Thursday, November 4, 2010

Southwest Goes South to Mexico

According to an article on this week, Southwest Airlines is teaming up with Volaris, a discount Mexican carrier, to send passengers to Mexico. "Starting on November 12 you can visit Southwest’s website to book tickets through a code share agreement to places like Cancun, Mexico City, and Guadalajara.", the article states.

Great news from my perspective, as you can link up from Guadalajara or Mexico City to any sunny beach destination in Mexico such as Los Cabos, La Paz and Puerto Vallarta, among others. Southwest/Volaris will also fly you directly to Cancun.

This option will allow US passengers to fly down via the new Southwest/Volaris partnership, maybe get to know the downtown Zocalo and historic districts in Mexico City or Guadalajara (highly recommended), and then take advantage of the spectacular rates being offered by all of Mexico's new breed of discount airlines, such as Volaris.

If anybody happens to fly down via the new Southwest/Volaris partnership, be sure to post comments on your flight experience here!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Passing the Torch - Viva La Baja! Blog Has Been Sold

I am happy to report Viva La Baja! Blog is now owned by Sergio Igartua - Los Cabos resident & owner of Grupo Igartua.

Our family now resides in South America and I am immersed in a new online venture - South America Living - Web-full of info for folks wanting to travel or live in the countries Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru & Uruguay. Online soon at

An introductory hello from Sergio:

"My name is Sergio Igartua and I’ve been in advertising and marketing for more than 15 years. My career has taken me from the U.S. to Costa Rica, and finally to Mexico where I currently reside.

During those years I’ve had the opportunity to provide creative services to diverse markets such as the U.S. Hispanic market, the Costa Rican and Mexican political arenas and, most recently, the Mexican hospitality market.

I own and operate Grupo Igartua, a travel marketing agency in Los Cabos, Mexico, where I’ve been living for the past 4 years."

Viva La Baja! was a fun project. Highlights of the past few years include: interacting with a lot of cool expats & locals I never would have met or known; learning about environmental issues on the Peninsula and the amazing folks who have worked for years to fight degradation of Baja waters, land & wildlife; writing articles for publications such as MexConnect, Our Mexico & my personal favorite... Sea Watch Mexico - who are doing some incredible work putting an end to illegal fishing & restoring the reefs of the Bay of La Paz with the Observatorio Ciudadano's program. A video about the program can be viewed here:

I´m confident Sergio will put all the hard work & information to good use and wish him the best with his future endeavors.

Viva La Baja! & all its inhabitants, Molly

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mexican Fisheries Planning to "Exploit" Resources in Northern Baja

Look-out Northern Baja, Conapesca and CIBNOR are heading your way and have plans to "exploit" your resources by encouraging the harvest of tonns of fish. This is a follow-up post on the Million Dollar Plan. For background information look-over the three previous posts:

1. Baja Fish - How Would You Spend a Million Dollars?
2. The Million Dollar Plan - Who´s in Charge?
3. Update on the Million Dollar Plan

I contacted CIBNOR months ago via email and received an initial reply from a researcher but when I asked for additional information on how they planned to sustainably "exploit" resources in Northern Baja as was posted on their website in regards to Programa Nacional Rector and their assessment that tonns of 'pelagic' fish species are availble to be harvested in Northern Baja waters my contact ended.

One species of pelagic fish - fish that live in what is called the pelagic zone of coastal and ocean (offshore) waters - are Bluefin Tuna whos numbers are severly depleted and near extinction. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna are being considered by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES)for a formal ban on all International Trade due to its endangered status.

This Oct, 2009 article in Scientific American explains the issue in greater detail: "Is the Bluefin Tuna an endangered species".

I wanted to know how they would be harvested as well? Using Drift Gillnets that destroy all ocean creatures in its path, including endangered Baleen whales that annually migrate through Baja waters, that Conapesca vowed to ban in 2008 yet never did?

In addition, the original documents I had reviewed in English are now gone from the website and replaced with false PR statements about the organization claiming: "For the Federal Mexican Government, the CONAPESCA is a strategic tool for taking care of our natural resources and to avoid the overexplotation of marine species."

A carefully orchestrated public 'face' to hide the actions that are going on behind the scenes and that are in the works regarding Programa Rector Nacional and the plans to give the go ahead for commercial fisherman to harvest - they use the word 'exploit' - tonns of fish from Northern Baja waters, including endangered Bluefin Tuna.

They claim not only do these large amounts of fisheries resources exist, but that they can be sustainably taken from Baja waters without negative repercussions. Look-out Northern Baja - CIBNOR and Conapesca are on their way.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Baja Travel - Taking the Ferry

The previous blog post covered bus travel on the Peninsula: Baja Travel - Riding the Bus. This post gives the basic run-down on riding the ferry - either one of them!

From mainland Mexico you can take a ferry across to Baja from Guaymas, Topolobampo and Mazatlan. Guaymas is located on the mainland in the state of Sonora while Topolobampo and Mazatlan are both in Sinaloa. Websites for all routes are listed below.

Approximate Travel Time and Costs:
The private cabins listed below contain two bunk beds, and may or may not have a private bathroom. Children up to age 11 are half-price on all routes. Infants up to one years of age are free.

Guaymas to Santa Rosalia: approximately 7 hours, $65 USD per person, $75 USD for a private cabin.
Topolobampo to La Paz: approximately 9 hours, 710 pesos ($71 USD) per person, 760 pesos ($76 USD) for a private cabin with bathroom for up to four people.

Mazatlan to La Paz: approximately 18 hours, 800 pesos ($80 USD) per person, 250 pesos ($25 USD) for a private cabin for up to four people; bathroom separate. We´ve traveled this route twice, the cabins are simple with two bunk beds and a window. The boat is large and the ride smooth, you will most likely never notice a wave much less get seasick.

All three ferry systems have food and bar service, car and overnight accommodations. Dogs are allowed but must be in a kennel (or kept in the car) and cannot enter the cabins but stay outside on deck. We traveled with our medium sized Rat Terrier this way and he did just fine. No one bothered him, I was allowed to take him out of the kennel to walk on the deck - was just not permitted to enter the cabin area. Staff were helpful and seemed to keep an eye on him as well.

There is a full-bar on deck that has a large T.V. screen and shows videos, children are welcome. Meals are nothing special, very basic Mexican fare but an assortment of snacks are available for purchase.

More Information & Websites:
For more information on Baja Ferries, including the cost to transport a vehicle, click here to view.

The Santa Rosalia to Guaymas route has an additional website: click here to view.

Happy travels, Molly
Author of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide

Monday, December 7, 2009

Baja Travel - Riding the Bus

Buy your boleto (ticket) at the taquilla (no, that is not Tequila!) and be on your way. First-class bus service in Baja is comfortable (movies & commodes), efficient (minus unavoidable road construction delays), and low-cost. Just be prepared for varied service and bus stations. No two are alike.

There are two primary bus companies serving the Baja California Peninsula: ABC and Aguila. ABC (Autotransportes de la Baja California) operates in the Peninsula from Tijuana to Los Cabos. Aguila serves travelers in Baja California Sur venturing from Guerrero Negro to the Los Cabos... and back! ABC has a website, currently in Spanish-only:

Baja California Sur

In La Paz, anyone will give you directions to the main bus terminal (estacion del autobus mejor), on the malecon with: Sea of Cortez view, air conditioning and magazine and snack kiosk. If purchasing a premier plus ticket to ride on Peninsula Ejectivo, you also have a private room with computer terminals at your service – top of the line serving a direct route from La Paz to Los Cabos (only).

Wandering the off-streets a mile or so away, you may come across the less-fancy bus station with ATP (Autotransportes La Paz) service. First class busses as well but at less cost. ATP charges around $17 USD to Cabo San Lucas whereas Aguila on the malecon charges around $14 USD. Premier plus service will cost you a bit more.

Routes vary from one company to the other. ATP has no service to the East Cape, only to Todos Santos and other towns in the West Cape. As well, when you pay for a taquilla (ticket) one-way to a town, do not expect the same price heading back in the other direction. On ATP, a one-way fare to Cabo San Lucas from La Paz is around 150 pesos, but returning to La Paz will cost you close to 120 pesos.

Baja California norte

Two terminals for Tijuana – old and new. Old downtown terminal at Calle Comercio and Avenida Madero that serves local bus lines. The Central Bus Terminal (Central de Autobuses), with all the bells and whistles you would expect, is located at the corner of Lazaro Cardenas and Alamar.

ABC covers the entire Peninsula. You can take the red eye from Tijuana and arrive in Cabo San Lucas in approximately 24 hours. Cost is approximately $170 USD. All first-class buses are comfortably air-conditioned, have bathrooms (bring your own TP just in case), multiple ceiling-mounted T.V. screens for videos (often in English, once we had one in French… go figure) and reclinable seating.

