Jet off to Mexico's famed Baja California region for boat tours and road trips to some of the best beaches and islands in the country. You'll arrive in La Paz, whose crystalline coastal waters are legendary, and where you'll enjoy beach time and excursions to Espíritu Santo Island. After doing some coastal hiking, snorkeling, and relaxing in hot springs, you'll finish the trip on the sun-kissed beaches of Cabo San Lucas.


  • Visit legendary Balandra Beach, in the city of La Paz
  • Snorkel at the marine reserves of Espíritu Santo and Cabo Pulmo
  • Hike around coastal mountains and soak in hot springs
  • Relax in the tourist hotspots of Cabo and Todos Santos

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in La Paz, Optional Activities La Paz
Day 2 Day Trip to Espíritu Santo Island La Paz
Day 3 Hike the El Camarón Trail La Paz
Day 4 Sandboarding at Mogote Dunes La Paz
Day 5 Day Trip to Balandra, Drive to Punta Arena Punta Arena
Day 6 Day Trip to Los Barriles, Optional Activities Punta Arena
Day 7 Drive to Santiago, Snorkel in Cabo Pulmo Santiago
Day 8 Hike to La Zorra Canyon & Hot Springs Santiago
Day 9 Drive to Cabo San Lucas, Optional Activities Cabo San Lucas
Day 10 Kayak/Paddleboard to El Arco Cabo San Lucas
Day 11 Drive to Todos Santos, Optional Activities Todos Santos
Day 12 Drive to La Paz, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in La Paz, Optional Activities

Welcome to Baja California Sur
Welcome to Mexico! During this 12-day adventure, you'll enjoy the singularly beautiful region of Baja California Sur, the southern portion of the famous Baja Peninsula. This sun-kissed region is known for its arid desert landscapes, stunning beaches, crystal clear waters, offshore islands, and protected marine parks teeming with sea life. You'll also find some of the best seafood in the country here.
Upon arrival at the airport in the port city of La Paz, your driver will pick you up for the ride to your hotel. After check-in, you can stretch your legs on a scenic walk down the Malecón La Paz, the city's waterfront promenade. All along this 3-mile (5 km) boardwalk are great restaurants, ice cream parlors, and rooftop bars to enjoy a sundowner. Speaking of which, La Paz is one of the best places in Mexico to enjoy a romantic sunset, as the sky here turns various shades of pink, blue, orange, and red. For dinner, be sure to try some famous Baja seafood at a waterfront restaurant. 

Day 2: Day Trip to Espíritu Santo Island

A manta ray leaps out of the water at Espíritu Santo Island

Pack your swimsuits and sunscreen this morning and embark on a full-day boat tour to Isla Espíritu Santo. This island, located about an hour off the coast of La Paz, is part of one of the most incredible marine reserves in Mexico. Espíritu Santo is the 12th largest island in the country, known for its unspoiled beaches, turquoise waters, and abundant marine and avian wildlife. For these reasons, it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the boat tour, you'll not only stop at beaches and go snorkeling at offshore coral reefs, but you'll also visit secluded islets and do a lot of wildlife spotting. Highlights include visiting a sea lion colony and observing endemic birds like gray herons and frigates. After the tour, you'll return to your hotel in La Paz. During the return trip, keep an eye out for dolphins.

Day 3: Hike the El Camarón Trail

Enjoy coastal desert scenery on the El Camarón trail
Baja California is comprised mostly of coastal desert landscapes with inland mountain ranges, one of which you'll visit today on a guided half-day hike. The trail is called El Camarón, which runs through the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains, north of La Paz. It's a scenic trail boasting palm-filled oases and lookout points offering sweeping views out to Isla Espíritu Santo. And throughout the 6-mile (10-km) hike, your guide will point out interesting landmarks like rock formations and native plants. 

Day 4: Sandboarding at Mogote Dunes

Hit the dunes on a sandboard

Just outside the city, on a narrow peninsula dividing the Bay of La Paz and the Gulf of California, are the Dunas del Mogote (Mogote Dunes). The steep dunes here offer some of the best sandboarding conditions in the country. That's exactly what you'll be doing on this 2.5-hour activity. Upon arrival at the site, you'll strap on your board and can start carving the dunes. Be sure to enjoy the incredible scenery, which includes cactus-dotted deserts and mangrove forests. Also, know that while sandboarding is certainly an adventure sport, it's perfect for everyone—young and old, experienced or novice. 

