A place where you live on tacos and cervezas, while driving endless dirt roads that may (or may not) lead you to the best wave you’ve ever surfed. Even with this notion of paradise just waiting out there to be grabbed, there are still so many people finding themselves in this age-old internal debate: “It’s not safe. There are people there that want to rob you. A lot of cops are corrupt. The food or water there can make you sick for weeks. What about the cartel? Why do we do this to ourselves? I’ll never go to Baja.…”
Yeah yeah yeah… we’ve heard it all. Truth be told I think all those factors just ADD to the romance of Baja. If you’re a true world traveller this is exactly the type of experience you just say “yes” to. I believe nothing’s worth it if you don’t have to pay to play, at least a little bit.
So what do I say to those folk having that worried internal dialogue? “You can find trouble anywhere in the world, if you want. Even in your own backyard.” Have I experienced various forms of good old fashioned “Baja Tax”? Absolutely. Many times even. Some are more of a bummer than others. Guess what? I say IT’S STILL WORTH IT. That draw to vast desert landscapes with the most beautiful natural cactus forests you will ever seen. Then the ocean touches the edge of all of that! Add some great waves in certain spots to that? This all keeps fueling my passion to get away from it all, and it will for the rest of my life.
Don’t have time to spend a couple weeks to explore this wild place? No problem. There’s sort of a “quick escape” we do and it’s a pretty easy 3-4 day trip. Bonus factor: it’s south of Ensenada just outside the hustle and bustle. Right when that Wild West begins to make your heart pound with the excitement of the unknown.
Before your jump into your truck and boogie south, there’s a checklist of items and information you’ll need.
Good ol’ San Ysidro border crossing is your go-to for this little escape. Make sure you follow the signs closely once you cross the border, it’ll keep you on the right track. Traffic routes are fairly chaotic, so the toll road or “CUOTA” is our best bet. Bring $7 in one dollar bills for each way, or the equivalent in pesos and have it accessible for the toll booths. There’s 3 of them.
Get through Ensenada, go over a couple windy mountain like roads, and you’re in the clear. Either hang a right at the fork for Eréndira or Keep going until you’re in Camalu and turn at the Cuatro Casas sign. Or connect it all on dirt if you’re confident.
This is why you came, right? Get away from the crowds and feel small.
Eréndira has some spots nearby. Get to town, drive north on the dirt road that hugs the coast. I’ll leave the rest to you.
San Quintin and Camalu
San Quintin and Camalu have some cool zones. Cuatro Casas is a fun wave that resembles a right point with some cool rock features and fun entry points. Seems better on a high tide, oddly enough! Shipwrecks is another nearby point break that, yep, you guessed it— has a shipwreck on the point. Not as isolated as it was 20 years ago, but still very Baja. Between Cuatros and Ships there’s plenty to explore.
If you got buddies with you that can get you unstuck and y’all have a hankering to see dirt explode, here’s your mission: Get through the deepest one you can find.
Yes, we’ve all wanted to drive on the beach like those lifeguards do. Wanna put your new 4WD truck or van with all terrains to the test? Go for a beach boogie, but don’t forget to air down.
• Bead Grip® technology equipped wheels like the new 705.
• all terrain tires
• traction boards
• trash bags (pack everything out- we want to leave these places better than we found them)
• tow strap
• good attitude
• some basic Spanish language skills
• cash for: toll roads, fuel, tacos, bar tab, unexpected “traffic violations”, and hotel costs. Usually a few hundred US dollars worth will get you far enough on this trip. (pro tip: split your cash wad between your wallet, a pocket, couple bags, and spots in your truck— never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket)
• GPS app like Gaia will help you make tracks and drop pins.
• Garmin InReach will keep you connected to your loved ones should you need it or run into trouble when out of cell range.
Tacos, birria, pollo grills, hot dog carts, you name it. I prefer taco spots with a local crowd around them- let’s you know they’re legit. Even better if there’s an al pastor spit spinning in the kitchen! Here’s a couple specifics:
Coyote Cal’s hostel/bar/restaurant
Cal's has some food choices that’ll not only surprise you, but make you question where you are. Did someone say Thai dishes? Thai massages?? Also, best margarita I’ve had maybe ever.
Tacos de Tatas
The turn off to Cuatro Casas has a taco joint called Tacos de Tatas— your standard carne and pastor on a round upside down bowl-shaped griddle, complete with all the fixings and sauces.
Eréndira has a taco shop that is noted by many folks called Mi Pueblito
Ensenada obviously has endless options being a huge city. I recommend El Trailero or Tacos Fenix. Gosh dang you won’t regret it.
Coyote Cal’s Hostel and Cuatro Casas Hostel are just a couple I’ll mention. There are many other places to not only camp, but get a room, toilet and shower. I urge you to explore and discover all these places- Baja hospitality is something they’re never short of. Or just pull up to an empty cliff overlooking the ocean and call it home for a night or two— there may just be a wave out front.
There is nothing better than a BYOB set-up at your beach camp. But, for those looking for a bit more socializing, there are some options:
• Coyote Cal’s is said to have the best margarita in the area. I back this statement. • El Cuevo del Pirata - San Quintin is known to have some cool little joints.
• Modeloramas (convenience stores) have a good stash of beers as well, and you’ll pass about 10 of them on the way to San Quintin.
Almost gone are the days of bringing way too much fuel with you due to the long stretches between fuel stations. Now there are enough Pemex stations to get you almost everywhere you need to get, with some dirt adventure in between. I’ll normally bring a 5 gallon jerry can anyway, as you never know when the station you were banking on is closed or out of fuel and you need that extra 30-100 miles of fuel.
Llanteras (tire shops) are all over the place. Need an air up after you’re done on dirt? Need a new tire due to your spare being employed because you got a flat going too fast on dirt? Need a weld job? Every single town big or small has mechanic shops, tire shops, and beyond. I’ve been broken down so many times and had locals tow me to their spot to fix me up within an hour or two (even one time overnight). Humans are great- let Baja show you why.
Military Checkpoints: They’re inevitable and they’re actually very mellow. Take your sunglasses off, smile, be friendly and compliant. If you have nothing to hide (which you shouldn’t) then there shouldn’t be any problem.
Passport & Car Registration: Always carry one in a protect place. If you are an American, a valid green card is just as good for border reentry into the United States. Mexico is no different than the US, make sure to have your current vehicle registration ready.
Cell Phone Use: Consider purchasing an international cell phone plan for your trip- it will save you roaming costs and there is a surprising amount of area now that has cell coverage.
Car Insurance: It is illegal to drive in Mexico without it. We recommend Bajabound.com , they make it really seamless and have great customer support.
Ok amigos We’ll leave it at this, as it is truly endless when you’re talking Baja trips. This one will get your surf, dirt, culinary, and off-road rocks off in a matter of a few days. Perfection? ¡Sí!
Most of the year, the weather here lives in its own microclimate. Dramatic sunrises over the Sea of Cortez give way to azure blue skies most of the year, with spring and fall offering the best choice for travel. Stay away in July and August, it’s humid and as hot as a tablespoon of habane-ro salsa.
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