From the U.S., tourists or North American escapees can tap into the entire system at the main Greyhound bus terminal in downtown San Diego and ride across the border into Tijuana.

Hot Tip: Planning a bus trip? Buy Dramamine, even if you have never taken an aspirin in your life. This goes triple if traveling with children. Also, even in the heat of summer bring a blanket. It is not uncommon for air-conditioning to be set on high and left there even as icicles form on the windows.

In summary, it is hard to know what to expect from one bus terminal to the next. Some have snacks and drinks available only, others a selection of these plus sandwiches and magazines as well as tourist trinkets. Then you stop through Los Barriles expecting a cold soda, and find a brick shell of a building with no amenities, only a primitive baño outback. Each town is different, plan ahead accordingly.

As well, bus drivers may stop for a few minutes at a snack kiosk when on a long stretch, but often times he or she will cruise straight through to the next scheduled stop. Unpredictability seems to be law in Baja.

Author of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Learning Spanish in Baja - For Adults

Enough with the fish already. How about information for those who want to travel to Baja and work on their Spanish language skills?

A previous blog post covered Spanish language learning for children: Learning the Language - For Kids. This post is to offer a few options for adults who want to take Spanish courses.

The newest kid on the block in southern Baja is Spanish in Cabo who opened their doors in April of this year in the town of San Jose del Cabo. They offer competively priced immersion, group and private classes for all ages levels and abilities.

In addition, you can continue with your Spanish courses with Spanish in Cabo after the few weeks of fun in the sun is over via the Internet. They have an online program that allows you to take private one-on-one lessons from any location in the world with just a SKYPE connection and email account.

La Paz is a hotbed for Spanish language learning with multiple schools to choose from. A couple for you to contact for more information are Se Habla La Paz, S.C. and the Centro de Idiomas, Cultura y Comunicacion.

If traveling to La Paz for a language learning adventure, make sure to take a boat trip to Isla Espirito Santos Island to jump in the water and swim amongst the sea lions. It is an unforgettable experience.

Northern Baja has too many choices to adequately cover here - do an independent Google search online to wade through a multitude of options at all price ranges. For a quick start you can check out these schools, located in Ensenada and San Felipe respectively: Baja California Language College and the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California.

Buena suerte! Molly

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Baja Hurricane Resources & Relief for Hurricane Jimena

Hurricane Jimena lessened in strength before hitting Baja as a Category 1 Hurricane but still unleashed plenty of fury with wind and rain, causing catastrophic destruction in the central Baja area (Ciudad Constitution, San Carlos, Mulege, Loreto and other), and taking the life of an elderly Mexican man. Hurricane season runs officially from June 1st to November 30th. Most storms occur in the months of August and September.

A tropical depression is the first pre-hurricane stage, with wind speeds of 38 mph. The next phase pre-hurricane is a tropical storm, with winds from 39-73 mph. Tropical storms are given names. The flooding from the heavy rains of a tropical storm can wreck havoc of catastrophic degree in an area, such as what occurred in the town of Mulege from Tropical Storm John in September of 2006 and now again in 2009 - flash floods from rainfall plus winds courtesy of Hurricane Jimena.

When a tropical storm’s constant wind speed reaches above 73 mph, you have a hurricane on your hands and should be prepared to evacuate if it becomes necessary. You can read a list of Baja California Peninsula hurricanes from years prior to 1949 up until September, 2007 (Hurricane Henriette) online courtesy of Wikipedia - List of Huricanes.

To keep up-to-date on hurricane and storm activity, one online resource of many is The National Weather Service-National Hurricane Center at: A more local resource is The Baja Insider – an eZine covering Baja California norte primarily. You can sign-up to receive news updates regularly via email, including during hurricane season. Visit their website for more information:

When a storm hits, local reports from Baja residents and travelers posted on popular list servs & message boards such as La Paz Gringos and Baja Nomad is often the best and most accurate information.

You can view the posts on Baja Nomad without having to sign-up or log-in. Go to the website, click on 'forums' and select a category. Members of Baja Nomad are currently organizing relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Jimena. Click on the heading 'General Baja Discussion' and you will see a thread title "Hurricane Relief Supplies". La Paz Gringos has information on where to drop-off donations in the La Paz area.

These efforts by expats are in addition to the support of local communities, both Mexican and foreign. The Mexican government sets-up shelters, provides relief supplies and aid, including protection for property owners from looters with patrols by the Mexican army as well as other support. When people are displaced from homes and in a state of emergency through no fault of their own, every little bit helps.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vigilance Program - Where to Report Fishing Violations

The last Viva La Baja! post gave the basics of the new (and first) citizen-funded and run vigilance program in La Paz: Hot News - Commercial Fishing Vigilance Program. For a more in-depth account of the program, including its origins in 2007, visit the Sea Watch Mexico website and read the article, Mexico's First Citizen-Funded And Run Vigilance Program Starts.

If you are not much of an online reader, and just want the hard, cold facts given to you in a viewable and informative YouTube video... look no further. Click here and wait a minute or two for the five minute video "Hookah Divers Are Killing The Sea" to load onto your desktop. You won´t be disappointed and most likely overwhelmed with emotion at the unecessary and all-encompassing destruction that has been, and is continuing to be, inflicted on the Sea of Cortez and its inhabitants, specifically in this video - species of fish that call the reefs home.

Illegal activities can be reported via email to Sea Watch at If you would like to participate more fully and/or become a member of Plataforma, please go to this Web page to sign-up: Observatorio Ciudadano. The page contains detailed information on the program and how participants can help stop the massive destruction being inflicted on the Sea of Cortez by commercial fishermen who - simply put - could care less.

As quoted from Sea Watch, "The goal of Plataforma is to get the vast majority of honest fishermen, both commercial and sports fishermen, as well as the cruising community involved in detecting and reporting illegal acts, thereby creating a net of concerned people with the common goal of protecting the Bay."

Go Sea Watch and Plataforma.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide to the Baja California Peninsula. Available to order at

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hot News - Commercial Fishing Vigilance Program

A new 'Pescadores vigilantes' program has begun in Baja California Sur in an attempt to put an end to illegal commercial fishing interests (not local hook and line fishermen) in the Sea of Cortez. The program allows anyone to report illegal fishing activities anonymously without fear of retribution, either in person, by phone or via email. The illegal activity will then be published in the La Paz paper - every 20 days - that lists the boats stopped, the denuncias filed, what the authorities have done to date and the final resolution (fines issued).

The program is being funded by Sea Watch and it´s supporters at an estimated $8000 USD per month. Here is some background information provided by Mike McGettigan - founder of SeaWatch.

"We have been very busy starting a civil society sponsored and run vigilance program. It is under the banner of "Plataforma" and is being funded in it's first 90 days of operation by Sea Watch. The group "Plataforma" which Sea Watch helped start is now quite strong and is supported by Mexico's largest NGO's."

"We have always felt you have to start with Vigilance and enforcement. Otherwise you start by setting up marine protected areas, marine parks, sanctuaries, etc. and they immediately become the private fishing grounds of the strongest illegal fishermen. There are fishermen that fight (and pay) to have the rights to fish in the protected areas."

Things are off to a successful start - on the first nocturnal Vigilance program of Plataforma in the Bay of La Paz (June 22-24) they caught 8 boats fishing illegally. The illegal activity will then be published in the La Paz paper as mentioned above.

Mike states, "It will be a score card that forces the authorities to do their job which is to arrest boats fishing illegally and prosecute them."

Good news for Baja and all Sea of Cortez marine life.

Next blog entry - Where & how to report illegal activities.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide to the Baja California Peninsula. Available to order at

Monday, July 6, 2009

Update on the Million Dollar Plan

I didn´t want to continue writing about Programa Rector Nacional without giving the primary Mexican organization in-charge - CIBNOR - a fair chance of responding and offering information about the program such as what has been accomplished, what is being worked on and what the end goals are. To read a previous background post on the Million Dollar Plan and CIBNOR, click here: The Million Dollar Plan - Who´s In Charge?.

I tried various contacts through their website and was eventually referred to the program called Ecologia Pesquera - supposedly that has folks working on Programa Rector Nacional. The information page on the CIBNOR website in English is located here: Fisheries Ecology. A short email was sent to the director of the program (maybe too short) that now needs a bit of follow-through and possibly a search for additional contacts and sources as I have yet to recieve any reply.

I was just hoping for a little information on how things are going as many are rooting for their success in using these funds to change the disastrous direction of the current state of things (over-fishing creating near-extinct species such as bluefin tuna), create sustainable fisheries laws and protect the future of the Sea of Cortez and all its inhabitants.

As new developments arise I will make new posts. Until then, we can all keep our fingers crossed.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available to order at

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Million Dollar Plan - Who´s in Charge?

This is part II of a series on the 'Million Dollar Plan'. For background information read part I: Baja Fish - How Would You Spend a Million Dollars?

