Category Archives: Week-long trip

A Perfect Beach Day

When one envisions surfing, one sees warm California beaches with palm trees swaying and surfers in shorts or bikinis on their longboards…. What many people don’t picture are the dozens of surfers lined up. That’s why many of these SoCal surfers come to Northern Baja… EMPTY LINE-UPS.

The way in… a dirt road with little parking

Along the coast you’ll see miles and miles of empty waves, some places are more accessible than others but one thing is for sure, the waves are great and mostly uncrowded in all spots. (The water is colder than our northern neighbors, but that’s why wetsuits were invented!)

Have your photographer sit here as you surf
Have your photographer sit here as you surf

Before you go, you should check out the surf report that way you’ll make sure the waves are good and the wind isn’t too strong.  If the conditions aren’t great in one spot, there’s a chance they’ll be better in other places, just keep driving south.

It’s not just surfing, you can tan or bring your dog to run around

Even if you can’t find waves, take advantage of the nice weather we’ve been having all winter and just relax on the beach or go for a swim. It’s better than being on a crowded beach in San Diego or a snowy beach in New England. Some beaches have bars, hotels, restaurants overlooking the ocean where you can enjoy a cold beer or margarita.

Surfers having fun

When you decide to travel south, you can either camp at many of the hotels on the coast or you can camp at a couple of the campsites (most notable is Km 55 near La Fonda). It’s not recommended to camp on the beach but campsites are perfectly safe!

*Disclaimer: surfing is more fun without people, so I’ll show you that there are spots but I won’t tell you where they are. Sorry!

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Discover the Many Caves of Baja

San Ignacio isn`t just known for its mission and whale watching, it is also surrounded by world famous cave paintings. These have been around for thousands of years and while locals knew about them, they have been famous only for a couple decades. There are a couple paintings you can see. El Raton y el Palmarito (the one we saw) are day trips while there are others that take minimum 4 days on a mule. Talk about something unique!

You`ve made it!
You`ve made it!

Because we only had enough time to go to el Palmarito the tips will be about that cave painting. We were told that for a day hike, it was the best one to see.

There are two ways to go about organizing your hike.

Option 1: go to the tourist center underneath the San Ignacio mission and have someone call the guides and organize them for you. There is a $50 peso fee to bring cameras to the top and $100 pesos per person (free for students, doesn’t matter if the student is international or not). If your car doesn’t have 4WD they may offer to take you in their car.

Option 2: just drive to the site and hope there is a guide available for you. You may get lucky and not have to wait, or the most likely scenario, you’ll have to wait until a guide comes to take you to the paintings. You will pay at the base camp instead of the tourist center, and the price will be the same as mentioned above.  (Option 1 is a lot easier and will make everything flow better)

Starting the hike. It takes about an hour each way
Starting the hike. It takes about an hour each way

After driving for an hour and a half, you will arrive to the house to pick up your guide, from there you will drive to the bottom of the hike. Remember, you are walking in the middle of the desert and will need plenty of water and a sunhat, it gets hot. Our guide told us that in the summer it’s 100+ and many people who set out to make it to the top end up giving up. Don’t try this hike in the middle of the summer!

What to expect once you get to the top
What to expect once you get to the top

When you get to the top, you can spend as much time as you`d like and there are three caves you can explore. You’ll fist arrive to the biggest one, covered in different colored figures.

Close up of little animals
Close up of little animals

Even though the paintings are one of a kind, the view is also one to take in; it makes you realize how far you are from everything and how much the people who drew must have walked. On the caves, there are picture of whales, these painters walked all over the area.

Don't forget to look at the valley
Don’t forget to look at the valley

This is considered a World Heritage site, make sure you get to check it out, you will not regret it. And if you have more time, take one of the many other mule guided trips to other sites.

Close up of a figure

Close up of a figure

How to get there? Once in San Ignacio, drive to Bonfil (about 20 kms) and take a left, stay on the main dirt road and drive for about an hour. I believe it was 60 kms each way. You will get to the guide house and they will tell you what to do next.

Whale Alert

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/01/why-west-coast-sea-life-has-been-behaving-so-strangely/283003/

If you haven`t had a chance to go whale watching try going this year. The high number of anchovies has incremented the amounted of marine life in California. There have been twice the amount of whales spotted than last year.

Don’t miss out on seeing lots of whales!

A Pretty Town with a Beautiful Coastline

Three quarters down the coast you finally arrive to a somewhat cosmopolitan town with great, cheap food. Loreto was first built by the missionaries. The mission is located in the main plaza and visitors are welcome to visit the accompanying museum. There you will learn what it was like to live with no cars or easy access to any other part of the peninsula.

The Loreto Mission, and a nice little plaza to walk around
The Loreto Mission, and a nice little plaza to walk around

Apart from the Mission, you can walk around the town, there are a couple restaurants, hotels and shops along a quaint pedestrian zone. The two hotels are Posada de las Flores, an upscale hotel with a pool and 1967, a tiny hotel on the corner of the plaza with great rooms.

As you can see, this town boasts nice places to walk around.
As you can see, this town boasts nice places to walk around.

Apart from the Mission, the town is known for its outdoor activities. There is a pleasant boardwalk and a sandy beach right in town. There are many adventure sport stores where one can organize scuba diving, kayaking, paddle boarding, and boating trips to the nearby Coronado Island.

