Our Top 12 Camping Spots in Mexico Part 1: Baja

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Mexico is so varied and so incredibly underrated, especially by its neighbors to the north.  Steller beaches, incredible food, mountains, jungle, and wonderfully friendly people.

Despite the horror stories on the news and the numerous questionable looks we received when we talked about our camping plans in Mexico, we never had a problem.  Mexico is fabulous.  Granted we were smart about it, no driving at night, we drove a vehicle that was common (didn’t stand out), and spoke spanish when we could.

We saw no decapitations, we weren’t caught in the crossfire of a narco coup d’etat, but we did stay away from sketchy alleyways in “bad” parts of town, just like we did in Washington, D.C.  Remember the summer they put the DC neighborhood of Trinidad under effective marshall law?  No?  Guess it wasn’t on the news as much as Mexican gang violence.  But  I digress.  We can’t wait to go back to Mexico.  We loved it.

As we are preparing to send out car on a cargo ship to South America (Cartegena, Colombia) we are looking back on our time in North and Central America.  Inevitably, our hearts go back to Mexico.  So, with that, here are our top camping spots that we plan to go back to when we inevitably visit Mexico again.

Baja California, Mexico.  It’s incredible.  And for its incredibility (that’s a word, right?) it gets it’s 5 of the top 12 to itself. (For the other 7 camp spots on Mainland Mexico, click here.)

Baja Favorites

 

1.) Bahia Conception-  Fantastic people in the perfect bay, with perfect water, and with perfect clams for the picking at the waters edge.  We spent almost a week here and had hard time leaving.  The nearby town of Mulege has shrimp tacos that have been permanently ingrained into our taste bud memories.

The typical sunrise at Bahia Conception

 

Talk about camping close to the water…

 

And an early morning SUP…

 

2.) Los Frailes- On the East Cape, as the southeast portion of lower Baja is known, Frailes is a boondocking (free camping) beach with beautiful scenery.  There is a fish camp on one end of the beach, so their is no shortage of seafood, but it is otherwise fairly isolated.  We were awoken one morning by the splashes of schools of manta rays jumping into the air, perhaps 15 feet from shore.

 

And the sunsets were pretty great too…

 

And the early morning manta rays…

 

3.) Tecalote- Another boondocking spot, Tecalote sports beachfront camping and great views of the Isla Espiritu Santo, a breeding area for Sea Lions.  There was a great little bar 50 yards from the camp area, and since the beach was located 20 minutes from the small city of La Paz, you have easy access to supplies.

 

Our breakfast table…

 

4.) Aguas Caliente- Our favorite non-beach campsite, located in the interior of the East Cape.  Another boondocking spot (see the trend?), the Aguas Calientes camp area sits in a striking canyon, complete with a hot spring fed pool, and a hiking trail that leads to plunge pools and waterfalls.

 

And the Canyon, something magical about this place…

 

And around the corner to the left… you find this

 

And one last pic of this canyon..

 

5.) Bahia Los Angeles- A beautiful bay on the Sea of Cortez.  Mountains plunge into the calm, clear water and make for dramatic sunrises.  The Mexican government invested some money into the road out to the bay thinking they could attract some yachties (and their money) by building a large marina in the protected bay.  There is a small marina, but nothing like the original plans.  All ok by us.  The town is small, the water crystal clear, and the landscape spectacular.

We stayed here early in our trip and were still finding our camping feet so we opted for a managed campground rather than a boondocking location.

 

Our camp spot at Daggett’s Campground…

 

And of course, an early morning SUP.  Check out how clear that water is!

 

And that concludes our favorite Baja camp spots.  But we know there are plenty more left to discover.  Can’t wait to go back.

Also, you really can’t talk about camping in Mexico without mentioning the camp guide commonly referred to as the “Bible”: Camping Mexico’s Baja.  Appropriately, the authors’ last name is Church.  This book is so on point.  I won’t go back without it.  All these spots are mentioned in the book.  It has great directions, great descriptions, and great destinations (all those off-the-beaten-path spots too).  We used it exclusively for our time there.

There is also a mainland Church’s camping book that we foolishly didn’t buy before leaving the US.  After Baja we realized how vital this book would be and thus began the epic search… we eventually found a campground owner that had a copy that gave it to some campers that were planning to eat breakfast in a town near us.  After a few awkward “Hi, do you have a book for me?” inquires to some random gringos at a restaurant, we found our dealer, book dealer that is.  Money and book were exchanged table side and we finally had our “bible.”  Whew. That was close.

The Baja book we used:

The updated Baja book, out Nov. 2012!:

And the Mexico camping book.  So worth the effort to find it. It also includes all of Baja.  And some spots in Belize and Guatemala. Why didn’t we buy this in the first place?  So useful.