CIBNOR has been granted the contract to develop the PROGRAMA RECTOR NACIONAL: DIAGNÓSTICO Y PLANIFICACIÓN REGIONAL DE LA PESCA Y ACUACULTURA EN MEXICO E INCIDENCIA EN EL ESTADO DE BCS through CONAYCT. So the first question I asked myself is, "Who is CIBNOR"? Until researching online, I hadn´t a clue. And thanks to CIBNOR and their extremely well-done and informative website that includes an English version ( click here to view) I was able to gather the basics of their mission and purpose. I hope for additional posts about the proposed PROGRAMA RECTOR NACIONAL to be able to contact and communicate with someone at CIBNOR directly.

CIBNOR, or The Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste, S.C., (Northwestern Center for Biological Reasearch) is a research center whose mission is to contribute to the welfare of society through scientific research, technological innovation, and human resource development in sustainable management of natural resources.

Quoted from the website: "CIBNOR was established in 1975 (initially as CIB - Center for Biological Research) by the Government of the State of Baja California Sur and CONACYT (National Council for Science and Technology) to promote the development of science and technology in the area."

Specialties that biologists and graduate students perform research in are the following: Agronomy, Algae, Aquaculture, Biochemistry, Biodiversity, Bioethics, Biotechnology, Birds, Cacti, Climate, Coasts, Computer Science, Conservation / Restoration, Contamination, Crustaceans, Ecological Regulation, Ecology, Ecophysiology, Education, Engineering / Artificial Intelligence, Environmental Economy, Environmental Impace, Enzymes, Fish, Fisheries, Genetics, Geographic Information Systems, Geology, Health, Hydrology, Marine Botany, Marine Organisms, Marine Turtles, Mastozoology, Microbiology, Mollusks, Nutrition, Oceanography, Oxidative Stress... to name just a few. Alphabetized topics continue to "W", ending with Wild fauna.

Scientific studies and articles on all these topics and others are posted on their website: Specialties. It seems there are more than a few very highly qualified folks in charge of the Million Dollar Plan. Can they get the results needed to protect the Sea of Cortez and all its marine inhabitants?

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available to order at

Monday, April 13, 2009

Baja Fish - How Would You Spend a Million Dollars?

** Part I of a series on the 'Million Dollar Plan' to help Mexican fisheries and the Sea of Cortez i.e. the proposed PROGRAMA RECTOR NACIONAL **

Do you care about fish and the survival of all marine life in the Sea of Cortez? Yes... excellent. Now, how would you use a million dollars to create sustainable fisheries and proposed state laws to protect them?

That is the situation now given to the state of Baja California Sur (southern Baja, south of the Guerrero Negro 48th parallel dividing line) by the Mexican Federal Government. Baja Califonia Sur will be given an approximate one million dollars ($11,000,000.00 pesos) to write their own sustainable fisheries laws. The document was signed in the last months of 2007 and is currently in the process of being implemented in a three-phase process:

** diagnostic of "how are the things doing in our coasts"
** new fisheries law
** initiate a plan of how to manage the fisheries in Baja Sur

SeaWatch - is one organization following the proposal to ensure the goals of protecting marine life and creating sustainable fisheries are sufficiently met. The following background information has been provided by SeaWatch:

The Government of the State of Baja California Sur hired the services of the Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste CIBNOR to develop a project called "PROGRAMA RECTOR NACIONAL: DIAGNÓSTICO Y PLANIFICACIÓN REGIONAL DE LA PESCA Y ACUACULTURA EN MEXICO E INCIDENCIA EN EL ESTADO DE BCS " the results will be: A final and comprehensive report of that master plan, the proposed State Plan for Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Proposed State Law on Fisheries and Aquaculture. For this purpose the State Government got Federal Government's resources through CONACYT to pay for CIBNOR services ($11,000,000.00 pesos).

Coming Next: More on the 'Million Dollar Plan'. Is CIBNOR doing their job?

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available to order at

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Peso to Dollar Exchange Rate - Can You Afford to NOT Live in Baja?

Life´s good, have another Tecate. Buy yourself a keg for that matter, at the current peso to U.S. dollar exchange rate of 15 plus to one, you can afford it. And maybe now you can afford that dream to live on the Peninsula. How long will the good times last? Your guess is most likely much better than mine but here is some basic information.

The last I heard of the exchange rate was when I wrote a feature story a few months back and called it a ´whopping´ 13 (pesos) to 1 (USD) - now what should it be called at 15 to 1... unbelievable? That's a bit how I felt when I did a quick check online this a.m. realizing I needed to update my relocation guide as it seems to be only increasing, not falling back to the approximate 11 or 10 peso to 1 it was for years prior.

According to this online graph at the current spike occurred in February - rising a peso from a January rate of 14 to 1 to the current 15 to 1. The increase to the current highs began in October.

If I was living there at present time (currently traveling abroad) I would simply be giddy. Living on a budget becomes much more fun when you get an additional monthly $200 USD or so. I would imagine those with the means and desire to buy Baja real estate are enjoying the current economic climate as well.

And again, how long is this current situation going to hold? Here is one online source - Financial Forcast Center, LLC - with predictions up to September, 2009. They guess in six months time the rate will return to approximately 13 (peso) to the USD. Still, an amazing value for those wanting to Go Baja.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available to order at

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Free Travel Guide Download Now Available

Viva La Baja! Travel Guide - a basic resource for persons new to Baja who want to relocate or plan a trip is now available as a free and easy to dowload PDF file. The guide includes information on: driving the Peninsula with mileage between towns; side-trips; highlights of a town; rules of the road; taking the ferry to or from the mainland; riding the bus and more such as consulate listings and crime & safety information.

The guide was written for customers of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide to the Baja California Peninsula but now is available for free to download for anyone who may find it useful. If you know of anyone - pass on the link!

Viva La Baja! Travel Guide Free Download.

The guide will be downloaded to your desktop as a PDF file. To read a PDF file on your computer you will need to have a version of Adobe Acrobat installed - most computers have this software but you can download free from here: Adobe Reader.

I wanted the guide to be a general resource with lots of great info and tips, but not to compete with some of the great guides on the market such as Moon Handbooks Baja - so did not put in restaurant or hotel listings except when is a highlight of an area. Moon Handbooks Baja is a comprehensive resource with hotel and restaurant listings (of course) - yet you have to pay for it - around $16 USD.

I will say, this is the best guide/resource you are going to find for free online. I have viewed the multitude of websites out there. None offer the extent of info I have researched and provided.

Go Baja, Molly

Friday, January 30, 2009

Keeping U.S. Vehicle Registration Up-To-Date While Living in Baja

A new year means at some point your U.S.-licensed vehicle tabs are going to have to be renewed. When living in Baja and driving a U.S. auto, you need to have your registration and driver's license current, or are subject to a fine or worse - one American driving with false tabs in Baja Sur had his car confiscated by the Mexican Police. Not fun, don't let it happen to you!

If you want to keep U.S. registration on your auto and be legal in Baja and in the U.S., but can´t do that through your previous state of residence or it is too costly, here is a work-around that some others do. This information came from a member of LaPaz Gringo yahoo group. LaPaz Gringos is a nice low-key group for the Baja Sur area to ask questions, get info etc. You can sign-up for free here: La Paz Gringos.

The post on La Paz gringos was submitted by "The Bread Guy". Thank you Bread Guy for allowing me to reprint the below. The information was first posted on BajaNomad message board, according to the Bread Guy.

---------------- Quoted from La Paz Gringos ----------------

Rather than undergo the hassle and expense of renewing my California license plates, I successfully registered with the state of South Dakota. They do not require smog checks or proof of insurance and are much less expensive.

Just call Cathy Powell, treasurer, Clay County, SD at 605+677-7123. You must have a clear title (which you will submit along with the appllication), and a US mailing address. In the application one window asks for "South Dakota drivers license or Social Security number".

I was very honest with her about the situation and she was really great in talking me thru the process.... what a difference from the indifference of big time California.

Anyway, go to their website at: and print out an Adobe file with the application. Fill-out each page as an original (You will not fill-out the last form as it is addressed to the lienholder , not necessary for your transaction). Then these forms have to be mailed as they are originals, and you include your title. I sent mine priority mail and had my new plates and tags in about ten days. The new title took about three weeks as it is actually processed at the state level.

--------------------- End Quote -------------------

OK, hope that helps! Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available to order at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Update on NOM-029 - Make Your Voice Heard!

"Take a Minute - Save Some Billfish"

That was the heading of an email sent on October 14th to my in-box from The Billfish Foundation. I signed-up for their email notification system and they do an excellent job of sending updates on what they are working on, current news reports, etc. You can sign-up here: The Billfish Foundation. On the left-side toolbar is a box to enter your email address, click 'signup' and that´s it!.

These are the folks in-the-know, who have been working for years on conservation issues around the world. When I wrote this blog entry: Can Mexico follow in Peru's Footsteps & Preserve Their Sportfishing Industry?" the information on Peru came from TBF's website.

