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Mexico

Mexico’s Baja Tip to Toe: Landscape, Heritage, People & Whales

Program No. 12157RJ
Come to Baja to explore unique beaches, deserts and World Heritage Sites as you join local experts to learn about the region’s wildlife and get up-close and personal with gray whales!
Length
13 days
Rating (5)
Activity Level
Starts at
3,599

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DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 18 - Jan 30, 2023
Starting at
3,599
Feb 15 - Feb 27, 2023
Starting at
3,599
Mar 9 - Mar 21, 2023
Starting at
3,599
Mar 22 - Apr 3, 2023
Starting at
3,599
Jan 17 - Jan 29, 2024
Starting at
3,649
Feb 12 - Feb 24, 2024
Starting at
3,649
Mar 6 - Mar 18, 2024
Starting at
3,649
Mar 20 - Apr 1, 2024
Starting at
3,649
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 18 - Jan 30, 2023
Starting at
4,419
Feb 15 - Feb 27, 2023
Starting at
4,419
Mar 9 - Mar 21, 2023
Starting at
4,419
Mar 22 - Apr 3, 2023
Starting at
4,419
Jan 17 - Jan 29, 2024
Starting at
4,679
Feb 12 - Feb 24, 2024
Starting at
4,679
Mar 6 - Mar 18, 2024
Starting at
4,679
Mar 20 - Apr 1, 2024
Starting at
4,679
13 days
12 nights
33 meals
12B 11L 10D
View Full Itinerary

At a Glance

Surrounded by a natural aquarium, the rugged, magical landscape of Baja California is a premium wildlife destination virtually untouched by humans. Immerse yourself in vast desert expanses rich in exotic vegetation. Get up close and personal with gray whales in their winter migration to the Baja Sanctuaries. Explore pristine beaches beneath towering escarpments, azure waters teeming with life and palm oasis among jagged peaks. Journey through a land that attracted explorers, adventurers and religious seekers leaving their footprints in Spanish missions, fishing villages, quiet mining towns and isolated ranches. Trace the natural and cultural history of this paradise on earth. Experience the peaceful solitude that Baja inspires.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking short distances on varied terrain with an optional steep hike. Boarding small fishing boats from the beach. May encounter rough season boats. Driving time on bus from 1.0 - 5.0 hours most days. Elevations up to 3,500 feet (900 m.).
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Interact with Gray Whales at arm's length visiting two of the most important whale sanctuaries along their migration path on Baja’s Pacific Coast.
  • Explore the diversity of ecosystems that make up one-third of the Baja peninsula.
  • Take in the crystalline waters and marvel at the geology and sea life on this paradisiac island, the biologically diverse Sea of Cortés.

