Best Baja Books & Reading Guide

Baja has inspired authors for generations. Baja Books are as diverse as the peninsula itself. As Baja cruise and Baja travel experts we are often asked, “what are the best books about Baja California?” Our experts share their favorite Baja California guide books, field guides, maps and adventure books in this comprehensive Baja reading list.

Best Baja Books – Essential Reading
Books About Baja California – Recommended Reading
Baja Field Guides
Baja Travel & Guide Books
Baja Maps
Baja Resources

A collage of book covers of the top Baja books and recommended reading when preparing for a Baja small ship cruise.

Best Baja Books – Essential Reading

There are so many great books it is difficult to narrow down the best. Our selection of the best Baja books are essential reading for anyone considering a visit to Baja. Hand selected by former naturalist guides these are the best books about Baja California.

Book cover of the Log From the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck with lithographic art showing yellow sunset, brown mountains and blue sea.

The Log from the Sea of Cortez

John Steinbeck

The classic account of a collecting trip to the Sea of Cortez with marine biologist Ed Ricketts, first published in 1941. Subtitled “A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research,” this much-loved book captures the wonders of the Gulf of California and the joys of discovery.

Book Cover of the Forgotten Peninsula by Joseph Wood Krutch with desert landscape and green bay in the Sea of Cortez

The Forgotten Peninsula, A Naturalist in Baja California

Joseph Wood Crutch

A classic portrait and celebration of the plants, landscapes and history of Baja. Naturalist Ann Zwinger called this book “a delightful narrative of natural history exploration at its best.” It’s a classic.

Book cover of Almost and Island by Bruce Berger showing a rock arch over green water in Baja.

Almost an Island: Travels in Baja California

Bruce Berger

Long frequented by pirates and haunted by pariahs, Baja California has become a favorite destination for whale watchers, hikers, and scuba divers. For Bruce Berger it has been more. In Almost an Island, he takes readers beyond the Baja of guidebooks and offers a wildly entertaining look at the real Baja California.

Book cover of the Desert Islands of Mexico's Sea of Cortez by Stewart Aitchison showing a desert landscape with large cactus a calm bay with two boats anchored.

The Desert Islands of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez

Stewart Aitchison

A biologist, geologist and naturalist on Baja expedition cruises, Stewart Aitchison brings experience — and a large photo library — to this well-illustrated natural history.

Book cover of Whales and Other Marine Mammals of California and Baja by Tamara Eder showing two large whales and a porpoise in a blue sea.

Whales and Other Marine Mammals of California and Baja

Tamara Eder

Photographs, maps, identification and natural history are all covered in this handy guide featuring color illustrations by Ian Sheldon.

Two travelers on stand-up paddleboards in the ocean pose for a selfie in front of a deserted desert beach in Baja

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The further you explore the magnificent peninsula the more Baja California books you want to read. Take a deeper dive in to books about Baja with this list of further recommended reading. These books cover a variety of topics including personal memoirs, scientific expeditions, novels and natural history. These Baja books are a great companion to Baja small ship cruise or Baja vacation package.

Book cover of Baja Legends by Greg Niemann showing an old fashioned map of Baja California and three pictures of a sunset, a mission and a swimming pool.

Baja Legends

Greg Niemann

Regional expert Niemann collects and shares the colorful history and lore of Baja California in this engaging,
easy-to-read reference book.

Book cover of the Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz showing lithographic art of a black labyrinth with green walls and red title words.

The Labyrinth of Solitude

Octavio Paz

Greg Niemann, long-time Baja California journalist and author of Baja Fever, shares his extensive knowledge of the peninsula—its colorful past and booming present—in this easy-to-read reference book. These essays by the Nobel Prize-winning poet address Mexican culture and character. The chapters on the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead and the conquest are especially memorable.

Book cover of Miraculous Air by C.M. Mayo showing an arial photograph of the Baja Peninsula surrounded by water with an inset of a lithographic image of a red haired woman in a red dress.

Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles Through Baja California, the Other Mexico

C. M. Mayo

Like Steinbeck (from whom she quotes in the title “the very air here is miraculous”), Mayo is enchanted with the land and people of Baja. She writes of a 1,000-mile journey from Cabo to Tijuana with insight, warmth and style.

Book cover of the Desert Year by Joseph Wood Krutch showing an up close image of a green cactus overlaid by the book title.

The Desert Year

Joseph Wood Krutch

Joseph Wood Krutch celebrates the austere beauty, rugged plants and many animals of American Southwest in this classic account of his first year in Arizona, winner of the 1954 John Burroughs Medal for a Distinguished Book of Natural History — and as enchanting today. With 33 original illustrations by Rudolf Freund.