They are hard at work again, in collaboration with Sea Watch , fighting to over-turn the "incidental by-catch agreement" of NOM-029. Here is the link to the online letter to Mexican officials - all you have to do is click, read the information and enter in your name & email address: Mail Campaign Bycatch Letter.

Sea Watch has done the work of submitting the letter to the right folks for you - click on send and your note (that you can personalize with your own thoughts and opinions) is automatically sent to five officials who - quoted from the website: "... share responsibility managing the resources of the Sea of Cortez".

Here is a quoted segment of the letter that you would sign, "The "by-catch agreement" permits and encourages commercial operations to catch and sell their valuable "by-catch", thereby driving local fishermen out of business and destroying the sport fishery. Without serious enforcement measures and changes to fishing techniques, we should expect that longliners working near the BCS shore will take around 90% of our valuable sport species. Furthermore, we should expect the sport fishery to be decimated by these practices."

Please help Sea Watch, The Billfish Foundation and all others who are working hard to preserve the sanctity of the Sea of Cortez and it´s spectacular inhabitants, by clicking the link above and having your voice heard.

The Spanish version of the letter is on this page: Mail Campaign Bycatch Letter (espanol).

Thanks to TBF and Sea Watch for this post, Molly

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Importing a Car to Baja

For penance for my lack of recent posts I thought I would tackle this bear of a question. Reader beware - it is complicated and fairly confusing, especially as things most likely will be changing once again in the new year (January, 2009). Here goes...

Baja is a Free Trade Zone. You do not need a permit or to post a bond when entering the Peninsula by car. When entering the mainland these items are needed, but Baja is exempt from the regulations. If you need detailed information on importing a car to the mainland, please read Question #2 on this page: Viva La Baja! Questions & Answers.

Not having to post a bond or acquire a permit is great for those taking trips, staying for a few months, etc. but what about those folks who move permanently and want to import their U.S. vehicle so as to register as a Mexican car and therefore not have to maintain current vehicle registration and license from the U.S.? Therein lies the rub, so to speak.

As of March 2nd, 2008 the Mexican government excluded all vehicles for import other than year 1998 models. Calderon may turn back this regulation and allow imports again of vehicles 10 years and older via NAFTA original agreement but no one can say that will happen for sure. NAFTA agreement is scheduled to go into effect in the new year (January, 2009). Here is what NAFTA delineates:

"Only vehicles 10 years and older will be allowed in initially. Those age restrictions will gradually be reduced until 2019, when the used-car market will be completely open."

So maybe after the first of the year vehicles other than solely 1998 models will be available for import as older models are allowed back in - but there is no guarantee, Calderon can do as he chooses... 2019 may see an open market or may not.

Next blog entry: How to maintain car registration in the U.S. when living in Baja.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available to order at

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lack of Recent Posts on Viva La Baja! Blog

I could be considered guilty of ´blog neglect´and maybe should be! My half-completed "Hallloween in Baja" post will have to be kept for next year. Currently my son and I are in a travel mode, just completing a major pain in the rear (unless you have tons of cash for airfare) journey from Central America to South America. Much of the time there has been little to no Internet service available... regardless, apologies for being lax on posts.

Upcoming on Viva La Baja! Blog:

*** Learning the Language - for Adults
*** Overfishing & Regulations Meant to Prevent it... Is it working?
*** Getting the Scoop in Baja - Online News Publications for Baja

And many more... but don´t want to give away too many ideas :)

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide for the Baja California Peninsula.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dengue Fever in Baja

Tis’ the season, unfortunately. In Baja, dengue fever outbreaks typically occur in September and October following hurricane season when water from tropical storms is available for mass breeding of mosquitoes. There are four different types of dengue fever, with no vaccines or cures currently available.

Classic symptoms of the illness are: a high fever that may last from 5 to 7 days; intense headache; joint and muscle pain; and a rash. The rash typically begins on the arms or legs three to four days after the beginning of the fever. Symptoms can range greatly in severity yet in general usually resolve within 1 to 2 weeks.

There is no specific treatment for dengue except well-intended advice to rest and drink plenty of fluids. After recovery from infection of one type you obtain some immunity against that specific virus but subsequent infections by any of the other three types of dengue viruses can be more severe.

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever is the most serious form of this illness. In addition to the classic symptoms listed above, sufferers can experience internal bleeding, liver enlargement and circulatory shut down. Hospitalization is usually required. It is most common in children under 15 yrs of age, but is also seen in adults.

Health Alert: Dengue Fever & Children If you are the parent of a child who has had an episode of dengue illness, it is important to know that a second infection can be much more severe. Symptoms of Dengue Fever in infants and children are outlined on the Pediatric Oncall website.

The best tactic to prevent dengue is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. This includes sleeping in areas screened from mosquitoes, wearing long sleeves and pants and using mosquito repellents. Another protective measure is to destroy breeding sites containing standing water such as old tires, plastic packaging, pet water dishes, etc. Anything that holds standing water can breed mosquitoes.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Monday, September 8, 2008

Learning The Language - For Kids

Note: This is an excerpt from the chapter “Children and Education” of the Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide. To view all topics covered in the eBook, click here: Table of Contents.

There are many alternatives for educating a non-Spanish speaking child in Mexico, and for acquiring language ability. An excellent way to start is to spend a summer in Mexico and have the child or teenager attend a summer program or camp. It is a fun, low-stress method of learning and can help you assess how quickly he or she will pick-up the language. It also gives a jump-start on the school year if enrolling your child the following Fall is your goal.

My son and I spent a summer in Morelia, Mexico (July, 2007) to beat the heat of Baja and had a good time. He attended a Mexican professional, arts school – Belles Artes – for a month-long program in dance, painting, theatre and music for $75 USD. I wrote an article that contains information on available summer programs for children in Morelia. It can be read online here: Traveling to Mexico with Children.

Even a few days or a week at a hotel day care program can be beneficial. While Mom and Dad play, kids have fun and gain the experience of being in the care of adults who speak Spanish and English. An easy trip across the border, Rosarito Beach Hotel offers supervised kids camp for guests. Detailed information can be found here: Rosarito Beach Hotel.

Ecotourism Kuyima, located in San Ignacio, has weeklong summer camps for Mexican and American children: Adventure's for Kids. Your child would have the opportunity to interact with Mexican children, who may or may not speak English. Interacting with their peers outside of a classroom setting is often times the most effective way for kids to learn.

Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide has additional listings of summer camps, volunteer programs, environmental studies in Baja and other programs for teens and families.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide for the Baja California Peninsula.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Private Bilingual Education for Children in Baja - Norte & Sur

Private, bilingual schools for Pre-K, Kindergarten, Elementary, Junior High and Highschool are found throughout the Baja California Peninsula. In Northern Baja (Baja Norte) the greatest number of private schools are found in the area from Tijuana to Rosarito. There are private, bilingual schools in Ensenada as well.

For Southern Baja (Baja Sur), the majority of schools are found in La Paz and the Los Cabos area (Cabo San Lucas & San Jose del Cabo). Loreto also has private schooling available.

For information on how to enroll a child in school in Baja, read the previous blog entry: Sending a Child to School in Baja.

Some private schools in Baja offer a bilingual education with curriculum in both Spanish and English. Others are primarily Spanish-only, with English classes. Private school hours typically follow the North American norm of 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Private schools have independent authority over their hours of operation and curriculum but must follow federal guidelines regarding enrollment, the same as with public schools. If your child cannot show proof of successfully completing the previous grade level, he or she will have to repeat the grade.

The three school levels covered here are Pre-escolar (Pre-school grades 0 to kindergarten), Primaria (Primary school grades 1-6) and Secondaria (Middle school grades 7-9). Highschool in Mexico is called Preparatory and is grades 10-12.

There are a few small towns with one private school, such as Loreto; the larger cities such as La Paz and Cabo San Lucas have many. In addition to monthly tuition, you will pay an enrollment fee (approximately one-months tuition) and book and uniform fees ($300 to $500 USD and up).

Private school tuition pricing varies greatly. In La Paz, Montessori La Paz is approximately $180 USD a month for tuition. In Cabo San Lucas, Papalote is approximately $350 USD per month. Below is a selection of private schools in the Baja California Peninsula. Visit the school for more information.

