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Boondocking in Baja is the BEST way to camp while exploring the peninsula. With hundreds of beaches and miles of open shoreline, there’s really no reason to pay for a campground unless you want or need the facilities.
Baja has some of the most beautiful boondocking sites we’ve ever stayed at and this blog post is all about what they’re like and how to find them!
Prepping for a trip to Baja? Check out a few of our other Blog Posts about traveling in Baja!
First things first: What’s it like Boondocking in Baja?
We get a lot of questions about camping in Baja. Since we’re using to boondocking in the Unites States, we were expecting boondocking in Baja to be about the same. And it is… with a few exceptions.
Can you camp on the Beach?
Yep! And there’s a lot of beaches that are GREAT for camping. Technically, beaches are public land in Mexico. However, it’s not always easy to access the beach. Resorts don’t own beaches, but sometimes it can be impossible to gain access to the beach without trespassing, effectively making it a “private” beach. Thankfully, there are A LOT of beaches in Baja and many of them are accessible.
*Most* beaches that are easily accessible and convenient for camping will have other campers there. With long expanses of rocks or sand, there’s usually an area where you and your caravan can settle in. Most people camping on the beach are tourists like yourself, so it’s easy enough to chat with the people around and get a lay of the land.
Is Beach Camping Free?
When boondocking areas become popular with tourists in Baja, many locals will come by in the morning or evening with food or souvenirs. We’ve had some of the BEST tamales and baked goods from these vendors. Sometimes fisherman will pull their boats out at these beaches too and you can usually buy some fresh fish at a great price.
Keep in mind that some of these beaches have “caretakers” that bring water and offer other services to the long-term crowd. For this reason, they will come around and ask for payment to stay on the beach. It’s usually around 20-30 Pesos (not a big deal at all), and we usually pay it. When the caretakers start asking for $5 or $10 USD per person, you can politely decline.
How do you Find Boondocking Sites in Baja?
We find great boondocking sites in Baja primarily through guidebooks and the iOverlander App. A lot of great recommendations come through forums and word of mouth by other friends who have spent a lot of time in Baja. These spots are usually Baja’s best kept secrets!
The Baja Almanac is currently out of print, unfortunately. It’s a legacy of information, but it’s difficult to find a copy these days. There are other very good guidebooks though:
iOverlander is an AMAZING app for anywhere in Baja, the United States and Canada. It is a treasure trove of information for travelers including campsites with GPS coordinates, photos and reviews of campsites, information on whether or not there’s services nearby (public restrooms, water fountains, etc.) as well as information on cell phone service coverage.
Aside from campsite information, iOverlander is, by far the best App for finding free water fill-ups, dump stations, public restrooms, and a ton of other things you’ll need as you travel. We consult iOverlander on a DAILY basis when we’re on the road. The best part? IT’S FREE. Download it, love it, and contribute to the community by leaving reviews for other travelers as well.
In Boondocking in Baja Safe?
Yes. Camping off-grid in Baja is safe.
Safety in Numbers: Unless you have 4×4 capabilities and want to off-road, most of the beaches you’ll find will have other travelers there. If camping alone makes you uncomfortable, be sure to caravan with a group, or seek camping areas with other rigs. You’ll find that the popular and easily-accessible beaches will often have a row of RVs facing the water. Many of these people boondock in Baja for the whole winter and are very friendly!
Don’t be an Easy Target: As with traveling anywhere, if you aren’t aware of you’re surroundings, you will become an easy target for thieves. Don’t leave gear out around your camp unattended during the day or at night while you sleep. Not even wetsuits or surfboards! If you don’t have room in your rig for your gear, figure out a storage solution on the roof of your vehicle and lock it up. Most thieves are looking for an easy score so don’t give it to them. Usually your camp chairs, rugs, and solar lights are not worth stealing, but don’t leave anything out that you’ll be bummed about if it disappears. Leaving your expensive stuff strewn about camp and unattended is an open invitation to have it taken.
Are There Bathrooms?
No Bathroom & No Privacy: These boondocking sites have ZERO services or amenities. Sometimes there will be a bucket behind a bush that’s the designated “bathroom,” but aside from that, nada. Side note, those “bathrooms” are usually so gross, so our advice to you use your own!
Come prepared with your own toilet solution. Usually, when we boondock, our go-to for Number 2 is digging a hole in the great outdoors. However, there’s not a lot of privacy on these beaches, since most of them are just open sand next to a stretch of desert with a row of rigs facing the water. If you have a bathroom in your rig, great, you will use it! If not, check out our blog on How we Vanlife Without a Bathroom for how we make it work. Short answer: we use a bucket, compostable bags, kitty litter, and a privacy tent.
Be Prepared for Anything: Soft sand and high tides are just a few things to be aware of when it comes to boondocking in Baja. You’ll know if you hit soft sand right away! Instead of waiting until you’re ready to leave, it’s best to get unstuck and find more solid ground right away. Definitely be aware of where you park and make sure you’re above the high tide line. If you’re not sure, ask others camping at the same beach. If nobody else is camping there, you can usually determine high tide by the layers of old seaweed and rubbish that washes ashore during high tide. However, tides are always changing and you may get an extra high tide, so better to be safe than sorry and park far away from the water if you’re unsure.
Others things to be prepared for are the lack of fuel, fresh water, and food at boondocking sites. Some sites may be near towns, but many are along the vast and desolate stretches of coastline. If you use fuel from your vehicle to run a heater (hopefully you won’t need that in Baja!!) or other things in your van, be aware of how much you have for driving and where you’re next fuel station is. Also, running out of fresh water and food can force you to move along from a campsite a lot sooner than you want to if you didn’t come prepared with enough to stay a while. We usually stock up on a few things in every town that we stop at, making sure we have 3-5 days worth of food and water. That way, if we find an AMAZING camp, we can settle in and chill without having to worry about provisions.
Be Considerate of Your Neighbors: Don’t party too hard and get loud enough to bother others. Confrontation can happen with other tourists or locals, and drunk arguments can get out of hand really quick. In addition, many locals enjoy the same beaches that tourists do and will come out with friends and family to picnic or party. These beaches are a shared resource, so it’s important to let everyone enjoy it. Who knows, maybe you’ll make friend with a few locals who can give you the beta on all of the best tacos shops in town!
You Don’t Always Have to Boondock in Baja
There are a lot of great campgrounds that are owned by locals and have an amazing vibe! These spots will be in guidebooks and on iOverlander as well. The price varies, depending on what services and amenities they offer. Some will have a full range of conveniences like hot showers, a dump station, and wifi. Others will be a palapa on the beach and access to a bathroom (like the spot in the photo above). The best part about camping in Baja is that you can choose what experience you want to have. Since many of the campgrounds aren’t very expensive, it’s nice to stay there every once in a while to stock up on fresh water and grab a shower!
Have a great time camping in Baja and be sure to let us know if you found any of this information helpful by sending us a message on Instagram!