feel of the Friday wine country tour, but it makes for a very fun day! There is a huge market that you walk through before you get to the end and see La Bufadora. Take your time slowly meandering through the market (and remember when buying something- everything is negotiable!) The market is typical to what you would expect to see in Mexico- lots of little trinkets and souvenirs, taco stands, and tequila shots!
They have this awesome $1.50 taco place- to find it, look for the words “$1.50 Tacos” on the left side of the street if you are walking in the direction of La Bufadora, at the beginning of the market. This secret unassuming little street restaurant happens to have the BEST VIEW if you walk out through the back to the small balcony. I definitely recommend getting a few tacos here and walking through to the back balcony with bar stools to eat the cheapest lunch with a view you’ll ever have!
This next stop is something that Randy, our wine-tour guide, told us about. After lunch, keep walking down the market street in the direction of La Bufadora. You will come across a big restaurant on the left side called Habana Banana, that resembles somewhat of a Rainforest Café. Walk in and let the hostess know you are there to see the tigers. They will bring you to the section of the restaurant where you will see an enclosed area with about 4 wildcats (Jaguars, Tigers, etc). For about $30 USD, you can go inside and play with 2 of the 4 cats of your choice. We chose the baby and the “toddler” cat- however, there were also two full-grown wildcats if you are braver than we were! You get to hang out and play with them for about 20 minutes.
After that, keep walking to La Bufadora- at the end of the street. You’ll know you’re there when you see a crowd of people in one spot looking over the edge of the wall facing the cliffs. The geyser blows about once every few minutes and shoots upwards about 100 ft. above sea level!
Head back to La Misión and go out for dinner/drinks at La Fonda (about 1 mile away). La Fonda is the name of the tiny town/street of bars and restaurants, but is also the in the name of a few restaurants (somewhat confusing). I recommend eating on the outside patio of the Original La Fonda restaurant. Great sunset view!
After dinner, go next door to Gary’s La Fonda for drinks and live music. There are no taxis past 8pm and no Uber in the area, but the lady who owns our Airbnb was able to hook us up with a ride later in the evening from one of the waiters at the restaurant (very local area!)
Day 3 of your Baja California Road Trip: Lunch in Tijuana and Head Back
On Sunday, start heading up north towards LA, but make a pit-stop in Tijuana on the way! Tijuana is becoming more and more known for their craft beer scene, however we didn’t stop by any breweries this time (will have to go back!) Instead, we headed to the place of the first ever Caesar Salad. Yep- you read that right. Most people don’t know this, but Tijuana is the place of origin of the Caesar Salad! Head to Caesar’s Restaurant to try the original served table-side. The Italian food we ordered there was also good!
Be sure to stop by the liquor store across the street from Caesar’s Restaurant to pick up some of your favorite bottles of wine from your wine tour to bring home (or a bottle of tequila!) We picked up a few bottles of wine from L.A. Cetto winery for only $6 each.
After lunch, start your drive home- you need to buffer in extra time for the border crossing. While getting across the border to Mexico on the way is a breeze (you don’t even have to stop!) crossing the border back into the US takes awhile. It took us 2 hours with the Fastpass. Check out my article on tips for driving (and how to get the Fastpass) here.
If you have more time in Baja California:
See below for a list of things you can add to your itinerary that I wish I had had time for on my trip!
Puerto Nuevo- town near Rosarito known for their lobsterPlaza Fiesta- craft beer area in TijuanaMercado Hidalgo- market in TijuanaRide ATV’s on the sand dunes of Primo Tapia Ensenada (town on the way to La Bufadora). I’ve heard it’s fun, but also a bit touristy as this is a cruise port stop
Other parts of Mexico to visit that are a quick flight away from Los Angeles:
Mexico City- There are constantly flight deals from LAX to Mexico City. You could definitely make this a long weekend trip and do three days in Mexico City!
Cabo- Head down to the southern tip of Mexico to enjoy the sun and sand at only a short flight away from LA!