 

Stay tuned, next up… Our favorite Mainland Mexico camp spots!

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34 Responses to Our Top 12 Camping Spots in Mexico Part 1: Baja

  1. James says:

    Baja is truly a boondockers paradise. Can’t wait to get back there.

  2. Karen says:

    We are currently working our way down the Baja and loving it although currently have a cold front moved in. We have Church’s Mexico Camping book and glad we bought it. Very helpful, although wish it helped out more with boon docking. We loved camping on the beach at San Felipe, and spent almost a month at Playa Escandida on Bahia de Concepcion….so fabulous. Will be checking out Los Frailes today or tomorrow and right now Aguas Calientes sounds heavenly, we’ve heard so much about those 2 places.

    Wish we’d gone to Bahia Los Angeles….maybe on our way north.

    Gorgeous pics.

    • Danni says:

      Hi Karen, Glad you are having fun! We still dream of Baja. Can’t wait to get back there. The beach camping truely is fantastic.

  3. dave davis says:

    Hi….we are coming down in a red Blazer towing an 8 x 6 cargo trailer from the Northwest….should
    enter Mexico about Feb22…we are spending a month…….got all the books….and bringing
    our paddleboards.

    • Danni says:

      Awesome! We absolutely loved our sunrise paddles in Baja. Some seriously good times. If you are there for the month of March, you should be there for the grey whales – supposedly you can paddle amongst hundreds of grey momma whales and their calves. We just missed the season, but it is supposed to be incredible. Next time! Thanks for reading and have fun down there!

  4. Mark says:

    This was a great read. Thanks for sharing your tips and experiences. I am really inspired!

  5. Dawn says:

    Thank you for this post!!!!! wonderful!

  6. susan says:

    Thanks for the tips. Our tent camping days are behind us and I am sure we stayed at some of these places in the 70′s and 80′s. The last 20 years, it’s been fly in, stay at a condo for a week and then go back to work.

    As we approach retirement, the warm winters of Mexico keep coming to the front of my mind. I checked RV parks near our condo stays the last few years. Some were firestorms waiting to happen (really bad wiring and propane lines running above ground) and some seemed OK.

    Mazatlan’s RV parks have gotten as expensive as budget motels, so we’re looking for referrals to other beach area RV parks that are not so well known.

    We are in a 37′ Class A now, so pretty much have to stay in the commercial areas with maintained roads. We’ll be buying the two books you recommended, but we’re open to other suggestions. We hope to stay for 2 weeks at a time at each location, but for the perfect spot, we could commit to month for sure.

    Thanks, Susan

    • Cesar says:

      Hi Susan,

      We still dream of Baja and if you don’t mind the no services on a beach living, there are plenty of options. Just about everywhere we went in Baja we found RVers/truck campers from up north that set up for the season. They just put out there solar panel and enjoyed the simple living.

      Om the Mexican mainland, Villas Onac in Teacapan stands out as one of the gems. We write about here- http://capitolsouthbound.com/2012/02/10/fins-down-the-west-coast-of-mexico/. Great spot, great amenities, reasonable prices, and tailor made for RVs. It is isolated but a quick five minute drive to a nearby small town, and 20 min to a larger town that had supermarkets/pharmacies/etc. There were some big rigs there, and all nice people, mainly Canadians. I am pretty sure it is featured in the Churchs book.
      I will be happy to send some pictures of the place if you like.

      Hope that helps!

      Cheers,
      Cesar

    • Momads2 says:

      Hi Sue!
      We find ourselves in a similar situation- our tent camping days are far behind us, & we have upgraded to a small 5th wheeler! But since we retired in the West, we have really wanted to do Baja- only I think we would need to have some amenities, like hookups & showers at this stage- Since you have had some experience with this, maybe you could give us some Tips as to which, where, etc???

  7. In the event you find a notation in any of the camping guides that the campground in San Felipe del Agua, Oaxaca is closed – please know that it has re-opened under new, friendly professional management. There are 14 RV sites, half with full hookup, three furnished cottages for those who want mountain air and views but no camping equipment, and a bus to downtown Oaxaca that passes the gate twice each hour. Please come and see us!

    • Cesar says:

      Fantastic! Thanks for the info. We vividly recall seeking out the San Felipe campsite and having to maneuver around a deep muddy road with open man holes (we bent our rear bumper) only to find the gate closed.
      Oaxaca is one of the top cities on our list and we hope to visit again one day. Glad to here you guys are open for business for other overlanders to enjoy this wonderful area.
      Cheers,
      Cesar

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  9. Jeronimo says:

    One of the best places to camp in mexico is Cocos Camp.