General Notes

Road Scholar cannot offer air for this program. Participants have to arrange their own flights as well as transportation to the first hotel in San Diego. The program ends at the hotel in Los Cabos, and the Group leader can assist participants in arranging their transfer (not included) from the hotel to the airport on the last day of the program if necessary.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Maria Mitrani
Maria Mitrani was born in Italy, then lived in Canada, the United States and France. She finally settled in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, where she has been living since 1976 with her husband and three children. She has a bachelor’s in Italian and art history from the University of California at Berkeley. Since 1985 she has led learning adventures through different parts of Mexico and is a specialized guide for Baja California. She is one of the owners and founders of Andiamo.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Maria Mitrani
Maria Mitrani View biography
Maria Mitrani was born in Italy, then lived in Canada, the United States and France. She finally settled in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, where she has been living since 1976 with her husband and three children. She has a bachelor’s in Italian and art history from the University of California at Berkeley. Since 1985 she has led learning adventures through different parts of Mexico and is a specialized guide for Baja California. She is one of the owners and founders of Andiamo.
Profile Image of Norma Iglesias
Norma Iglesias View biography
Norma Iglesias’ ample research and experience has made her an expert in United States-Mexico inter-border culture, communication and economy. An associate professor at San Diego State’s Department of Chicano Studies, she earned a master’s in social anthropology in Mexico City and a Ph.D. in sociology and communication theory in Madrid. Moving to Tijuana, Norma worked at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte and at San Diego State, immersing herself in Mexican-American border issues.
Profile Image of Fermin Reygadas
Fermin Reygadas View biography
Fermin Reygadas is a professor and researcher at the social sciences division at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, at La Paz, Mexico. He is widely acknowledged as an authority on Baja California, with over 30 years of experience in the field. He has written extensively on subjects ranging from Cape Region archaeology to settlement patterns and diet among Pericue Native Indians. In recent years he has dedicated his efforts to experimental archeology.
Profile Image of Graham MacKintosh
Graham MacKintosh View biography
Before heading off to face the wilds of Baja in April 1983, Graham Mackintosh was a lecturer at West Kent College in England, teaching social sciences and special education. In the hope of showing his students that a shoestring expedition could be the adventure of a lifetime, Graham, who described himself as the "least adventurous person in the world," set out to walk around the beautiful but dangerous coastline of Baja California. The two-year, 3,000-mile trip changed his life. He later followed this journey with a walk down the rugged, mountainous interior of Baja, visiting many of the old missions along the way. These adventures were the inspirations for his books, “Into a Desert Place,” and “Journey with a Baja Burro.” Graham now lives in San Diego, California with his wife Bonni. He continues to give lectures on his trips, writes articles on Baja and has led hiking, kayaking, whale watching, and winery explorations.
Profile Image of Esther Mitrani
Esther Mitrani View biography
Esther Mitrani was born in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. She graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, then worked in San Francisco for three years in human resources in high-tech. Missing her home, she return to her native city. Esther has been guiding since 1994, and joined the family business in 2002 as an organizer and tour leader. She is an eager traveler, and she loves sports and languages.
Profile Image of Isabel Sanchez
Isabel Sanchez View biography
Isabel Sanchez was born in Ensenada Baja California, Mexico. She began working as a group leader at a young age in the mid 1980s in her hometown. In 1998, she moved to Southern California where she continued her career as a successful group leader specializing in the Sonoran Desert as well as the Mojave Desert. In the fall of 2004, Isabel began leading groups through San Diego, Calif., the peninsula of Baja California, and the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Baja, Sea of Cortez Marine Mammal Guide
by Rainforest Publications
A double-sided, laminated field guide illustrating the whales, dolphins and other marine mammals of the Sea of Cortez and Pacific coast of Baja.
The Log from the Sea of Cortez
by John Steinbeck
The classic account of a collecting trip to the Sea of Cortez with marine biologist Ed Ricketts, first published in 1941. Subtitled "A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research," this much-loved book captures the wonders of the Gulf of California and the joys of discovery.
Mexico Field Guide, Baja California Sea and Shore Birds
by Rainforest Publications
This beautifully illustrated, double-sided laminated card depicts 60 commonly encountered birds of coastal Baja California and the Sea of Cortez. We also carry the Baja, Sea of Cortez Marine Mammal Guide plastic card. (Item BJA62)
Field Guide to the Gray Whale Paperback
by Oceanic Society
This handy 50-page booklet is the first and only practical guide to viewing the biannual migration of gray whales along the Pacific Coast. It includes fascinating information about the natural history and habits of the gray whale as well as maps and directions to whale watching sites from Alaska to Baja. Proceeds of this book help support the Oceanic Society.
Baja California Plant Field Guide
by Norman C. Roberts, Jon Rebman
We can't imagine a walk through the deserts and islands of Baja California without this book in hand. With hundreds of color photographs illustrating 715 plants of the region, this superb field guide also includes short introductory chapters on vegetation, geology and climate. This expanded third edition was revised by Jon Rebman, botanist at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
The Girl of the Sea of Cortez
by Peter Benchley
A heartwarming, eco-conscious novel about a young woman and her sixth-sense for ocean wildlife. Benchley’s protagonist, Paloma, discovers a secret ocean animal in a sea full of beauty, danger and adventure. First published in 1983.
Roadside Geology and Biology of Baja California, 2nd Edition
by John Minch,Jason Minch
The book is written for the enjoyment of the average person who has little or no training but has an interest in the natural surroundings and almost unique geology and biology of the Baja California Peninsula. It will provide for your enjoyment as you travel along Baja's highways. The road logs provide kilometer-by-kilometer information on the roadside geology and biology of the highways, introducing you to this magnificent place in a way that can be easily understood.
Eye of the Whale, Epic Passage From Baja to Siberia
by Dick Russell
Epic in scope, this absorbing, first-person account follows the migration of the gray whale from the lagoons along the Pacific coast of Baja to the summer feeding grounds in Alaska.
Almost an Island, Travels in Baja California
by Bruce Berger
A poet and aficionado with an irrepressible sense of humor, Berger combines anecdote, history and research to bring the deserts, towns and eccentric personalities of Baja to life.
Baja California Map
by National Geographic
Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map National Geographic Adventure Baja Map Pack
Into a Desert Place
by Graham MacKintosh
An Englishman, Mackintosh fell in love with Baja California on a visit and, despite a glaring shortage of both experience and money, determined to walk its entire coast. Into a Desert Place is his account of how he equipped himself, what he saw and learned, and how he survived on this harsh and beautiful journey.
The Whales Know, Travels Along the Baja California Peninsula
by Pina Cacucci
A humorous and humble travelogue by writer-explorer Cacucci. He travels the length of Baja California revisiting sites seen by John Steinbeck, but becomes enamored with all things whale.
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13 days
12 nights
33 meals
12 B 11 L 10 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner, Lecture
San Diego, California
D
Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Mission Valley/Hotel Circle

