Living in Baja – An Expat’s Paradise
Living in Baja can be an expat’s dream come true, a real expat paradise, especially for Canadians and Americans. Baja has a little or a lot of everything you could want, from the luxurious and sophisticated to the rustic and simple. You can live as you choose in Baja, and still be in close proximity to your birthday place, your hometown, your kids, and grandkids. This security blanket makes living the Baja good life a little easier.
The Baja peninsula attracts many Americans and Canadians. It has been a favorite with retirees, snowbirds and expats worldwide for nearly 50 years, and for several good reasons:
- large existing expat communities
- within driving distance, quality and affordable medical care
- easy access to US medical
- great affordable living choices
- great quality of life
- friendly and helpful people
Of course, there is also excellent fishing, sailing, and diving opportunities as well as a wide-open pristine environment that everyone should respect and help protect.
The beauty and majesty of Baja California is lost on no one. However, the landscape and beaches are not the only places to experience all the wonder of Baja. The seas and the creatures they are home to are just as awe-inspiring and alluring as the land itself. The most powerful and majestic creatures you can witness and even interact with in the seas of Baja are the whales. One of the most popular and breathtaking whale watching experiences to be had in Baja is the migration and birthing practices of the gray whales. From January until March, the gray whales enter the warm waters after traveling from the Alaskan Bering Sea. The mothers all give birth to calves in the early spring. The moms and calves are so docile and comfortable in these waters they often will interact, play and splash boats filled with spectators.
The Baja peninsula consists of two Mexican states, Baja California and Baja California Sur. Baja California literally means ‘lower California’ in Spanish. In terms of this article, “Baja California” or “Baja” will refer to the peninsula. Baja is in northwest Mexico directly south of the US states of California and Arizona. The capital of Baja California, the northern state is Mexicali; the name is derived from the names ‘Mexico’ and ‘California’. Mexicali is located on the US-Mexico border adjacent to the US city of Calexico in California. The capital of the southern state Baja California Sur is La Paz; the name is Spanish for ‘The Peace’. La Paz is located on the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) 950 miles south of the San Ysidro (San Diego) US – Tijuana Mexico border in California.
Medical Care in Baja
The quality of care is outstanding with the highest standards of medical training and practices as well as excellent specialists and care. For this reason, like many other parts around the world, Mexico and Baja in particular have seen a large growth in medical tourism and medical care providers, with most patients coming from US and Canada. The short travel time to Mexico and Baja from the rest of the North American continent enables around one million people per year to travel south for medical care.
Medical tourism in Mexico is so popular due to a combination of several factors. The first one is the cost of the services. According to MedicalTourism.com, the prices for various procedures in Mexico can be several times cheaper than the ones in the US. This is partly due to cost controls on health services implemented by the Mexican government. Other advantages include short distances, widespread use of English, short waiting times, mild climate, and high quality of services.
Real Estate in Baja
Due to the proximity of Mexico to the US as well as the excellent opportunities for vacation or retirement homes, many US citizens own property in Baja. Purchasing real estate Baja is safe and rewarding, and you as a buyer has full rights, and is the direct owner and can make improvements, mortgage the property, lease and sell it as well as give it to his heirs as inheritance.
Before buying any property, do some due diligence and look into the paperwork and title insurance along with the bank information regarding trusts and closing costs as well as all details pertinent to the sale. Get a market analysis for the properties that have been sold in the area for the previous few months. You can get such information from most real estate agents in Baja. A comparable market analysis will help you make an informed offer and never sign something you don’t understand.
Where to live in Baja
The popular expat communities of northern Baja are Rosarito Beach, Ensenada on the Pacific and San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez, there is also a growing number of expats in San Quintin and Bahia de Los Angeles. The popular expat communities of southern Baja are Mulegé, Loreto, La Paz, and Los Cabos, consisting of Los Barriles on the east cape, San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas at land’s end and Todos Santos on the Pacific on the west cape. If you are interested in cost savings by living abroad but still a little wary about going too far away from the American border, the northern Baja region offers several safe, beautiful, and affordable options. If enjoy the adventure of Baja, driving Baja or don’t mind flying, then southern Baja offers the finest in luxury to laid back.
There are many wonderful expat communities in Baja’s nearly 1000-mile length. Here is a list of some of the most popular:
Rosarito Beach Baja California
Playas de Rosarito, or Rosarito Beach as it is referred to in English, is a city in the Mexican state of Baja California. It is located between the Pacific Ocean and the coastal foothills, just 20 minutes south of the U.S. border in Tijuana and is a popular destination for tourists, snowbirds and expatriates from the United States.
With 20 miles of white, sandy beaches with endless activities, Rosarito offers a large variety of places to stay and things to do, including incredible shopping in the artisan shops with some of Mexico’s finest leather goods, furniture, wrought iron, pottery, marble and traditional Mexican crafts.