Day 5: Day Trip to Balandra, Drive to Punta Arena

Playa Balandra, in La Paz
This morning, you'll pick up your rental car and begin the self-drive portion of the itinerary. On this half-day trip, you'll drive just up the coast from La Paz to enjoy some of the most stunning scenery in the region. The first stop is at Lobera Rafaelito, a tiny islet that's a haven for sea lion colonies. When you arrive, you can hop in the water and take a swim alongside these friendly marine mammals.
Plan your trip to Mexico
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Afterward, continue to Playa Balandra, a secluded bay with crescent white-sand beaches. The real magic, however, is the area's endless shallows of crystal-clear water, like a vast swimming pool. Here, you'll visit unique rock formations, do some swimming, and relax on the beach. Also, if you hike up the hills flanking the bay, you'll be rewarded with incredible panoramic views over the sea.
Later, drive about an hour southeast to Punta Arena, a coastal cape with white-sand beaches near the town of La Ventana. After checking in to your accommodation, you can spend the remainder of the day relaxing. Be sure to enjoy one of those famous Baja sunsets over the water.

Day 6: Day Trip to Los Barriles, Optional Activities

Los Barriles
Los Barriles, Baja California
On today's day trip, you'll drive about an hour south to Los Barilles. The windswept sections of coastline near this town are wildly popular with kitesurfers and windsurfers. Feel free to hop on a board and try it for yourself. If water sports aren't your thing, you can stop at a restaurant in town for a plate of fresh seafood followed by sunbathing, snorkeling, or relaxing on the beach. You can choose to spend all day in Los Barilles or return to La Ventana early and enjoy the beaches there. It's totally up to you.

Day 7: Drive to Santiago, Snorkel in Cabo Pulmo

Colorful marine life in Cabo Pulmo National Park, Baja California
In the morning, leave Punta Arena and drive south to the town of Santiago. On the way, you'll stop on the coast at Cabo Pulmo to do some snorkeling. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and marine reserve isn't far from tourist hotspots like Cabo San Lucas, yet its beaches are unspoiled and free of tourist crowds.
During the visit, you'll snorkel around the protected reef system here and see many of its over 800 species of marine life. These include tropical fish, sea turtles, rays, dolphins—even whales and hammerhead sharks. Afterward, continue driving a little way inland to Santiago, where you'll overnight.

Day 8: Hike to La Zorra Canyon & Hot Springs

La Zorra Canyon and Santa Rita's pristine hot springs
Waterfall in La Zorra Canyon
Wake up early for a guided hike through La Zorra Canyon to the Santa Rita Hot Springs. Surrounded by desert palms and cacti, this group of lagoons is a tranquil oasis hidden in the desert mountains. Here, you can take a dip in freshwater pools and mineral-rich thermal hot springs created by volcanic activity that has been ongoing for thousands of years. The hike ends at the Sol de Mayo, a waterfall that plunges about 49 feet (15 m). During the hike, keep an eye out for hummingbirds, and you might also spot the rare pygmy owl. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel in nearby Santiago.

Day 9: Drive to Cabo San Lucas, Optional Activities

Spend time at the beach in Cabo
Bid Santiago farewell and drive 1.5 hours down to the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula and Cabo San Lucas, the premier resort and party city in the region. After checking in to your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to relax on golden beaches like Playa El Medano, dine and dance in raucous cantinas, and enjoy fun seaside activities. There are plenty to choose from, including jetskiing, parasailing, banana boating, waterskiing, beach volleyball, or simply lying out on the sand. For dinner, make a beeline to one of Cabo's world-renowned seafood restaurants.

Day 10: Kayak/Paddleboard to El Arco

Paddle out to El Arco, in Cabo San Lucas
Easily the most iconic landmark in all of Cabo is El Arco (The Arch). This arched granite rock formation is a gathering spot for sea lions, and it draws tourists from all over the world on boat tours. You'll be experiencing this natural wonder a little differently today, as rather than take a boat, you'll paddle around it on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. During this leisurely 2.5-hour excursion, you can paddle at your own pace, with enough time to truly enjoy the scenery. Afterward, you can return to your hotel or continue the aquatic adventure with a snorkeling tour around the nearby Pelican Rock.

Day 11: Drive to Todos Santos, Optional Activities

The colorful streets of Todos Santos

In the morning, drive an hour north to Todos Santos. This coastal town was founded as a mission in the 18th century and still retains much of its colonial charm. Besides being a relaxing holiday destination, it's also a haven for artists, and there are many galleries here worth visiting.

Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and can spend the remainder of the day however your wish. There are great stretches of sand in and around Todos Santos, including Playa Los Cerritos a fine beach for both surfing and swimming. Be sure to take a leisurely stroll down the town's cobbled streets and visit some museums, boutiques, and galleries to pick up a souvenir. 

Day 12: Drive to La Paz, Depart

Sunset off the coast of La Paz
Leave Todos Santos early for the one-hour drive north to La Paz. At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the airport, drop off your rental car, and catch your flight home. Adiós!

More Great Mexico Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Mexico? Check out these other Mexico itineraries, explore different ways to spend 12 days in Mexico, or discover how many days to spend in Mexico.


Map of Self-Drive Adventure in Baja California Sur- 12 Days
Map of Self-Drive Adventure in Baja California Sur- 12 Days