Between seedy Tijuana in the north and overdeveloped, overpriced Cabo in the south lies the real Baja, a place of amazing physical beauty, diverse wildlife, more authentic Mexican culture, and welcoming small towns. For female travelers, the area has two main draws: the chance to sea kayak among the marine animals and islands in the Sea of Cortez and to visit the Pacific coast around the town of Todos Santos, which is known for its artists and mind-body opportunities. On a trip to the region, you can satisfy your sense of adventure and renew your spiritual and physical health.
The town of Loreto is is the start point for most kayaking trips in the Sea of Cortez, a calm crystal blue inlet of sea where you can spot blue, fin, and humpback whales; as well as dolphins, sea lions, and rays. A number of companies run multi-day sea kayaking trips which allow you to paddle and explore the coast by day and camp out on wild beaches at night.
Seattle-based Adventure Associates runs an eight-day women-only kayak trip in March, along with co-ed trips (from April to October) that require no previous kayak touring experience. "With an emphasis on the natural and cultural wonders of the coast of the Sea of Cortez, we enjoy a variety of daily activities, not just paddling," says Sandra Braun, director of Adventure Associates. "We remain flexible in our itinerary to allow for spontaneous interaction with locals, exploring the islands on foot, searching for birdlife and enjoying starry nights and loads of laughter around the campfire. For example, [on one trip] we had a visit to our campsite from a local family who pulled out their tortilla-maker. We all enjoyed a shared meal on the beach with hot fresh tortillas."
Further south on the Pacific side of Baja, Todos Santos hosts a burgeoning community of artists and health-conscious expats. The town is small, but boasts a surprising variety of art galleries, yoga and health classes, and good restaurants. Its wave-pounded beaches are a bit rough for sea kayaking but great for surfing. Milagro Retreats offers all-inclusive yoga and wellness vacations near Todos Santos including a weeklong women's yoga and surf retreat in February. On the retreat, you can participate in twice-daily yoga classes, learn how to cook and eat organic meals, have a massage, and spend your free time surfing, exploring the town, or relaxing on the beach.
Women-only tour: The next Adventure Associates women-only kayak trip departs March 1 and costs $1,045 per person. Rates cover accommodations, most meals, ground transportation and airport transfers, kayaking equipment, and guides. Milagro's women's retreat is scheduled for February 14 to 21 and starts at $1,300 per person. Accommodations, all meals, yoga, cooking lessons, and ground transport are included. You'll save $100 if you pay in full by October 15.
Do-it-yourself: The recently opened Coco Cabanas is Loreto's top-rated hotel on SmarterTravel.com sister site TripAdvisor and starts at only $79 per night. It has eight cabanas with kitchens, dining areas, and covered porches. In Todos Santos, the upscale guesthouse Casa Bentley has six suites starting at $80 per night.