People in the United States often just think of the US state of California as being, well, California. But it is one of three states to bear that name. In Mexico, there are also Baja Californa (Lower California) and Baja California Sur (South Lower California).

The West Coast of the United States and Mexico is an utterly stunning region and one with plenty of sights, world-class restaurants, and accommodation options. The next time one goes to California, don't forget to see the other Californias to the south!


The Story Of Why There Are Three Californias

Together the three states can be called "The Californias" or "Las Californias". This is because historically the term "Californias" referred to the vast northwestern region of Spanish America and the sprawling Province of the Californias. Later on, was the collective name for Alta California and the Baja California Peninsula.

The Three Californias:

  • The State of California
  • Baja California
  • Baja California Sur

So when the United States defeated the Mexicans in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1846 - they only took over Alta California (Upper California). That left Mexico with Baja California (or Lower California).

Alta California (aka California) was admitted into the Union in 1850 as the State of California (the region of Atla California that had more inhabited coastal regions) while Alta California's vast and sparsely inhabited inland areas took longer to be admitted and become Nevada, Utah, as well as parts of other states.

The US State of California

Today California has grown and has become the most populous and wealthiest of all US states. It is home to around 40 million residents (more than all of Canada) and is the third-largest state in the USA by area.

  • Size: 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2)
  • Population: 40 Million

It is the heart of the country's film industry (Hollywood in Los Angeles) and innovative startups (Silicon Valley in the Bay Area). The economy of California is worth over $3.2 trillion and if it would be an independent country, it would be the fifth-largest in the world.

The state is remarkably diverse and boasts more national parks than any other state in the United States. Some of its national parks have international notoriety - including Yosemite, Sequoia, and Death Valley National Parks. The state includes everything from the Sierra Nevada mountains, to the Pacific Coast, to the Mojave Desert, to the wine-growing regions of the Central Valley, and more. Its climate varies from a warm Mediterranean Climate to temperate rainforests, snowy alpine, and arid deserts.

Before the advent of European colonization, what is today California was one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse regions of pre-Columbian North America.

Related: Skip Los Angeles: These Cities In California Are Highly Underrated

Mexico - Baja California

Baja California is located just south of the State of California and is one of the 32 federal entities of Mexico. It achieved statehood in 1952 (after previously having been a territory).

  • Size: 70,113 km2 (27,071 sq miles)
  • Population: 3,769,020

It occupies the northern half of the Baja California Peninsula (and Guadalupe Island). It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and by the Gulf of California on the east.

Most of its nearly 4 million inhabitants live in the main cities of Mexicali, Ensenada, and Tijuana. Most people here are Mestizos and have come in from other parts of Mexico. There is also a significant immigrant population from the United States because of its proximity to San Diego and its comparatively lower cost of living.

The backbone of the state is the Sierra de Baja California mountain range - it splits the state into having separate weather patterns. Its geography ranges from beaches to deserts to forests. East of the mountain range is the Sonoran Desert.

It also boasts a significant wine-producing region in its Valle de Guadalupe.

Related: The Ultimate Foodie Guide To California's Mexican-Inspired Cuisine

Mexico - Baja California Sur

Further down on the Baja California Peninsula is the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The state occupies the Baja California Peninsula south of the 28th parallel. It is the second least populated state in Mexico and one of the country's youngest. It only achieved statehood on 8 October 1974 (having previously been a territory).

  • Size: 73,909 km2 (28,536 sq miles)
  • Population: 800,000

While Baja California may be better known for cheap shopping in Tijuana for medicines and the like, Baja California Sur is better known as a touristic location.

It is home to the tourist resorts of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo they are both located in the southern tip of the peninsula. Tourism is a very important part of the local economy. Tourists come to see the grey whales that migrate to the shores to breed while the natural rock arch at Land's End is an Instagrammer's paradise.

There are three tourist regions to the state:

  • Guerrero Negro to Ciudad Constitución: Located in The North
  • La Paz to Todos Santos: Located In The Center
  • Los Barriles to Cabo San Lucas: Located In The South

Next: Your FAQs About Visiting California, Finally Answered