You can drive a couple minutes south and snorkel on empty beaches
You can drive a couple minutes south and snorkel on empty beaches

Loreto is similar to San Ignacio in that it is a Mission however it has the great advantage of being on the Sea of Cortez, which means you get to explore a beautiful coastline (with a lot of sandy beaches!).

For information on hotels please click here:

Here is a list of the hotels you can find in town. Keep in mind that 12.50 mxn is a dollar (the exchange rate may change).
Here is a list of the hotels you can find in town.

Have you been to the “World’s Aquarium” yet?

After driving south for eight and a half hours, you will see a metal sailboat welcoming you into la Bahia de los Angeles (the Bay of the Angels); which Jacques Cousteau once called “the world’s aquarium.”

Welcome to the Bahia de los Angeles
Welcome to the Bahia de los Angeles

Unfortunately, your first impression will leave you wondering why you drove so far to get to this place. The town is dirty and seems unwelcoming to visitors, however, one does not come for the town, one comes for the bay. This majestic bay is world famous for its scenery, marine life and unusual cactus.

The world famous bay
The world famous bay

There are a couple of hotels in town. In the winter, the village shuts down and the seasonal activities are unavailable, it`s windy, cold at night and it gets dark at 5. And after five there is not much going on as there are few restaurants and no bars. We were told that spring and fall are the best times to visit because the temperature is just right. There are various turtle conservancy groups that help guide baby turtles into the water. And in the  fall (August to October) the whale sharks are in town.

Enjoy the many palapa style camping spots for a truly Mexican experience.
Enjoy the many palapa style camping spots for a truly Mexican experience.

Since we were there at a quiet time, we went kayaking. We were told permits were needed to reach the islands;  we did not get very far as one of our kayaks started to sink! It was a fun ride, the water is crystal clear and we could see schools of fish swimming under our kayaks. A nice way to enjoy the marine life is on a kayak,  the right sport for the Sea of Cortez (non-polluting and you get a work-out)! But paddle boarding could be pretty cool too.

Steering a sinking ship
Steering a sinking ship

I do not recommend visiting in the winter, the water is cool but the town is shut down and the sun goes down at five. If you are going to take the time to drive down, try to do so when the sun is up longer and the nights are warmer. It was quite windy and dark and we did not get to fully experience the Bahia de los Angeles.

Dirt road to get to an incredibly clean beach.
Dirt road to get to an incredibly clean beach.

Driving Instructions: There are two ways to get to this quiet bay. One from San Felipe which requires driving on a dirt road for about 2 to 3 hours that ends up connecting to the main highway or the easy way, driving on Mexico 1 the entire way. According to Google Maps, driving the main way is 8 hours 33 minutes. I would recommend leaving early in the morning so that there are no problems with driving in darkness or missing the turn to the Bahia (it’s off the main road).

We didn't run out of gas but we did have to empty our kayak as it was slowly filing with water!
We didn’t run out of gas but we did have to empty our kayak as it was slowly filing with water!

Make sure you have gas and cash! There are no ATMS or banks in town and sometimes the gas station decides to close (it can take a couple days to reopen). Make sure you come prepared! Otherwise you may not get to experience the true Bahia de los Angeles.

Palm Trees Among an Infinity of Cactus

San Ignacio is located exactly in the middle of the peninsula, in the middle horizontally (in the middle of the desert) and vertically (pretty much equal distance between Tijuana and Cabo). This makes it a little hard to get to, driving from San Diego it’s about 10 hours without stopping, make sure you leave early so you don’t end up driving in the dark! You won’t miss it because after driving in hours of cactus filled desert you’ll stumble upon an oasis. That’s San Ignacio.

The body of water that helps the palm trees grow. There are a couple campsites on the water.

In the village, there are a few hotels and campsites along the water, almost none of them accept credit cards. Rice and Beans and the Desert Inn are the two that do. Rice and Beans, despite its strange name has very good food (there is also one in San Felipe). Casa Lerée is another hotel to keep in mind, it`s in the center of town and has a very nice, homey feel. Keep in mind there are no ATMs in the village so make sure you have enough cash for your visit.

The San Ignacio Mission, founded by Jesuits in 1728

The San Ignacio Mission was first settled in 1728 by Jesuits. It’s a nice little village, very different from anything you’ll see as you are driving south. The area is very interesting as there are various cave painting sites (some you need to ride a mule for a few days, some only take a day) and from mid January to mid April the whales come south to mate in the Lagoon. There are a couple eco-lodges and campsites that can accommodate you if you wish to see these giant animals.

This is the road coming back from trying to see the whales, unfortunately we were a month early. The road is in pretty good condition and takes about 45 minutes from the village.

This is an interesting little village that will take you back a couple decades without losing too many modern day commodities. It can either be a destination or a stopping point on your way south but it’s definitely worth checking out!

The only whale we saw.
The only whale we saw.

Driving directions: In order to get to San Ignacio, you must follow Mexico 1, from San Diego, it`s about a 10 hour drive, make sure you get cash and gas in the bigger cities because you never know how long until you see the next ATM/gas station (and you never know if the gas station will take cards!). You will know you are getting close when you pass Guerrero Negro, there`s one more town and you finally arrive to your destination!