This summer I'll be heading down to Baja with a couple of friends from mid-May to whenever in August when I (hopefully) start med school. It'll probably be the last time in a long time that I get to make a trip like this so I want to make the most of it. One of the guys I'm going with has a two wheel drive 4runner, but we're thinking of upgrading. The idea would be to have everyone pitch in and get an older 4x4 Explorer to take down then sell it off once we get back. How necessary is it to have a 4x4 in southern Baja? Is it really going to be worth the effort? If it can get me to remote areas where we can post up with less crowds it would be, but if the sand is such that only ATVs can get to the really out there places then I'm not so sure.
You're definitely going to need something pretty rugged, i think a 2 wheel-drive 4runner is almost useless. You're going to need something with some ground clearance and power just to get down to Baja Sur. Once you're in the area between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose, or the "Corridor" where all the hotels are, you'll be fine for most known spots, but you're most definitely going to need a capable off-road vehicle to go explore the Pacific and East Cape, which you will want to do. I think you're best off with a lifted pick-up truck, or maybe even a lifted 4-runner with some good all-terrain tires. I realize you guys are on a budget but believe me you'll be glad you invested in a good truck once you're there. I'd almost advise to you guys to not drive down there from Southern California, as it's gotten incredibly sketchy in Baja Norte, esp. the Tijuana area. Kidnappings, theft, rape, and murder have been the usual there lately. It's probably one of the most dangerous areas in the world at this point. I'd almost advise you guys to just fly into San Jose and then begin the journey from there.