Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.
Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m. Please be aware that this is a dynamic moving program which involves long drives on the bus for some of the days. However, that time/space serves as a classroom on wheels, with lectures and entertainment. while enjoying the scenic desert and the coast. and the wonderful feeling of peaceful isolation. In addition, you should be prepared to pack up and depart early to the next destination on some of the days.
Afternoon: 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet you as you arrive at the hotel lobby and give you instructions on the location of the private room to gather for the orientation. Check in to the hotel and have your room assignment. If you arrive late, when you check in to the hotel, please ask for your welcome packet with instructions on where to join your Group Leader and fellow participants. 5:30 p.m. Meet in the assigned private room. During orientation, the Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. You will receive a welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes and other important information which we will review with the Group Leader. We will 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 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 five minute taxi ride into San José del Cabo, a quiet colonial town. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.
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. Standing and slow walking approximately one hour at museums.
Breakfast: At the hotel’s beach front restaurant.
Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel, board the motorcoach, and travel along the Los Cabos Corridor, a coastal road along a stretch of beautiful beaches dotted with conspicuous hotels that connects San José del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas. In the bustling recently created resort city of Cabo San Lucas, as customary we will take a short boating excursion out to El Arco — the Arch—just off shore. We’ll hop into boats, ride past Lovers Beach then encircle the impressive limestone formation, the place “where land ends and heaven begins.” We will then continue by motorcoach along Mexican Federal Highway 1 that runs the entire length of Baja California from Los Cabos to Tijuana. We cross the Tropic of Cancer as we delight on scenic views of wide open beaches on the turbulent Pacific Ocean. We then cross the peninsula at its narrowest point and enter the foothills of 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 restored. We arrive in El Triunfo at lunchtime.
Lunch: At a local restaurant in El Triunfo
Afternoon: Two small modern visual museums explain the history and importance of the town and the peninsula. Time is at leisure to visit the self-guided museums at your own pace. Remnants from the heyday of mining are scattered on the outskirts. A 100 feet (35 meters) smokestack designed by Gustav Eiffel creates the backdrop of the town. The last driving stretch of the day ends in La Paz, the capital and most important city of Baja California Sur. As stated in the name - La Paz meaning peace - the tree-lined streets and calm clear beaches of this small city inspire tranquility. We’ll check in to our hotel located outside town within the elegant Costa Baja Marina complex. After some time to freshen up, we ride into town with our Group Leader to get acquainted with the city center. Along the coastline runs the famous boardwalk whose three miles are decorated with statues, plazas, and benches. Free time to join the locals on a traditional evening stroll before we re-group for dinner at a waterfront restaurant.
Dinner: At a local restaurant
Evening: Return to the hotel. Prepare for check-out the next morning.
Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 255 miles (410 km.), approximately 5 hour throughout the day. Standing and slow walking approximately 1 hour during museum visit.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: We will be joined by a local professor who will give us a lecture on the natural history of the peninsula focusing on its interesting geology. We will then check out of the hotel to visit Museo de las Ballenas, the whale museum, for a preview of our upcoming whale excursions. Back on the lively boardwalk, we will stop at an ice cream parlor where a wide selection of exotic flavors are offered. The walk ends at a taqueria to roll your own taco with your favorite trimmings, a true Mexican experience.
Lunch: At a traditional taqueria
Afternoon: We’ll board the motorcoach and ride along an extensive plateau, across an important agricultural area, through the tail end of Sierra de la Giganta and along scenic seashores to reach Loreto. Spot colorful roadside chapels along the way. The Group Leader will lecture as we ride and lead songs and games until we arrive in Loreto. Sandwiched between the Sea of Cortes and the abrupt Sierra de la Giganta Mountain chain, the charming town of Loreto is the site of the first mission and the oldest permanent settlement of the Californias having served as the capital of the territory for more than a century. We will check in to the waterfront hotel 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.
Activity note: Getting on/off panga boats from a pier and from the beach for a one hour round trip ride in calm water. Walking approximately 1 hour on town roads.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: The protected island of Coronado is located in the Loreto Bay Marine Park Reserve, a portion of the UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve which includes more than 200 islands, islets, and coastal areas in the Sea of Cortes, also known as the Gulf of California. Jacques Cousteau (1910-97) — scientist, explorer, inventor, and a leading figure in the environmental movement - described the Sea of Cortés as “the aquarium of the world” for its unmatched and unique diversity of underwater life. We will walk along the boardwalk to the small Loreto harbor to board our boat and head out to Coronado Island. We will encircle the volcanic island to admire its fascinating geology, the intricate black cliffs where herons, pelicans, ospreys and blue-footed boobies perch. A colony of amusing sea lions occupy a rocky outcropping. An azure crystal clear bay encloses a moon-shaped white beach. We will debark on the beach and follow our Group Leader on a walk along a set path through the island to recognize desert vegetation growing among sand and lava rocks, beautifully arranged as if it were a garden. We will then have some time on our own to relax on the beach, swim in crystal clear waters, take in the scenery. We might spot a school of dolphins, a breeching whale, a jumping ray, or a turtle. Return to the hotel to freshen up for lunch.
Lunch: At the hotel pool-side restaurant.
Afternoon: We will set out on foot with our Group Leader to explore the lovely town. We’ll wander along pedestrian streets, spend some time in the characteristic plaza, then visit the mission church Nuestra Señora de Loreto, named in honor of the Italian Loreto Virgin whose statue dominates the altarpiece. The inscription “the mother of the missions” written at the entrance of the church reminds us that this was the first mission established in the Baja California peninsula. With luck, we may catch a Quinceañera celebration (15 years old coming of age celebration), or a wedding. The remainder of the afternoon and the evening are free to enjoy what you like. You may remain in town or relax at the hotel.
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.
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, short stretch of gravelly path.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we will board the motorcoach and continue along Highway 1 en route to San Ignacio. The variety of scenery makes this part of the road particularly interesting. As we depart Loreto, giant cardon cacti backed by the jagged peaks of the Sierra de la Giganta mountains dominate the landscape. One of the highlights of the Sea of Cortes is its beautiful Bahía Concepción, a bay within a bay. We’ll drive along the blue waters of this attractive bay dotted with islands and lined with inlets housing unspoiled beaches. Concepcion Bay has become a favorite winter refuge for Americans and Canadians. We will stop at one of the beaches to walk along the shore to a mangrove and relax in the sun before resuming our drive. A series of small towns have developed along this stretch of the Sea of Cortes. The first is Mulege, a mission settlement on a riverbed in a palm oasis. We will see the beautiful stone mission located on a hillside with an impressive view of the palm-filled landscape and mountain peaks beyond.
Lunch: At a local restaurant in Mulege.
Afternoon: The next town is Santa Rosalía. With our Group Leader, we will walk through the Old French Quarter and visit the Museo El Boleo, a mining museum located in the original offices of the Boleo Company, to learn how the French established this copper mining town and brought over the prefabricated iron church designed by Mr. Eiffel, still standing today. We will see the church before departing town. The road then reaches one of the steepest grades in the peninsula. Leaving behind the Sea of Cortes, we reach a desert plateau rich in prickly vegetation. 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. In 1993 the central portion of the Baja peninsula was designated Vizcaino World Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, established to protect the Gray Whale sanctuaries, an array of migrant birds, endemic vegetation, endangered wildlife, and gigantic rock art caves. During the drive, our Group Leader will provide expert commentary to introduce the varied desert eco-systems as well as local flora which will help us to recognize and understand the distinctive vegetation during the nature walks. We will also be provided with additional information on the Gray Whales and the boat excursions to prepare us for our whale watching adventures ahead. As we continue through rolling hills of red volcanic rocks, we arrive to the palm-filled canyon where San Ignacio is located. Set in the midst of a lush, tranquil palm oasis, the charming, sleepy town developed around an imposing 18th-century mission, still in use today. After we check in at the hotel, we’ll enjoy a short break to freshen up and relax. 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 of the hotel. You may enjoy the “sobremesa” — lingering at the table to chat after dinner — as is customary in Mexico.
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 (10-16 passengers) 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 rides can be bumpy and cold if windy and cloudy, but warm if sunny.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: The following two days are dedicated to whale excursions to get up-close and personal with the magnificent Gray Whales in the two most important wildlife refuges along the Pacific coast of Baja California. Permission to enter the whale sanctuaries is granted only to a restricted number of eco-companies. With our Group Leader, we will hop into vans and drive to the secluded San Ignacio Lagoon. The drive is partly on a graded road, crossing a vast desert region with open landscapes. We will see small fishing settlements along the shore of the lagoon and some eco-camps authorized to service whale excursions. Arriving at a designated eco-camp, we’ll get ready for a first memorable outing. We’ll get instructions, gear up, then divide into small groups and board pangas (small outboard motorboats) to embrace the sanctuary and view these enormous mammals at arm’s length, some even let themselves be petted! Each year, Gray Whales travel along 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. The “friendly” phenomenon among whales was first reported in 1976. Especially at the end of breeding season, “friendlies” have been known to seek human contact, often coming alongside, and surfacing near pangas. Some whale mothers have even been observed apparently teaching their calves to interact with humans. These “friendly” behaviors exist only within the lagoons of Baja California where the captains are keen observers to be sure human behavior stays within bounds.
