The Baja California Peninsula in the northeast of Mexico, is framed by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Gulf of California on the other. The northern regions border the United States.
It will take you about 25 mins to drive from San Diego to Baja California and ease of access is one of the main reasons US citizens love Baja. However, it is becoming popular with expats from other parts of the world, too.
In our guide to living in Baja California Sur we will talk about everything the region can offer to expats and why it could be your perfect home abroad.
Living in Baja California Sur
What is the difference between Baja California and Baja California Sur?
The peninsula is home to two federal states of Mexico: Baja California and Baja California Sur.
The northern part of the peninsula, Baja California, is known for its great beaches, bays and waves suitable for surfing.
Its capital, Mexicali, is located near the border with the state of California and boasts an interesting fusion of cultures and excellent culinary traditions.
The city of Tijuana is located just 30 kilometres from San Diego and is close to the Valle de Guadalupe where there are countless excellent vineyards and related wine cellars.
Weatherwise, northern Baja is very similar to Southern California. Winters are cooler in the north and with the cooler weather comes the rain. In winter, it often snows in the northern mountain ranges.
In the summer, though, those mountains become a retreat for people seeking relief from the summer heat.
Baja California Sur is on the southern end of the peninsula. This Mexican state boasts a vast and fascinating coastline, and inland you will find beautiful landscapes of majestic mountains and sunny deserts.
La Paz, the capital, boasts an energetic atmosphere, excellent seafood restaurants and a rich calendar of events.
In the winter months, you can watch whales in the spectacular lagoon of San Ignacio.
At the southern end of the peninsula is the town of Cabo San Lucas, a seaside resort that offers a typically American vibe and is very much loved by both permanent and snowbirding North American expats.
You will find that Baja California Sur is warmer than its northern neighbour. It is one of the warmest regions in Mexico where you can enjoy good weather and sun all year round.
Is Baja California Sur a Good place to live?
Baja California Sur is definitely a great place to live. It offers various opportunities for recreation and pleasure: pristine beaches. deep-sea fishing, snorkelling, and any other related to the sea.
In addition, the presence of mountains and canyons offers brilliant trekking experiences, mountain biking, excursions, rock climbing, paragliding and parasailing.
You will find the state’s main infrastructure in its two major cities, La Paz and Cabo San Lucas. There’s an international airport, health and hospital services (public and private), banking and financial services, as well as all services related to the construction, furnishing, sale and purchase of real estate.
La Paz boasts the presence of an internationally renowned university that specializes in marine biology.
The cities and villages of Baja California Sur all have different characters and atmospheres, making it easier for you to find just the right place to live.
Given its proximity to the United States and Canada, and the low cost of living, Baja California Sur is particularly suited as a “buen retiro” (a good retreat) for retirees from these two nations. It can also offer good opportunities to young people enterprising in the fields of tourism, real estate and related services.
The pros and cons of living in Baja California Sur
As in any other place on earth, there are advantages and disadvantages to living in Baja California Sur. Let’s start with the positives.
The pros of living in Baja California Sur
- Friendly and positive people, helpful and open to foreigners
- The sun, always present throughout the year
- The sea, crystal clear and beautiful
- Lots of great swimmable beaches
- Immense opportunities for a healthy active lifestyle
- Easy to get to from the USA and Canada
- Very hot summers, especially in La Paz
- The highest cost of living in all Mexico
- Shortage of jobs for foreigners
Is it safe to live in Baja California Sur?
Baja California Sur is a relatively safe state. Petty crime happens but is not over the top. Most expat residents will say that they feel quite safe going out at any time of the day or night to any place, but using common sense always helps.
Be aware of theft and pickpocketing, and take sensible precautions.
Its more negative reputation comes from drug-related crimes. The US government recommends “increased caution” to all visitors to the state. This is mainly because of the violent crimes that come with the drug war and rival gangs fighting for influence.
How expensive is it to live in Baja California Sur?
It depends on the standard of living that you want to maintain. Although the cost of living is quite high compared to the other federal states of Mexico, you can live with a good standard of comfort and still not spend too much. In any case, it’s less than in western countries such as the United States, Canada and Europe.
The cost of renting or buying property in Mexico depends very much on their location, but they are always below the usual American and European standards.
For example, you can rent a 3-bedroom apartment in the centre of Cabo San Lucas for around $1,250 – 1,500 a month. Add to this around $500 for groceries and $70 – 80 for utilities, and you will have a more or less exact number to help you plan your budget.
A good 3-bed furnished condo in La Paz can be rented for $1,500 and over.
On the whole, depending on the chosen location, a couple can live comfortably on $2500 a month.
Where is the best place to live in Baja California Sur?
Choosing the best place to live in Mexico can be challenging considering the country’s diversity and variation. And although you are limiting it to Baja California Sur, there are still a lot of options.
Here is a short overview of the 3 most popular expat locations in Baja California Sur to get you started on your research.
1. Los Cabos region
The area that makes up Los Cabos includes the two cities of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, and what is known as the Tourist Corridor that runs between the two.
Cabo San Lucas is a city of fun, buzz and various sports. Here you can find all types of food from fresh seafood to sizzling fajitas; leisure and night entertainments are abundant.
The marina is the core of the town, it’s where everyone hangs out, and tourists and residents entertain themselves with all kinds of tours from parasailing to booze cruises to whale watching.
San Jose del Cabo is the historic centre of the area. It is more laid back and relaxed.
The historic art district showcases cobblestone streets lined with galleries, small boutiques and courtyard restaurants. Its chilled out vibe attracts those longing for a quieter way of living.
2. Todos Santos
Todos Santos is a town 40-min drive from Cabo San Lucas. It’s an oasis of peace and tranquillity, thanks to the lush nature of its coast, although fragmented urbanisation is rapidly expanding within beautiful palm groves.
The town offers a low-key life by the beach in a charming small-town setting. It’s full of expats, mostly retirees from the USA and Canada.
Artists and other bohemians love Todos Santos, they are the reason the place is known for its art, crafts and unique galleries lining the streets of the town.
If you are after a more laid back lifestyle that retains all the necessary amenities, Todos Santos is the right place to be.
3. La Paz
La Paz is our absolute favourite. The place offers one of the highest standards of living in Mexico. It’s also a bit underrated especially compared to Cabo San Lucas. For this reason, we have devoted a whole section to La Paz.
Living in la Paz, Mexico
La Paz is a tranquil city that offers uncrowded beaches, all necessary services and complete infrastructure.
Life in La Paz is concentrated along the promenade – the Malecon.
It’s a 5 km long paved walkway along the coast with swimmable beaches and plenty of opportunities for water sports, eating out, and various entertainment and excursions. The city’s gorgeous waterfront is very often the primary reason expats choose to live in the area.
The main attractions of La Paz are its low cost of living, beautiful beaches, sailing, diving, stunning sunsets and all kinds of beachside activities.
It’s a great choice if you’re seeking an active healthy life without too many tourist crowds around (although you cannot escape those completely).
La Paz is quite a safe place to live. Of course, petty crime happens, so be careful when out and about, and beware of pickpocketing and bag-snatching.
In La Paz, you will find a great balance between the right amount of modernization and historic authenticity. Skyscrapers and high-rise buildings don’t dominate the skyline and the whole area is rich in history and heritage. There is national pride in tradition, and respect for ancestry and environment.
When it comes to essentials, you can find almost everything here and what you can’t find you can probably get online through Amazon, Mercado Libre or another online marketplace.
La Paz is particularly suitable for retirees looking for a quieter place with all the infrastructure necessary for daily life.
Just remember that it gets unbearably hot from July to mid-October. In this period, La Paz residents usually adjust their routine in an effort to avoid the hottest hours.
You will find that 9:00 PM to midnight becomes the busiest part of the day when people go biking, jogging or for a stroll along the Malecon. Late evenings are quite busy here and you’ll never feel alone and unsafe.
Tips and advice from local expats in La Paz
- If you want to cook and enjoy a good cut of beef we recommend the butcher shop “EL TECUAN” in La Paz, which receives fresh meat every Thursday directly from the state of Sonora (the best meat in Mexico).
- If you are looking for an unspoilt, enchanting and uncrowded beach, go to the “MUERTITO” which is a 20-minute drive east of La Paz.
- If you want to enjoy a good dinner on the patio of a historic building, reserve a table at the “SORSTIS” restaurant in La Paz where you can choose between meat and fish specialities with excellent service.
- Finally, a walk on the seafront (the Malecon) around 19:00 will allow you to enjoy the bright colours of the romantic sunset of La Paz.
Healthcare facilities in Baja California Sur
Baja California Sur has a good healthcare infrastructure. There are excellent private clinics with doctors and nurses trained abroad covering a wide spectrum of medical specialisations.
You will also find that private healthcare in Mexico is much cheaper than in the USA, for example. Expats say their doctor, dentist, and prescriptions are somewhere between 15-30% of what they were in the US.
There’s also an option to cross the border to use the facilities of the neighbouring United States in case of specialist interventions. Many expat retirees use international health insurance specifically so they are covered in both countries.
Compare your international insurance options
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Living in Baja California Sur – summary
If you are planning to move to Mexico and are looking for a perfect place to live, consider Baja California Sur. It is a location of choice for expats from all over the world, offering an excellent climate, good infrastructure and affordable cost of living.
Organize a holiday and pay it a visit, you will discover for yourself all the opportunities and qualities listed above.
Get in touch if you need help and support with moving to La Paz. We will personally introduce you to a relocation consultant, who organises full relocation packages for expats. This will take all the pressure off you and help you make your move to La Paz as smooth as possible.
Other popular locations in Mexico to consider:
- 9 Must-Knows For Living In Mazatlán, Mexico
- What It’s Like Living In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- The Realities Of Living In The Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
- What’s It Really Like Living In Puerto Escondido, Mexico
- Living In San Miguel De Allende As An Expat – What You Need To Know
You might find helpful:
- Living In Mexico As An Expat – a detailed relocation guide to Mexico: residency and paperwork, where to live, the costs, the pros and cons and how to settle down
- The Best Places To Live In Mexico For Expats – a detailed overview of the most popular expat locations in Mexico
- Didn’t find what you were looking for or need further advice? Comment with your question below and we will do our best to help.
Helpful external links:
- Bringing your car to Mexico: paperwork and online applications on the government site.
Thursday 10th of November 2022
Great article! Quick question: do you happen to know if ultra low sulfur diesel is readily available in Baja Sur?
Ola Degteva (Editor)
Thursday 10th of November 2022
Hi Matt, you can find ultra-low sulfur diesel at highway stations, maybe not everywhere but the availability is improving. You have to check with your local stations.
Hope this helps
Sunday 21st of August 2022
Thanks for the post. We are looking for an extended stay (4-6weeks) mid February onwards for 2 adults and our 3-year old. I need strong internet (work) and we would like swimmable beach for toddler and other family-freindly activities (hiking, biking, etc). I selfishly love snorkelling so that would be great too. A quieter setting with ready driving access to amenities (doctor, groceries) is also on the list. Any recommendations from anyone would be most appreciated! Thanks, Rob
Saturday 25th of June 2022
Yes La Paz is a beautiful place. I have a house in the hills not far from Tecolote. Retiring next year and moving from Canada. My question is when I drive my vehicle down what border do you recommend? What’s sort of house hold things can I bring. I own the house. Some used small appliances in particular and decorative stuff I can’t part with. Not a lot of stuff. Do I need to itemize everything? I’ve read I don’t need a vehicle permit on the Baja? Insurance yes. Do I need to worry about a permanent retirement visa yet or can this be done once I am there? I will get a temporary before I leave. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Looking forward to hearing from you. Cheers Deb
Ola Degteva (Editor)
Monday 27th of June 2022
Hi Deb, please find the information on visas and residency in our Living In Mexico guide in Visa Section https://expatra.com/guides/mexico/living-in-mexico/ Here are great tips on crossing the border by car: https://www.thewanderingrv.com/driving-to-baja-california/ Regarding what you can bring to Mexico, call Mexican customs, this way you will avoid ambiguity. Calls from the US and Canada are toll-free: 1-877-448-8728