Baja Bound? Let me start by saying this: new beginnings thrill me…that feeling of anything is possible. That uncontrollable drive to get rid of the old so we can make room for the new. We are on the cusp of a historical shift and wonderfully, I am already witnessing the dawning of a new era up and down the Baja peninsula. Baja, it seems, is the land of choice for fresh starts for those looking to escape the relentless techno-grind and get back to the basics of a quality life: cheap living, good food, family values, and raw, unspoiled nature at its best.
In all my years of travelling south of the border, I have never witnessed more northerners making the move down full time. People I have known for eons that usually spend 6 months out of the year have now moved permanently – and set up shop in little villages up and down the coast. I’ve seen it all this past year. From young couples creating bohemian glamping spots in Pescadero to seasoned old-timers starting new backroads touring businesses in Los Barriles. Then there are the city dwellers selling everything and opening seaside restaurants in Loreto, and the wind chasers building gorgeous Zen-like yoga retreats in dusty La Ventana. I love every bit of it because with their gutsy moves come big change. And, change is something Baja thrives on. First timers looking to get in on the action.
Just when I’d convinced myself that I’d tried it all, it turns out, I’m nowhere close. Here are a couple of fantastic first time tries from my last trip.
Bahaus – Los Barriles
After days of tacos and margaritas at every meal, stumbling upon this tiny smoothie and juice shack on the way into Los Barriles is just what the doc ordered. When I first spied the palapa covered building from my truck, I knew it would go gangbusters. Why? Because of its simple beachy organic nature for starters (think: flowing curtains, open air seating, flowing plants and herbs, white sand floors). Couple that with the fact that the spirited owner has conjured up zippy microgreen juices and super thick watermelon and papaya smoothies in mason jars for unsuspecting road weary travelers and gnarly, kite surfing locals. Drinks that are so refreshing you really do feel like you could get uber healthy in Mexico. First time I’ve ever uttered those words. As a massive bonus, Chef Rolo (a transplant from the US) also does healthy catering in your home. You know, for those times when you just can’t handle another taco and need something deliciously green flowing through your veins. Mustard greens, papaya salad or vegan ice cream anyone?
Order this: The Dragon Rojo – a beautiful fresh beet, ginger, coconut water, celery, carrot, jamaica number that will give you energy for days. The brilliant color alone is a revelation.
And, check out this: Chakra, a new soothing-for-the-soul gift shop steps from the beach that sells yoga essentials and highly curated gifts that match the Baja vibe along with a big dose of healthy intentions. This is a very important addition to Los Barriles, a town known mostly for bare feet, not on a yoga mat, but gunning it on annoyingly loud ATV’s.
Taquería La Molontzín – Loreto
As you are swooping down the main road into town on the way to the plaza, if you happen to glance left you will see a brightly painted white brick building with one very important word on it – Taquería. Make a U-turn immediately. The sell is that they dole out a litany of different seafood tacos, not just the typical marinated meat combos you usually find roadside. This fact alone prompted me to stop in for a late lunch before continuing south to La Paz. I was the first person in the door, but they already had set up the bar of requisite accoutrements that adorn the best of Baja fish tacos. A variety of slivered cabbage slaws dotted with cilantro, bowls of fresh lime wedges, bright red chopped tomatoes and slivers of crispy cucumbers, crema, spicy salsas and of course, the deal sealer, a mess of charred and blistered jalapenos. All you really need to do is tell them if you want fish or shrimp and within a moment or two, a platter of perfectly seasoned and battered tacos arrives, ready for you to sauce up to the nines. It’s the $2 Baja taco of your dreams and it’s so good to know you barely have to hop off Highway 1 to grab a sack full. They do have meat tacos as well, but I have never seen anyone order them. Just seafood, fresh fried and served with a cold orange Fanta splayed out on each table…as far as the eye can see.
Order this: Now, it might seem loco, but I tried both flour and corn tortilla versions over various trips and the homemade flour tortilla won out each time. I think it was the denseness that held up to all that sauce I smothered the fresh fish with that made it the winner.
Also, check out this: imagine my delight when I ran across a new outpost of Agnes Boutique right on the town square. They decided to open another branch outside of Loreto Bay late last year and now I can get the best massages in Loreto in two locations. Plus, I can pick up some local Mexican sourced gifts at the same time!
About the author: When she’s not sailing her pirate style sailboat or working on her Indonesian based NGO, LA based TV producer Misty Tosh spends all her free time traipsing the backroads of Mexico (Baja in particular) on the hunt for the next great culinary find. Follow her travels at bigsweettooth.com.