[Mexico] Baja Calif. Sur: Seafood, Tacos & Whales

After 3 flights, 16 hours in the air and more than 24 hours without sleep I finally reached my destination: Baja Sur.

I really did want to go to New Zealand but after having done my researched I was underwhelmed. Then I thought maybe Australia which was “plan B”. In the end I decided to drop OZ. My heart is no longer there. Used to be the country of my childhood dreams. But one day I’ll go there to make peace with my 10 year old self. I know everyone “loves” NZ and OZ but I have absolutely no regrets choosing Mexico.

Hello and goodbye! I had a connecting flight 2 hours later.


.

Final flight. Everyone has window seat on this plane. There were 7 people on this flight.

Old-fashioned controls. Plane is bigger than 1 engine little ones you tandem jump out of. Still, every little move and turbulence is felt in your stomach.

When zoomed in you’ll see so many cactuses!

Greenhouses… so many of them! So much land has been cleared for these it’s terrible. What you see in this photo is just a fraction of the greenhouses.

Starting to cross over to Baja Sur.

“Airport” is a shabby little shed in the middle of nowhere.

Only when I was in front of it I realised it’s actually a military air base. Everyone had to open their bags for inspection. Names were recorded, too. No civilian works here, only military personnel. A new experience for us. On the way to the hotel it became clear this area is full of military installations and the presence of the personnel is hard to ignore.

First meal and first tacos. We have zero exposure to real Mexican food and this is one of the reasons we have come here.

Prawn and fish tacos from a roadside truck.


.

.

.

We ate 8

Internet is very slow and spotty here but I’ll try to post whenever possible.

10 Likes

This is why I’m here in Baja Sur. My number one animal, the most epic one. Whale.

Scallops are one of the biggest local products in Baja Sur. So many scallop shells everywhere. There are many creative uses for them and these are a few examples.


.

Plant borders are the most commonly seen


.

Blue painted shells under the whale skeleton

Some photos from whale watching yesterday.

Hello darling. A little submarine appeared next to my boat.

Lifted her head to acknowlege us

A whale surfacing between my boat and another

It’s going to be 3 weeks of this! Photographing whales is extremely difficult. You never know when they’ll surface or their next move. It’s an extraordinary privilege for me to see my favourite animal in their natural environment!

9 Likes

Finally, the photos load. Maybe because it’s Sunday and not many people using the wifi.

Lunch after coming back from whale watching. Right after ordering server usually brings some tortilla chips and salsa, plus several types of chilli sauces and even a real hot chilli paste. Now 4 days into the holiday I ask if they have fresh jalapeños or habañeros because only those are hot enough. Stuff in the bottles is worthless. Servers gasp “you can eat those?!”. Always being underestimated. Story of my life.

Have had this twice now, one of my tour guides says it’s commonly served in a big goblet like this one. Marinated bay scallops. Different from ceviche, which is “cooked” in lime juice. In the case of “coctel” the seafood is already blanched then marinated in lime juice and salsa components. “Coctel” is more sour than ceviche.

What the scallop “coctel” looks like without the marinade

Big bowl of fish soup. It was a bit cold on the whale watching boat.

Fish with octopus. (Octopus was moved aside to show the fish)

I like flans and wanted to try it here. Partner ended up eating it for both. Too sweet, not soft and not drenched in caramel. But maybe that’s how they like it in this town.

Bonus photo: osprey seen from my table. It has a big itch or wants to get something out of the feathers. There are many gliding ospreys at the moment. It’s mating season.

The seafood serving places are all closed at 6pm. We didn’t know that and didn’t want to walk far from the lodging in the dark. We tried but didn’t want to eat at a tourist restaurant at the end of the main road. We went back and ordered something at a small joint next to the hotel. Tortas “Cubana” and “special”. I could only manage half.


.

But ate all their pickled jalapeños

9 Likes

The partner sat behind me on the boat took this photo. How close the whale is to the boat (my hand and arm for scale).

An enormous head

Only a short distance from the boat

What an incredible moment when we didn’t expect it! Mother and calf were gliding silently right next to the boat on my side! Everyone gasped in awe. This photo shows the mother’s enormous tail.

A clearer photo of the calf next to its mother taken only moments after the one above.

They were about to dive.

Went directly to this seafood taco stall after whale watching. Gobernador wasn’t available. I looked up “gobernador tacos” later and it’s chopped prawns with cheese in tacos.

Big scallop(s)


.

.

Everything was good! At least to us novice taco eaters.

10 Likes

Nice reports @Presunto. It’s been a while but I’ve driven the length of Baja a few times and spent quite a bit of time in the Todos Santos area. You’re making me jealous! Baja is the gold standard for seafood tacos for sure.

5 Likes

Thanks, Brisket44! I like the scallops here. No nasty chemical taste.


On Sunday I took a break from whale watching to see giant ancient cactus in the middle of Baja (Sur). Photo taken from the plane the day I arrived:

It’s quite amazing being in this cactus forest on ground level. The cactuses are absolutely massive.