Book cover of Telling Our Way to the Sea by Aaron Hirsh showing brown desert mountains of Baja rising out of a calm blue sea and blue sky above.

Telling Our Way to the Sea

Aaron Hirsh

Biologist and director of the Vermilion Sea Field Station, Aaron Hirsh recounts his adventures underwater and among the islands of the Sea of Cortez with biologist wife Veronica Volny, historian friend Graham Burnett and students in this series of wondrous essays.

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Best Baja Field Guides

Only a region as diverse, and as loved, as Baja California can have this many field guides. Our experts, former naturalist guides themselves, present the best Baja field guides. Learn and appreciate Baja nature, wildlife, marine biology and geology. These Baja California field guides will help you identify plants and animals throughout the peninsula.

Book cover of a Field Guide to Coastal Fishes with an orange fish a rockfish and blue fish with the book title and authors listed.

A Field Guide to Coastal Fishes, From Alaska to California

Larry G. Allen, Luiz A. Rocha, Valerie A. Kells

Capturing the stunning variety of fish common to the coastlines of the western USA and Canada, this illustrated, scientific field guide profiles 700 species with over 950 illustrations. Descriptions detail range, distribution and taxonomy.

Book cover of Baja California Plant Field Guide with a person in a red shirt standing next to a massive tall cactus in a rocky landscape with blue sky.

Baja California Plant Field Guide

Norman C. Roberts, Jon Rebman

We can’t imagine a walk through the deserts and islands of Baja California without this book in hand. With hundreds of color photographs illustrating 715 plants of the region, this superb field guide also includes short introductory chapters on vegetation, geology and climate. This expanded third edition was revised by Jon Rebman, botanist at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Book cover of a Natural History of the Sonoran Desert with purple and yellow flowers among rocks in the foreground with green cactus and brown desert landscape and mountains on the horizon.

A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert

Arasona-Sonora Desert Museum

Covering southeasternmost California, much of southern and central Arizona, most of Baja California, and much of the state of Sonora, Mexico, the Sonoran Desert is home to an extraordinary variety of plants and animals. A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert takes readers deep into its vast expanse, looking closely at the relationships of plants and animals with the land and people, through time and across landscapes.

Thumbnail image of the Baja Sea of Cortez Marine Mammal Guide with tiny images of whales, dolphins and porpoise with written descriptions.

Baja, Sea of Cortez, Marine Mammal Guide

Rainforest Publications

A double-sided, laminated field guide illustrating the whales, dolphins and other marine mammals of the Sea of Cortez and Pacific coast of Baja.

Book cover of the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America with a yellow border a large bald eagle head and the book title, authors and awards listed.

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America

Jonathan Alderfer, Jon L. Dunn

This fully revised edition of the best-selling North American bird field guide is the most up-to-date guide on the market. Perfect for beginning to advanced birders, it is the only book organized to match the latest American Ornithological Society taxonomy.

Book cover of a Field Guide to Mexican Birds with two colorful toucan birds with large bills.

A Field Guide to Mexican Birds

Roger Tory Peterson, Edward L. Chalif

With more than 700 color paintings arranged by families for quick comparison of similar species, and with detailed information on range, habitat, size, and voice, this field guide describes and illustrates 1,038 species of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and El Salvador.

Book cover of the Handbook of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises of the World by Mark Carwardine with a blue title on white background and images of a humpback whale, killer whale, porpoise and vaquita dolphin among the words.

Handbook of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises of the World

Mark Carwardine

The most authoritative reference guide to every cetacean species and subspecies in the world. Handbook of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises of the World is the most comprehensive and up-to-date guide to these popular mammals.

Thumbnail of the Mexico Field Guide to Baja California Sea and Shore Birds with small images of many birds and their descriptions.

Mexico Field Guide, Baja California Sea and Shore Birds

Rainforest Publications

This beautifully illustrated, double-sided laminated card depicts 60 commonly encountered birds of coastal Baja California and the Sea of Cortez.

Thumbnail of the cover of Mexico Pacific Marin Guide with a blue background, humpback whale breaching and three angelfish.

Mexico Pacific Marine Guide, Pacific Coast

Rainforest Publications

A perfect pocket guide to take along while exploring Mexico’s Pacific Coast and Sea of Cortez. It accordions out out to give you detailed, full color, scientifically accurate illustrations of the marine mammals, reef fish, sport fish, and sea turtles you’ll see.

Thumbnail image of Baja, Sea of Cortez Reef Fish Field guides with tiny images of fish, sharks and marine life with descriptions.