You’ll find a culinary paradise of international cuisine from traditional Mexican, sensational seafood and delicious steaks to American, Chinese, French and Italian specialties. Be sure to visit the well-known lobster village, Puerto Nuevo, just 15 minutes south of Rosarito—a tourist and culinary destination. Whether staying for vacation or life, you will enjoy Playas de Rosarito.
Ensenada Baja California
Ensenada is the third-largest city in the state of Baja California. About 70 miles south of the San Diego/Tijuana border, located in the Bahía de Todos Santos—an inlet of the Pacific Ocean—Ensenada is an important commercial and fishing port as well as a cruise ship stop. The city is backed by small mountain ranges, and due to its location on the Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean latitude, the weather tends to be mild year round.
Most of the shopping is at sea level, making it a great city for getting around on your own energy. Ensenada is easy to navigate with all numbered streets running north and south, and celebrity-named streets running east and west.
Ensenada has the accommodations to meet any level of comfort or amenities. Prices can range depending on the time of year from $30 to $250 plus. The best hotels are located to the north and south of town, along the beach, and are not within walking distance from downtown shopping and attractions; but taxi and shuttles are available in most locations.
San Felipe Baja California
San Felipe is a small fishing village, situated on the Sea of Cortez, 118 miles south of the U.S. border, which was historically dependent upon fishing; however, today tourism and real estate provide the economic base. Even as it grows into the next century with four-lane highways, it will remain a small fishing village in its heart and soul.
Today, San Felipe is maturing into a sophisticated resort community with new resorts, luxury condos, fine restaurants, sport fishing and world-class off-road adventures.
The beaches extend north and south with over 50 miles of shoreline to explore, including 23-foot tides, exposing a kilometer or more of ocean floor—one of the largest tidal bores in the world. And directly behind San Felipe is Sierra San Pedro Martír, the tallest mountains in Baja.
The desert terrain is vast and offers incredible trails and exploration for ATVs, dirt bikes and off-road vehicles. Just south of San Felipe are extensive sand dunes ideal for buggies and rails.
The Valley of the Giants, the natural reserve of the thousand-year-old Cardon Cactus, has become a major attraction. In addition, San Felipe offers great bargain shopping for souvenirs, arts and much more.
Mulege Baja California Sur
Mulegé is situated at the mouth of the Río Santa Rosalía (26°53´17˝N 111°58´53˝W), in the state of Baja California Sur, 38 miles south of Santa Rosalia, at the mouth of Bahía de Concepción. In 2005, the reported population was 3,317.
Nestled between two hills in a lush tropic palm oasis divided by a shaded river that runs towards an estuary that flows to the sea, Mulegé is rich in history with lots of great sites to see, including the Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé, founded in 1705; the old state penitentiary, finished in 1907; and the Sierra de Guadalupe cave paintings.
Outdoor activities abound, from mountain biking, scuba diving and kayaking to deep sea fishing. The cold northern current and the warm southern current come together to create an environment great for catching some of the 100 different species of fish in the Mulegé waters.
By land, Mulegé is 650 miles south of the San Diego/Tijuana border crossing on Mexican Highway 1, and in 2010, via Highway 5 through San Felipe.
By Air, Mulegé is served by three airstrips: Hotel Serenidad Airstrip (El Gallito), the Mulegé Municipal and Punta San Pedro. Regional flights are available at the Palo Verde Airport, and international flights are available at the Loreto Airport.
Loreto Baja California Sur
Loreto, founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries, was the first Spanish settlement on the east coast of the Baja California peninsula. Loreto, situated on the Sea of Cortez, 26º00’46” N 111º20’36” W, served as the capital of the province of Las Californias from its founding until the capital was moved to Monterey on February 3, 1777.
The 2005 census reported a population of 10,283. Today Loreto is a tourist resort, catering mostly to U.S. travelers, with daily flights from California arriving at Loreto International Airport. Many of the American tourists enjoy fishing in “pangas” for “dorado” (Mahi-mahi or Dolphin Fish). Local restaurants will even prepare the daily catch of the tourists. Loreto has an excellent museum alongside the historic, but still active, parish. The Spanish Fathers found a steady spring of fresh water on this site.
Loreto’s climate is hot and humid, with abundant sunshine (desert with some rainfalls in summer). The medium temperature is 76 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperatures are hot from June through October. These summer days have highs around 93 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity.
La Paz Baja California Sur
La Paz (“The Peace”) is the capital city of Baja California Sur located at 24.1405°N 110.3123°Wand is an important commercial center. Its surrounding municipality, which is the fourth-largest municipality in Mexico in geographical size, in 2005 reported a population of 219,596 living on 7,828.2 square miles of land.