    Its located in Acapulco, Guerrero.

    It has many commodities such as acces to ocean, Wi fi internet, clean and beautiful bathrooms, Pool, electricity plugs everywhere, lightning and security 24/7.

    Its a tropical paradise!

    I invite you to visit http://www.cocoscamp.com

  10. Betty says:

    Great article and photos. Thanks fer sharing. Just curious– where’d you stow yer boards while driving/camping?

    • Cesar says:

      Betty,

      Thanks for reading. Our SUP boards are actually inflatable. They deflate and can be rolled up to fit into a large duffel bag. They were perfect for traveling and certainly met our needs. There are plenty of options out there for well constructed inflatable SUP boards and I will be happy to steer you in the right direction if your are interested in one.

      Cheers,
      Cesar

  11. Darcy says:

    Baja…It is one of our favorite places. We have been many times. We have come the distance from San Felipe and/or Ensenada to the end of the peninsula and back again, camping and/ or RVing along the way. Our experiences have been remarkably positive…until today. We are in Cabo San Lucas. It is the land of big luxury hotels, more traffic than any place in all of Baja and very few RV parks.
    Travelers talk and one of our previous co-campers (alone and bicycling) suggested “Club Cabo”…Out of years of travel our interaction with the owner (Martin Rozendall) of that park produced the most uncomfortable experience of any trip to Baja—and within memory, any trip anywhere.
    We arrived at the RV camp without reservations. The owner said that they could house us for the night but expected a large caravan the next day. We told them we were in the area for a wedding, would need the use of our pickup and would prefer to unhook and set up camp only once. With our rig it is a bit of an ordeal. If we couldn’t find a 3 day slot we would indeed stay. He recommended Vagabundos as a possibility. There is very little space in the “Club Cabo” to maneuver any RV, much less a trailer/pickup. With difficultly and snide remarks from the owner regarding driving skills we (and he) backed ours out of the way to the side of their building.
    Patrick took off on the bicycle trying to locate said camp (remember this is Mexico and things are neither well-marked nor easy to find). During his absence, the owner started asking me for payment and said: “as far as I’m concerned you are checked in”. At which point, I assumed that if we couldn’t find another location he would accept us for the night. I told him I was waiting for Patrick to return and attempted to call the other parks on our list. He wasn’t gone more than 15 minutes. The owner then became insistent about payment. We reiterated that we still would like try to find a place we could stay for the entire Cabo visit of 3 days. Could we have a minute to make calls?
    At which point, the owner became aggressive and yelled that he wanted us out of his property. Were he a toddler I would have said he threw a tantrum. He had blocked the gate to keep us in and had to un-block it. The entire interaction from arrival to “retreat” was less than 30 minutes. He physically threatened us. His behavior was so unexpected and intense. Told us he hoped we had a horrible time, misdirected us and yelled that other accommodations were full and much more difficult than his …within ½ hour we found Villa Serena, a much more welcoming place.
    Travel is full of chance meetings and surprises. Within the hour we met a local gringa who knew this man. She frowned and said “ I know him. His daughter went to school with mine. He is a hot head. He has problems. I think he is bi-polar or something” . Within the camp there were multiple long timers who either personally had experience with Martin or knew of someone else who had had. With no exceptions, those encounters were dismal.
    Unfortunately, the story does not end there. Three days later Martin showed up at Villa Serena insisting that my husband had threatened his wife. Completely weird and certainly untrue. This guy is a whack job!

    Who knows?….but if I had it to do all over again I would have avoided “Club Cabo” like the plague—and would recommend the same to any traveler. It seems to be a place for those who wish to be abused. Before staying there I’d stay at the unattended El Arco Vista Bonita (it has water and electricity but no “security”). There is no sense in inviting the negative—and the owner of “Club Cabo”, Mr. Martin Rozendaal—is certainly that.

    • Cesar says:

      Darcy,

      Thanks for the information and sorry you had to have that experience. I would recommend you post the story on the ‘PanAmerican Travelers: Past, Present and Future’ Facebook page as it would be good for other travelers to know.

      Thanks again and safe travels.

      Cheers,
      Cesar

  12. Maki says:

    how is the bug and safety situation for sleeping under the stars without a tent in April?

    • Cesar says:

      Maki,

      The mosquitoes get bad for an hour or so at dusk, but go away afterward. A small price to pay for the surrounding beauty.

      Enjoy!

      Cesar

  13. Rachel says:

    Hi!
    Thanks so much for posting this clear and incredibly useful info!
    My husband, 7-year-old daughter, and I plan to take three weeks to make our way from the SF Bay Area to the end of Baja this July. We were thinking of following your guide on the way down and surfing up the Pacific upon return. Thank you for kicking off our planning with your great site!
    Rachel

    • Cesar says:

      Rachel,

      So glad you found this information useful, and of course, we are extremely jealous you will be down in Baja. We miss it terribly!

