What is the difference between California and Baja California? 

California and Baja California are next to each other but separated by a national border. While both states have a common origin, they’re vastly different. So, what are the differences between California and Baja California?

California and Baja California were once part of one country. Now, they have differences like territorial distinction, landmass and population, size of the economy, and cost of living. California is bigger, has more people, and has a better standard of living, but Baja California is more affordable.

However, both states have a similar climate that varies across the state and boasts of wonderful beaches. Here, we discuss the difference between California and Baja California.

History of California

California and Baja California are both part of a region that was originally California. The two states and Baja California Sur were part of one region initially home to Native Americans. In the 16th century, Spanish settlers moved here through coastal exploration, and the number of European settlers continued to increase in the 18th century. At this time, the whole region was divided into two, Alta California and Baja California, for administrative purposes.

The California region was part of New Spain until 1821, when the kingdom collapsed and became part of Mexico. The Mexican government reunited both regions into Las Californias as part of its centralist moves. But the Mexican -American war between 1846-1848 led to the division of the region. Mexico ceded Alta California, and other northern territories to the US based on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848.

On the other hand, Baja California remained a Mexican territory until 1930, when it was divided into two parts. The southern part became the Baja California Sur, while the northern part retained its name.


Difference Between California and Baja California

There are several differences between California and Baja California. They include:

1.      Territorial Distinction

A border only separates California and Baja California, and it’s possible to travel from San Diego to Tijuana in less than an hour. But the border greatly affects how life is in the two states. Baja California is a Mexican state, meaning Mexican laws apply here, and Mexican Peso is the legal tender. Before any Americans can enter Baja California, they’ll need to show their passport. For Mexicans in Baja California to get into California, they’ll need a passport and visa. This territorial distinction is one of the major differences anyone traveling between the two should note.

2.      Demographical and Geographical Size

Baja California is significantly smaller compared to California. It’s the ninth largest state in Mexico, with a landmass of 73,909 square kilometers. That’s less than one-fifth of California. The golden state is the third biggest state in the US and has a landmass of 423,970-kilometer square. Of course, geographical size isn’t the only difference. Even the demographics differ. California has the largest population in the US, with over 39 million residents, even as the population is declining. By comparison, Baja California has a population of only 3.77 million. So, the whole population of Baja California isn’t even up to the number of people living in Los Angeles alone.

3.      Economy

If California were a country, it would have the fifth biggest economy in the world, far above that of several world powers. The state has a GDP of $3.4 trillion, with an unemployment rate of 4.3% in May 2022. California’s economy is quite diverse, covering just about any sector, from technology to entertainment. It dwarfs that of Baja California, and even the whole of Mexico.

However, Baja California’s economy isn’t bad. Its proximity to the border has helped the economy significantly. The Cali Baja region has the largest regional economy along US Mexico border, with a GDP of about $250 million. This region generally includes Baja California and Imperial and San Diego Counties. With only a border separating Baja California from the US, the state has an economic advantage and competitiveness.

Baja California has an unemployment rate of just 1.91% in the first quarter of 2022. The major employment is the trade sector occupation of most workers here being traders in store, dependent on trade, sales employees and dispatchers, and stonemasons, bricklayers, and related trades. The key sectors are agro-industry, tourism, trade, aerospace, and manufacturing. However, about half of the state economy depends on Tijuana, the closest city to the border.

4.      Cost of Living

The cost of living in Baja California is significantly lower than that of California. But it might be expensive for the average Mexican. Due to the proximity to the US, the cost of living has increased significantly. Some prices are even in dollars instead of the Mexican pesos. However, it’s still relatively cheap for Americans. Consumer prices are about 200% higher in San Diego than in Tijuana. California does have a better standard of living.

Similarities between California and Baja California

With a common origin and geographical similarity, both states have some similarities. That includes:

1.      Beaches

One of the similarities between Baja California and California is the several beaches that both states have. Baja California is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and has an incredible coastline which means access to beaches for anyone who visits here.  Popular beaches in the state include Bahia Concepcion, Playa Ensenada Grande, Balandra in La Paz, Cerritos in Todos Santos, Bahia Chileno, Playa Santa Maria, Playa del Amor, etc. If you love beaches and traveling overseas, you’ll enjoy visiting Baja California.

The golden beaches of California are one of the most popular things about the state. Many people prefer to live in Southern California because of that and the sunshine.

2.      Weather

The weather in California and Baja California is quite similar too. Baja California’s climate varies from the Mediterranean to arid, while California has a similar climate. The cities on the northwest coast of Baja, California, Rosarito, Ensenada, and Tijuana, have a Mediterranean climate.

But if you head further inland, the climate changes. When you get to Mexicali, the state capital, the climate starts showing its arid part. The same thing applies to California. Southern California has a Mediterranean climate, but the climate in southeastern California is essentially desert.

3.      Tourism

Tourism is a major part of life in both states. This is understandable given the similarity in both states’ climatic and geographical conditions. Of course, tourists that visit California aren’t just doing so for the beaches and sunshine. The state has several other attractions. For Baja California, it’s mostly for the Mexican experience and, of course, the beaches and the sunshine.

In Conclusion 

Baja California and California are quite close. But the two states are significantly different in many areas. This is understandable given that they’re in two different countries. However, there are clear similarities, especially in their geographical characteristics.