La Paz is typically dry and warm with averages of 75–77 degrees Fahrenheit, and 300 days or better of sunshine annually. Summer months are often in the 90’s and can be humid. The winter months can drop below 60, but stays mostly in the mid-60’s. During the summer the cooling Coromuel winds, a weather phenomenon unique to the La Paz area, blow from Bahia de La Paz keeping the temperature mild.
By Air, La Paz is served by Manuel Márquez de León International Airport with flights to the U.S., Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. Two ferry services operate from Pichilingue outside the city, connecting the Baja California peninsula to the mainland at Mazatlán and Topolobampo.
By Road, La Paz is served mainly by two highways, Highway 1 that links the south of the state from Cabo San Lucas to the north of the peninsula until Tijuana, and Highway 19, which connects La Paz with the population of the South Pacific towns like Todo Santos and El Pescadero.
Todos Santos Baja California Sur
Named “Pueblo Mágico” in 2006, Todos Santos is a small coastal town at the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, on the Pacific coast of the Baja California Peninsula, about an hour’s drive north of Cabo San Lucas and an hour south from La Paz. Located at 23°26´56˝N 110°13´32˝W, Todos Santos is very near the Tropic of Cancer in the municipality of La Paz. The population was 4,078 at the census of 2005.
During the 19th century Todos Santos thrived as the Baja sugarcane capital. Now the rich farmlands have been reworked and the town prospers from an abundance of avocado, vegetable and chili farming, papaya and mango orchards, fishing and ranching.
The mission Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz was founded by father Jaime Bravo in 1723. This mission contains the statue of the Virgin of Pilar, which is the focus of the town’s main festival in October. More recently, there has been an increase in tourist activity and a boom in real estate development. Handicraft shops, art galleries, upscale restaurants, boutique hotels and restored colonial buildings have contributed to the gentrification and redevelopment of the town. There are many beautiful beaches within a 30-minute drive. Playa Las Palmas and Playa Los Cerritos are great beaches for swimming and shell collecting, and Los Cerritos attracts surfers from around the world.
Los Barriles Baja California Sur
Los Barriles is a quaint little town 45 minutes north of the San Jose Del Cabo Airport and 65 miles south of the La Paz Airport, and only a 90-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of Cabo San Lucas.
The consistent winds and beautiful, white sandy beaches make Los Barriles a hot spot for water and wind enthusiasts from late November until early March. One of the top Wind Surfing and Kite Boarding destinations in the world, Los Barriles offers postcard perfect beaches and a couple of small, well maintained hotels ready to serve the needs of Baja travelers.
In addition to wind and water sports, Los Barriles is considered the Bill Fishing capital of the world. During the summer months, the area offers exceptional fishing for Marlin, Sailfish, Dorado, Tuna and Wahoo.
San Jose Del Cabo Baja California Sur
San José del Cabo is located in Baja California Sur and is the seat of the municipality of Los Cabos at the south end of the Baja California peninsula. In the 2005 census it had a population of 48,518. Together with neighboring Cabo San Lucas it forms a major tourist destination for travelers, particularly from North America. The two cities are served by Los Cabos International Airport.
San José del Cabo offers you tranquility and old world charm, wonderful gift shops showcasing the art of Mexico, fabulous restaurants, fishing, golf, surfing and all the nighttime entertainment you seek. Or you can just relax on one of our many pristine white sand beaches.
For nature lovers, a beautiful protected estuary with a variety of fish, turtles, dolphins, exotic marine animals and over 100 species of birds is located on the southeast edge of the city. And the historic artist colony of Todos Santos is an easy one-hour drive to the north, along the scenic Pacific Ocean.
Local residents take pride in restoring the town’s 18th century architecture and preserving its quiet, laid-back ambiance.
Cabo San Lucas Baja California Sur
Cabo San Lucas (aka Los Cabos or Cabo in the U.S.) is at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula at 22.88°N 109.90°W, in the state of Baja California Sur. As of the 2005 census, the population was 56,811. It is the largest community in Los Cabos, and the second-largest in Baja California Sur.
The warmth of the waters, the beauty of its beaches, the abundance of fish, the raucous party atmosphere, a resort studded tourist corridor that stretches between the twin towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo in miles of pristine white beaches, and other qualities is quickly making Cabo San Lucas a high-end vacation destination.
Cabo San Lucas has the largest Marlin tournament in the world. In the winter, pods of whales can be observed in the ocean bearing their calves in the warm waters.
Served by the Los Cabos International Airport for general aviation flights and air taxi service, the town is also a popular port of call for many cruise ships.
Exclusive hotels and gated residential communities attract the rich and famous in this wondrous region known as “The Corridor.” Considered some of Latin America’s top resorts, many of these properties have become havens to Hollywood stars, Fortune 500 CEOs and even the U.S. president during the 2002 Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC).