Camping in Baja – The Complete Guide

Camping in Mexico? Seriously! That’s what I thought many years ago when I first drove across the border into Baja. I quickly realized that the Baja Peninsula is the perfect camping destination. I’ve since camped all over Mexico and there are tons of amazing spaces and places to pitch a tent, park a campervan or get situated in an RV.

My goal in this guide is to introduce you to camping in Baja while helping you understand how things work and how to plan a trip. By the end, you should be ready to pack the car and head out on your own adventure to discover the sandy beaches, desert mountains, remote islands and everything this amazing place has to offer.

Ways to Camp – Choosing Your Vehicle and/or Shelter

There are no set rules here. You can book vacation rentals, stay in hotels as you travel or use a tent or travel trailer. People camp on their own terms and often use the occasional rental to clean up and stay in the cities for chores and a reset. The flexibility in the way you approach camping on a short or long trip is something that makes Baja special.

Tent Camping

tent camping baja
I pitched a tent under this palapa for 5 bucks at a closed resort. Palapas offer extra shade in many places.

Plenty of people choose tents as their primary method of camping. I love tent camping and it’s especially gratifying to sleep outside where you hear the waves rolling in all night. Tents also have a greater range of campsite options and they simplify travel. 

I’ve met travelers who fly to Baja, rent a vehicle and tent camp for a few weeks at a time. It’s an economical way to travel and explore and it’s plenty comfortable. Tents are also useful for kayakers and boaters who want to explore road-less sections of coastline and island areas.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Works with any vehicle
  • Maximizes number of campsites available
  • Great for the beach and mountains

Cons:

  • Not great with coastal winds
  • Difficult to stake in the sand
  • Little security for your possessions

RV Camping in Baja Mexico

Many of the most attractive destinations in Baja have RV parks and resorts with full hookups. The northern Pacific coast and Sea of Cortez are especially suited to RVing. It does come with some challenges in terms of driving on narrow roads and navigating towns and cities. There are also some beaches and more rugged areas that will be difficult to access. 

Having a 4×4 towed behind can solve some of the access issues. Or, have a 4×4 SUV or truck as your primary vehicle with a travel trailer or 5th wheel towed as the primary camper. When you set up at an RV park, the vehicle is free to explore the area.

Pros:

  • Extra space and comfort
  • Cooking and utilities built into your camper
  • Can carry more clothing and equipment
  • Ideal for long term camping

Cons:

  • No 4×4 capabilities on most RVs
  • Limited camping options
  • Difficult to drive and navigate on narrow roads
  • Not fuel efficient

Campervans for Baja

Campervans have boomed in popularity and you will see many on the Baja peninsula. They are mobile, have many of the benefits provided by RVs and can get great gas mileage. It’s really a comfortable way to travel and many folks are living on the road full-time. 

While there are some 4wd models, many are 2wd and will have a hard time in deep sand. My first trip south was in an AWD Astro camper van and it was perfect for sand driving. You can still get around great in most 2wd models as well. A campervan is the ideal way to camp in Baja and across Mexico.

Pros:

  • Easy to drive on narrow highways
  • Comfortable and spacious
  • Ability to carry plenty of gear
  • Good fuel economy
  • Ability to have a kitchen and electric

Cons:

  • Many are not 4×4’s
  • Can be expensive to purchase or convert

Car and Truck Camping

I always say the vehicle you have today will get the job done. Truck beds with a camper shell make for a great camper. Any vehicle can get the job done as well. I’ve even seen a Prius setup for camping and it was great! Trucks with cabover campers offer another option and they fall closer to the RV and campervan categories. 

I’ve taken a pickup with a full cabover down for a 5 month tour of Baja. I also took the same truck with a popup style cabover for a 3 month trip. Both worked great but they are heavy and gas mileage suffered. It was also difficult to drive in sand and on 4×4 tracks. Today, I have the same truck with a bed and simple kitchen built in the back. It even has solar, Starlink internet and a house battery system. I love that it’s comfortable, lightweight and very off-road capable.

This truck camper was comfortable but heavy. I’ve since replaced it with a basic shell and bed platform.

Pros:

  • Affordable option
  • Ability to travel light
  • Can customize SUVs, cars and trucks for sleeping
  • Potential for good MPG (depending on make/model)

Cons:

  • Fewer built in comforts
  • Less space for long term travel

How Much Do Campsites Cost?

It’s not difficult to find camping options in Baja. There are free sites or “wild camping” spaces and quite a few paid areas as well. Both have some advantages and I typically mix and match as necessary. Most paid sites are very reasonable and the folks charging keep things clean and nice for visitors.

Campsite Scam Warning! 

