Along the eastern coast of the Baja California Peninsula lies the East Cape – a region of this popular tourist destination which features hundreds of miles of sandy beaches within driving distance of Los Cabos.

And while the party scene of the East Cape may pale in comparison to the city of Cabo San Lucas itself, it offers you an escape during your vacation; while in the general area, you’re definitely going to want to spend a few days exploring this region of Baja California.

The major towns and cities along the East Cape coast.

The layout of the East Cape, Baja

The overall area of East Cape Baja.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed while traveling around Baja, especially Cabo San Lucas. There’s a lot to do everywhere you look, and doing a bit of planning before you head out can make your trip a bit smoother. Of course, there are a few main East Cape locations that most tend to visit while here, so we wanted to give you a decent overview of what you can expect in terms of driving.

Here you can see overall East Cape Baja area, a distinct region of the eastern peninsula:

Now that you understand how big the East Cape is, let’s talk about some areas you should visit. Here you can see the towns of Los Barriles and La Ribera, as well as the Cabo Pulmo National Park, all of which we consider must-see destinations:

Just to be clear, the city of San Jose del Cabo – the sister city of Cabo San Lucas – is also considered to be a part of the East Cape, as the town itself features the legendary East Cape Beach.

East Cape Beach near Cabo.


Getting around the East Cape

Overall, getting around the area will take a bit of driving. Starting out from either Cabo itself or San Jose del Cabo could work, depending on where your hotel or resort is and how much time you want to spend exploring. You can also approach places like Cabo Pulmo from the north, if you’re visiting or staying in towns like Los Barriles or La Ribera.

And it’s important to make this clear before we get into the directions: roads on the Baja Peninsula are a mix between paved and unpaved – not only that, but Google Maps often has incorrect, or at least inefficient and weird directions that aren’t actually the best routes.

You could simply book a Cabo airport shuttle to most of these areas as well – a safe and easy method of transportation that helps reduce some of the stress that comes along with driving around this region yourself. Either way, it’s best to avoid using Uber in Cabo due to a lack of enforced safety regulations in the area, including to or from the Los Cabos International Airport.

So let’s take a look at the overall route to all the areas listed above (but you may have to improvise a bit depending on the conditions during your stay).

Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo to East Cape Beach

To give you an example of how confusing Google Maps can be in the area, here’s the route from either Cabo itself or San Jose del Cabo to the nearby East Cape Beach:

The route between Cabo San Lucas and East Cape Beach.

Directions: you’ll want to travel via Federal Hwy 1 and Camino Cabo Este – expect around 30 minutes to 1 hour of driving.





San Jose del Cabo to Playa Tortuga

The route between San Jose Del Cabo to Playa Tortuga.

You can see it’s a relatively simple drive, however, in-person some of the driving will be on bumpy dirt roads, starting around Playa Tortuga – here’s the route from San Jose del Cabo to Playa Tortuga (another beach worth visiting):

Directions: you’ll want to travel via Camino Cabo Este – expect around 45 minutes of driving.


Playa Tortuga to Cabo Pulmo

The route between Playa Tortuga and Cabo Pulma.

After this point, you’ll be traveling on bumpy dirty roads like the ones pictured below if you want to drive up to Cabo Pulmo National Park or any of the numerous small towns and beaches along the way. Around Cabo Pulmo, the road begins to transition back into a paved path, so you can continue driving up to La Ribera and Los Barriles if you want:

Directions: you’ll want to travel via Camino Cabo Este – expect around 1 hour and 30 minutes of driving.


Los Barriles and La Ribera to Cabo Pulmo

The route between Los Barriles and Cabo Pulma.

If you happen to be starting from Los Barriles up north, you’ll likely have an easier drive. The main route is a paved road that passes through La Ribera as well for those who want to stop there:

Directions: you’ll want to travel via Camino Cabo Este and Federal Hwy 1– expect around 1 hour of driving.


Routes to avoid during East Cape vacations

The route between Cabo San Lucas and Los Barriles.If you want to drive along the coast, make sure you avoid the route below that Google Maps will most likely give you. You can either follow our directions above, use a different navigation app, or just pay close attention to the roads you choose – whatever the case is, you will miss most of the scenic drive and all the beautiful hidden gems spread along the coast if you just take Federal Hwy 1 all the way north.

With that being said, the route is faster if you’re in a rush.

Exploring the East Cape of Baja

Enough directions – let’s talk about some of the places to visit throughout the East Cape area of Baja. While there are hundreds of different spots to explore here, you should aim to hit up a few in particular. And just to be clear, you could spend multiple days in all of these locations so it’s best not to rush through the area if you have a few days to spare.

The best time of year to visit East Cape Baja is debatable, but most travelers and local guides recommend you visit the area starting in the late winter months through the early summer.

Los Barriles

Located far north, Los Barriles is a low-key beach town with a small, tight-knit community of locals – this is a super cozy destination, but still has a lot to offer in terms of accommodation, food, and things to do.