Private Bilingual Schools
Here is contact information for a few private, bilingual schools for both Baja Norte and Baja Sur:

Rosarito Beach:
• Colegio Colina de la Luz (1-6), Lazaro Cardenas 1400
• Instituto de las Americas Bilingüe (1-9), Floresta del Mar. Tel +52 661-22 442
• Colegio Ingles (1-6), Calles Rocio No 1030. Tel 668-02 515

• Cristóbal Colon (1-6), Av Miramar 831. Tel +52 174-0024
• Colegio Rodríguez Cabrillo (pre-K and up), Calle San Martín No. 700. Tel +52 172-4640
• Colegio Valle de la Trinidad (7-9), Avenue de las Aguilas. Tel +52 003-5050

• Colegio Calafia Loreto (1-6), Calle (street) Colegio Num 20. Tel 613-135-0152

La Paz:
• Colegio Anahuac (7-9), Guillermo Prieto y Republica. Tel 612-122-1184
• Centro Infantil Montessori (pre-K), Normal Urbana Num 1680 ESQ. Tel 621-122-9268
• Colegio Maria Fernanda (1-6), Calle Cuauhtemoc Num. 1615. Tel 612-123-5188

San Jose del Cabo:
• Juan Mc Gregor (1-6), Km 24. 8, Carretera Transpeninsular. Tel 624-144-5595
• Instituto Particular International Libertad, A.C. (1-9), Morelos Num 17. Tel 624-142-0428
• Centro Educativo Cactus y Mar (1-6), Manzana 21 Lote 8. Tel 624-172-8288

Cabo San Lucas:
• El Camino (1-12), Callejón del Jorongo Num 210. Tel 624-143-2100
• Montessori Omeyocan (1-6), Jacarandas s/n Lomas del Pacifico. Tel 624-173-0156
• Colegio Amarento, A.C. (1-6), Km 6.7, Carretera Transpeninsular. Tel 624-145-8701
• Papalote (1-6), 5 de Febrero E/ignacio Zaragoza. Tel 624-144-4311

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available for order at

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sending a Child to School in Baja

Your kids have had a blast in Baja. You have as well. They’re sold, you’re sold. Everyone is caught up in hyper-speed towards relocation until you realize... yikes! It is time to pull back on the Baja-bound, super-shuttle throttle – your children have to go to school.

You have three basic options for schooling your child in the Baja California Peninsula: public school, private school or homeschooling. My personal advice, based upon experience with both private and public school systems on the mainland and in Baja, is this; if your child is bilingual, and speaks Spanish fluently, you have any school in the country available to you, pick and choose.

If your child is not bilingual, and has little familiarity with the Spanish language, tread cautiously. A private school may best suit his or her needs, where Spanish is taught for half the day and English the other half. For the English-learning part of the day they get to be the star student, counter-balancing the initial struggles and frustrations during the hours of Spanish instruction.

In immersion programs the instructors are trained to deal with issues faced by non-native speakers. They have to be to teach Mexican children English. In public schools they most likely are not. The cost of private schooling runs anywhere from $150 to $350 U.S. a month and up.

Mexican schools will welcome you as a foreigner – to a certain extent. In deciding what option may be best for your child, keep in mind that public schools in Mexico will not provide support for a non-native speaking child, as is common in many areas of the U.S, and other First World countries. Your advantaged and/or bright child may succeed effortlessly from the ages of three to seven years of age (approximately) when language acquisition is at its peak and little academic stress is put upon them.

Your middle school-aged child or teenager may or may not. A less-stressful first leap into the culture may be a summer program or volunteer abroad program. There are summer programs in Baja and on the mainland.

Another alternative is to start-out homeschooling and take it from there, making decisions based on how it goes and what resources are available in your particular Baja town. Some expat parents send their children to the local public program in the day or afternoon and homeschool English curriculum.

To enroll a child in public or private school in Mexico you must show proof he or she has successfully completed the previous school year and therefore is eligible to continue on to the next grade level. If there are no school records available, or the student does not pass final examinations, they have to repeat the previous year. In my sons’ fourth grade public school class one child was 12 years old.

The school will ask for a copy of the child’s birth certificate, a copy of school records showing completion of the previous year of study and photo identification for the child and for the parent. If your child has been homeschooling in the states independently of any school system you must create an official report for him or her that is validated in a way acceptable to the school.

Mexican public school hours are typically from 8 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Private school hours commonly follow the North American norm of 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Private schools have independent control over curriculum and hours of operation but must adhere to the same government-mandated guidelines for enrollment.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available for order at

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Can You Catch Lyme Disease in Baja?

Time out in the Baja desert means ticks, yet thankfully not Lyme disease. There has not been a reported case of Lyme disease on the Baja California Peninsula, and those dedicated smart folks - scientists - have figured out why. It seems the organism that causes Lyme Disease can not survive in the primary host for ticks in Baja - lizards.

Lyme disease is contracted when a tick carrying the Lyme disease spirochete bites a host organism and passes the bacterium in the blood. Three different types of bacterium can transmit Lyme disease. In Baja and Western states in the U.S. such as Utah, Arizona and California the ticks feed off of lizards. Lizards have been found to have some type of substance in their blood that kills the bacterium present in the ticks stomach. The ticks then do not harbor the organism any longer so cannot transmit it to other hosts such as us humans.

In the Northeast, where Lyme disease in prevalent, the black-legged ticks feed off of white mice and continue to carry and transmit the bacteria. It is estimated that 50% of ticks in the Northeastern states of the U.S. harbor the Lyme disease causing spirochete, but is found in only 5% of ticks inhabitating the Western areas.

A trademark of the illness is a round, red rash on the skin where bitten. The infection can be treated successfully with antibiotics if diagnosed and treated promptly, but if left untreated can cause long-term, disabling symptoms.

An article describing the above in more detail can be found here on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: Learn About Lyme Disease.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula available for purchase at Viva La Baja!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Desert Series #4 - The Magdalena Plains

The fourth and final sub-region of the Sonoran Desert that encompasses land area on the Baja California Peninsula is the Magdalena Plains.

The other three segments were described in these previous blog entries:
Desert Series #1 - The Vizcaino Desert
Desert Series #2 - The San Felipe Desert
Desert Series #3 - Gulf Coast Deserts.

The Magdalena Plains sub-region lies south of the Vizcaino Desert(a designated Biosphere Reserve) and is the souternmost region of the Sonoran Desert. Located along the coastal plains and in the foothills this area receives less than 3 inches of rain a year, almost exclusively in the summer months from tropical storms.

The primary plant endemic to this area is the creeping devil (Stenocereus eruca) cacti, which literally grows along the desert floor. Thornscrub and other tropical plants, trees and shrubs can be found in the rocky inland foothills.

Author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available to order at

Monday, June 16, 2008

Desert Series #3 - Gulf Coast Deserts

The Gulf Coast section of the Sonoran Desert extends from Bahia Los Angeles along the Sea of Cortez to the tip of the Peninsula (San Jose del Cabo). The further south you travel in Baja the hotter (generally speaking)it gets, with temperatures on the Sea of Cortez side approximately 10 degrees higher than the Pacific Coast. Summertime temperatures in the Gulf Coast Desert region often rise above 100F. Sizzling hot.

The mountain ranges on the Peninsula create a rain shadow effect on the Sea of Cortez side protecting it from winter rains. Much of the moisture found in this area comes from tropical storms during hurricane season. These tropical storms, or chubascos as they are also called, can have winds reaching speeds of up to 200 kph.

Cardon cacti are prevalent on the Gulf Coast often in large tracts. They are less dominant in desert forests north as they can not survive the winter frosts. Other trees in the Gulf Coast Desert include palo verde, ocotillo, ironwood and elephant trees. There are few small shrubs in this region as there shallow root systems and lack of water storage don't survive the long droughts that can last several years.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Desert Series #2 - The San Felipe Desert

The other primary desert region in the Baja California Peninsula (in addition to the Vizcaino Desert) is the San Felipe Desert. According to Brittanica Encyclopedia Online, "Areas with a mean annual precipitation of 10 in. (250 mm) or less are generally considered deserts". They take up one-third of the Earth's land surface.

The San Felipe Desert is located in the northeastern portion of the Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran Desert is approximately 120,000 square miles and covers area in Arizona, California, Baja and Sonora, Mexico. This eastern desert area is drier than the Vizcaino region to the west and vegetation is sparse.

Over 140 species of cacti can be found in the Sonoran Desert, with an abundance of Cardon Cacti in the San Felipe desert region. Cardon Cacti are the largest cacti species (growing up to 70 ft high and weighing up to 25 tons) and have been estimated to live over 300 years. A previous blog entry describing the difference between Cardon Cacti and the similar-looking Saguaro Cacti can be found here: Cardon Cacti & Saguaro Cacti - One in the Same?

A popular tourist attraction in San Felipe is the natural Cardon Cacti reserve with many specimens to oogle and awe over. One of these was transported to Seville, Spain in 1992 for an exhibit in the World's Fair. Here is a fun read of the trials and tribulations transporting a giant cacti across the world, complete with original photos: The Cardon of '92.

The tourist town (with many relocated expats) of San Felipe is one of many in Baja where the desert - San Felipe region of the larger Sonoran Desert - truly does meet the sea (Sea of Cortez), unlike anywhere else in the world.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Desert Series #1 - The Vizcaino Desert

The Vizcaino Desert is a primary desert region of Baja located on the western side of the Peninsula. According to Wikipedia (online encyclopedia), "Deserts are defined as areas that receive an average precipitation of less than 250mm (10in). They take up one-third of the Earth’s land surface". Annual rainfall in this area is approximately 5cm per year (2 inches) - with additional moisture from condensation of Pacific Ocean breezes.

