My husband has spent a massive amount of time in Mexico, most recently driving the entire Baja peninsula when he filmed the Baja 1000 race last year, and he loves it there. I admittedly haven’t spent much time on the Pacific coast other than a handful of blacked out college trips to Rosarito and family trips to Cabo San Lucas. So, we decided to throw some clothes and our dog in the car and drive to Mexico to ring in the new year with a group of friends.
AirBnB/VRBO: There are loads of options down there. We rented a house- it’s the best way to go with a group. Be prepared for some spotty communication, no formal contracts and shady payment techniques (#soMexico) but trust that it will all work out. We had a private beach, pool, Jacuzzi, yard, palapa, multi-colored hammocks…it was fantastic. Renting a house let’s you cook at home and hang out all day. Our house manager’s wife came over and cooked a taco and ceviche feast for us one night which was epic. If Mexico scares you, find a house in a gated community (many of them have a guard). Or just wing it and bring a bat.
Encuentro Guadalupe: If you want to go inland to wine country (more on that, below), stay here. But be prepared- you must be pretty physically fit to walk to your room if the shuttle service isn’t working.
Bruma: Damn near impossible to get a reservation but this is the newest, coolest chicest spot in north Baja.
Go to wine country: I’ll be the first to say, the idea of Mexican wine country mildly terrified me. I am a regular tequila drinker, but since I have a dream of going tequila tasting date in a cactus field with my husband, I agreed to wine taste with a few friends, and boy was I glad I did. Mexican wine country is just inland from Ensenada- made up of a few valleys that frankly reminded me of Joshua Tree, a bit. We hired a wonderful driver named Alain (that is most definitely incorrectly spelled) who started Baja Wine and Sun. He acted as our tour guide and best friend for the day and he was just lovely. He hand curates the day for you and took us to some great spots. A couple must-gos:
DEFINITELY Eat lobster in Puerto Nuevo: It’s a random town that thrives on tourism, but it’s quaint, charming and you can get a full plate of lobster, beans, rice, fresh tortillas and a beer for next to nothing. Just wander around and find somewhere that tickles your fancy- restaurant owners will be shouting at you the whole time, haggling prices and telling you why they are the best. Via Ortega was decent, let our dog in, and has gorgeous ocean views (some of the ones back in the side streets have better lobster). Hot tip: Don’t order margaritas here. Also, you don’t have to pay the guys to park on the street. Those spots are free, but they might try to convince you otherwise.
Drive south: I have friends that frequent Baja who drive another 3+ hours south from where we stayed. That is where you find empty beaches full of surfers, no hotels and wilderness. We plan to do that soon, so I will probably add onto this entry at some point!
Bring Advil and bagels: You’ll need both.
Shave your beard before you head home: If you allow your friend with a mildly terrifying beard to drive you home, you may or may not get stopped at two border patrol checkpoints, searched and questioned. Highly recommend you shave your face and/or do some light manscaping.
Starting 2016 off in Mexico did NOT make me mad. I rang it in, sitting in the hot tub.