May 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
The border crossing between the two states is about as straightforward as a border crossing can get. $2 to spray your car tires, a cursory glance at your passport (if they feel like it), or perhaps simply being waved through with none of the above. It’s only a few miles to the turnoff for Guerrero Negro, the largest city of any kind in the area and your only real place for an ATM and refueling. While far from a Baja attraction, Guerrero Negro is a crucial waypoint on the Baja peninsula as it is where you take care of any errands that you may have to run to continue your strong push down towards the tip. You can also pick up one of the buses that runs the length of the Baja peninsula here.
After leaving Guerrero Negro behind, the road turns back to endless desert from here to Vizcaino. One word of caution: police from GN like to sit within the first 10-15 miles or so on the south end of town, so temper the speed and be a prudent driver, at least for this stretch of the road. Like Guerrero Negro, Vizcaino has little in the way to offer outside of refueling and restocking. About the one thing that Vizcaino is good for is that it is home to virtually every car repair shop in Mexico, and if you have any sort of issues going on with your rig there’s a good chance that you can get it sorted out in Vizcaino (except for Volvo’s…you can’t fix a Volvo in Mexico…trust me).
Virtually the only other reason that you would ever need to know Vizcaino would be that this where you would turn off if you were going to head out to one of the outposts along Bahia Tortugas or Bahia Asuncion.
About 45 minutes out of Vizcaino you will reach the (now paved!) turnoff for Punta Abreojos, a small fishing community on the Pacific coast that is legendary amongst the Baja surf community for its fabled right pointbreak. While the town itself is somewhat established, there is literally nothing between the highway turnoff and the fishing village 52 miles away, so you really gotta want to visit there. Once you get to Abreojos, however, it can be Baja simplicity at its best. Be forewarned that there are not too many options for camping here as the strong onshore winds that kick up in the afternoon will blow through any camp site, but there are a few motels in town including Chelo’s where around $40 will get you a nice room, a shower, and point you in the direction of one of the few places in town to find a beer. Also outside of town is a place known as Campo Rene, but the place is completely removed from the charming area of town and just has a real strange vibe about it. I recommend staying back in town.
Back on the main highway, the next town that any Baja traveler will come to is San Ignacio, a notoriously relaxed little oasis town in the middle of the desert that serves as a major waypoint for those continuing on towards the Sea of Cortez. San Ignacio is also the northern terminus of the “North Road” to Scorpion Bay, which is a legendary drive and is famous for being one of the worst roads in all of Baja. Anyone looking for a place to stay in San Ignacio can check out Rice and Beans campground, and a worthwhile activity is to spend some time walking around the lagoon down towards the center of town, where date palms line the calm shoreline and the church of San Ignacio de Loyola lies just around the corner. There will also be a guy at the Pemex station back on the highway selling bags of dates who speaks perfect English. Buy the dates as a thank you, though I may pass on eating them.
Eastward from San Ignacio the road winds its way across the desert before making a brilliant drop down onto the Sea of Cortez outside the town of Santa Rosalia. When you see the Sea of Cortez for the first time after so long in the desert, your immediate urge is to pull off to the side of the road, crack an ice cold Tecate, and dive on into the cool blue waters set right along the roadside. After all this time on the road, by all means, indulge yourself, though rest assured that there are better beaches further down the road than the ones found in Santa Rosalia. The town of Santa Rosalia is an unusual charmer in that it is an old mining/port town that looks absolutely nothing like the rest of Mexico. While the coastline isn’t the nicest, the town has ample fuel and facilities, a number of functioning ATM’s, and a quaint little downtown area that is worthy of an hourlong stroll.
Once on the outskirts of Santa Rosalia, the road continues to parallel the coast from here for 38 miles until the quaint little town of Mulege. The only thing really between Santa Rosalia and Mulege is a maximum security prison and a military training ground–neither of which are places I suggest spending your idle free time. Also in this area is a non-descript right hand turn onto a unnamed dirt road that comprises the east road into La Purisma, San Isidro, and eventually Scorpion Bay. While San Isidro is another intriguing little desert oasis town in the middle of nowhere, recent reports tell that the road is in terrible shape and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to ever take it.
While Mulege is an incredibly charming little oasis town featuring a gently flowing river and some simple expat establishments scattered around the banks of the river, one of the true gems of all of Baja lies just a few miles down the road. This idyllic sliver of paradise is simply known as Bahia Concepcion.
Once the first beach of Bahia Concepcion comes into view around the hairpin turns you will know exactly why you have come this far down the desert–and question why you would ever leave. The entire bay is a pristine haven of calm waters, sandy coves, offshore islands, and laidback Baja living. This is the type of place where the only things on your “to-do” list are to to sit back under a thatched hut palapa, keep your Tecate cold on ice, and watch the day turn from brilliant sunshine to a thick blanket of stars as you strecth out on the sand. Don’t worry about food…there’s a good chance a friendly local will come offering fresh tamales in the morning, and there are always plentiful amounts of fresh clams in the sand for those who feel like digging a little. I’m going to go out on a limb, and call Bahia Concepcion one of mytop 5 places on the entire planet. Some of my Concepcion favorites are Playa Santispac and El Requeson, which is little more than a narrow sandspit that connects at high tide, offering an unbelievably scenic lagoon for camping and leaving the world behind…