It can be tricky to tell who is responsible for collecting camp fees in some areas. Always look for a close residence or office before paying a random person. Every now and again, someone will simply appear and ask for a camping fee. It’s a good idea to ask other campers who they paid and how much before handing off money. 9/10 times, it is the correct person however. Just approach this with caution and be weary if something seems out of place. You can always politely seek confirmation before paying.

Free Campsites – Many Baja beaches are free for campers with a dispersed approach to picking your sites. Ideally, you will have them to yourself but some of the prime real estate can be popular. Pack out all of your trash and waste from these spaces please.

Informal with No Services – Some areas may look free but they have a guardian who lives nearby. You might end up paying a small fee to camp. Don’t expect trash service, water or anything else. Sometimes, nobody comes to collect and other times, a resident will charge a small fee. $5-10 USD is normal in this situation.

Dry Sites with Bathrooms and Showers – This defines most campgrounds in Baja. They will have great beachfront sites with palapas and parking. Some even have trash cans available. You won’t have any services at the individual campsites but a community bathroom with toilets and showers is often available. Hot water is hard to find but a few places will have it available. Plan on paying anywhere from $10-25 USD per night at these campgrounds.  

Camping at Hookup Sites – When you find an RV park or campground with electric and sewer hookups, enjoy the luxuries. There are many amazing places to visit and it’s not uncommon to find snowbirds who spend the entire season at these campgrounds. They range from $20-40 USD.

Finding Free Sites and Established Campgrounds in Baja

The free crowd-sourced mobile app called iOverlander is really the gold standard for locating campgrounds. It’s also perfect for finding water purification stations, mechanics, showers, restaurants and a number of other services. You can read through the comments, compare them against recent dates and leave comments of your own.

I will caution against sharing EVERYTHING on this app. It comes with some downsides. Sharing every campsite means you won’t have anything to yourself. When you find a great place that isn’t listed, consider keeping it for yourself. We don’t need to traffic every single spot using this app.

beach camping in baja
This beach isn’t on iOverlander and I won’t be adding it. Keep a few for yourself.

For the services side of things, road warnings and other labels you can add, iOverlander is fantastic. Just go easy on the campsites so we aren’t crowding each other out at every turn. The other way to find campsites is through Google Maps searches, roadside signs and through a physical map (or atlas).

How to Safely Enjoy Baja Beach Camping 

Is driving and camping in Baja safe? 

This is one of the most common questions we field from new travelers as they research a trip. Mexico has different customs from the US and Canada and some things are intimidating. For example, you will pass through multiple military inspection points on your trip and searches aren’t uncommon. Federales and other law enforcement agencies may also have roadblocks and checkpoints.

These checks are common and harmless. Overall, the peninsula is very safe and I’ve never had any major problems. You might hear about the occasional theft and other issues but they are infrequent. Overall, I feel very safe while driving around Baja. Everyone should always exercise reasonable caution however and follow a few basic rules.

General Camp Safety  

It doesn’t matter if you’re a single female or a full family, always have a look around and never stay anywhere that doesn’t feel quite right. Trust your gut and take your time finding the best fit campsites.

Never drive at night, don’t carry large amounts of cash and always lock your vehicle with possessions inside for general safety. Petty theft is the biggest risk when traveling anywhere in Mexico.

Finding Drinking Water

We’ve all heard stories about Montezuma’s Revenge and the stomach bugs that originate with bad water. Here’s something you might not have expected – clean drinking water is very easy to find. Every town has a water purification station where you pay a very small amount of money (less than a dollar for 5 gallons) to fill your camp jugs. This water is processed, clean and perfectly safe to drink.

Food Shopping

Grocery stores are plentiful and food is very affordable. Eating at restaurants, food carts and vendor locations is much cheaper than doing so in the rest of North America. If you have a house battery and run a refrigerator, it’s especially easy to keep meat, fish and produce for longer. Food is never far away regardless and you will even find campsites where vendors sell fresh bread and supplies to campers.

Trash and Toilet Waste

Waste is a difficult thing to manage as trash cans are rarely readily available. Established campgrounds might have a trash system and some towns have trash cans for public use. Wild camps rarely have anything however and you must pack everything out until a you reach a town.

Toilet waste is a major problem that needs a better strategy at campsites without bathrooms available. Many campers use the bushes and waste accumulates. Campervans often have composting toilets and they dump waste in trash cans. This is also problematic for the folks managing those trash systems.

I’ll do a video and separate post about waste management to go into detail. My best solution is to use a bag system with powder treatment that gels or turns everything to solids. It’s easier to throw away and doesn’t fill bins with liquids and waste that isn’t broken down.

Favorite Destinations to Camp In Baja

The problem with a Baja road trip is deciding where to stop. The options are overwhelming and the duration of your trip might determine how many destinations are worth hitting. There are plenty in the north, all within an hour or two of the border. The central coastlines have some very remote locations. And then there’s Baja Sur which is riddled with beautiful beaches.

Ensenada

The northern Pacific Coast of Baja has a few amazing destinations. Ensenada has the best of city life and camping. The events calendar is filled with concerts and gatherings and there are quite a few great RV parks in Ensenada as well. The proximity to the border is especially nice for shorter trips.

Valle de Guadalupe

Just South of the Tecate Border crossing is a stunning valley filled with vineyards and wineries. It’s hard to beat the laid back pace, architecture at the wineries and the great wines themselves. There are some camping options but it really makes sense to stay at a vineyard. Some will allow RV and campervan parking on their properties.

San Felipe

Your first stop on the Sea of Cortez is a charming town with all the services you need and a bunch of campgrounds and RV parks. When I drive through Baja, it’s always hard to move past this town because the fishing is good, the beaches are open and there’s a ton of great food.

Bahia de Los Angeles

On the more remote side of things is a bay that’s far removed from any major towns and cities. Just driving there will stretch your gas tank to the limit. You will even find locals selling gas out of barrels at the highway junction. It’s worth the effort though as you will reach a tiny community filled with rugged coastline, sandy beaches, great fishing and marine life. 

Guerrero Negro 

Whale Watching is the major attraction in this Pacific side town. It’s not a major destination otherwise but they do have several RV parks and campgrounds that work with whale tours. It’s convenient and the whale experience is something you shouldn’t miss during the winter months.

Bahia Concepcion

Coyote Beach is a gem

Just south of Mulege, this bay has some of the most famous beach camping spots in Baja. Coyote Beach is a stop for me and I always bring a paddle board to take out on the turquoise waters. It’s one of the most scenic bays you will find anywhere in the world.

Loreto

This is a favorite stop for me because the fishing is exceptional and there are a few free campsites that I absolutely love. It’s also mountainous with trails to explore and remote islands in a national park that you can reach by boat. Loreto is a must-stop destination for camp trips to Baja.

La Paz 

While La Paz is a city, it’s also a perfect camp stop. There are a few places for RV’s campervans and tents in and very near the city. The malecon is peaceful with ice cream shops and sailboats bobbing on the docks. You will be surprised by the beaches adjacent to the city as well. Make a side trip to La Ventana for kitesurfing and hiking while visiting the La Paz area too.

la paz beaches
Pichilingue is wonderful beach in La Paz

East Cape 

Towns like Los Barriles and La Ribera hug the Sea of Cortez along the East Cape of Baja. Camping opportunities are numerous and there are some excellent RV parks with full hookups. ATV tours, kiteboarding and fishing are also popular. Cabo Pulmo is a protected marine area with epic snorkeling and diving just south of La Ribera.

Todos Santos 

The Pacific side of Baja Sur is also loaded with big waves, beaches, whales and fishing. Todos Santos is an amazing place to spend some time. I have a hard time peeling myself away from this place as it has everything and the culture is laid back and welcoming.

Baja Camping Gear to Pack

You won’t need much but there are a few camping items I always bring along. Use this list as a general guide when packing for your trip.

  • Sandals – I like the Bedrock sandals for walking beaches and swimming.
  • Sand Mat – Keep the sand outside and make a nice living space.
  • Garmin GPS – I take this everywhere for emergencies
  • Travel Insurance – There are several coverage options
  • Broom – Keep your camper clear of sand with a small broom
  • Vehicle Rescue Kit – Tracks, compressor, shovel and tow strap
  • Stove – Propane is great but there are a few options. Read the full guide to international stoves for Mexico.
  • Shade Awning – I love my Kelty awning. ARB also has one I love.
  • Sleeping Gear – Sleeping bag and pad (and tent if needed)
  • Fishing Gear – I always carry a fly rod and surf rod.
  • Snorkel and Wetsuit – Swimming and snorkeling are near daily activities in Baja Sur
  • Fridge – If you have the electric, bring a fridge.
  • Sun Protection – Sunscreen, big hat and sun shirts with hoods
  • Water Storage – Two 5-gallon camp jugs are always with me

Are You Ready for a Mexican Camping Adventure?

Now that you have a few destinations and the basic information, it’s time to plan your own Baja camping trip. The peninsula is isolated and much different from the mainland. Cabo San Lucas has most of the big resorts but it’s far from the only place worth seeing. In fact, I usually skip the crowds in favor of the destinations listed in this guide