Trip Report: Playa Balandra, Calafia Airlines, La Paz, Mexico (LAP) to Tijuana, Mexico (TIJ) & CBX Border Crossing to San Diego

To think it was a beach that kicked off my trip to Baja.  A beach.

Playa Balandra (Balandra Beach), Baja California Sur, Mexico

Yes, even though I don’t exist to while away the hours – let alone minutes – on any beach, I will gladly make concessions for naturally beautiful landscapes.   Thus, my trip to La Paz, capital of Baja California Sur state in Mexico, started with a Mexican friend sending me photos from her trip to Playa Balandra, aka the beach in the above photo.  (OK, OK, she also sent me a photo of a burrito stuffed with octopus, shrimp, oysters, chorizo, and grilled cheese…which she ate in La Paz)

After a few days of becoming a human chicharrón under the desert sun, I had to return to the US.  This time, I opted for Baja’s regional carrier Calafia Airlines, since they had a convenient flight into Tijuana (airport code TIJ), allowing easy access to San Diego, California via the CBX (Cross-Border Express) footbridge.  CBX comes with a price, but if you’ve ever waited at the San Ysidro or Otay Mesa borders during the day, you will be glad to pay for the much faster access.

Following a 25-minute Uber ride from downtown La Paz, I made it to the airport (LAP).  It’s a small terminal without jet bridges, but it can be nice to be able to make it in a few mere minutes from the curb to the gate, assuming check-in and security work in your favor.

Normally, I’d check-in online, but seeing as I had to check a bag (given the small aircraft plying the route), I made it so at the airport.  Quite seamless…though the Volaris flight next to us, yeesh.  That line went out the door.  Check-in on line when you can, folks!

One thing to mention when flying to/within/from Mexico is that you have to fill out a COVID-19 form, called Vuela Seguro.  If you’re an enemy of efficiency you will form part of the clusterf*ck at security where they ask for your QR code; do yourselves another favor, and fill this out before getting to the airport.

That guy thinks he’s on a roller coaster

One pro I’d have to say about Mexican airports is that security is usually stress-free…no pack wolves yelling at you like in the US or Europe.  La Paz was no different.

It’s not a particularly busy airport with regards to the number of flights; that said, because it’s a small terminal, you may be out of luck for a seat (some seats can’t be occupied due to COVID-19).  I was able to go into the “VIP Lounge,” but that was really to take advantage of wi-fi that didn’t expire after 30 minutes.  Due to COVID-19, the buffet part was shut, but snacks and drinks were available.  For those without access to the lounge, there are a couple of stores, and a café.

Calafia Airlines’ Embraer ERJ-145EP

Boarding was nearly on-time, and rather orderly.  As it was a short-hop, and the route was a new one for me, at check-in I had elected for a window seat.

As you might notice from the following photos, the rugged and austere gulches, plateaus, and crags were quite the spectacle:

Between Punta Coyote and La Cueva, Looking Towards Isla San Francisco and Isla San José, BCS
Tripuí, BCS

Following the short 1 hour, 55 minute flight to Tijuana, I followed signs for CBX/baggage claim.

Note: Buy your CBX ticket online to save a few bucks (TIJ offers 30 minutes of free wi-fi), but make sure you choose the right direction (either Tijuana to San Diego, or San Diego to Tijuana).

Note.2: apparently, you are only able to use CBX within two hours of your flight landing in Tijuana.

Note.3: Mexico does not have formal outbound immigration checks, similar to the US.

Once at baggage claim, you will be lining up with other passengers for CBX, which is tucked away in a corner:

CBX is in the background, in the left-hand corner

Stupidly, much of the scrum is for people who haven’t yet bought CBX tickets, as it’s only at the last-minute when employees distinguish between passengers who already have the tickets, and those who don’t.  Nevertheless, I scanned my QR code, and walked up, down, and around to get to the 20-minute line for US immigration.

Once you make it through the asinine questioning and baggage scan, you can buy a ticket for a shuttle for downtown San Diego/SAN (airport), or ride-share (back to Tijuana, where the fish tacos are boss).


Have you ever been to La Paz, and/or used CBX?

Author: LearningFeelsGood

Bread, olive oil Waking up in Nakagin Sure does sound like me

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