Thanks to a sunny, warm climate and miles of beautiful beaches, the Baja Peninsula has earned a reputation as a popular tourist destination, especially when the weather turns cold and snowy in the nearby United States. According to History.com, in 2000, an estimated 180,000 cars a day passed through the six border crossings between Baja California and the United States. Most tourists avoid the arid deserts, opting for a trip to the tropical southern resorts, such as La Paz and Cabo San Lucas.
While tourism provides major income, the state’s economy also rests on agriculture, mining and manufacturing assembly pants. The more northerly cities of Mexicali, Tijuana and Ensenada are home to many maquiladoras (assembly plants). Agriculture flourishes in the greener areas of the north (Baja California) and the south (Baja Sur), including large scale greenhouse farming and modern farming as well smaller traditional farms. Wine is produced along the coast, especially near the northerly city of Ensenada.
Ocean-related industries, such as fishing, shrimping and pearling were once vital to the region’s economy. However, overuse of the resources have caused a contraction in commercial fisheries and shrimping, with the closure of many tuna processing plants. Gathering pearls from the waters was a thriving business for over 400 years, but pearl oysters in this region were harvested heavily and the population weakened by disease to the point that the oysters were pushed to the brink of extinction in the 1930’s.
The Baja Peninsula extends about 747 miles (1202 km) north to south, from Tijuana, Mexico, near the U.S. border to Cabo San Lucas. Inland, a broken line of tall mountains, the Peninsular Ranges run down the center of the land mass. About 3,000 mi (4,800 km) of coastline line the peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean lying to the west and the Gulf of California (Mar de Cortés) on the east. Almost 50 islands and islets lie in the Mar de Cortés. Most of them are important breeding sites for sea birds, and have come under protection as nature preserves.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of a sunny late autumn day across the Baja Peninsula on December 14, 2013.