The Vizcaino Desert is just south of Vizcaino Bay and encompasses the coast from Barra San Juan to El Rosario and includes the following mountain ranges: Cerro Matomí, Sierra San Luis, Sierra San Borja, Volcán Las Tres Vírgenes, and Sierra San Francisco. It, and Vizcaino Bay that is adjacent to the desert areas, are named after the Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino. A map of the area can be viewed here: Desert Ecology - Baja California Deserts. It is a minor portion of the larger Sonoran Desert that encompasses areas in Arizona, California, and Sonora, Mexico as well.

The vegetation of this desert area includes the following types of cacti: senita, barrel, candelbra, cholla and sour pitaya. It also contains boojum, elephant trees and agaves stem or leaf succulents and the desert shrubs slipper plant and ball moss.

Photos and more information on Ocean Oasis' online Field Guide - Vizcaino Desert.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Express Mail Services in Baja

A previous post on sending and receiving a letter or package in Baja described regular postal services, including sending mail within the Peninsula by bus: Mail in the Baja & How to Receive a Package.

For many travelers and residents, 10 days plus to receive mail is not sufficient in many instances. For expedited service, some areas in Baja have businesses offering private, express mail services.

In Baja Norte, Rosarito Beach has two options: International Mail & Business Center (located in Quinta Plaza) and Mail Express & Extras (located behind Le Costeau).

In Baja Sur, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo have the following services: DHL Worldwide Express (in Plaza Copan) and MailBoxes Etc.(in Plaza Las Palmas).

When you are receiving mail from the U.S. using FedEx, DHL or other expedited services, remember that you usually have to give a street address in Baja, as most delivery companies will not deliver to a postal office.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Crime Alert Issued For Baja

I would rather be writing about fish... but crime seems to be a central issue currently in the Baja California Peninsula. Two previous blog entries on crime & safety are:

1. Safety in the Baja & What is the Risk of Travel
2. Men in Black - Who are These Masked Men in Baja?

On April 14th, 2008 the U.S. Department of State issued a new travel alert for the Baja California Peninsula, set to expire in October, 2008. The travel warning describes current happenings along the U.S. - Mexico Border such as:

** violent criminal activity between criminal organizations struggling for control of the narcotics trade

** confrontations between Mexican army and police forces against heavily armed drug cartels using machine guns and fragmentation grenades

** an increase of armed robberies and carjackings, "apparently unconnected to the narcotics-related violence" in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez

The article states, "Dozens of U.S. citizens were kidnapped and/or murdered in Tijuana in 2007". Americans have been the victims of crimes but the majority of victims are Mexican, and the alert states that there is no evidence U.S. citizens are being targeted due to their nationality.

Crime may be on the rise in southern Baja as well, with recent armed robberies occurring in La Paz and the Todos Santos area. Residents are urged to keep doors and gates locked at all times. In the central Baja area, Mulege had an armed hijacking of an airplane at The Serenidad airstrip. The military have been sent to patrol the area.

Caution and common sense seems to be the name of the game for travelers to the Peninsula at present time - heed the advice of the U.S. Department of State and others; never travel at night, avoid the Tijuana-U.S. Border if driving and use the Tecate border instead, do not travel to or camp in remote locations, visit only legitimate businesses and tourist areas (that exclude brothels and cantinas), be extra alert to your surroundings, avoid traveling alone and displaying obvious signs of wealth (expensive jewelry, wads of cash, etc.).

Anyone and everyone who cares about the Peninsula can only hope that the situation eventually gets under better control.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Friday, April 18, 2008

Can Mexico follow in Peru´s Footsteps & Preserve Their Sportfishing Industry?

For fish farms to be a viable alternative to NOM-029 Mexico must stop much of the commercial fishing that is currently destroying the Sea of Cortez and it´s vast number of inhabitants. Peru dealt with a similar threat to it´s sportfishing industry and ocean environs, and has now taken the necessary steps to sustain the industry and support efforts at ocean conservation.

In conjunction with The Billfish Foundation Peru recently issued a presidential order that decommercializes the harvest and sale of marlins and sailfish. For more infomation read the online article: TBF Assists a Nation's President Set a New Standard for Billfish Conservation.

Can Mexico follow suit? Stop commercial fishing of sought-after sushi plate succulents and provide the supply by sustainable fish farms instead?

Mexico could partner with Japan - the main purchasers of fish from the seas of Baja - and make it illegal for Japanese businesses to buy commercially-caught fish from the Sea of Cortez. Japan could assist in the development of fish farms to meet their demand for supply, in partnership with Mexico. Japan and Mexico are familiar business partners already - with joint-ownership of the Exportadora de Sal (ESSA saltworks) outside of Guerrero Negro by Mitsubishi and Mexican government.

Fish farms are not a problem-free solution, but a viable alternative to meet the demand for fish - demand that is not going to go away but is predicted to increase annually. At least fish farms could target the intended species for sale such as Bluefin Tuna, rather than destructive fishing practices that incidentally kill thousands of forms of sea life in great numbers in pursuit of it.

Peru is setting an example for all of the world, that Mexico and other countries should strive to imitate.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sustainable Fish Farms in Baja

Mexico could be a world leader in sustainable fish farms, attracting scientists and researchers around the world in collaborative projects. Instead of a `Nautical Highway` currently being promoted by the Baja California State Tourism Secretariat to give wealthy yacht-owners stop-overs on their way up and down the peninsula and create a 80-mile overland road linking ocean (at Santa Rosalillita) to sea (at Bahia de los Angeles) -- how about a Fish Farm Industry that is world-reknown?

A good background article on the proposed Nautical Highway is this one by National Geographic: Can Mexico's Wild Baja California Endure New Marinas?

Creating sustainable fish farms would protect the vast natural wealth of the Peninsula, instead of pandering to the wealthy. Instead of 22 ports, how about 10 ports (or none) and 12 Fish Farms? Spend some of the 222 million starter-funds on a project that will help to preserve the environment of the Baja California Peninsula, not denegrate it.

In 2004, 43% of the global fish supply came from farmed sources, and the percentage increases annually. An opportunity for Mexican commercial and local fisherman, with support from government, to enter a market that will make good profit, supply demand coming from Japan & elsewhere, and keep the fish flowing for future generations of Baja inhabitants, sportfishing enthusiasts and tourists. Without the fish, what will Baja become?

Promote and create Fish Farms before it becomes a necessity -- due to destructive fishing practices decimating fish populations. Create new business opportunities for Mexican entreprenuers while preserving the already world-reknown sportfishing industry that attacts millions of visitors annually. Yachters like to fish too.

From the Marine Conservation Society (UK) website here is an article entitled Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fish Farming.

A major problem with fish farming - even closed-systems not using wild-caught fish for stock - is the food source they must be given to survive, can cause negative secondary effects for that marine species. Sacrificing a non-edible species, for farmed species raised for human consumption is not a sustainable, non-destructive environmental solution. It also affects other species, such as the wildlife that relys on that food source for survival, birds, etc. Scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) have made inroads to providing a solution - New breakthrough in sustainable fish farming and others are studying the issue as well.

One of many offering consulting services for all phases of fish farming development, management and production is Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc. located in Colorado.

The resources available on the Web are almost endless, and the Peninsula is home to The University of Baja California, College of Marine Science and the Institute for Oceanographic Investigation. Campuses are located in Mexicali (main campus), Ensenada, Tijuana, San Felipe, Tecate, San Quintin and La Paz.

For next weeks blog, I will see if I can complete an interview with a local Baja Oceanographer or marine scientist. Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fish Farming in Baja - A Solution to NOM-029?

Provide mouth-watering fresh, fish flesh for sushi lovers abroad and in the U.S., and profit-making ventures for commercial and local Baja business interests, while perserving the sanctity of the Sea of Cortez at the same time? Sounds almost too good to be true!

But it's not. Fish farming is a viable - and maybe the only - alternative to destructive fishing practices that are decimating many species of fish that call the Sea of Cortez home. Tuna farming in Baja does currently exist, but the goal by environmental orgranizations and scientists is to push for sustainable, ecologically-safe fish farms.

According to the 2005 article, Sustainability Assessment of Capture-Based Tuna Aquaculture in Mexico, written by the MSATAM Team (Marine Science Assessment of Tuna Aquaculture in Mexico), "... tuna farming in large nearshore net pens has expanded rapidly along the Baja Pacific coast north and south of the Tijuana-Ensenada Corridor. Mexican tuna are now estimated to comprise 10% of global tuna production (35,000 tons)."

The article also states, "Tuna ranching/farming is one of the fastest growing forms of aquaculture in the world today."

