Your Guide To Baja

How to travel south of the border

It's worth the trip.

It’s worth the trip.

The Setup
Unless you're flying in a private plane, or jetting down to Cabo, most likely you'll be crossing by car at San Ysidro south of San Diego. Be sure to pull off an exit or two before the border and purchase Mexican insurance. There will be plenty of options, including quick drive-thrus, and the transaction is worth every penny. Considering the area's violence over the past year or so, it is highly recommended to travel the Tijuana to Ensenada corridor in the day time. It used to be that the majority of violence was contained to that stretch, but it has lately spread further into Baja, so continue to keep your wits about you during the entire drive.

The Ride
Like its American counterpart, Baja California can produce an incredibly wide variety of surf throughout the year. Most summertime voyagers bring everything from logs and hulls to high-performance thrusters and min-guns. It is also uniquely exposed, and receives swell from sharply angled hurricanes to the same north west swells that hit Hawaii and California. Though you'll be descending in degrees of latitude to your given surf spot, be sure to bring a range of rubber, even in the summer. The coast is often cooler than Southern California and up welling can make normally trunk-able spots frigid.

The Danger Zone
Despite the cartel violence raging in border towns, Highway One also remains a major impediment to a successful surf adventure. Its lanes are shockingly narrow, the pavement is canted and there is usually no shoulder, or most often a drop-off. The last development boom delivered everything from Cosco to Home Depot to Cabo San Lucas, and the semi trucks that service them run day and night, often passing on blind corners. Free ranging cows also put vehicles on their roofs. Although the common thought is to start the trip in pre-dawn hours and race to the destination, its advisable to drive slowly and carefully during the day only.

Crash Pads
The Desert Inns (formerly La Pinta hotels) found in Catavia, Guerro Negro, and San Ignacio offer an experience akin to stepping back to 1960s Baja, They can't be beat for style, but on price there are often cheaper options. Every long time Baja traveler will have a favorite at each stop. Ask around.

The rancho style fare found throughout Baja is as simple as it is good. Starting with the roadside taco shops at Ensenada to the mariscos stands outside of San Quintin, fortune favors the brave. The Cantina at Scorpion Bay is surprisingly good, too. For a road stop at Catavia, try Rancho Santa Ins, it's a favorite of the Baja 1000 crowd.