The perfect 3-day getaway with plenty of opportunity for surfing, culture, world-class wineries, and coastline views reminiscent of California some 100 years ago.
This guide is for the surfers, the taco enthusiasts, for those craving a bit (okay, a lot) more adventure in their life, epic sunsets, endless-summer days, the list goes on. While Mexico can get a bad rap for being less than safe, we’re here to help squash those fears. Trust you can travel with ease in one of our fully converted Sprinter campervans.
Given that Baja Sur posts more risks for the less-seasoned travelers, we only allow our sprinter campervans to travel to the Mexican state of Baja Norte. It’s much more accessible, has plenty of facilities and is ultimately much safer (keeping several non-negotiables in mind).
Speaking of non-negotiables, here are the rules of the road before your next trip to Mexico:
Do not drive at night (the roads in Baja are notorious for having livestock and animals that wander into the roadways, as well as potholes and even open manholes that will destroy the suspension of any campervan)
Do not drink the water, ice or consume any uncooked veggies (Montezuma’s revenge is REAL)
Know where you will be spending the night in advance (adding onto rule #1)
Purchase a Baja-specific insurance policy in advance of your trip (we also require that all travelers obtain full coverage from a 3rd party like Baja Bound, as it’s illegal to drive into Baja without it)
Stay safe: Don’t leave valuables in plain sight, belongings unattended or get blackout drunk (basic common sense!)
No weapons or drugs ever: Do not bring firearms of any kind or marijuana into Mexico as they are both completely illegal
Though most of the above tips are more obvious than others, some people still tend to leave their common sense at the door. Don’t do that.
That’s enough logistical talk for now, let’s get to the fun stuff.
DAY 1: We’re starting this trip in sunny Oceanside, where your trusty VanCraft adventure van awaits. Before heading south, we’d suggest stocking up on provisions : fuel, food, and water. Though you can always grocery shop in Baja, we’re all for maximizing our free time upon arrival. Who wants to see the inside of an air conditioned grocery store when you can be crushing street tacos, anyway? More on said tacos, later…
If you’re up for stopping in Tijuana, be sure to take a stroll down Avenida Revolucion, TJ’s most popular tourist destination. Otherwise, take a hard right once crossing the border and head straight for the coast. Generally, it’s best to travel via the toll road highway (called Quota or Highway 1D). There’s a parallel-running free local road, however, it’s littered with speed bumps and will add an extra 1-2 hours to your drive down south.
Your first stop should be at kilometer 38 aka K38, where you’ll have a chance to check out some waves and grab your first taste (of many) for Mexico’s finest streetside tacos. Don’t forget to snag a photo of Giant Jesus. If the waves are good, stop for a paddle out before continuing on south. Belly full of street tacos or not, do your best to make room for a pit stop in Puerto Nuevo. Famous for its Fried Lobster, the restaurant aptly named Puerto Nuevo #1 is numero uno in our books.
If this is strictly a surf trip, we recommend you check out The Surfers Guide to Baja, another great resource for finding more surf spots along the way. From here, we recommend camping in the town of La Fonda, at the Alisitos campground. Just look for the big white archway entrance with Alisitos written across the top in big red letters. Here you’ll be camping right along the bluff, allowing you to fall asleep to the soothing sound of waves crashing into one another all night long. The best.
DAY 2: Spend day 2 exploring all that Ensenada has to offer.Highlights to include:
- First Street (our favorite stop being at Papas & Beer)
- La Bufadora (one of the largest marine geisers aka water spout in all of N America)
- El Parque de la Bandera (best at night for its colorful light show)
- Bar Bura Cuatro Cuatros (great spot for sunset drinks with ocean views)
- Las Canadas Ecopark (go for their ziplining tours)
After a full day of sight-seeing, head up to Valle de Guadalupe for dinner. We’ve heard great things about Finca Altozano (a bit on the fancier side, influenced by Meditteranean, Asian and Mexican flavors) and Troika at Vena Cava (with its own food truck and terrace!). If you’re looking for an additional spot to post up for the night, most vineyards are vanlife friendly and allow overnight parking.
DAY 3: If you’re lucky enough to have a few extra days to spare, we’d recommend getting off the beaten path and heading towards Punta San Jose, in search of even more perfect waves and fewer crowds. Just make sure to restock on supplies and fill up on fuel (DIESEL ONLY) before venturing south.
From here, make your way south of Ensenada before turning off the main paved road towards the town of Santo Thomas (but not before passing through a Mexican Military checkpoint). A few notes about this checkpoint: while it’s completely normal to be stopped and have your car searched, the police are only looking for drugs, so be smart and you’ll be fine.
Once in Santo Thomas, you will head west for another 1hr of off-road driving. Take it slow and steady, trying specifically to avoid the washboarded sections of the road. You’ll know you’ve arrived once you reach the bluff overlooking the little fishing village of San Jose.
Switching gears…the waves at Punta San Jose offer something for everyone. From rolling peelers on the outside to shallow barreling waves right in front of the bluff, this spot is known for consistently perfect waves, and for good reason: somehow it seems to always be offshore. Since the beach faces south, its waves are best during summer, especially on a big Southwest swell.
Before heading back to the homeland, prepare to wait up to 3-4 hours at the border. Cough cough stock up on all the snacks and get those podcasts downloaded before taking off, because it’s going to be a long one. Worth it, you just spent three dreamy days in Mexico, after all.
We hope this itinerary has gotten you pumped for your next road trip to Baja. From great surf to stunning sunsets, drool-worthy eats and everything else in between, this trip is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Now go get after all the waves and tacos you can possibly imagine (just don’t forget to tag #vancraft along the way, we geek out anytime we see our adventure vans on the road).
In case you’re new to the VanCraft fam, a few reminders about our ever-reliable outdoor vans that are all built with the following features in mind: storage for your surfboardsboards up to 6ft 10in, roof vent fan with forward and reversible speeds, outdoor hot water showers, outdoor awnings, upgraded sound system with subwoofer for outdoor dance parties….they’re sure to deliver in every way.
Happy traveling. Baja is waiting!