      Enjoy the trip! (and the fish tacos)

      Cheers,
      Cesar

  14. Pat Pecoraro says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for the great information. I am a 65 yr old woman traveling with my two dogs in a 1986 Toyota Granville. I very mutch want to do “Baja”. Do you think I would have any problems or trouble traveling alone?

    Thanks for any information,
    Pat

    • Cesar says:

      Hi Pat,

      I don’t think you will have a problem at all in Baja, particularly southern Baja. There are both campsties and ‘boondocking’ sites all along Baja that have great established communities of overlanders to them. Everyone looks out for each other. And for the most part, the Mexicans are wonderfully warm and giving. Just stick to driving during the day and be sure to get to your next destination with plenty of time to scope it out.

      We also highly recommend getting the Church’s Baja campsite book (we have a link- http://capitolsouthbound.com/2012/07/16/our-top-12-camping-spots-in-mexico-part-1-baja/). It is known as the bible for Baja camping.

      Good luck and enjoy Baja- we miss it!

      Cheers,
      Cesar

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  16. Momads2 says:

    We are a retired couple whose tent camping days are long behind us! Now we have a small 5th wheel RV & are VERY interested in camping down in Baja! Problem is, there doesn’t seem to be too many sources for sufficient info & photos of established RV campgrounds with amenities down there. Campsitephotos.com hasn’t gotten down there yet, & the Churches’ book offers few photos that actually show the position of the sites in relation to the beach or the campground layouts, or any real ratings! Can anyone recommend some specific places to us?? SURELY not everyone is comfortable with ‘boondocking’ in their 60′s!!

    • Cesar says:

      Hi Guys,

      The quick answer to your question is that the Church’s book as probably the best resource out there for RVs and established campgrounds with regard to Baja. That said, you will find very few ‘established’ RV resorts with amenities. (we only encountered one)
      Of course, Baja’s beauty lies in its ruggedness. You will certainly find many established boon docking spots, with RVers (mainly Canadians) that have been going there for generations. These places have full on RV communities established each season, and are some of the nicest and welcoming people we met in out travels. (of particular note- they were all retirees in there 60′s and 70′s).
      My advice is to not let the wildness of Baja deter you. If you love rugged beauty, nature, and simple living, don’t hesitate. I assure you you won’t regret it.
      Cheers and Happy Travels,
      Cesar

  17. Ed says:

    WOW !!! Great info, going back down this summer for a month. I go once a year with the family and have never seen any crime at all. Everyone has always been nice and helpful. Love BAJA !!!!!!!

  18. Estaben Calabacas says:

    As I read these comments, I see several from people who have never been to Baja before. It would be helpful in these types of articles to include (or at least include a link to) the travel requirements for entry into Baja like the process of obtaining the FMM (visitors permit), the purchase of Mexican vehicle insurance (can be done on-line), the Mexican Customs (Aduana) inspection as you enter the country and the purposes of the military and Federal Police checkpoints located on the highways. It should also be noted that there are no PEMEX (gas stations) facilities on Highway 1 from El Rosario (Baja California) to Jesus Maria (just north of the border with Baja California Sur) and there is an agricultural and Immigration checkpoint (remember those FMM’s mentioned above??) at the state line separating Baja from Baja Sur.

  19. Ron says:

    Hi, Danni & Cesar. I found your campsite favorites especially informative and practical–just the hard-to-find help I needed. I am having a hard time deciding whether to go to mainland Mexico or the Baja and would appreciate any thoughts you might have. I live in northern California, and can only afford only one or the other location. I have a small class B, 4-wheel drive RV. I’m mostly interested in beach atmosphere, not adverse to boondocking, but not necessarily wanting to be isolated (like some partying, hehehe) and be able to eat at restaurants (hate to cook). I’m not a real rougher but I would like to save money by choosing cheap beach parking. I don’t need any other amenities like pool, bathrooms, dumping stations, etc. I will mostly sleep in the RV and use it to get around. The price of gas and the cost of toll roads in mainland is leaning me towards the Baja. Do you have any thoughts or advice or recommendations based on your experiences? Thanks.

    • Cesar says:

      Ron,
      Sorry for the late response. Sounds like Baja is definitely your spot. It has all the things you are looking for. Check out the Churches Baja RV book for details on spots and towns. Mulege, the town close to Bahia Conception, was on of our favorite spots on the trip. Actually, Baja was one of our favorite spots on the trip! Love that place.
      Enjoy!
      Cheers,
      Cesar

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