Many endemic plants of Baja (Sur) in this one photo


.

The cave with paintings from a handful of thousand years ago.


.

Views from the cave. My tourist guide’s vehicle is parked somewhere down there.

Spotted it…

The excursion lasted 6 hours. By the time we got back to town it was time to eat.

Campechana (octopus, clams, scallops)


.

Fresh local red lobster (currently in season)

Mixed plate (lobster, scallops, prawns, fish). The lobster is smaller and the whole plate costs only 2/3 but you get to try other seafood.

It’s a very nice seafood palapa restaurant. Palapa is palm leaf thatched roof which gives you an instant holiday feeling. We were there between lunch and dinner and had the place to ourselves. It’s still early in the whale watching season. In high season (in about 2 weeks time) the whole town is heaving with tourists and restaurants are full.

PS: the whale “god” smiled on me toroday. Playful, curious whales approached our boat and hung around for a long time. Everyone got to touch them and I did it 3 times. Have been smiling non stop since this morning my cheeks hurt :heart_eyes: (photos to come)

12 Likes

I’m so happy that you chose the Baja to visit. I traveled quite a bit in Mexico and Baja is still our favorite in fact we have a place in Los borrillo’s. When we have the time one of my favorite things to do is drive from California down to the house and back. That seems to confuse some people and they don’t understand why I would want to drive all the way down and back in Baja but they have no idea what they’re missing. The giant scallop tacos you ate are from a scallop called the trumpet scallop which is a long v-shaped translucent shell with razor sharp edge’s at the opening and usually buried all the way in the sand just the tip of the shell sticking out and I have cut myself stepping on them in the past. there are so many places and things I could tell you a lot about my 40 years of going down there, it’s a magical strip of land and sea! Mulege, the seamounts off of la Paz and so many many other things.

6 Likes


The food has gotten a lot better over the years!

9 Likes

Glorious photos, @Presunto

Thank you for posting them!

2 Likes

Redjim, Presunto’s photos are about as professional as they get and always a joy to look at!
Thank you so much Presunto.

4 Likes

Thank you, everyone!

Foodhunter: so many Americans (and to a lesser extend, Canadians) we have encountered also do it. They have been driving down here and back for years and years. Not only that, they also love Baja seafood. It’s much closer and cheaper for North Americans who drive own cars in the most cases. A vast majority of other tourists have arranged car rental in advance. We use public bus.

It was already obvious in the waiting room whilst waiting for the flight from Hermosillo to Gueurrero Negro. Everyone looked at us, multiple times, two independent backpackers. This route is not too common as most packaged tourists (specifically whale watching) come via US or Canadian airports in high season. I said to my tour op and guide I had a feeling we stood out like a siren in the night here and she confirmed it “oh yes, very”. And apparently we are doing it the “uncomfortable and hard way”.

And speaking of Baja food, it’s been 8 days now and I have not had any physical problem. I’ve been eating from street stalls, trucks, restaurants both super cheap and expensive. Hygiene and cleanliness at some places are definitely questionable. I am able to turn off my clean-freak and control-freak modes when on holiday. Otherwise I would be so miserable (I know some people who can’t turn it off).

Like you and many others who have been here and keep returning I’m already thinking about future whale watching trips. My tour op and guides say most of their clients return every year. I guess that’ll be us also.

4 Likes

On this day (I’m 2 days behind on photos) the whale tour got called off due to windy conditions. We had a planned excursion in the afternoon to the salt works, the largest in the world. The guide had to obtain a permit for us a day in advance. I always enjoy learning about how things work and looked forward to this excursion.

For more info do check out this Mexican site.

How salt used to be extracted and transported. It was a lot more work and low efficiency to keep them in huge chunks.

The whole area is vast and each pool is tested manually every day for all kinds of things. Salt is produced naturally, with almost zero waste. Even the residual bits that are left over from after the salt has been washed get turned into low sodium salt.

When the surface is hardened tractors with a scraping attachment remove the top layer of salt.

They leave lines behind like this

Then this vehicle sucks up the salt and dumps it in this massive container truck.

The salt is being transported to the washer. My guide’s parked car for scale. In reality the car is tiny next to the salt truck. Mexican engineers designed all the equipments, everything and they were all made in Mexico.

The washing facilities are the bridge in the distance on left of the photo. After the salt has been washed it gets dumped on this salt mountain. My guide and his car for scale.

The other side of the salt mountain. Tractors go up and down pushing the salt into a machine which fills the barges.

The barges take the salt to an island nearby for storage and also where international ships transport the salt to countries around the world. It takes a tug boat 24 hours to bring a barge to the island. There’s an agreement with countries that purchase the salt: they bring fresh water to the island. The island has no fresh water source. Although this is not to exchange for the salt.