The main downside to staying here is that you’ll have to travel to bigger cities to buy certain things, just like most small towns. One of the more interesting parts about staying here is that ATVs are used as the main method of transportation, as they can be driven both on beaches and dirt or paved roads.

Similar to Los Cabos, you can find plenty of beach clubs here if you want to kick back and relax with a few cold ones alongside some lunch and live music – in fact, the restaurants in Los Barriles are one of the main reasons to come here, especially if you love seafood, tacos, and other classic Mexican dishes.

Book With SJD Taxi: La Ribera Shuttle Service

La Ribera

A short drive south, the town of Playa La Ribera is around the same size of Los Barriles – but even less popular with tourists. Meaning, staying here gives you a chance to experience a more authentic version of the Baja Peninsula, instead of the crowds and party scene of Los Cabos nightclubs.

Aside from the town itself, La Ribera is a great location for fans of beach-camping. Most campsites are free, and even include bathrooms and showers that are cleaned daily, despite their rural location. However, because it’s so close to the coast and experiences a constant battery of humid ocean winds, temperatures can fluctuate more here compared to cities like Cabo San Lucas.

Compared to Los Barriles, restaurants in La Ribera are a bit lacking. While you won’t have a super long list to choose from, you’re likely to stumble upon a tasty local spot once you’ve settled in the area.

Book With SJD Taxi: Los Barriles Shuttle Service

Cabo Pulmo

Located between Los Cabos to the south and Los Barriles to the north, Cabo Pulmo is a must-see location when traveling through East Cape Baja. If you only have time to visit one place on the Eastern Cape of Baja – you should prioritize this area.

Historically this region was a very productive fishing hub – starting in 1995, however, the Mexican government passed legislation aimed at protecting the Cabo Pulmo National Park area. Since then, fish and wildlife biomass within the protected shoreline reef areas have increased by over 400%.

This jewel of a coral reef now serves as one of the most important ecozones within Baja California Sur – with important predator species like bull, lemon, and blacktip sharks calling the reef their home. For nature lovers and travelers in general, not stopping by the town itself and Cabo Pulmo National Park would be a major mistake while visiting.

Book With SJD Taxi: Cabo Pulmo Shuttle Service

Things to do in East Cape Baja

Now that we’ve covered our favorite East Cape destinations, let’s talk about what activities you may want to experience while visiting. Baja isn’t only about Cabo activities like spring break clubbing and brunching – this picturesque peninsula has something to offer everyone.

Camping and RVing on the coast

In general, the entire East Cape is a campers paradise. Free parking is common, showers and bathrooms are regularly cleaned, and the weather is favorable for most depending on the time of year. This includes camping with RVs – you’ll likely be able to find a spot for your vehicle no matter where you are.

One thing to be aware of is that while the camping is great here, emergency services can take awhile to reach you if needed – the area is remote, so be careful!

ATV anywhere and everywhere

It’s very common to use ATVs while traveling around East Cape Baja – not only for off-roading and navigating sandy beach roads, but just generally driving around as well. Locals and tourists alike depend on these vehicles to traverse difficult terrain, but they also offer a good amount of recreational fun as well.

If you’re really into ATVing – you may want to consider traveling the Baja Cape Loop trail, a circular trail that leads you throughout the entire cape. This trail probably isn’t the best choice for novice ATV riders, but it’s the perfect capstone adventure for seasoned East Cape explorers.

Snorkel and scuba protected coral reefs

If you’re visiting Cabo Pulmo, make sure to do a bit of snorkeling and scuba diving along the protected coral reef. Because of its unique peninsular location and decades of conservation, this reef is ripe with a wide range of biodiversity and aquatic life such as fish, turtles, corals, and more to see.

Similar to swimming on Cabo beaches, you can also just take a dip along the East Cape’s shore whenever you feel like it, with many swimmable beaches spread out along the peninsula. Free diving is also popular here, with some truly beautiful underwater scenes found nestled within the healthy reef.

Soak in mountain hot springs

The location of El Chorro Hot Springs on a map.

Located a bit further inland, you can find a number of natural mountain hot springs within the Sierra La Laguna Biosphere Reserve – some of these are closed off to the public as to avoid disturbing sensitive plants and animals, but you can take a swim in these two popular springs:

  • Santa Rita Hot Springs
  • El Chorro Hot Springs

This is where El Chorro Hot Springs is located, with Santa Rita Hot Springs nearby.

Hiking and cycling around the East Cape

While you can drive to most of Baja’s mountain hot springs, hiking or cycling throughout the East Cape is also worth trying out while visiting. Because Baja has so many dirt roads, you may need to consult resources like Trailforks Baja hiking map that includes tons of trails near Los Barriles among other towns.

Final thoughts

The East Cape of Baja is a paradise for anyone who loves the outdoors and exploring small, interesting towns and cities. While visiting the Baja Peninsula, make sure to stop by all of the locations we’ve listed here if you want the full experience before heading down to Cabo San Lucas for a bit of partying.