Lunch: At a restaurant in the eco-camp
Afternoon: We’ll continue at the lagoon with some independent time to look for migrating birds that inhabit the shores, or you may choose to find a spot to relax. Ospreys abound nesting on poles, fences, and even on the ground. Midafternoon, we will return by vans and stop at the hotel to 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. We’ll also visit a home where date bread and pie are made. In the company of our pleasant host we’ll practice making flour tortillas by hand and taste them with local ranch cheese.
Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.
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.
Activity note: Getting in/out of minibuses, on/off a small “panga” boat from an inclining pier with a knee-high step; panga riding approximately 3 hours, may be bumpy. Dress in layers with waterproof jacket or windbreaker for boat ride, likelihood of getting wet. Walking short distances in the desert; mostly flat, gravely, uneven terrain. Total driving about 235 miles (380 km.), approximately 5 hours.
Breakfast: At the hotel
Morning: We will check out of the hotel and drive to Guerrero Negro for our second encounter with the whales. The Sierra de San Francisco Mountain chain rises parallel to the highway as we continue North. Guerrero Negro — Black Warrior — is situated on the 28th parallel just below the border between the states of Baja California Sur and Baja California. It is home to Scammon’s Lagoon, the whale sanctuary that receives the highest number of whales, and to the world’s largest salt plant. Migrant birds abound in a vast salt marsh adjacent to the lagoon. We will drive to the office of an eco-company, hop onto their minibuses, and drive across part of the Exportadora de Sal salt plant. As we ride, we’ll learn about the history and process of Baja's solar evaporation salt production process. Reaching the pier on Scammon’s Lagoon, we’ll board pangas and embark on our second memorable encounter with the whales. Again, look for those blows, humps, and fins! Each outing is different, offering new experiences. Whales were slaughtered here for nearly a century during the whaling era. Since harvesting gray whales was banned in 1946, populations have rebounded.
Lunch: Bag lunch aboard the boats.
Afternoon: Returning from our field trip we will have time to freshen up before boarding the motorcoach. The drive north crosses Baja California’s Central Desert. Rich in vegetation, much of it endemic and unique, the vast mountainous landscape is practically devoid of human footprints. Enter a world of fantasy in “Reserva de los Cirios” named in honor of the tall, graceful Boojum tree, Baja’s signature plant. We’ll stop for a walk among especially tall cardons and whimsical elephant trees on our way to scenic Cataviña. Located in the middle of the Valle de los Cirios Nature Reserve, Cataviña is characterized by plentiful sun, sand, gigantic granite boulders, and combinations of boojums, cardons, and elephant trees making this particular area a superb desert garden. We will check into the hotel with some time to freshen up before gathering 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! To the whales! Continue with finger-food fiesta type dinner.
Dinner: In a private set-up at the hotel.
Evening: We’ll continue to enjoy the merriment and further immerse in Mexican traditions. Prepare for check-out and transfer tomorrow.
Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 230 miles (370 km.), approximately 5.5 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: We will explore Cataviña’s wonderland. We will rise early and set out on a walk to see the thorny, magnificent desert against the rising sun. After breakfast, we check out of the hotel and board the motorcoach for the short drive to a nearby cave with simple rock art. 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 will continue the ride through ruggedly beautiful landscapes enjoying the last of the desert and a final nature walk in an ever-changing scenery. We will then cross the peninsula’s most important agricultural area and take a detour to the shores of secluded San Quintín Bay for lunch.
Lunch: At a restaurant facing San Quintín Bay
Afternoon: Heading further north, 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. We will then reboard our motorcoach and ride on to Ensenada with expected arrival in the late afternoon for hotel check-in. Endowed with a Mediterranean climate, friendly people, and a historical ambiance, Ensenada rests on the shores of the attractive Todos Santos Bay. Relax at the hotel, enjoy its amenities and its spectacular ocean view. Before dinner, gather at the hotel scenic bar. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell toast. As we toast and dine, we will hear the rhythm of the waves against the cliffs below.
Dinner: At the hotel.
Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.
Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 90 miles, approximately 2 hours riding time. Note: Passports required for border crossing. Individuals will carry all belongings including luggage across the border, approximately 300 feet. (90 m). Possibility of standing in line. No fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats, or plants permitted. The State of California allows one liter of alcoholic beverages per adult (21 years of age and older).
Breakfast: At the hotel
Morning: We will depart Ensenada by motorcoach in the morning at 8:00 a.m. The last stretch of Federal Highway 1 offers spectacular views of the coastline and the Pacific Ocean. We will arrive at the most-crossed border in the world, separating the United States and Mexico at San Ysidro. We will get off the bus and walk across the border carrying our belongings through immigration into the U.S. We board our bus again and continue into San Diego to our final destination, the San Diego Airport, with arrival expected at approximately 12:00 Noon. This concludes our program. 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!