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Camping in Baja, Mexico :: Our Route through this Beautiful Mexican Peninsula – PART 1

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Baja route, followed by a short video of our travels in Baja!

Frequented by surfers, campers, and general coastal enthusiasts from all over the world, Baja, Mexico is a wonderful destination for alluring ocean landscapes, inexpensive travel, and easy camping.  Our stay in Baja has lasted for over two weeks so far, and our camp sites resulted from the advice of others who have spent time in the area.  I recommend this route for the money saving, light surfing, camper whose pleasures include lounging and surfing at the beach by day and campfire nights.  If you are looking for advanced surfing, tourist areas, and hotels, the following route may not be for you.

We camped every night while in Baja, so each night features an outdoor setting.

NIGHT 1: Camping outside of San Quintin
Kate and Greg Maxfield, two surfers with ample experience camping in Baja, recommended finding a camp spot south of Ensenada when driving your first day in Baja.  Once you are south of Ensenada, you are more likely to find a camp site that is safe, as well as secluded.  Nick and I chose a spot about 20 miles south of San Quintin, where we parked by a cliff off of the highway.  It was not the best spot, especially since you could see our car from Mex 1, but it was sufficient for the night.

NIGHT 2 & 3: Outside of Rosalillita
I unfortunately promised the folks who live at this bay not to divulge the location of this wonderful camp site.  Although this site is listed in many Baja surfing books, they are worried that too many surfers and tourists may ruin this secluded beach.  My only location clue is that this site is outside of Rosalillita, and pretty hard to find.  Thankfully, Kate and Greg informed us about this location.

The waves are usually only suitable for surfing in the winter, but our camping experience was pleasant regardless.  Several palapas (rudimentary shelters) stand on the beach, along with two outhouses and a shower.  Camping is $5 per night.

TIP:
While driving to Abreojos, you will drive through a checkpoint just outside of Guerrero Negro. If you have not purchased your Tourist Card (see previous post), purchase it here.  As you drive through, they will wash your tires and there will be a small fee.

NIGHT 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9: Abreojos
Abreojos is a quaint fishing village that is sandwiched by miles of secluded coastline and a bare desert.  The water is turquoise, and during the later months of the year, surfers gather for it’s consistent waves.  Kite surfing is especially popular due to it’s constant windy afternoons.  When we arrived, it was close to 8:30 in the evening, so scouting out camping locations became hard as it grew dark.  We finally decided to camp at Campo Rene, a camp site about 15 minutes north of the town.

Campo Rene trailers are 150 pesos (about $11.50).  Campsites provide grills and palapas (which can be rented for 100 pesos if you are camping in a vehicle or a tent), and a restaurant, bar and restrooms are in the camp.

Rather not spend money to camp? Feel free to camp on the beach for free.  If you choose a spot down by the water, just make sure the tide will not reach you during the night.  A great place above the water is in between Campo Rene and Abreojos.  Specifically, it is off of a dirt road in between Campo Rene and the orange house (the only house in the area).  There is a hand-painted sign that reads, “Diving prohibited in this area – all marine species are property of the cooperative.”  Camp there.

On the sixth through ninth night, we camped a bit further toward town.  A site that is popular among surfers rests above the water, and is a short drive away from the main road into town.  Look for the small grouping of houses and trailers right outside of town, and you are likely to find vans and RVs camped at this site.

There are no bars in Abreojos and very few restaurants, but there is an Internet Cafe called Mr.Frog.com and the town is friendly.  In fact, many gringos who have traveled throughout Baja for years frequently return to Abreojos due to it’s laid-back attitude, amiable residents, and it’s lack of tourists.  After six nights of camping, fishing halibut from the ocean, and meeting lovely people in Abreojos, Nick and I grew to love the town this town for it’s wholesome character and charming coastline.

NIGHT 10 & 11: San Ignacio
On our eighth day in Abreojos, a family in a Land Cruiser pulled up to the truck.  “Nice truck!”  the driver exclaimed.  “Where are you headed?”  We soon began conversing with Pat and Cathy, a couple from Half Moon Bay who own property in San Ignacio.  After describing their land and their experiences in Baja, they invited us to come to San Ignacio for a few nights to camp.