Baja, Sea of Cortez Reef Fish Field Guide

Rainforest Publications

Everything you could possibly see above or below the waterline you can identify with these guides.If your plans include visits Baja, you will find these guides useful

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Best Baja Travel & Guide Books

Even when you book with an award wining travel company like AdventureSmith Explorations, a good Baja guide book can enhance your experience with history, science, background information and travel insights. There are too many Baja guidebooks to count. Our Baja travel experts highlight the best Baja guide books for your next adventure.

Book cover of the Rough Guide to Baja California by Jason Clampet with a closeup photograph of a large green cactus and blue sky in the background.

The Rough Guide to Baja California

Jason Clampet

While old and out of date as a guidebook, we love the Rough Guide to Baja California for its added insight into history, culture and nature of Baja. There is plenty of practical advice on a range of outdoor activities including: trekking, surfing, whale-watching and sport fishing.

Book cover of the Moon Guide to Baja California by Jennifer Kramer with two large green cactus framing a person on a paddle board in a green water bay with blue sea and brown mountains with blue sky and white clouds.

Moon Baja: Tijuana to Los Cabos (Travel Guide)

Jennifer Kramer

Wild ocean, rugged desert mountains, and a wealth of culinary delights: Immerse yourself in this colorful peninsula with Moon Baja. Inside you’ll find: Strategic itineraries, the top activities, the best local flavors, road trips, honest advice from local tour guide Jennifer Kramer. Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout.

Book cover of Magnificent Peninsula by Jack and Patty Williams with a green border, yellow title, a collage of photographs showing a boat at sunset, a car on a dirt road next to a large cactus, a pink flower, a hotel resort with pool, an agave plant and a graphical map of Baja California overlaying the photographs.

Magnificent Peninsula: The Comprehensive Guidebook to Mexico’s Baja California

Jack Williams, Patty Williams

he Magnificent Peninsula is a comprehensive guide that covers all of Mexico’s Baja California and its areas of interest.

Book cover of the Cruising Guide to the Lower Gulf, Sea of Cortez showing a photograph of a tan beach with two sailboats in a calm cover surrounded by rocky desert landscape and blue sky.

Cruising Guide to the Lower Gulf, Sea of Cortez

Gerry Cunningham

This Guide covers the east coast of Baja from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Escondido, where it overlaps the Cruising Guide to the Middle Gulf. It includes the anchorages on the islands of Cerralvo, Espiritu Santo, Partida, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Santa Catalina, Monserrat, and San Cosme.

Book cover of the Baja Highway with a photograph of a desert landscape with a large green cactus and blue sky with white clouds.

The Baja Highway: A Geology and Biology Field Guide for the Baja Traveler

John Minch, Thomas Leslie, Edwin Minch

This book is written for the enjoyment of the average person who has an interest in the natural surroundings and almost unique geology and biology of the Baja California Peninsula.

Best Baja Maps

Many travelers still appreciate a paper map to inspire, plan and track their travels. These Baja maps help you track your route and learn more about the environment, wildlife, history and science of Baja California. Bonus: these maps work in remote locations, where there is no wifi.

A thumbnail of the cover of National Geographic Adventure Map, Baja California Sur with a yellow title, an insert image of the map and a photograph of a white rock arch over a blue sea.

National Geographic Adventure Map, Baja California Sur (South)

National Geographic Maps

National Geographic’s Baja South Adventure Map covers with unparalleled detail the state of Baja California Sur, in more sparsely populated southern half of the peninsula are some of the Gulf of California Islands. Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map

A thumbnail of the cover of National Geographic Adventure Map, Baja California North with a yellow title, an insert image of the map and a photograph of a large green cactus over a blue sea, white sand beach and desert landscape.

National Geographic Adventure Map, Baja California North

National Geographic Maps

National Geographic’s Baja North Adventure Map covers with unparalleled detail the state of Baja California and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California. Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map

Book cover of Baja Road and Recreation Atlas with tan title text over black background above a sample of a map over a photograph of a blue water cover surrounded by green desert landscape and a green cactus.

Baja California Road and Recreation Atlas

Benchmark Maps

The first edition Baja California Road & Recreation Atlas showcases the diverse recreation opportunities found along the full length of the Baja California Peninsula.

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Have a favorite Baja book that is not listed here? Have a question or comment about our Baja California book recommendations? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Has reading Baja books inspired you to visit? AdventureSmith Explorations offers Baja California cruises and tours for every style and budget. Start exploring with these popular itineraries. Let our Adventure Specialists be your guide to selecting and booking your travel. Our team is known for excellent service, unbiased knowledge and personal experience in Baja California. Come explore with us!

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