Farmed tuna - that use wild-caught fish (primarily Pacific Bluefin Tuna) that are kept in pens and fed small fish such as sardines - are sought-after for sushi due to the higher oil content of the fish. High-quality seems to fetch a high price. According to the article above, "Farm gate prices for Mexican farmed tuna are currently reported to be $12,000/ton.".

This article, Say Hola to Tuna From Mexico! describes the fish farming process in detail. The fish farms in Mexico should be more accurately called 'ranches' or 'capture-based tuna farming' because wild tuna are used for both stock and feeds. It states, "A true 'farm' would be one in which fish are raised from egg to adult stages in captivity...".

Tuna farms that use wild stock can devastate the habitat they come from. In the U.S., capture fisheries have decimated tuna stock in the Atlantic. Researchers and environmental organizations are trying to help prevent that from happening in the Pacific as well.

(From the article) Barry A. Costa-Pierce, a Professor of Fisheries and Aquaculture at the University of Rhode Island, states, "It is urgent that we develop an internationally credible scientific basis for sustainable tuna farming that could decrease pressure on tuna stocks, while also being environmentally and socially sustainable."

These efforts would also provide a viable solution to NOM-029, by giving commercial (and local) fishermen an alternative to over-fishing the Sea of Cortez. Fish farms could provide a means for profit-making and meet product demand for Baja fish coming from Japan (the majority of exports), the U.S. and elsewhere.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Help Save the Sea of Cortez & Overturn NOM-029

The fight to stop over-fishing in the Sea of Cortez has an extensive history. In October 2002 the Mexican Senate, with support from then president Vicente Fox, cancelled NOM-029-PESCA-2006, also known as Shark NORMA. Sea Watch and other environmental organizations had spent over $60,000 U.S to fight it.

Their victory turned into defeat May of 2007 when president Felipe Calderon passed a new NOM-029 into law. The reason? Commercial interests wanting the right to harvest more fish and make more money. Much of the demand for Baja fish comes overseas from Japan, where bluefin tuna can sell for as much as $45 a pound.

For a brief snapshot of the economic realities at play read the 2004 article Tuna Barons by The Fisherman's Voice.

A good article describing the basics of NOM-029 and the danger it poses to the health of all organisims that call the Sea of Cortez home is Marine Life Threatened in Sea of Cortez at

The Billfish Foundation, and their partners in Mexico, have retained an attorney and begun a series of legal procedures to fight for the modification of NOM-029 and to stop destructive fishing practices. The process and an outline of current actions taken by TBF are described in their online article, Mexican Senate Confronts Shark Norma Negotiations.

Help stop destructive fishing practices and protect the future of the Sea of Cortez.

The International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) and other conservation organizations such as Sea Watch and The Billfish Foundation ask that you demand that NOM-029 be suspended until the following modifications are included:

** Prohibit commercial fishing in the 50 mile protected zones
** Address bycatch so that game fish may not be incidentally targeted and sold
** Regionalize fishing permits to evenly distribute fishing effort
** Vigilant enforcement of commercial vessels by the Armada de Mexico
** Stock assessment and catch and effort data be utilized in making management decisions

This information is included in the online article New Regulations in Mexico Threaten Marine Life in Sea of Cortez on the IGFA website. They have posted a link to an automated email system. Click on each politician's name, type in your full name and click 'submit'.

A pre-formed letter outlining the reasons NOM-029 should be overturned or amended is then sent to the politician in your name. A simple and easy way to have your opinion heard.

I will contact the above organizations by email, and ask to be informed if any new developments occur so that I can post a blog entry about it. Every little bit counts.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NOM-029 & Saving the Sea of Cortez

Vicente Fox may be gone from the political scene but hopefully some of his legacy will be revived. Five months after taking office, his presidential successor Felipe Calderon signed NOM-029 into law, a bill that many say legalizes destructive fishing practices in the Sea of Cortez.

Called a conservation catastrophe by The Billfish Foundation, NOM-029-PESCA-2006 is a measure that allows commercial longlining in coastal waters of the Sea of Cortez. Prior to NOM-029, commercial vessels were not allowed to fish for or possess marlin, sailfish, dorado and other protected species within 50 miles of the coastline. Only recreational anglers were allowed to fish in these protected zones.

The bill allows long-line fishing from more than 3,000 skiffs, with 350-hook lines, as close as 10 miles from the shore. Medium-size vessels, up to 233 of them with 1,000-hook lines, and enter the Sea of Cortez for massive catches (and bycatches) as close as 15 miles.

It seems ironic that a bill intending, supposedly, to protect a select few species, allows for activities that are decimating other protected populations of fish in the Sea of Cortez. And decimating they are. Sea Watch observed, filmed, and did the math.

Here is one days worth of destruction by a few commercial fishermen, totaled up (by Sea Watch): “Two boats caught around 400 dorado – 110 hooks and 53 dorado on each of them. Each boat had 5 km of longline with 600 to 700 baited hooks in the water. Multiply these numbers by the numbers of boats fishing and you suddenly have 5,000 to 10,000 small dorado being taken from Baja waters on any given day.”

More information and photographs are posted at the following locations on the Sea Watch website:



NOM-029 may currently be law, but the battle to save the marine life of the Sea of Cortez is hardly over. Laws, especially when counter-productive, can be overturned or amended. The following three paragraphs - quoted from a May, 2007 article in the Los Angeles Times – illustrate both sides of the issue, and why NOM-029 is a misguided attempt to protect species such as Blue and Hammerhead Sharks and the Giant Ray in the Sea of Cortez.

Paragraph #1 “NOM-029 limits fishing pressure through permits and imposes gear and area restrictions designed to ensure sustainability. It bans the capture of certain sharks and rays; phases out of drift gill-nets; and outlaws finning, or slicing fins from sharks and throwing their writhing bodies overboard.”

** Why GreenPeace currently supports the bill **

Paragraphs #2 & #3 “But it does not adequately guard against exploitation of "bycatch" species such as dorado, or mahi-mahi, marlin and sailfish – species that gave rise to sportfishing-related tourism and supposedly are off-limits to commercial fishermen.”

“Long-line hooks do not discriminate. Marlin, sailfish and dorado fetch a higher price than sharks, which are already depleted. So it's reasonable to assume the bycatch species are really what the fishermen are after.”

** Why opponents are doggedly fighting it **

Next weeks blog entry - what you can do to help these and other organizations fighting to overturn NOM-029 and save the Sea of Cortez and all its inhabitants.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cardon Cacti & Saguaro Cacti - One in the Same?

Soaking up information on all things Baja like a beach-marooned sea sponge after a summer's drought, I believed everything I was told when first moving to the Peninsula. Pretty much. Don't even think of asking me about 'whale turds'!

Case in Point (another case): Cardon cactus is the same as saguaro found in the U.S., they are just called by different names. No, they are not the same but different, distinct species I now know. Here's the skivy.

The cardon cactus (Pachycereus pringlei) is the world's largest cactus. They are one of over 1000 species of cacti found on the Peninsula (sources vary on this number, some saying 800 species, others 1200, so I took the middle road...). They have been measured at nearly 21 meters (70 feet) high and can weigh up to 25 tons. Cardon cacti have been estimated to live over 3000 years.

The cardon is native to Baja where it exists in large numbers. A small number of these cacti can also be found in Sonora, Mexico on the mainland, a part of the Sonoran Desert region that encompasses areas in the U.S. and Mexico.

The saguaro, on the other hand, is not native to the Baja California Peninsula and is rarely found living there. A small number of saguaro cacti are found in Sonora Mexico on the mainland also, but they are primarily located in the southwest desert of the U.S. in states such as New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Cardon cacti and the saguaro are similar in that they are both columnar cacti, with vertical framework that allows their trunks to expand to store large amounts of water when it is available, then contract when water is scarce. This is why they look similar, and many think they are one in the same.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Monday, February 25, 2008

Free Baja Travel Guide!

I got the crazy idea to write a relocation guide for the Baja California Peninsula last summer while living in Morelia, Mexico for a month. My son was in an arts school ($75 for the month paid for dance, music, drawing and theater classes, very cool & why we were there) and I was sitting around the main square in cafe´s, sipping espresso with little to do. Woe is me and why not write a book? Or something like that.

Three months later Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula was born and set into the eversphere (made available as an eBook through a website).

I really sunk my teeth into the project, grinding out chapters on real estate, medical insurance, environmental issues, tons of topics. Mid-way through I decided that the book would not be a valuable resource on Baja without a basic travel guide included. Driving the Peninsula, taking a ferry to the mainland, riding a bus, all these topics needed to be covered. So I did.

And afterwards, put together a separate document that could easily be printed-out for travelers to take on the road. Hence, Viva La Baja! Travel Guide was created and is now available to you for free (hey, if you read this blog, you should get something out of it!).

The guide includes: driving directions from Tijuana to Los Cabos; information about towns with a link to a website with more info; side trips to Bahia de los Angeles, Magdalena Bay and Cabo Pulmo; mileage between towns; car insurance & where to get a Mexican auto insurance policy; green angels & emergency assistance; riding a bus and ferry locations & schedules.

Also included is information on crime & safety with contact information for U.S. & Canadian embassies and where to report a crime.

Email and I will send you a copy.

Buen Viaje, Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mail in the Baja & How to Receive a Package

The Mexican mail burro has grown a set of wings. O.K., maybe not but he does have a bit more air under his feet. Receiving mail while living in Baja is slow, but not overly-so. Similar to other international destinations outside of the U.S. or Canada, two to three weeks seems to be the average time frame for delivery of a package.

If the package is later than two weeks it could be held-up in customs. One package of ours sent from Seattle went to Mexico City first, and took over a month to clear customs before being shipped back to Baja. During the extended wait, I was clueless to the cause of the delay, but became quite the familiar face at our local postal post, with weekly, then twice-weekly inquires "es mi caja aqui?" (is my package here?).

Here is one online service - USA2Me - to obtain a U.S. address for items to be sent to and then forwarded to Baja. After an initial $15 set-up fee, the monthly charge for basic service is only $5.

A better way may be to set-up this service in person while north of the border. If like me, you will have many interactions with this service provider, and knowing who is handling your personal items personally can be comforting when you have to call or email to figure out the cause of a delay or lost package.

The biggest drawback to buying new items in the U.S.or Canada and having them shipped is custom fees. You can be charged up to 38 percent of the declared value of your package. If you use an express mailing service to expedite delivery (5-10 days) such as DHL or Federal Express, you may be charged a fee of approximately $15 (even if the contents are not dutiable) to cover the services of the customs broker.

If you do not want to purchase a mailbox at your local Baja post office, you can have mail sent to you general delivery or 'Lista de Correos' (in Spanish). Your address will look something like this:

Your Name
Lista de Correos
Your Baja town, zip code, Baja California Sur or Norte
(city, postal code, state)

Packages can be shipped from Baja town to Baja town via bus. Take the package to your local bus station and request it to be delivered to you chosen address... but make sure you have someone on the receiving end (bus stop at end destination) to pick it up.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Friday, February 15, 2008

Movies in the Baja & Where to See a Good Flick

The most recent movie we saw in a movie theater -- un-researched & spur of the moment -- was "The Woman of My Nightmares" (title of the movie in Latin America, "The Heartbreak Kid" in the U.S.). Ben Stiller (big like) plus deviated septum chick from Hell added up to the movie of our nightmares. And I thought 'SuperBad' was bad.

The first for my son and maybe second for me, we walked out mid-way through, not caring that the plot seemed to be picking up with actress Michelle Monaghan entering the scene. This review from wasn't too favorable either. Mail-order DVD's and computer downloads here I come. Love the big-screen experience, but home-made popcorn is better for you anyways.

If living in Baja (no Blockbusters in site) and wanting the home movie experience as well, DVD's can be mail-ordered from these locations: Movies Unlimited,, or DVD Empire. And of course there is always and, though not the lowest cost options.

Another option is online DVD Clubs (join and get five DVDs for 49 cents or less each...) such as Columbia House and Disney.

Whether they will ship to Mexico or not is a good blog topic for another day. My work-around is to have a U.S. address at a mailbox company in the states, have my online purchases shipped there, and then re-packaged and shipped to my Baja address.

If you are the owner of a large gigabyte hard-drive computer, and wouldn't mind watching the flick on your computer screen, you can avoid shipping costs and hassles all together by downloading films from one of these online locations: or Apple. (Windows & Mac) For you oldies out there, they give free downloads to ancient... I mean golden oldies television series and movies such as "Dragnet", "American Empire", "A Christmas Carol" and others. With a $9.95 monthly subscription, you have thousands more (and more current) options.

New releases can be downloaded to your computer for a pay-per-view cost ($3-4) from Apple iTunes. The film will stay on your computer for 30 days, or until is viewed, whichever comes first. The file may take hours to download, but just select and load before going to bed. In the morning you should be ready to roll.

If you want the public theater experience, venues can be found in most large towns & cities on the Peninsula such as Tijuana, Rosarito Beach (Playas de Rosarito), Ensenada, La Paz and Los Cabos.

For all you high-class folks out there, there is a planetarium movie theatre in Tijuana. There are four Omni Theaters located in Mexico.

Here's to no more nightmares, Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Love in the Baja: Strip Clubs, Cantinas & Where are all the Singles?

You've found your life partner, man/woman of your dreams, your soul mate. Congrats! I am sure your Valentine's Day will be filled with heart-felt exchanges and sweet somethings. Now what about the rest of us?

True love may be hard to find, but for all the effort you may as well shoot for the stars. If in Baja Norte and looking for love - friend and family resources, and dates with available prospects, already taxed to the max - skip the brothels and head to Ensenada for a night out at the Octopus Discoteque or Carajo.

If a bit on the lazy side, this site - One Love Net - has two available hotties for gals living North. Yep, that's right TWO. Yahoooooo. Guys have more online dating possibilities at For those in Baja Sur, online dating and chat services are available through Cafe Tropic.

Or how about a cooking class, and play the odds you won't be the only one unattached. For Baja Norte, an elegant option is the Rancho La Puerta in Tecate. They offer arts and craft classes, writing seminars, and have themed fitness 'specialty weeks' in yoga, Pilates, hiking or meditation.

If your'e a southerner (Baja Sur inhabitant) guy or gal, there is Cook With Us in Todos Santos. Or you can throw in a week of Spanish immersion lessons along with three nights of Mexican cooking classes with this program offered through Sea & Adventures Inc. in La Paz.

To take a trip to Baja geared for those seeking a match made in paradise, Singles Travel Company organizes fishing excursions to La Paz for singles. You may get lucky - catch a big one and find a new love all in one shot. In April, they offer a 3-day Baja Mexico cruise aboard the Carnival cruise ship Paradise, visiting Ensenada and surrounds.

Singles Travel International hosts trips to Baja for those looking for love as well.

If you are fortunate enough to be in a loving, committed relationship already, and want to keep that love strong, you may enjoy the book "Together Forever - A Relationship Book for Couples" by Suzanne Marie Bandick. Not pop pychology, just well-intentioned advice and musings from someone lucky enough to find love early and make it last.

Happy hunting and Valentine's Day! Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Brrrrr + Sun = Winter in Baja!

Last year we arrived back in our small town of Mulege on Dec 31st after two months in drizzly Seattle. Tropical Storm John (Sept 2006) had devastated the town and left many, including my son and I, temporarily homeless.

From summer sauna our small (I mean shoe-box size) casita had turned into a winter ice-box. Freezing with a capital 'F'. We slept that first night with a full set of clothes on, winter coats included.

The next morning it took five hours or so of daylight to remind me why I loved the place so much - brilliant sun high in the sky causing me to sweat while walking into town with only a T-shirt on.

Mulege is considered Central Baja (casually, not officially) and is approximately 176 miles from the 48th parallel point at Guerrero Negro -- the official designation separating Baja California Norte (North from GN to Tijuana) from Baja California Sur (South from GN to Cabo San Lucas). This middle of Baja terrain - San Ignacio, Santa Rosalia, Mulege, Loreto, Ciudad Constitution - has freezing temperatures in winter, scorching & humid highs during the summer months.

The southern-end of the Peninsula - La Paz to Los Cabos (Cabo San Lucas & San Jose del Cabo) has more warmth in the winter (including warmer nights), but similar oppressively hot (to most sane folks) summers, often continuing through September.

To steer clear of these temperature highs and lows, you can remain in Northern Baja - the area from Tijuana to Ensenada approximately - where the climate is more Mediterranean. This area has hot, dry summers and wet, warm winters with temperatures ranging from 85 to 50 degrees F, on average. Head into the desert extremes further south and you drop down to the 40s, and climb up into the 90s to 100s (La Paz can have temps up to 115 degrees!).

Today, Ensenada is experiencing temperatures ranging from the mid 50s degrees F to 46 degrees F. Mulege has a high of 70 degrees F, and lows in the 50s. La Paz is heating up to 76, and dropping to the low 60s. MSN weather covers most Baja cities and towns.

This Web page - Weather Mexico - is a good read on weather patterns and temps throughout all areas of Mexico, including the Baja California Peninsula.

In solidarity with all current Baja winter-inhabitants, we are freezing our buns off in Xela, Guatemala. The city is located in a dry, mountainous area with chill-you-to-the-bones nights and mornings, followed by sparkling sunny and warm afternoons. Much like many areas of Baja. Nights drop to the low 30s F and you wake up not wanting to get out from underneath the mother-lode of blankets on top of you. Heat... ha, ha! No such thing as heaters here... at least where we have stayed.

Can't wait to be Baja-bound, in the heat or cold! Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula