Baja California Sur

Baja California Sur, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Baja California Sur, is one of the thirty-one states that together with Mexico City make up Mexico. Its capital and most populated city is La Paz. It is divided into five municipalities.

It is located in the southern part of the Baja California peninsula in the northwest region of the country, bordering Baja California to the north, the Gulf of California to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the south and west. With 73,909 km², it represents 3.8% of the national territory, being the ninth largest federal entity in the country behind Chihuahua, Sonora, Coahuila, Durango, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas, Jalisco and Zacatecas.

Its census population in 2020 was 798,447 inhabitants, which represents 0.6% of the total population, being the second least populated entity behind Colima and the first least densely populated; This population is distributed as 91% urban and 9% rural. Due to its low population, it only contributes 0.9% to the national GDP, being the fourth entity that contributes the least behind Tlaxcala, Colima and Nayarit; Its main economic activity is commerce. In 2019, it obtained a Human Development Index of 0.804—considered very high—being one of the six entities with an HDI at that level and the fourth entity with the highest HDI behind Mexico City, Baja California and Nuevo León.

As a subnational entity, once the Mexican federation was formed in 1824, it was established as part of the territory of Baja California. Said territory was divided in 1930 and acquired its current area as the Southern territory of Baja California. It was not until October 8, 1974 when it was promoted to a free and sovereign state—along with Quintana Roo—being the thirty-first state in order of union and, consequently, the youngest in the country.

Three of the thirty-five World Heritage Sites of Mexico are located within its territory. One cultural: the rock paintings of the San Francisco mountain range and two natural ones: the El Vizcaíno Whale Sanctuary and the Islands and protected areas of the Gulf of California, sharing the latter with Baja California, Sonora, Sinaloa and Nayarit.



1 La Paz — Capital of the state and city made famous by John Steinbeck's novel, The Pearl, a story about paradise lost, the city still retains some glimpses of ancient magic
2 Cabo San Lucas — A bustling resort town and hub for sport fishermen, cruise ships, craft vendors, water sports fans and nightlife lovers.
3 Guerrero Negro — Best known for whale watching and salt production.
4 Loreto — A tourist town considered one of the best places for fishing
5 Los Barriles — A traditional Baja California town that has not yet been overrun by resorts.
6 Mulegé —Popular for deep sea fishing, kayaking, cave visits and bird watching
7 San Ignacio — It has a beautiful old mission, and is the gateway to the winter sanctuary of the Pacific gray whale
8 San José del Cabo — A major tourist destination that is less commercial than Cabo San Lucas and has preserved its charming historic center.
9 Santa Rosalía — More of a mining town than a tourist destination, it has a church designed by Gustav Eiffel
10 Todos Santos — Famous for the Hotel California, it is small and quaint, with many artists and galleries; South of Todos Santos is one of the best surf destinations in Baja California, Playa Cerritos.


Other destinations

1 San Javier — A charming little town in the mountains behind Loreto. Most visitors to Baja California stick to the coast and miss many of the charming, rustic towns inland. There is an impressive church, some places to eat and drink and a basic hotel. You can reach San Javier by car, but it is best to rent a horse or mule for the journey from Loreto.
2 Cabo Pulmo National Park — Home to the oldest of the three coral reefs on the west coast of North America
3 Bahia de Loreto National Park - Marine mammal sanctuary with magnificent diving and kayaking activities.
4 Cave paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco - UNESCO World Heritage
5 El Vizcaíno Whale Sanctuary - UNESCO World Heritage


Getting here

by plane
The largest airport is Los Cabos International Airport (IATA: SJD) near Cabo San Lucas, which, in addition to intra-Mexican flight connections, also offers flights to and from Canada and the USA.

Another airport is located near the capital La Paz Manuel Márquez de León International Airport (IATA: LAP) - La Paz International - which, despite the name, has domestic flights to Mexico.

by bus
There are bus services from Tijuana and other places in the north of the peninsula.

by car
The only way to arrive by road is via the C1 Carretera Federal 1, which from Tijuana covers over 1,700 kilometers across the entire peninsula and reaches Baja California Sur at Guerrero Negro. The route is one of the greatest panoramic roads in the world.

by boat
From central Mexico it is advisable to travel by ferry to shorten the 2000 km detour around the Gulf of California. Baja Ferries operate car ferries from Topolobambo and Mazatlan to La Paz.

Cabo San Lucas is frequently visited by cruise ships.


Local transport

Public transportation in Baja California Sur is minimal and relatively complicated to use (for example, Google Maps does not have routes and schedules). Renting a car or using a car service is relatively convenient.

Rental cars
To rent a car, make a reservation (ideally prepaid) before you arrive. Once you have collected your bags, leave the airport building completely - without speaking to the terminal salespeople, who will swear that they can call the car rental agency for you, but who are actually trying to sell you tour packages - and cross the street to the first median where the taxis are lined up. There you will see several people wearing t-shirts from car rental agencies (Hertz, Avis, etc.). These representatives will have your name on a clipboard and will be able to take you to the car rental agency quickly and free of charge. Once at the car rental agency building (there is a different building for each company, but they are all on the same street), you will have to go through a long billing process and they will ask you to pay in advance for the insurance, gasoline, excursions, etc. You can decline everything except liability insurance, which is mandatory in Mexico. Since it's required, it may be worth booking a car that includes it rather than adding it after you're already locked into that rental company. Although the company will try to sell you other insurance, your credit card (for example, premium cards for US customers) may already include a collision damage waiver or other insurance packages at no cost.

There are some tolls you can cross in Baja California Sur. Google Maps will warn you about them and they can be avoided by selecting the "avoid tolls" option in the navigation settings. Make sure you bring some cash (e.g. 100 MXN) to pay the toll.

Car services
Uber is widely available in Cabo San Lucas and at the airport. For other destinations, it may be preferable to get a transfer from the airport to your resort or hotel. Book it in advance of your arrival and bring cash for tips. In Mexico, US dollars are accepted for tips.



Some of the main attractions of this state are the beaches, whale watching, observations of dolphins, sea lions and other marine species.

The rock paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco are rock paintings and petroglyphs that form a set of pre-Columbian murals representative of the "Great Mural" style that flourished in the center of the Baja California peninsula. The cave paintings have been a World Heritage Site since 1993. The paintings are found in different parts of the Sierra de San Francisco, within the El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve.



Whale watching is a very popular activity. The waters of Baja California are home to several species of large whales, including blue, fin, Bryde's, humpback, orca, sperm, and many others. It is perhaps the richest area in the world in whale and dolphin diversity.
Diving and scuba diving are excellent due to the fantastic diversity of marine life. The convergence of tropical influences from the South and temperate conditions from the North brings together an astonishing variety of species. There are local dive shops and charters available.
Kayak tours around the wild islands of Loreto National Marine Park include whale watching and snorkeling.
Surfing can be done on many of the beaches on the Pacific coast, with the right infrastructure such as surf schools and equipment rentals.
This region has long been considered one of the best places for fishing. Marlin, sailfish, tuna, yellowfin, wahoo, roosterfish and dorado are abundant in the blue waters surrounding the peninsula.
The Cabo San Lucas Flora and Fauna Protection Area is a protected area that is part of the UNESCO Natural Heritage and belongs to the group of islands and protected natural areas of the Gulf of California. The Arch of Cabo San Lucas and Cerro El Vigía are located in this protected area.
The Loreto Bay National Park is a protected natural area located in Loreto Bay south of the city of Loreto where you can see dolphins, sea lions and manta rays.
Cabo Pulmo National Park is an ideal place for diving, sport fishing, boating, rowing and kayaking. It is 63 km west of San José del Cabo.
The El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve and the Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio lagoons, on the Pacific coast, in the north of the state, are a refuge for whales. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.


Place names

The name California already existed before the discovery of America or the first exploration of European lands as the name of a fictitious and paradisiacal country. The relation of such appellation to the similar "Califerne", name of a non-Christian queen of the Song of Roland, whose etymology is different (from the French "calife"), is doubtful. In the chivalric novel Las sergas de Esplandián, published in 1510 in Seville (Spain), the name as we know it today is cited for the first time, perhaps coming from "Cálida fornax" or 'hot oven' plus the suffix of country -ia.

"Know that on the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California very close to one side of the Earthly paradise; and it was populated by black women, without a man existing there, because they lived in the manner of the Amazons. They were beautiful and robust bodies, fiery courage and great strength. Their island was the strongest in the entire world, with its steep cliffs and its stony coasts. Their weapons were all of gold and of the same metal magical ponies were the harnesses of the wild beasts that They used to tame them to ride them, because in the entire island there was no other metal than gold."

However, according to Fernando Jordán in his book "The Other Mexico"​ he says:

Christopher Columbus, who upon discovering the continent [...] Since then, that unknown and unapproachable island of the Amazons would be called California. The name, moreover, was not new; Montalvo found it and took it when reading The Song of Roland. "My nephew is dead who conquered so many lands, and now the Saxons rebelled against me, and the Hungarians, and the Bulgarians and many others, the Romans, those of Pulla and those of Palermo and those of Africa and those of California."



In a remote antiquity calculated at fourteen thousand years, the first nomadic human groups, with a subsistence economy, arrived to the peninsula along the route along the coasts of the Pacific Ocean. There were three perfectly defined tribal groups in pre-Hispanic times: the Pericúes, Guaycuras and Cochimíes. The Pericúes inhabited the southern part of the peninsula and extended northward, from Cabo San Lucas to the middle part of the peninsula, the Guaycuras inhabited the middle part and the Cochimíes in the extreme north.

Parallel to the Cochimíes, the existence of other nomadic groups is noted, such as: Kumiai (K'miai), one of the indigenous families that together with the Cucapá, Pai Pai, Kiliwa, Cahilla and Akula populated the north of the Baja California peninsula. , all belonging to the Yuman trunk.

Baja California Sur (or Sudcalifornia) was formerly inhabited by three main groups: to the south the Pericúes, to the center the Guaycuras and to the north the Cochimíes. Some members of this last group still live in towns in the neighboring state of Baja California. It is believed that the first immigrations from the north occurred more than ten thousand years ago. The first "Californians" lived by hunting, fishing and gathering in a difficult natural environment. The aborigines found by the first European expeditionaries were unaware of both their origin and the authors of the cave paintings and petroglyphs, of which this federal entity has the largest number of sites in the Republic, located throughout the entire state territory. Little is also known about their languages, of which only a few words and phrases are preserved.


The first contacts

Hernán Cortés sent five maritime expeditions to the northwest of New Spain in search of a passage that was supposed to connect the Pacific with the Atlantic, thus increasing Spain's power on this entire side of the world. The first three failed; In the fourth, a mutiny occurred whose rebels, in their flight north, reached what is now La Paz. If at first they were well received by the natives, in the end several of them were expelled and killed when they tried to commit some abuses. The fifth expedition was commanded by Cortés himself; who arrived at the place where the mutineers had been, imposing the name of Santa Cruz, on May 3, 1535. A colony was founded there in which the conqueror and his people remained for almost two years. The difficulties in obtaining food and the rejection of the indigenous people convinced them to abandon the company.

From then on, the southern part of the peninsula began to be called California. This word previously existed in a novel of the time, called Las sergas de Esplandián (by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo), which mentions an island with this name, located precisely to the right of the American continent, governed by Queen Calafia, populated only by women and where everything was gold. Perhaps some thought that Cortés had actually arrived in that California, or began to give him that designation.

For this reason, it was believed for a long time that the known part of the peninsula was the main one of the California Islands. European voyages to California were many, but most of them failed. At the end of the 16th century, the explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno recognized the place where Cortés had been and renamed it La Paz. The main attraction of California was its pearls.

Interest in the lands west and northwest of New Spain was concentrated in the East Indies and only by accident was this interest diverted to California. The failure of the expeditions of Álvaro Saavedra Cerón and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza in the Moluccas did not diminish the plans of Don Hernán Cortés to enlarge his domains; and in October 1533 he had already prepared a new maritime expedition in Tehuantepec, the San Lázaro under the command of Hernando de Grijalva and the Concepción under the command of Diego de Becerra. During the first night of the trip the ships were separated and the San Lázaro was forced towards the west of the Revillagigedo Islands while the Concepción continued its route northwest along the Mexican coast. Fearing that they would be lost, the crew of the Concepción mutinied under the command of the pilot Fortún Ximénez, and Becerra, murdered, continued the trip without authorization. Forced by storms, the Concepción approached the Baja California peninsula and reached the vicinity of Santa Cruz Bay (La Paz) where Ximénez and his crew tried to establish a small colony. However, this did not last long due to an attack by the Indians that cost the lives of several colonizers, including Ximénez, and caused the return of the survivors aboard the Concepción to the coast of Jalisco where they were imprisoned by Nuño de Guzman.

The crew of the Concepción were therefore the discoverers and first colonizers of California. Upon his return, his reports of a new land and great riches of pearls were received by Hernán Cortés, who began the preparation of a new company to recover his ship from Guzmán and continue the explorations of California. In April 1535, the expedition, composed of the ships San Lázaro, Santo Tomás and Santa Águeda, left New Spain and, heading northwest, arrived at the Bay of Santa Cruz on May 3.

Cortés took possession of the land and established a royal estate in order to form a permanent colony. However, Cortés found himself in legal conflicts in New Spain and was ordered to return to the capital by the Viceroy, Don Antonio de Mendoza, in 1537. Under the command of Francisco de Ulloa the colony continued, but the loss of Cortés's direct support caused certain restlessness among the colonizers, restlessness that was increased by the lack of shipments of provisions from New Spain. Ulloa, confronted by these growing problems, found himself so needy that in 1539 he completely abandoned Santa Cruz Bay and with the last settlers returned to New Spain.

For the second half of the 17th century, from what is now the Nayarit port of Matanchén, missionaries undertook the evangelization of what is now Baja California. In this way, Juan María Salvatierra and his companions undertook extensive work that, from the coasts of New Galicia, motivated the founding of more and more northern missions within the peninsula. On February 13, 1768, after the expulsion of the Jesuits, now from the Nayarit port of San Blas, missionaries like Fray Junípero Serra and rulers like Fernando de Rivera y Moncada resumed the evangelization and settlement of the area, finally extending to the Alta California.


Distinguished characters

Manuel Márquez de León (1822-1890): He participated with heroism in the war of 1847, Governor of Sinaloa and Durango.

Rosaura Zapata Cano (1876-1963): Teacher, creator of kindergartens in the country.

Agustín Olachea Avilés (1890-1974): Military. He was born in Todos Santos, B.C.S.; He participated in the Mexican Revolution, Governor of Baja California (North) and twice Governor of Baja California Sur; National President of the Institutional Revolutionary Party and Secretary of National Defense. Promoter of the economic development of Baja California Sur, mainly in the agricultural aspect, at his initiative the Valleys of Los Planes and Santo Domingo were opened to cultivation.

Rafael M. Pedrajo (1896-1982) Participated in the Mexican Revolution, Secretary of the Presidency 1934-1935, Governor of Baja California Sur, supported fishing, agriculture, but his main achievement as governor was the creation of jobs by tourist promotion of the natural attractions of the state that are currently known by designations or appointments, such as visits to the island of Espiritu Santo, the Espírito Santo archipelago, Playa Balandra, the Serpentarium of La Paz, Todos Santos, Los Cabos, the Finisterra Arch, Coronado Island, the bays of Magdalena, de los Sueños, the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon, among others; In addition, he instructed the locals to carry the values of their native culture, being kind to visitors, taking care of the environment and helping those in need. During his administration there was peace and order in the region.



It limits to the north with the state of Baja California located above parallel 28ºN, to the east with the Sea of Cortez and to the south and west with the Pacific Ocean. Its capital is the city of La Paz. It extends over an area of 73,475 km², and occupies 3.8% of the national territory.

To the north are the coastal lagoons of San Ignacio and Ojo de Liebre, which are breeding sites for the gray whale and are protected by the federal government. In the same area is the El Vizcaíno desert, a world biosphere reserve. It also has some islands in the Pacific Ocean (Natividad, Magdalena and Santa Margarita) and others in the Sea of Cortez: San Marcos, Coronados, Carmen, Monserrat, Santa Catalina, Santa Cruz, San Diego, San José, San Francisco, Partida, Holy Spirit and Cerralvo. Its main elevations are the Sierra La Laguna, the Las Tres Vírgenes Volcano and Cerro Salsitrabajos.




According to the figures revealed by the Population and Housing Census carried out by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) in 2020, the state of Baja California Sur had a total of 798,447 inhabitants until that year. Of them, 405,879 were men and 392,568 were women. The annual growth rate for the entity during the period 2005-2010 was 4.5%.



The state of Baja California Sur has a long history within Catholicism, in this territory the evangelization campaigns of the Californias began, below are the percentages of religious affiliation in the state:
Catholic Christians: 81.3%
Other Christians: 9.8%
Other religions: 0.1%
Atheists, agnostics and non-religious: 6.3%
Unspecified: 2.5%




The state of Baja California Sur has one of the most important tourist destinations in the country, the beaches and eco-tourism are the main sources of income for the area, but important plantations and greenhouses are also developed that produce tomatoes, mangoes, eggplant, pumpkin, corn, chili, bell pepper and melon.



Fishing is another of the state's main economic activities, being one of the main suppliers to the United States, Japan, Canada, Iceland, among others. Salt extraction and mining are economic activities that have always been developed from colonial times to the present.



In 2019, the copper mines of Baja California Sur produced 17,084 tons, making it the fifth national producer of this metal. Zinc, stone aggregates, clays and gravel are also extracted in its territory, and it was the first national producer in the same year of sand, phosphorite, salt and gypsum.



The state has important secondary and higher education centers, the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur is the most important educational institution in the state. There are also research centers from other universities in the country and abroad. As well as, it has teacher training institutions such as the Benemérita Escuela Normal Urbana (BENU), the Escuela Normal Superior and the Regional Center for Normal Education "Marcelo Rubio Ruiz".



The state has an extensive road network, some sections are two-lane, such as the Pichilingue-La Paz or the San José del Cabo-Cabo San Lucas, as well as the free highway from La Paz to Cabo San Lucas. There are six airports that operate regularly, of which three are international and 3 are domestic. The busiest airport is the Los Cabos International Airport with operations to the most important cities in Mexico and the United States.