Given the recent violence in Mexico, the number of Americans traveling to Baja has taken a precipitous fall. Prior to the reign of the narcotraficantes who are wreaking havoc on so many of the country’s border zones, the Baja peninsula was the ultimate playground for rogue surfers, story-swapping fisherman, and grease covered, offroading desert dogs.
Even with the violence, many Americans are still choosing to venture down the peninsula, despite a handful of highly publicized attacks against Baja surfers. I know, because I am one of them. Sure, Mexico is in the news a lot, but this is Baja. It’s different. Life is good down here. Then the authorities went and discovered the largest marijuana plantation on record smack in the middle of the Baja desert in a place I have driven by 20 times in the last five years.
While times may be changing and the future of Baja travel is uncertain, the fact remains that Baja remains one of the most pristine desert hideouts this side of the Sahara, and the places listed below are just as beautiful as before the border violence began.
Hence a list of 5 classic Baja outposts, their desolate shores waiting for someone to pull up a truck, crack open a Pacifico, and worry about nothing at all.
1. Bahia de San Luis Gonzaga
For decades, difficult desert access has kept this fishing village on the Sea of Cortez removed and isolated from the over development that plagues its northern neighbor, San Felipe. All of that is set to change however with the construction of the paved highway that has slowly been creeping its way south towards Bahia Gonzaga for years.
Prior to the paved highway, the only roads into the turquoise bay in the desert were the shock destroying washboard road that runs along the coast past Puertecitos, and the unpaved mountain pass that’s home to Coco’s Corner, an eccentric compound in the middle of nowhere that’s largely constructed out of aluminum cans and spare parts by a welcoming double amputee named Coco. It can get lonely in these parts.
2. Bahia de Los Angeles
Located 400 miles south of the border on the placid Sea of Cortez, Bahia de Los Angeles is better known for what’s found in the water than what’s found on land. A classic outpost for dorado fisherman, the waters of Bahia de Los Angeles are also part of the Bahia de Los Angeles Biosphere Reserve, which at over 950,000 acres is home to the much sought after and elusive whale shark, nature’s largest fish.
Offshore, 360 sq. mile Isla de La Guarda provides protection from the rougher waters of the Sea of Cortez, making the entire bay a haven for sun seeking sea kayakers who have little on the itinerary outside of mirror calm waters and the fish tacos back on shore.
3. San Juanico
Known to surfers as “Scorpion Bay“, the fishing village of San Juanico has been drawing wave-seekers ever since Surfline founder Sean Collins allegedly first surfed the spot in 1969.
Regarded as one of the longest waves in the world, conversations at the campground cantina frequently oscillate between current road conditions and who’s had the longest ride of the summer.
Given the remote nature of San Juanico, half of the adventure is found in the journey. While approachable from the south and east, most visitors from north of the border opt to traverse a 112 mile dirt road that runs through vast salt flats and car-swallowing moondust on what many consider to be one of the worst roads in Baja. But oh the rewards once you get there…
4. Playa Santispac
One of the pearls of Bahia Concepcion, Playa Santispac is the type of place where you sleep under the stars, watch the sunrise over the water, and have a breakfast of tamales from the guy selling them out of the back of his truck. A longtime haven for sailboats cruising north from La Paz, the aqua waters of Bahia Concepcion provide a sandy anchorage for boaters, while the dozens of beaches within the bay provide ample camping and swimming opportunities.
5. El Socorro
A little visited seaside community on the northern Pacific coast, El Socorro is set at the base of some of the largest sand dunes found anywhere on the peninsula. Camped out at the base of the dunes directly along the shoreline, on many mornings the receding tide will expose the offshore reef and lure what seems to be the entire village to harvest bucketfuls of clams.
El Socorro is also a popular spot for surfers in the winter months when strong Pacific storms send waves towards the reefs set just off of the sand dunes. It’s a long way from here for any real supplies, so pack well, plan ahead, be safe, and lose yourself in the Baja we will all forever love.