One last photo: at some point the pool turns pink and the shade of pink keeps getting darker. This is a natural process. The bacteria give it this colour. The operation at this salt works goes around the clock and every single day. There are 3 different shifts to keep this going. Salt is used in so many things and it’s most likely comes from here.

5 Likes

My whale tour was cancelled due to the wind so for the first time we went looking for breakfast. Not many places are open at 8 in the morning but we found a couple. The first one is simple and a bit dingy. Meat is in a rich stew, 2 corn tortillas which get soaked in no time. What is this type of taco called? I call it wet tacos.

The second place is already full of locals and looks much nicer but they have the same wet tacos. One of my guides says this place is his favourite for this type of meat tacos.

Is there a graceful and elegant way to eat these wet tacos? We made a mess.

In the cup is the same meat and rich broth, extra corn tortillas on the side.

This kind of place is called “Birrieria”. When my guide showed me this birrieria the day before I thought it was a beer and taco kind of place. But he told me they didn’t serve any beer here. I see beer on the logo.


.

Went back to the fish taco truck for lunch.

Usually tourists and locals park their vehicles in front and around the truck, then they stand in front of the trucking eating. Finally I could make some photos of the truck without cars and people blocking it.

2 of each kind

Partner already ate one

I like to alternate between corn and flour tortillas. Their chilli sauce is good.

Made sure I ate seafood dinner before 6. Fish places tend to close at 5 or even 4 in the afternoon.

Scallops rancheros-style

Tacos gobernador. I did it. I ate tacos 3 times a day.

The inside

I forgot this dinner from the other day. Fish and scallops are very common here in case you haven’t noticed.

11 Likes

Birria - it’s a style of stewed meat, typically goat but can also beef, it’s having a moment here in Northern California. You sip the consume between bites, or some people dip the taco into it. I can’t look at your fish taco photos anymore - it’s killing me, such a simple thing yet for some reason so hard to find them done properly.

4 Likes

Thank you! I watched the local eat and that’s how they did it. There are many “Birrierias” in this small town with only one main street.

The corn tortillas go soggy so fast.

1 Like

What a great look at Mexico!

Have you seen The Taco Chronicles on Netflix?

Do you know what they grow in all those greenhouses, or if the salt is worth seeking out?

1 Like

Yes, they also produce salt for consumption but not a lot. I haven’t tried eating it but I don’t think it’s the fancy kind. Residual of washed salt is turned into low sodium salt.

I don’t have Netflix but I’ll look up the documentary on YT when I’m on the stair machine in the gym. Thanks for reminding me. I remember reading about it on here.

1 Like

Brisket44 is right those are Birria style tacos. I believe that style is from the state of Jalisco correct me if I’m wrong. As far as getting sick from the food or water I haven’t had a problem in over 12 years the last time was in la Paz eating ceviche from a street cart.

The folks from Baja figure it out a while back that making the roads better and accommodations more comfortable that the turistas would come and spend their money.
there are several reasons to drive down other than just the beauty and great food along the way. The snowbirds or Canadians and Americans love to RV down in Baja. And if you own a home down there sometimes it’s easier to haul things down from the US than trying to find it on the peninsula.

When we drive down we go through the border at Tijuana in the early morning on the toll road and stop above Querreo Negro for our Visa. We spend our first night in San Quintin our second night might be at Querreo Negro or San Ignacio then Laredo and on down to Los barriles.

Presunto did you look into whale watching in the Bay of San Ignacio? My wife went whale watching there once and got to touch a humpback. By the way you are down there during the windy part of the year.

Enjoy your visit down there and all the good food and go back again because it’ll take you many trips just to get a grasp of the beautiful peninsula you’re on!

3 Likes

If anyone is on the sea of Cortez side below San Felipe there’s a small town called puertecitos an in the tide pools are hot springs you can’t get in on low tide but as the tide comes up dip your toe to the right temp comes along and enjoy. Google it there’s quite a few articles on the hot tide pools.

3 Likes

I’m in San Ignacio now. Just got here a couple of hours ago. Unfortunately, we are the only few staying the night. I see a few camper vans and N.American cars but they are only here to use the toilet and check out the Mission/old church then they are on their way again.

The whale tour op says there’s a chance our tour doesn’t go tomorrow due to strong winds (same situation in Guerrero Negro but wind blows a lot harder here). It’s almost impossible to walk around outside with eyes closed (sand everywhere). We will have our rucksacks packed and ready to hop on the bus to Loreto if they call off the whale tour. No whale tourists then no tours.

Btw, during the research stage I asked the interwebz about using public bus in Baja, most people shrieked with terror as if I would catch a disease or get robbed. Well, the public bus I took to San Ignacio today is very comfortable, lots of leg room, and safe. The Mexicans got on the bus, ate something then pulled their blankets over their heads and went to sleep. The bus is much nicer than in Chile. We could do without the sound from the TV screen though. They are already playing pirated movies on the bus. :smile:

Sounds great! We love hot springs everywhere.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter!

Press Room
“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold