Laid-Back Living
Looking to live the easy Mexican lifestyle? Whether you’re seeking a primary residence, a vacation home, a place to retire to, or simply a few days of rest and respite, you won’t want to miss the beautiful resort areas of Baja California and Jalisco.

Home to 1,000 miles of quiet, colorful deserts, sandy beaches, and beautiful blue skies, Baja California is one of the most unique and diverse geographical areas of the world. Baja holds many distinctive charms: rugged desert and mountain landscapes, the deep blue waters of the Pacific and the Gulf of California, lush palm oases, excellent sport fishing, beautiful beaches and hospitable people. Increasing numbers of vacationers, especially North Americans, are discovering that Baja’s 70 to 80-degree winter sunshine is the perfect escape from the cold, and thousands flock to the resort areas of Ensenada, Rosarito, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose Del Cabo, and La Paz every year.

One of the biggest attractions of Baja California is the shopping! All of Baja is a duty-free zone and stores offer substantial savings in comparison to U.S. prices on imported items like perfumes, jewelry, art objects, cosmetics, and textiles. Shoppers can also find good deals on many Mexican-made items including high-quality pottery, ceramics, guitars, silver and leather goods, blankets, and furniture.

Baja North
Some of the finest resort areas and gorgeous upscale communities—such as Club Marena, Bajamar, and Rosamar—are in Baja California Norte, the northern region between and including Rosarito Beach and Ensenada. These destinations have been chosen by filmmakers for movies such as “Titanic.” Russell Crowe spent a few months in Club Marena and Bajamar while shooting “The Far Side of the World.”

Rosarito offers excellent shopping, international cuisine, great nightlife, and a casual attitude. While searching for your perfect primary or secondary home, you can stay at the famous Rosarito Beach Hotel that has hosted gangsters and glamorous Hollywood stars since the 1920s. Rosarito is home to some of the best beach action there is, from ATV rentals to sea kayaks to catamarans. You can ride a horse through the surf, hike, fish, or just dig your feet into the warm sand and relax with a piña colada in hand. If it's lobster you’re craving, head seven miles south to the village of Puerto Nuevo, nicknamed “Lobster Village,” where close to 40 restaurants serve thousands of lobster dinners on busy weekends.

Further south lies Ensenada, Baja’s leading seaport. Due to its beautiful beaches, scenic setting, excellent sportfishing, numerous duty-free shops, plenitude of fine accommodations, and proximity to the U.S., Ensenada has become the peninsula'’ foremost summer resort. Every year hundreds of thousands of vacationers flock to this city, many dropped off by the cruise ships that dock at the port. Ensenada’s busiest times for tourism are the summer and U.S. holidays, but Ensenada is host to many events that attract crowds throughout the year, including Carnaval (the equivalent of Mardi Gras in New Orleans), typically held in February. More than 90 percent of Mexico’s wines are produced in Ensenada and the surrounding areas and many wineries offer tours and tastings year round. For a little nightlife, head to Papas & Beer or the legendary Hussong’s Cantina. The latter has been in business since the late 1800s.




Baja South
The southern portion of the peninsula is called Baja California Sur. Located at the southernmost tip is beautiful Los Cabos, an area consisting of two towns situated 20 miles apart, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. The 20-mile stretch between the two towns is called the Corridor and is home to many beautiful beaches and coves, as well as a number of first-class hotels and private developments.

A variety of watersports are popular in Los Cabos. Sportfishing has been a main attraction. The area is also well known to scuba divers due to its sand falls and the colonies of black coral and other marine fauna that inhabit the waters.

All around is evidence of Los Cabos’ transformation into a booming tourist resort. Construction cranes loom over the land as the building boom continues, and cruise ships have made this a regular port of call, bringing thousands of tourists every year.

In Cabo San Lucas, one of the most breathtaking areas is Pedregal, where multimillion-dollar estates—virtual palaces—spread over the hills above the harbor. At the harbor itself, you’ll often see million-dollar fishing boats at anchor.

If you’re looking for excitement, Cabo San Lucas is the place. When the sun goes down, the town comes alive with scores of nightclubs to choose from. Some of the most well known include Cabo Wabo, the Giggling Marlin, and the Hard Rock Café. If it’s quiet you desire, San Jose del Cabo offers a relaxed, dignified ambiance, one that attracts a more subdued breed of tourist. Whatever your tastes, Los Cabos has something for you.

North of the area, snugly situated between the stark sands of Baja and the fertile waters of the fabled Sea of Cortez, La Paz circles a large natural bay. The city of 180,000 is the capital of Baja California Sur.

Because of its prime coastal position, the city has been called the “World’s Largest Fishing Trap” because it is home to more than 800 species of fish and 2,000 species of invertebrates. Naturally, then, it attracts those with a passion for deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, diving, sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking.

Several fine beaches are just a short drive from La Paz. To the east, for example, is the tranquil Bahia de Los Suenos (Bay of Dreams), which features luxurious homes.

Jalisco
Hugging the coast in the west-central Mexican mainland, the state of Jalisco is famous for its multitude of lakes and stunning coastlines. The state is also the birthplace of mariachi music, tequila, and the Mexican hat dance. Jalisco is home to the lovely cities of Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. The former is rich with history, having preserved its historic downtown district, and its murals and frescoes have long attracted Mexican and American patrons of the arts. Puerto Vallarta, on the coast, has a bit of Hollywood history. John Huston’s “Night of the Iguanas” was filmed there in the 1960s. Statues of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, the movie’s stars, stand near the city’s Municipal Market.

One of the best parts of Jalisco is the Lake Chapala area. The largest natural lake in Mexico, Lake Chapala is a popular weekend destination for Mexicans who want to frolic or sunbathe by the water. The area is also home to many Americans, who purchase reasonably priced villas with exquisite, panoramic views of the lake and mountains. On the north shore is the charming town of Ajijic, an artist colony. The shops along its cobblestone streets feature weaving and embroidery items, for which the town is famous.

Real Estate in Mexico
Thinking about buying or building your dream home in southern Baja? Whether you’re seeking an ocean-view condo, villa, or a private rustic ranch, all are available throughout the area. Luxurious developments, such as Bahia de Suenos (Bay of Dreams), are popping up all over the region. In recent years, prices have been exploding in the Los Cabos area, and that trend is moving north to La Paz. Prices are ranging from several hundred thousand dollars to the million and more mark.

Purchasing property in Mexico, however, is different from such transactions in the U.S. Mexico constitutionally prohibits the direct ownership of real property by foreigners within 32 miles of the coastline and/or within 64 miles of any border. The good news: An amendment in 1973 made foreign property ownership possible through a bank trust, or fideicomiso. This trust is not a lease. It allows a foreigner to legally own within the restricted area. Further amendments were made that extended the length of the trust to 50 years, and the trust can be renewed for 50-year periods in perpetuity. More good news: Conventional U.S. financing and American title insurance are now available. For more information about buying in Mexico, be sure to consult a real estate agent who specializes in Baja properties.

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Story by Jacqueline Shannon
Photography by Michael Blassis and Christopher Shipley

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