Activity note: Independent arrivals to San Diego. Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: After you check-in and have your room assignment, see the hotel notice board for the location of our Road Scholar private meeting room where the Orientation session will take place. 5:00 p.m. Register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet at the hotel front desk when you check-in. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Our knowledgeable Group Leader will also serve as our Study Leader for most field trips and deliver educational content unless specified otherwise. Transportation will be via private motorcoach. For meals that offer a choice of dishes, we will circulate a form in advance to note each person’s preferences and save time ordering. While in Mexico, purified water will always be available on the motorcoach, at the hotels, and in restaurants. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances / conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the hotel’s private meeting room.

Evening: We will be joined in the meeting room by a local expert who will present an informative lecture providing an introduction to Baja California and our unfolding educational adventure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning. Note: Both a valid passport and a personal permit are required for entry into Mexico. The permit will be issued by the Immigration Bureau upon entering Mexico. Keep the permit with you. The Group Leader will be on hand to assist as needed. You must carry all your belongings across the border when entering Mexico and again when re-entering the United States. When going through Customs into Mexico and returning to the US, as a general rule, no fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats nor plants are allowed.

DAY
2
Lecture, Transfer to Ensenada, Market, CECUT, Coastline
Ensenada, Baja California
B,L
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Ensenada Centro

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 90 miles (150 km.), approximately 2 hours. Walking approximately 1 mile (1.6 km.) throughout the day. Standing and walking at a slow pace for up to 1 hour per activity. Must carry all belongings across the border and walk 200 feet (60 m). Keep passports on hand for border crossing. No fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats nor plants are permitted into Mexico.

Breakfast: In the hotel’s private meeting room.

Morning: We will gather in the meeting room for a lecture by a sociologist and university professor who will provide fascinating insights into the history, culture, economy, and contrasts of the border region. Northern Baja exemplifies the strong cultural and economic ties that exist between the U.S. and Mexico. After checking out of the hotel, we will board a motorcoach and begin the journey south, driving through the most-crossed border in the world, separating the United States and Mexico at San Ysidro. Together with the Group Leader, we must get off the bus and walk across the border (approximately 200 feet – 60 m.) carrying all our belongings as we go through Mexican immigration and customs. You will need to present your passport and complete a form on site to receive the required personal permit. The Group Leader will be on hand to assist as needed. Keep this permit with you; it must be returned when leaving Mexico. We will stop first to visit the Tijuana market. This will be both an educational and a sensory experience as we walk through a colorful, lively market with our Group Leader to see, touch, smell, and taste local delights.

Lunch: At Caesar’s Restaurant, we’ll have lunch featuring the renowned Caesar Salad . The story goes that the original salad recipe was concocted in the 1920s with what was on hand for a group of pilots from Rockwell Field outside San Diego. The dish, originally dubbed Aviator Salad, became popular and was soon called Caesar Salad for the restaurant. Part of the appeal was and is having it prepared tableside.

Afternoon: Next, we will ride to the Tijuana Cultural Center, known as CECUT. Since its foundation in 1982, CECUT has presented numerous art forms and themes exemplifying contemporary culture. The modern Museo de las Californias in the central building uses visual displays to present the history of both states of the Baja California Peninsula: Baja California and Baja California Sur. A member of the staff will lead our exploration. We will then continue by motorcoach — along Mexican Federal Highway 1 that runs the entire length of Baja California from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas — to the town of Ensenada. The scenic drive offers beautiful views of the coastline and Pacific Ocean. After arriving in Ensenada and checking in to our hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free. Ensenada is an active seaport and one of the most popular holiday destinations in Mexico. You might like to stroll along one of the main streets lined with cafés and boutiques or just relax at the hotel and enjoy its amenities.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure. Ensenada has an active nightlife. If you choose to go out, the Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions

DAY
3
Riviera del Pacífico, Wineries, Mole and Mexican Event
Ensenada, Baja California
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Ensenada Centro

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 40 miles (65 km.), approximately 1 hour. Walking up to approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km.) and standing during field trips; some steps.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Originally sighted by the Portuguese in 1542 and settled by the British in 1882, Ensenada is now the third-largest city in Baja and the first major port south of the border. Its history has been turbulent at times, contrasting with the pleasant contemporary ambiance that has earned it the nickname La Cenicienta del Pacífico — the Cinderella of the Pacific. In addition to historical and cultural attractions, Ensenada is the gateway to the Valle de Guadalupe wine region. We will set out with our Group Leader on a field trip to the Riviera del Pacífico. Once an extravagant casino and glamorous resort during the U.S. prohibition years, today it is a social and convention center. We will explore the gardens and admire the Spanish-style architecture while hearing about its glorious past. We’ll then take a motorcoach drive through the older part of town and continue to the adjacent wine country that produces more than 90% of Mexico’s wines, now gaining world fame. Next, we will visit two of the midsized wineries producing quality wines in the Guadalupe Valley, the heart of the wine country, one before and one after lunch. Winery personnel will take us through the winemaking process ending in the tasting room where we will have an opportunity to taste delicious wines accompanied by locally-made cheese.

Lunch: At a restaurant in the wine country.

Afternoon: Again, we will be guided through the winery by local personnel including the wine tasting. The valley was once home to people with diverse heritage: Kumiai Native Indians, Spanish missionaries and a colony of Molokan Russians. The Group Leader will discuss this intricate regional history during a visit to a small museum installed in a former Russian home that displays artifacts and documents providing insights into the migration and everyday life of the Russian colony. Returning to Ensenada, we will have some “down” time before leaving for a Road Scholar exclusive personalized Mexican fiesta. With our Group Leader we will discuss about the uses of cacao, one of Mexico’s most important culinary gifts to the world. Then in a chocolate-focused cooking class led by an expert local cook, we learn to prepare chocolate-based recipes such as mole (MO-leh) and chocolate patties.

Dinner: At the cooking class, featuring the traditional thick mole sauce.

Evening: While enjoying the hot chocolate, we’ll be entertained with colorful lively Mexican folk dances performed by local dancers. We’ll also have an opportunity to break open a piñata the Mexican way. The group Leader will familiarize us with the important role of the piñata in Mexican traditions. Return to the hotel. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
4
Fish Market, San Vicente, San Quintín,Desert Flora, Cataviña
Cataviña, Baja California
B,L,D
Mision Catavina

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 240 miles (380 km.), approximately 5.5 hours. Short desert walks on uneven, gravelly paths up to 1 mile (1.6 km).

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel and board the motorcoach. Before departing Ensenada, we make a quick stop at the folkloric fish market, known as the Black Market due to its fish smuggling origin. An exceptional selection of fresh fish and seafood set in carefully arranged piles or in tanks fill the stalls together with small restaurants featuring specialties from the sea particularly the fish tacos which were invented in the very same Black Market. Together with the Group Leader identify some of the products and learn about the many types of colorful salsas displayed on the tables. Heading south, we’ll stop for a field trip in San Vicente and visit a small community museum maintained by an enthusiastic local lady who proudly welcomes guests to her museum. This area is known as the vegetable garden of Baja California. We will then drive on to San Quintín for lunch.

Lunch: At a restaurant facing San Quintín Bay

Afternoon: We’ll see ruggedly beautiful landscapes as we ride into the desert and begin to explore its wonders. The mountainous peninsula is covered by innumerable species of flora, many of which are endemic. Among them is the cirio (boojum tree), Baja's signature plant. Our Group Leader will provide expert commentary aboard the motorcoach to introduce the varied desert eco-systems as well as local flora which will help us to recognize and understand the distinctive vegetation during short nature walks in these magnificent landscapes. Upon arrival in Cataviña, we will check in to our hotel with some time to freshen up and relax before dinner. Located in the middle of the Valle de los Cirios Nature Reserve, it is characterized by plentiful sun, sand, gigantic granite boulders, and combinations of boojums, cardons, and elephant trees that make this a superb desert garden. Gather in the cozy bar for a taste of tequila, Mexico’s national drink. We will learn about its origin, the production process, and how to choose a good tequila. Then, toast the Mexican way: salt-tequila-lime, salud!

Dinner: At the hotel

Evening: We’ll continue to enjoy the merriment and further immerse in Mexican traditions.

DAY
5
Desert Walks, Rock Art, Vizcaino World Biosphere
Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur
B,L,D
Halfway Inn

Activity note: Morning walking excursions. Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 120 miles (195 km.), approximately 3 hours. Walks up to 1 mile (1.6 km); slight uphills, uneven gravely paths. Short steep hike approximately 0.3 mile (0.5 km.) to visit cave; gravelly terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, we will explore Cataviña’s wonderland. We set out on a walk behind the hotel to see the thorny, magnificent desert against the early morning sun. Then we take a short drive to a nearby cave with simple cave paintings. Until recently thought to be about 2,000 years old, tests have dated some of the older paintings at closer to 7,500 years. The scenic hike to the cave offers exceptional views both at the bottom and top of the hill where the cave is located. We will be joined by local schoolchildren who will lend a helping hand where the terrain is most challenging. The kids speak minimal English, so use your Spanish — no matter how rudimentary — or communicate in the universal language of gestures. As we interact with these youngsters, we’ll get a sense of what life is like in such a remote place! We’ll return to the hotel after our field trip

Lunch: At the Cataviña hotel restaurant, we’ll have Caldo Tlalpeño, a traditional soup- meal.

Afternoon: Checking out of the hotel, we’ll relax aboard the motorcoach as we ride towards Guerrero Negro. We’ll stop along the way for a walk amid especially tall cardons and elephant trees. During the drive, our Group Leader will provide expert commentary about the gray whales in anticipation of our whale watching adventures ahead. Guerrero Negro — Black Warrior — is situated on the 28th parallel just below the border with Baja California Sur. It also marks the beginning of the Vizcaino World Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to whale sanctuaries, migrant birds, endemic vegetation, gigantic rock art caves, and the world’s largest salt plant. We’ll check in to the hotel with some time to freshen up, then gather for a margarita toast and chat with fellow Road Scholars before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Tonight or any night when appropriate, enjoy the “sobremesa” — lingering at the table to chat after dinner — as is customary in Mexico. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
Nature Reserve, Gray Whales I, Transfer to San Ignacio
San Ignacio, Baja California Sur
B,L,D
Desert Inn, San Ignacio

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 90 miles (145 km.), approximately 2 hours. Getting in/out of minibuses, on/off a small “panga” boat (10-16 passengers) from an inclining pier with a knee-high step; panga riding approximately 3 hours. Dress in layers with waterproof jacket or windbreaker for boat ride, likelihood of getting wet. Boat ride can be bumpy and cold if windy and cloudy, but warm if sunny. Walking short distances; mostly flat, gravely, uneven terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel early and board our motorcoach for a field trip with our Group Leader to a nature reserve. Here in an enormous salt marsh, birds migrate from Russia, Canada, and other countries. Ospreys are particularly numerous nesting on telephone poles and even on the ground. Permission to enter the whale sanctuaries is granted only to a restricted number of eco-companies. We will drive to the office of an eco-company, hop onto their minibuses, and drive across part of the Exportadora de Sal, an enormous salt plant. As we ride, we’ll learn about the history and process of Baja's solar evaporation salt production process. Then our gray whale adventures begin! Reaching the pier on Scammon’s Lagoon, we’ll embark on the first of two memorable outings to meet the gray whales. We will divide into smaller groups and join the skilled captains of panga boats who will be in charge during our field trip. In each small panga, we’ll ride out among the whales to view these massive mammals at arm's length, perhaps closer. Each year, gray whales travel some 5,000 miles (8,000 km.) from the Bering and Chukchi Seas to the warm waters of Baja’s wildlife refuges to court, mate, give birth, and care for their young.

Lunch: Bag lunch aboard the boats.

Afternoon: Returning to the pier, we’ll transfer again to the minibuses and return to the eco-company office. After a brief rest stop, we’ll get back aboard the motorcoach and ride to San Ignacio, sharing our whale experiences. The Sierra de San Francisco mountain chain rises parallel to the highway. Rolling hills of red volcanic rocks change the landscape and palms fill the canyon where San Ignacio is located. The charming, sleepy town developed around an imposing 18th-century mission, still in use today, in the midst of a lush, tranquil palm oasis. After we check in at the hotel, we’ll enjoy a short break to freshen up and relax. Then, before dinner, we’ll gather at the bar for a welcome drink to taste a local liqueur or a lemonade.

Dinner: At the hotel

Evening: At leisure. You might like to relax in the pleasant patio or at the bar.

DAY
7
Gray Whales II
San Ignacio, Baja California Sur
B,L,D
Desert Inn, San Ignacio

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans, driving about 65 miles (100 km.), approximately 2.5 hours round-trip; partly graded road. In San Ignacio Lagoon, getting in/out of small panga boats from the beach, possibly wading into shallow water up to knee-high. Riding in pangas approximately 2.5 hours. Bring water shoes, waterproof gear, wear roll-up pants. Boat ride can be bumpy and cold if windy and cloudy, but warm if sunny.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: With our Group Leader, we will hop into vans and drive to the secluded San Ignacio Lagoon for another adventuresome ride among whales. Each outing is different offering new experiences. We will see small fishing settlements along the shore of the lagoon and some eco-camps authorized to service the whale excursions. Arriving at a designated eco-camp, we’ll prepare for a second memorable outing preceded by a short presentation by camp personnel on the whales, the lagoon, and the whale-counting process. We’ll then divide into small groups and board the panga boats with their captains and look for those blows, humps, and fins!

Lunch: At a restaurant in the eco-camp.

Afternoon: We’ll continue at the lagoon with some independent time to look for migrating birds, observe the ospreys caring for their chicks in nearby nests or simply find a spot to relax. Midafternoon, we will return to the hotel by vans and freshen up before setting out again on a walking field trip with our Group Leader into the tree-filled plaza. We’ll explore the well-preserved mission and observe life on the plaza where local people gather and children play soccer.

Dinner: At a restaurant on the plaza

Evening: At leisure. You might like to stroll on the plaza or enjoy the warm evening air in the hotel garden. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
Mining Town, Lush River, Scenic Mission, Sea of Cortes
Loreto, Baja California Sur
B,L,D
Hotel La Misión Loreto

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 140 miles (230 km.), approximately 3.5 hours. Walking up to 1 mile (1.6 km.); steps and sidewalks with uphills, a short stretch of gravelly path.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we will board the motorcoach and ride along Highway 1 en route to Loreto in Baja Sur. The variety of scenery makes this part of the road particularly interesting. We will ride past the Tres Virgenes volcanoes, cones of red lava rock dotted with white elephant trees and stop for a brief walk to take in the scenery. The road then reaches one of the steepest grades in the peninsula, ending at the blue waters of the Sea of Cortes. A series of small towns have developed along the coast. The first in line is Santa Rosalía. With our Group Leader, we will walk through the Old French Quarter and visit the Museo el Boleo, a mining museum, to learn how the French established this copper mining town and brought over the prefabricated iron church designed by Mr. Eiffel, still standing today that we will see. The next town is Mulege, a mission settlement on a riverbed in a palm oasis. We will see the beautiful stone mission located on a hillside and the impressive view of the palm-filled landscape and mountain peaks beyond.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Mulege.

Afternoon: One of the highlights of the Sea of Cortes is beautiful Bahía Concepción, a bay within a bay. We’ll drive along crystal clear blue waters of this stunning bay dotted with islands and lined with unspoiled beaches. We will stop at one of them to walk along the shores. You may want to meet a “snowbird” living in RVs or in palm-thatched temporary homes along the shores. On the last stretch to Loreto, giant cardon cacti dominate the landscape backed by the jagged peaks of the Sierra de la Giganta mountains. Sandwiched between the Sea of Cortes and the abrupt Sierra de la Giganta, the charming town of Loreto is the oldest mission and permanent settlement of the Californias and served as the capital of the territory for more than a century. We will check in to the hotel facing the Sea of Cortes and take some time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to make it an early evening in order to get up and see the magnificent sky at dawn.

DAY
9
Coronado Island. Loreto Historical Town
Loreto, Baja California Sur
B,L
Hotel La Misión Loreto

Activity note: Getting on/off panga boats from a pier and from the beach for a one hour round trip in calm water; brief walk on a mostly flat sandy path. Walking and standing in town approximately one hour on paved sidewalks.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: The protected island of Coronado is located in front of Loreto in the Loreto Bay Marine Park Reserve, part of the UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve which includes more than 200 islands, islets, and coastal areas in the Sea of Cortés, also known as the Gulf of California. We will walk to the small Loreto harbor to board our boats and head out to Coronado Island. We will encircle the volcanic island to admire the fascinating geology, the intricate black cliffs where herons, pelicans, osprays and blue-footed boobies perch. A colony of amusing sea lions occupy a rocky outcropping. We will swim in crystal clear waters, walk along a path to recognize desert vegetation growing among lava, and enjoy time on a pristine beach. We might spot a school of dolphins, a breeching whale, a jumping ray or a turtle. We will return to the hotel for lunch.

Lunch: At the hotel pool-side restaurant.

Afternoon: We will have some time to freshen up, then we will set out with our Group Leader to explore the peaceful town. We’ll wander along pedestrian streets, spend some time in the plaza and enter the mission church, also named “The Mother of the Missions”. We might catch sight of a wedding or a quinceañera coming-of-age celebration. The remainder of the afternoon and the evening are at leisure. You may remain on the plaza to people watch, browse in the shops, choose a restaurant for dinner or take advantage of the hotel installations.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure. The romantic boardwalk offers a perfect opportunity for a stroll. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
10
Coast & Desert Drive, La Paz, Sunset Dinner on a Beach
La Paz, Baja California Sur
B,L,D
Hyatt Place La Paz

Activity note: San Javier excursion: getting in/out vans; driving about 80 miles (130 km.), approximately 1.5 hours round trip on paved mountain road. Walking approximately 0.5 hour on mostly flat cobblestones and some gravely paths. La Paz transfer: getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 225 miles (360 km.), approximately 4.5 hours including rest stops.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel, board the motorcoach, and travel to La Paz with a detour into the mountains. The rugged peaks of the Sierra de la Giganta provide the backdrop for one of the peninsula’s most beautiful rides off Highway One. We will first transfer into vans for the steep drive along a reddish rock canyon to reach a plateau where subtropical vegetation mingles with desert plants. We then follow the riverbed into the village of San Javier. As we approach San Javier, we will spot from afar the bell tower of San Javier Mission, reachable via a picturesque cobblestone road lined with fruit trees and thatched-roof homes. Known as “the jewel of the missions,” San Javier — officially Misión San Francisco Xavier de Viggé-Biaundó — is one of the best preserved in Baja. Its orchard was planted by Spanish missionaries. We will explore the mission, walk to an olive tree over 300 years old, and see the original irrigation system. Next, we will visit a goat ranch. The mountains and deserts of the peninsula are sprinkled with ranches settled by past adventurers searching for fortunes or isolation. These true cowboys live today much the same as in the past. We’ll get a glimpse into their lives at the goat ranch that specializes in making goat cheese. We’ll learn about the process of making the cheese and under the supervision of our host, we will make flour tortillas by hand to taste with the cheese. We will also have some “burritos” to complement our ranch-style lunch.

Lunch: A traditional Mexican meal.

Afternoon: Back to Highway One, we transfer in to our motorcoach and continue the drive to La Paz along scenic seashores, through the tail end of Sierra de la Giganta, across an important agricultural area, and an extensive plateau dotted with colorful roadside chapels. The Group Leader will lecture as we ride and lead songs and games until we arrive in La Paz and check into our hotel outside of town within the elegant Costa Baja Marina complex. The capital and most important city of Baja California Sur, La Paz’s tree-lined streets and calm clear beaches inspire tranquility. We’ll board the motorcoach again for the short transfer to dinner at a beach “palapa” restaurant, an authentic La Paz experience. Facing the setting sun, we’ll have a glass of Baja California wine and toast to the beauty of nature.

Dinner: In a restaurant on the beach.

Evening: Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the evening is at leisure.

DAY
11
Idillic Bay. La Paz city
La Paz, Baja California Sur
B,L,D
Hyatt Place La Paz

Activity note: Getting on/off a boat from a pier and from the beach; riding approximately 1 hour round trip; swimming, snorkeling, and beach walking if desired. Walking up to 1 mile on city sidewalks.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will be joined by a local professor who will give us a lecture on the geology of the peninsula. Jacques Cousteau (1910-97) — scientist, explorer, and inventor — was a leading figure in the environmental movement. He once described the Sea of Cortés as “the aquarium of the world” for its unmatched and unique diversity of underwater life. With our Group Leader, we will then walk to the pier next to the hotel for a boat excursion to admire the coastline north of La Paz. We will wiggle in and out of small bays, search for heron nests and other birds perching on islets and spot sea lions on the way to stunning Balandra Bay. Designated a Natural Protected area in 2008, the pristine crystal clear waters of the bay are enclosed by pearl white moon-shaped beaches accessed solely on foot or by sea. We will get acquainted with the surroundings encircling the bay to distinguish the seven shades of blue that characterize its waters, view pristine mangroves hidden in a niche, and see up close the mushroom-shaped rock that guards the entrance to the bay, a La Paz symbol. We will then disembark on one of its secluded beaches for some time on our own to stroll, swim, snorkel or bask in the sun. We will have a hot lunch especially prepared for us.

Lunch: Private set up on the beach

Afternoon: We’ll hop back on the boat and return to the hotel. After some time on our own to freshen up, we’ll drive into town with our Group Leader to get to know the city center. We will stop at the main plaza, then reach the famous boardwalk whose three miles are decorated with statues, plazas, and benches to rest on. As the heat of the day subsides, locals of all ages flock to the boardwalk to stroll, skate, take part in an exercise class, gather with friends, enjoy an ice cream, take in the seashore and the evening breeze. We will have some free time to join them. We will then re-group for dinner in a favorite La Paz restaurant on the boardwalk featuring fresh fish and seafood.

Dinner: In a restaurant on the boardwalk.

Evening: In keeping with another La Paz tradition, we will walk to an ice cream parlor to choose our favorite flavor from the wide selection of exotic ice creams. Returning to the hotel, prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
12
Colonial Mining Village, Todos Santos Oasis, Los Cabos Arch
San José del Cabo, Los Cabos, Baja California Sur
B,L,D
Gran Faro Los Cabos

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 100 miles (165 km.), approximately 2.5 hours. Getting on/off a small boat from a pier; boat excursion is approximately 45 minutes with possibility of swells. Walking up to 1 mile (1.6 km); sidewalks and smooth paths.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will check out, board the motorcoach, and drive the final stretch of the peninsula to Finisterra — Land’s End. On the way, we will enter Sierra de la Laguna, the southernmost mountain range of the peninsula. Silver and gold were discovered in these mountains in the mid-1800s, attracting miners and adventurers from many countries. El Triunfo was once the largest city in Baja California Sur with more than 10,000 miners. The town was also a cultural center, with pianos and other instruments brought from all over the world. The mines shut down in 1926 and most people left. El Triunfo became a virtual ghost town. Recently, things began to change as tourists visited, cafés developed, and buildings were restored. There is even a Museo de la Musica with some of the old instruments from the golden days. We will set out with our Group Leader on a walking field trip through today’s El Triunfo to see the small colonial village and remnants from the heyday of mining including a smokestack designed by Gustav Eiffel that is more than 100 feet (35 meters) high. Boarding the motorcoach, we will drive across the peninsula at its narrowest point to the turbulent Pacific Ocean at Todos Santos, situated in a fertile oasis. Todos Santos has been recognized as one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos — Magical Towns — that retain the legacy of their history and culture, distinctive architecture, and characteristic charm. Missionaries founded a church here in 1723. Thanks to the area’s fertility, Todos Santos became a center of sugar cane production in the late 18th century; tall chimneys from the old plants are still in place. Today, the town is home to many artists, and former haciendas house boutique hotels, restaurants, and galleries. The Tropic of Cancer crosses here where the Sierra de Laguna mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and the Baja desert meet.

Lunch: In a restaurant in Todos Santos.

Afternoon: The Transpeninsular Highway ends in Los Cabos at the very tip of Baja California Sur. We will continue the drive to the bustling resort of Cabo San Lucas for a boating excursion out to El Arco — the Arch—just off shore. We’ll hop into boats to go around this impressive limestone formation as well as Lovers Beach, the place “where land ends and heaven begins.” The last segment of the highway is known as the Los Cabos Corridor, a coastal road along a stretch of beautiful beaches dotted with conspicuous hotels that connects Cabo San Lucas with San Jose del Cabo, a quiet town with colonial architecture, narrow streets and a plaza sided by a Mission Church. Our hotel is located on a beautiful stretch of the San José beach, a 5 minute ride to the historic center. We will check in to the hotel with some time to freshen up, walk on the beach or take a dip in the pool. We will re-gather in the dining room for the farewell dinner to share favorite experiences with our new Road Scholar friends and to toast to our memorable educational adventure... until we meet again.

Dinner: In a reserved section of the hotel’s main dining room.

Evening: At leisure. Relax and enjoy the setting, take a night stroll on the beach, attend an evening performance at the hotel, or take a taxi into town. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
13
Program Concludes
San José del Cabo, Los Cabos, Baja California Sur
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out 11:00 a.m. Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) is about 10 miles (15 km.), away, approximately 20 minutes; taxis available outside the hotel. Keep passports on hand. Personal travel permits must be returned upon leaving Mexico. The airline will collect them during check-in. No fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats nor plants are permitted into the United States. The State of California allows only one liter (approx quart) of alcoholic beverages per person over 21 years of age.

Breakfast: At the hotel’s beach front restaurant. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.