Loreto to La Paz
May 2006, 2007, 2008. 2009
For all intents and purposes, Loreto is the capital of Northern Baja Sur. The regional epicenter and commercial lifeblood of the entire Sea of Cortez region, Loreto even has an international airport (though your “flight” may be a 4 seater plane with an open cockpit all the way to San Diego, as our swine-flu carrying friend once had). Either way, Loreto at heart is a growing city with small town roots. Many people fly into here for the dorado fishing and cruising the waters of the offshore islands, though if you spend some time hanging out in town, you’ll find that it isn’t a bad place to spend an afternoon. That’s about all I would spend though.
While the highway south of Loreto hugs the Sea of Cortez for a little bit longer, it isn’t long until you swing back west and start crossing the peninsula back towards the other coast. Unfortunately, I would have to call the stretch of road from Loreto to Ciudad Insurgentes (the next major town on the highway), probably the most boring stretch of road in all of Baja. While Ciudad Insurgentes doesn’t have much to offer from a tourism standpoint, it is important in that you can refuel and supply here, as well as it being the turnoff for the southern approach to Scorpion Bay.
To reach Scorpion Bay from Ciudad Insurgentes, hang a right off of Mex 1 and head directly north through town. After taking the straightest stretch of road in the world for about an hour, you eventually will reach the town of La Purisma, which is little more than another oasis town in the middle of nowhere. After La Purisma, the road degrades to typical Baja offroad standards, though it’s only for about a 30 mile stretch until the town of San Juanico and the Scorpion Bay campground. A western run campground that offers a few covered palapas, camping, and a cantina that occasionally is open, Scorpion Bay is an expat surfing haven that is the stuff of legends and lore. A destination entirely unto itself, this place religiously draws diehard Baja veterans to its windy, dusty cliffside (see “Scorpion Bay: Why we keep coming back”) with its long righthand reefbreak and idyllic feeling of isolation. While the campground is a little outside of town, basic supplies such as ice, beer, and gas from 50 gallon drums can be obtained in the small but growing fishing village. While the morning calm can be deceiving, the afternoon offshore winds can blow any campsite into a million pieces. Renting a covered palapa here is highly recommended.
Heading the other direction from Ciudad Insurgentes, the palm tree lined and stoplight riddled corridor that serves as the highway continues on directly into Ciudad Constituciones, a sprawling modern metropolis of department stores and commerce that warrants very little reason for stopping other than for supplies. Most people who come through Ciudad Consituciones are headed due west out to Magdalena Bay, a 50 mile long protected bay that’s located a 30 mile drive due west from Mex highway 1. In the winter months Mag Bay is known as a breeding ground for coastal gray whales, and a large number of whale watching charters operate from the tranquil waters inside the bay. The small fishing town of San Carlos is the hub for supplies and info on any tours, and many fishing charters use the port here or at Lopez Mateos to head out for a day filled with sportfishing. On the Pacific coast of Mag Bay, little visited Punta Santa Maria is known as an outpost surfing and camping destination that draws a growing amount of expat tourists, and is one of the few areas to fnd a decent wave on this long stretch of proected coastline.
After Ciudad Constituciones, it’s a long, empty desert haul until you reach the capital city of La Paz. The last time I drove this stretch of road it was pitch black dark and didn’t arrive into La Paz until close to midnight, which I would not recommend anyone to ever try and do. The one point of interest on the stretch of road down to La Paz is the turnoff for the fishing village of Punta Conejo, located on the Pacific coast about halfway between Ciudad Consituciones and La Paz. Set 12 miles west of the highway, the turnoff is little more than a dirt road and a sign, so keep your eyes peeled or you’ll miss it. Punta Conejo is a legendary wave in the Baja surf community, and the coastline features a number of different breaks for those wth the 4 wheel drive access to explore up and down the coast.
Other than the Punta Conejo turnoff, it’s a long, straight shot down into the teeming capital of La Paz, where modern Mexico meets the Baja of old, and the last thing you want to do is order a chorizo taco at 1am in a bad part of town…trust me.