Wild beach camping – it’s what we came for! After spending several winters exploring mainland Mexico and Guatemala, we decided to spend this winter in Baja, wild camping on the beaches and taking advantage of all the outdoor activities on offer. Baja is known for its wild beach camping and every year, Vanlifers, Overlanders, and RVers from Canada and the US head south to skip the winter and find some adventure. We’ve loved discovering why Baja is famous for its wild beach camping and we’ll share why in this post.
What Is Wild Camping?
First, let’s be clear about what we mean by wild camping. For us, wild camping is any type of camping outside of the boundaries of a regular, traditional campsite. It’s a space that is lightly managed or unmanaged, has limited to no facilities, is free or very inexpensive (~$5 USD or less), and has undefined or loosely defined campsites. We’re stretching the term a bit and that’s because, over time, many of the more popular wild camping areas in Baja have been converted to informal campsites by landowners who charge a small fee to camp on the land and in return, have installed garbage cans, pit toilets, or palapas. Although not completely wild, these areas are still very much in the spirit of wild camping, and in many cases, we’ve had the whole beach to ourselves.
Huge Supply of Wild Beach Camping Opportunities
Baja has a huge supply of wild beach camping opportunities. It’s a thin peninsula, lined with beaches on both sides and a seemingly endless supply of spots for waterfront camping. You can choose from hundreds of options on iOverlander or drive toward the coast and find your own little slice of paradise. In all our travels throughout North America and Central America, we’ve never found such abundant wild beach camping.
Camping Just Feet from the Ocean
In Baja, wild beach camping often means parking your vehicle or tent just feet from the ocean. You can wake up in the morning and stumble out of bed and right into the ocean. The views and access are something I don’t think we could ever tire of. That said, you do need to be mindful of the tide… if you get too close, you just might end up with your tires underwater – especially if the wind is up.
At the beach south of Laredo, we were so close to the high tide mark that we debated whether we should move the van forward.
Free or Low-Cost Camping
Much of the wild beach camping in Baja is free or very low cost. As mentioned earlier, in some cases landowners will come by to collect a small fee for camping on the land (sometimes it’s not the landowner but an enterprising neighbour… we generally pay if it’s requested and reasonable). In other cases, camping is entirely free. This makes it a very affordable way to travel, explore and escape the winter. We haven’t paid more than $5USD (100 pesos) for what we would consider a wild camping site.
Close to a Multitude of Activities
Being close to the ocean in Baja means you are close to a multitude of outdoor activities. There are opportunities to go SUPing, sea kayaking, fishing, kite surfing, regular surfing, whale watching, bird watching, and beach walking. Often there are mountains or hills just off the ocean, with trails for hiking, mountain biking, and dirt biking.
In the Baja, it can get very windy in the afternoons. Unless you’re planning to do wind sports, your best to squeeze in your activities first thing in the morning.
Accessible With a 2WD Vehicle
Most people think that you need a 4WD vehicle to wild camp on the beaches in Baja. Not so! There are plenty of beach camping areas accessible to 2WD vehicles. The fact that we can get to these places in Slow Sally, our heavy, lumbering, low clearance van, is proof of that. If you are driving a 2WD vehicle, you need to be more cautious and stay out of the soft/deep sand. Crowd-sourced apps like iOverlander will often have information about sand conditions and 2WD capabilities in the comments. We generally rely on iOverlander instead of exploring new sites for this reason.
At El Sargento Beach, we took a wrong turn and came very close to getting stuck in some deep, soft sand. When in doubt, get out of the van and check out the terrain on foot! We initiated a 3-point-turn, which turned into a 10-point turn, but we managed to get out of the deep sand and into one of our favourite wild camping spots of the trip so far.
There’s no doubt that having a 4WD vehicle will give you far more camping options, allow you to get closer to the water and further from other campers, but you can absolutely camp on Baja beaches with a 2WD vehicle.
Opportunities To Have the Beach to Yourself… Or Meet Some Like-Minded Travellers
Wild beach camping sometimes means having privacy and the beach to yourself – which is a primary motivation for many people. Other times it means having some beachfront neighbours because some of the best beach camping spots in Baja have been discovered. Many of the other travellers we’ve met while wild camping are like-minded in the way that they travel and in their motivations for visiting Baja.
We spent a few days camping on the beach south of Loreto and met some of the kindest and most helpful travelers. Many of them were spending the whole winter in that spot, and while they were travelling differently from the way we do, they valued so many of the same things about Baja.
But… Is It Safe?
When we tell people that we’re wild beach camping, they ask us if we feel safe. There’s not yet been an instance where we didn’t feel safe wild camping. Either there’s no one around, and the solitude and emptiness of the place make us feel safe, or there are other campers nearby, and we feel that there’s safety in numbers. We have heard some instances of robberies, but they are few and far between and no one was physically injured.
The only potential threat to our safety this trip have been coyotes. We’ve seen numerous packs of coyotes while beach camping in Baja. At both Papa Fernandez and Ojo de Liebre Laguna, packs of yipping coyotes came running down from the hills at dusk, close to where we were camped. Walter freaks right out when this happens, and we’ve been worried about how close they’ll get (they’re known to be quite bold). We’re not aware of any reports of attacks on humans, but anyone camping with small children, dogs, or cats needs to be cautious, particularly at sunset.
If you haven’t already, subscribe to our blog and stay tuned for our next post about our experience in La Ventana, Baja.
- iOverlander – Great Resource for Wild Beach Camping Spots – Especially Whether or Not You Need 4WD