We have spent the last week exploring Baja California Norte. Our van has performed very admirably and we have really enjoyed sleeping in the van when it has been windy or foggy near the beach! Here is a run down of the places we have travelled and some of the campsites we have stayed at so far. We chose these campsites below based either off of recommendations from our travel books, friends, or fellow travelers.
Cuatro Casas: We stayed here our second night in Mexico. Several of our friends had recommended this spot to us as a great right swinging point break. To get here we passed through the town of San Telmo and then took a right on an inconspicuous dirt road off Highway 1 (which is the main highway running the length of Baja.) The road was a bit sandy at points – but we were able to make it through just fine with our van.
The camping here is pretty basic – but it has a beautiful view overlooking the swell. For $5 dollars we camped on the beach, for another $5 we got firewood, and for $5 more you can use the bathroom facilities in the hostel. If you don’t pay for the bathroom in the hostel then you need to brave the outhouse. Unfortunately, while we were there the tides were super high (we are nearing the king tide with winter solstice) so the conditions were not great. However, Eric got a couple of good rides in. Since the conditions were less than ideal, we decided to continue on. However, I would definitely recommend this spot due to its proximity to San Diego.
Rancho Meling: Since the conditions were not great for surfing we decided to take a side trip to check out the National Park of Sierra San Pedro Martir on interior of Baja. San Pedro Martir boasts beautiful pine forests, high peaks, an astronomical observatory, and California condors. I am pretty interested in ornithology…so I was most excited to potentially see a condor – and I studied the different markings between vultures and condors on the way into the park. As we were driving, we saw signs for Rancho Meling, and decided to stop there for the night. As soon as we pulled in, I was glad that we had stopped. Rancho Meling was founded in 1910, and is still a working guest ranch that seems to be right out of a western movie. We ate a delicious lunch and dinner in a beautiful ranch house that had festive Christmas decorations. Vincente, one of the ranch-hands, in particular was very welcoming to us. He told us about some cave paintings and we took a walk around the acreage.
The next morning we left the ranch and kept climbing up the mountains – eventually reaching about 10,000 feet, where we started to experience ice and snow! Unfortunately I did not see a condor…but the views were amazing!
Cielito Lindo: The next night we stayed in Cielito Lindo – a gringo community right outside of San Quintin. With the high tides, the ocean had broken through a natural dune barrier, and created a small pond blocking access to the beach. We were curious to look at the ocean, so we waded through water up to our knees to get to the beach. The waves were fast, huge, and dumping when we got to the beach! Unfortunately everything was closed-out (breaking all at once and impossible to ride) so we could not surf from there.
However, we were the only ones on the beach, so it was still fun to explore the dunes and check out the thousands of sand dollars that had washed ashore. The next day we decided to make a day trip out to Socorro – a little reef break just south of Cielito Lindo. Unfortunately, the waves were still too big for me to get out. But Eric got some great overhead rides all to himself. We had a delicious meal at Cielito Lindo to round out the day.
Hotel Mission Catavina: After two nights in Cielito Lindo we went on to the Valle de los Cirios – which is known for its amazing cacti – in particular the saguaro. I had read about an abandoned onyx mine that was on our way about halfway through the Valle. After talking to some locals over lunch to determine if the road was safe and passable, we decided to make the trek out to see it. At the mine, we found an eroding schoolhouse…made entirely out of onyx! It was very beautiful, and fun to check out the various pieces of onyx interspersed with conglomerate sedimentary rock. That night we actually decided to stay in a hotel for the first time. Hotel Mission Catavina was a welcome change from camp. We took full advantage of the showers, nice beds, TV, beautiful furniture and art. I woke up early to snap some picture of the saguaro in the sunrise.
Each of the places we have stayed so far has been great in different ways. Some campsites were way more rustic than others, but each of the campsites we have stayed at so far had at least 4 or 5 other campers. Most of the sites also had permanent residents who lived in casitas or RV’s at the site. We have found that both of these factors adds to the friendliness, upkeep, and security of the site.