San Ignacio is a small town that emerges from the desert like a tropical oasis.  In fact, it is a tropical oasis.  Lines of palm trees greet you as you drive in, and the arid landscape that covers northern Baja disappears into green palms and lush vegetation.  The palm trees and tropical flowers thrive on the abundance of water from the San Ignacio River, the same river that rests in front of Pat and Cathy’s land.

The town of San Ignacio is essentially a single plaza with neighborhoods surrounding the town’s center.  It is a sleepy little town, inhabited by older Mexicans whose families come to visit on the weekends.  Although, the baseball field hosts heated games, holding fans in the bleachers screaming for their home team, the Missionarios.  The Mission San Ignacio Kadakaaman, founded in 1728, continues to hold mass, and many people gather in the main plaza to sit on the benches shaded by giant trees.

While staying with Pat, Cathy, and their sons, Ted and Blaine, we were occupied rafting down the river, cooking meals in their outdoor kitchen, and drinking Fresca and tequila drinks in the palapas.

TIPS:
1.) There is internet in San Ignacio – look for the internet tienda by the plaza.
2.) However, there is not a bank. Make sure to get your pesos in Guerrero Negro at an ATM.  You can pay for just about anything with American dollars, but the exchange rate is far worse than that of an ATM (for example, I get 13 pesos for every dollar at the ATM, but if I buy groceries at the market, I only get 10 pesos for every dollar).  If you plan to go to San Juanico (see below), make sure to stock up on pesos for this town as well… the next bank is in La Constitution, about an hour and a half outside of San Juanico.
3.) Want to splurge for the night? Go to San Ignacio Springs, a unique hotel owned by Terry and Gary from Canada.  San Ignacio Springs, offers yurt rooms, wi-fi, a home-cooked breakfast, and a lovely landscape that rests on the San Ignacio river.  Visit www.sanignaciosprings.com for more information.

NIGHT 12, 13, 14, 15, & 16: San Juanico (Scorpion Bay)
Scorpion Bay is well known among surfers, although a few do not make it to San Juanico due to it’s location.  If you want to drive to San Juanico, you have two choices: you can take the long, easy route, or the shorter, harder, route.  The long, easy route follows Mex 1 from San Ignacio south through Santa Rosalia and Mulege.  The route then takes you off of Mex 1, heading west on a smaller highway, through La Purisma, and to San Juanico. The shorter, harder route starts in San Ignacio and heads southwest, which takes your vehicle through salt flats.  It is important to ask if the tide will be low in the salt flats while in San Ignacio, for the flats can become too wet to drive during high tide. Although this route is about 55 miles, it takes about 3-4 hours to drive.

Once you pass the salt flats, the drive into San Juanico is a rickety and dusty one.  The dirt road is rocky and bumpy, leading through miles of desert that is peppered with cardone and other cacti.  Although San Juanico is has not reached the level of tourism as Cabo San Lucas, it does have its fair share of gringo influences.  Large vacation houses line the coast cliff, and surfers sprinkle the bay at the second point.  Due to the large amount of tourists, the Scorpion Bay camp site at the second point thrives.  The camp site, which provides trash pick-up, outdoor bathrooms, and a cantina with internet (which is not free – $40 pesos -about $3- per half hour), costs 150 pesos (about $11.50) per person, per night.  But if you are opposed to such fees to camp on the beach, you can find a place to camp down the beach that would be more than suitable.

TIPS:
1.)  If you want to use the internet, I advise skipping the cantina at the Scorpion Bay camp site and going to a little tienda on Dionisia Villarino road.  The small building is blue, with a sign that reads, “Internet, Shaved Ice, Ice Cream.”
2.)  Scorpion Bay is an optimal place for novice longboarding. The waves carry on for long lengths of time, the beach is sandy as opposed to rocky, and fellow surfers are forgiving and encouraging to beginners (during off-peak times of the year, at least).  Multiple people advised me to practice in these waters as much as possible, because it will be hard to find surf that so perfect for beginners elsewhere.
3.)  Need car repairs? Go see Antonio.  He’s the best mechanic in town, according to numerous locals.  We took the truck to Antonio’s when it needed repair work.  He is knowledgeable and honest.  His shop, which has a sign that advertises gasoline out front, is right off of Dionisia Villarino road on Santa Rosalia road.

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