Spearfishing in Baja

Whether you want to party on the beach at Cabo San Lucas, surf that perfect wave at Scorpion Bay or go spearfishing in the stunning azure waters near La Paz, mystical, untamed Baja will leave you breathless.

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Surfer Keith Malloy goes spearfishing in Baja as part of his film Grey Whale Sessions.  View clips from the film at Surfline.com.

ENSENADA

Ensenada has a quirky, cosmopolitan mix of shops, cafes and restaurants, best experienced by wandering down Avenida López Mateos (Calle 1a); if you prefer a bird's-eye view, climb or drive up to El Mirador, the town's highest point. The surrounds also boast some of Mexico’s best wines, available for tastings at the vineyards along Ruta del Vino, just north of the city.

Surfers flock here for the legendary breaks off nearby San Miguel and the Isla de Todos Santos, but Ensenada is especially known for fishing and whale-watching; try the well-regarded Sergio’s Sportfishing Center & Marina (www.sergiosfishing.com) for day trips or private charters.

The extravagant Riviera del Pacífico (Blvd Costero at Ave Riviera), originally a 1930s hotel and casino, now houses a small history museum and offers retrospective film screenings and art exhibitions.

Ensenada's eateries range from taco stands to fine dining; seafood lovers, in particular, will enjoy Casamar (Blvd Costero 987), an elegant restaurant with great views of the port. Hussong's Cantina (Ave Ruiz 113) is the oldest and perhaps liveliest cantina in Baja: it's been serving tequila since 1892.

The welcoming Hotel Bahía (www.hotelbahia.com.mx; Av López Mateos 850) offers margaritas, a nice pool and balconies with port views.

LA PAZ

A mix of old-world beauty and upscale trend, La Paz is surprisingly international - it's a favourite with expats - and the beachside esplanade, unique restaurants and funky stores make it a great place to meander.

It's also a great hub for almost any outdoor activity. Hiking in the desert, swimming, diving and snorkelling with whale sharks are all possible here; there's a host of beautiful beaches around, including Playa Balandra, an enclosed cove with shallow azure water that's great for snorkelling. Southeast of town in La Ventana, Palapas Ventana (114-01-98; www.palapasventana.com) offers spearfishing, diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing and even petroglyph hikes.

The Museo Regional de Antropología e Historia (cnr Calles 5 de Mayo & Altamirano) is a large, well-organized museum of Baja’s ancient and modern history. The Santuario de la Virgen de Guadalupe (cnr Calles 5 de Febrero & Aquiles Serdán), La Paz' largest religious monument, has an impressive 12m-tall altar.

La Paz' restaurant scene has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years. Set in a candlelit courtyard in a historic building is the standout La Boheme (125-60-80; Esquerro 10); it may sound simple, but the cream of asparagus soup is exquisite. The house bar also has a great ambience: it's a good place to unwind with a hand-muddled mojito.

Possibly the loveliest of La Paz' lodging options, El Ángel Azul (125-51-30; cnr Av Independencia & Prieto) offers elegantly appointed rooms and beautifully landscaped grounds in a historic building.

CABO SAN LUCAS

Its party-hearty reputation notwithstanding, Cabo San Lucas has a curious charm. The beaches are protected by beautiful Land’s End, and the surrounding region is filled with impressively majestic cardón cacti, caracara birds and mystical arroyos.

The activities here are endless: jet-skis, banana boats, parasailing, snorkeling, kite sailing, diving and horseback riding can all be done just by walking down to the beach. Cabo is also a popular staging ground for fishing tournaments in October and November; the main events are the Gold Cup, Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Jackpot and the Cabo Tuna Jackpot.

La Fonda (143-69-26; cnr Calles Hidalgo & 12 de Octubre) offers superb Mexican cuisine (try the corn-mushroom-stuffed chicken) and one of the best margaritas in Baja.

Cabo is a proud party town: alcoholic revelry is encouraged all day long (and all night, too). The Giggling Marlin (cnr Matamoros & Blvd Marina) is a wildly popular bar in the centre; for people-watching over a sunset margarita, try Billygan’s (Playa Medano).

The cute and cozy Hotel Wilkes (105-07-11; cnr Calles Cabo San Lucas & 5 de Mayo), close to the action, has white wrought-iron railings and rooms so spacious they feel empty.

This article was sponsored by Pacifico Beer