All your Baja camping questions answered

Baja California & Baja California Sur are two Mexican states located directly south of the US state of California. Commonly referred to simply as “Baja”, this 780 mile long peninsula is a camper’s dream.  Whether you’re traveling in a car, van, truck camper or RV, on a motorcycle or bike, camping opportunities abound. In this post I’m answering 16 common questions about camping in Baja and providing a few tips along the way.

Related: How to go truck camping in Baja California Mexico, a beginner’s guide.

aerial view of sunrise at playa la gringa in bahia de los angeles
Playa la gringa, Bahía de los Ángeles

How do you find places to camp in Baja?

Seven ways to find places to camp in Baja California, Mexico
  1. iOverlander app.  This is the most useful tool for finding places to camp as well as locating other resources in Baja. Each location pinned in the app includes reviews and sometimes photos. Fellow travelers have also pinned where you can find gas, groceries, propane, laundry services, mechanics, and more.
  2. Baja California Road and Recreation Atlas.  This paper map is another common tool for Baja travelers.  Many beaches (“playas” in Spanish) that are accessible by vehicle are marked on the map with a red umbrella icon. 
  3. Gaia maps. We like that these maps are able to be downloaded and used offline. Further, they offer many features not available on Google maps such as navigation using off-highway and backcountry routes.
  4. Satellite imagery.  We’ll surf satellite imagery just for the fun of it or use it for more knowledge after finding a place that interests us on iOverlander or in the Baja Atlas.  
  5. Google maps.  So many things have a pin and review on google maps these days.  You can find everything from primitive beaches to campgrounds while surfing google maps.  
  6. Word of mouth.  It’s easy to strike up a conversation with fellow travelers in Baja and this often becomes the best way to get real-time information on road conditions, beach conditions, and desirable places for camping.  Talking to locals is an awesome source of information as well.
  7. Curiosity. Baja California has been a destination for campers for decades, long before the internet and availability of some of the tools above.  To find a beach to camp on in Baja, all you really need is your curiosity and a tank full of gas.   

We’ll often cross-reference two or three of the above tools before deciding where we want to camp next.  

camping on the beach in a truck camper near Loreto in Baja
Free beach camping near Loreto

How much does it cost to camp in Baja? 

Just like in the States, the cost to camp in Baja varies.  There are many places to camp for free.  Paid campsites are typically in the range of $10-$20 per night.

Aerial view of truck campers camping on the shoreline of a mangrove lined lagoon in Baja California.
Boondocking in the mangroves near Puerto Adolfo López Mateos.

Can you boondock in Baja California?

Boondocking is legal in Baja and there are endless places to do so. (Boondocking is also known as wild camping or dispersed camping.)  

What is boondocking?  Boondocking is camping without hookups to electricity, sewer, and water which allows for camping in wild and beautiful places, often for free. Boondocking requires self-sufficiency as well as being mindful of the electricity, waste, and water that you consume. How long you can boondock depends on your RV’s capabilities as well as how much time it takes you to consume the aforementioned resources. When you run out you’ll need to locate a place to refill fresh water, dump your black tank, and dispose of your household trash.

Ocean view through the back door of a truck camper
Camping on the beach at Playa Ligüi.

Can I camp on the beach in Baja?

With somewhere around 2,000 miles of coastline, beach camping is what Baja is known for.  There are remote beaches where you may not encounter another person for days, popular beaches where many campers are parked right next to each other, and everything in between.  

Searching for a place to park at Playa Tecolote, a popular beach near LaPaz.

Is there free beach camping in Baja?

Some beaches are free while others have a host that will come around and collect a fee.  Some beaches offer palapas (an open-sided structure with thatched roof), trash receptacles, and primitive bathrooms.  

Rule of thumb:  You’ll rarely come across any kind of signage indicating cost. You’ll only know for sure when someone comes by to collect money. If there’s a palapa, there is likely a fee.  If a beach is remote and you don’t see much activity around, it’s likely free. Reviews on iOverlander often mention whether a location is free or not.

shoreline lined with palapas at gonzaga bay in baja california
Paid beach camping at Rancho Grande in Gonzaga Bay.

Are there bathrooms at the beaches?

Rarely will you find bathrooms where there is beach camping.  Some of the really popular beaches offer rustic facilities that you may or may not feel comfortable using.  Plan on being responsible for disposing of your waste properly.  We use this cassette toilet by Dometic.

Baja travel tip: Bathrooms don’t always have toilet paper so bring your own. And remember that toilet paper always goes in the trash can in Baja, never in the toilet.

The bathroom facilities at Rancho Grande.

Can I drive on the beach in Baja?

If a beach is accessible for driving on, people drive on it.  Local families use the beaches for picnics and parties, local fisherman use the beaches to launch their boats, and travelers use the beaches for camping.  

Heads up: Signs with warnings and regulations are not prominent in Baja but you will come across them from time to time.  Watch for signs on beaches prohibiting driving. There are nesting beaches where sea turtles have laid eggs in the sand and vehicles are prohibited in order to protect the endangered turtles and their hatchlings. 

truck camper and trailer driving on a dirt road with the sea of cortez in the background
In search of the perfect place to camp at Playa Muertitos.

Do I need four wheel drive to camp in Baja?

The short answer is no, four wheel drive is not needed to camp in Baja.  However, a two wheel drive vehicle will limit the number of beaches you can access and will make it difficult to get out if you get stuck in the soft sand.

Every beach is different in regards to how easy or difficult it is to travel on.  Some are hard-packed sand while others are as soft as a sandbox.  Using four wheel drive in low range, in addition to letting air out of our tires, has allowed us to access countless beaches in Baja without getting stuck.

Essential tools for Baja beach camping:
traction boards, a shovel
Recommended tools if you want to drive in soft sand:
tire deflators, a compressor to air back up

We often let some air out of our tires to avoid getting stuck in the soft sand. The lower tire pressure allows for more rubber to make contact with the ground and therefore providing more traction.

Are there campgrounds in Baja?

Campgrounds and RV parks in Baja come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  From what we’ve seen, all are privately owned.  We’ve not encountered any state or federally run campgrounds like you would see in the States.  

The campgrounds we’ve frequented are pretty informal.  Some have designated sites while many are more of a free-for-all when it comes to selecting a place to park.  

Electricity, water, and sewer hookups are not as common as they are in the States but campgrounds with hookups do exist.  You’re more likely to find these in the busier tourist destinations such as San Felipe, Loreto, La Paz and Los Barriles.  

Campgrounds are typically found in towns, not in wild areas like our National Forest and BLM campgrounds.  There are some cool ranchos located in Baja’s interior that allow camping for a fee and provide a few amenities such as bathrooms.  

Campers parked at a small campground in Loreto Mexico
A small and simple campground in downtown Loreto.

How can I reserve a campsite in Baja?

Camping in Baja is a very laid-back and informal experience.  In the States we’ve become accustomed to making campground reservations, in Baja it is very much a first-come, first-served kind of thing.  Some campgrounds may accept reservations but we’ve found this to not be necessary.

Tip for camping without reservations: If we’re planning on camping at a campground, our rule of thumb is to arrive between noon and 3pm.  We find that this is a sweet spot in which those departing have left but the rush of new arrivals have yet to show up.  A formal check-in and check-out time is something we’ve only encountered once in Baja.  

a long line of motorhomes parked in a campground near la paz mexico
Campestre Maranatha, a popular campground near LaPaz.

Do I need to have solar power to camp in Baja?

If you want to camp on the beach in Baja, you will need to supply your own power.  You can accomplish this with either a generator or a solar system.  Generators are loud and detract from the enjoyment of the surroundings.  We don’t encounter many people using generators and find that most campers have some kind of solar setup.  How much you invest in solar will vary greatly depending on your power needs.  

☀️ Baja is a very sunny place and shade from trees is rare so it’s the perfect place for generating solar power.

a truck camper parked on a white sand beach near san juanico mexico
Free beach camping near San Juanico.

How long can I camp in Baja?

When you enter Mexico you are required to obtain an FMM.  This is a small paper “admission document” that specifies the amount of time you are legally allowed to stay in the country.  180 days is the length of time typically granted (never longer).  In 2023, an FMM cost $35 USD per person.

You may camp in any given spot, whether on a beach or at a campground, for as long as you like.  Some people pick a spot on a beach and stay the entire winter.  This is common practice at the popular beaches lining Bahía de Concepción.  

people standing around a campfire next to a truck camper parked on the beach in baja california mexico
Camping on the beach near Loreto.

Can I drive my RV to Baja?

We’ve seen every size and shape of RV traveling around Baja.  Due to the narrow highways and long stretches without any shoulder, driving an RV in Baja requires diligence.  But we see people doing it all the time. In our opinion, the way to enjoy Baja in an RV would be to spend extended periods of time in one spot, or set up a base camp at an RV park somewhere and go on satellite trips in your tow vehicle. To explore all Baja has to offer, we feel like a 4wd truck camper or van is the way to go.

Baja travel tip:  Because Baja is in a “free zone” no special documentation is required for your vehicle.  If you are traveling to Mainland Mexico, a temporary import permit (or TIP) is required. Mexican auto insurance, however, is required for your vehicle.  We get ours online at Baja Bound.

three vehicles camping at a campground in san ignacio surrounded by date palm trees
A variety of RVs at a campground in San Ignacio.

Is it safe to camp in Baja?

We feel no more or less safe camping in Baja than we do in the States.  We always use common sense, listen to our gut, and talk to those with first-hand knowledge of the area in order to make good decisions and stay safe (just as we do in the US). We would probably be on edge and at a higher risk of danger if we chose to camp on the street in the center of Tijuana, the same being true if we were to camp on a street in downtown San Francisco. Not only does the majority of Baja feel safe, we’ve found Mexicans to be incredibly kind, gracious, and welcoming. 

Sunset on the Sea of Cortez.

How can I stay safe in Baja?  

Below are common fears + risks you may not know exist and how to avoid them:

  • Cartel violence:  Don’t camp in border towns. Cartel violence is more prevalent near the border.
  • Theft: Use common sense.  Always lock your vehicle.  Don’t leave valuable items spread out around your camp while you’re sleeping or not present at your campsite.  
  • Police corruption:  Start by obeying traffic laws, don’t give a corrupt cop a reason to pull you over. If you are pulled over and cited for a violation, it is important to get a written citation. An officer may attempt to collect cash from you. Paying a bribe will only perpetuate corruption. Citations are only to be paid by mail or in person at the nearest police station. Insist that you will only pay at the station. Further information on what to do if pulled over by a police officer in Baja.  (While corruption does exist, we have yet to experience it first-hand)
  • Hazardous driving conditions:  Don’t drive at night.  Cows, goats, horses, and potholes are all potential obstacles.  There are no streetlights and oftentimes no shoulder. Mexicans use their flashers to indicate a hazard in the road, they use their left blinker to indicate that it is safe to pass (contradictory to how we use our turn signals but common practice in Mexico).
  • Running out of gas:  
    • Highway travel:  In Baja Norte, fill your tank whenever you have the opportunity.  Once you arrive in Baja Sur (the state line is just north of Guerrero Negro), gas stations become more prevalent.  
    • Backcountry travel:  There is plenty of undeveloped backcountry to explore in Baja that requires careful consideration of your fuel needs.  Map your course and be mindful of the range of your vehicle.  Consider bringing a jerry can for extra fuel.
  • Breaking down:  
    • Highway travel: If you breakdown on the highway in Baja, chances are high that a kind citizen will stop and offer help. Free roadside assistance is offered by the government-run Ángeles Verdes, or Green Angles, by dialing 078 or leaving your hood up to signal the need for help. The Angles patrol the highways and toll roads but keep in mind, in Baja, they could be hours away given the expanse of the peninsula.
    • Backcountry travel: Prepare to be self-sufficient when traveling remotely in Baja. Very rough roads have the potential to damage your vehicle and require an onsite repair. Always carry enough water, let someone know your route and timeframe, and consider carrying a satellite messaging device (cell signal does not exist in the Baja backcountry).
  • Stepping on a stingray:  Stingrays burrow in the soft sand making them impossible to see when walking into the water.  Shuffling your feet when walking in shallow water is the most effective way to avoid the potential for a very painful sting. Stingray spines can penetrate neoprene, rubber, and leather so wearing shoes will not prevent injury.   To learn more about symptoms and treatment check out this informative article about sting ray injuries.
A remote stretch of highway through the desert in baja california mexico
Transpeninsular highway 1 is the only road spanning the entire length of the Baja peninsula from Tijuana to San Jose del Cabo.

When should i go to baja?

The best time to go camping in Baja depends on your preferences and desires.  Do you want to surf, snorkel, whale-watch, enjoy mild weather?  Here are some general guidelines for choosing the best time of year for your Baja camping trip.

January, February, March, April

These are the most popular months for US and Canadian snowbirds looking to escape the cold weather up north. 

  • Weather: It is typically warm, sunny, and dry with temperatures around 70 degrees fahrenheit and climbing into the high 80s come April.
  • Wildlife: Whale watching season begins in mid-January and ends around the start of April.
  • Events: Carnaval as well as the Escapar a La Baja vanlife gathering draw many people to the LaPaz region in February.
May, June, July

Hot and sunny, with little rainfall.  Water temps are warm making this a great time of year for water activities.

August, September, October

This is hurricane and tropical storm season making for hot and humid weather.  The dirt roads used to access beaches for camping often travel through arroyos (washes that funnel water from the mountains into the sea).  These are not places you want to be during heavy rainfall.  

November

November is when the famous Baja 1000 race takes place.  The race draws huge crowds, and depending on the course for that year, can span most of the length of the peninsula.  If you’re interested in spectating, you may want to plan your trip around the race.  If you’re interested in experiencing the quieter, more peaceful side of Baja, November may not be the best month.  

December

Our trips usually begin in December and we’ve found that it’s cooler and quieter than the other winter months.  Many snowbirds don’t begin their winter trips until after the holidays and whale season hasn’t yet begun, making for a more low-key vibe.

Tip: The Sea of Cortez side of the peninsula is typically warmer than the Pacific side. With how narrow the peninsula is, it is fairly easy to bounce back and forth. How we decide where to camp next has a lot to do with where the weather looks the most pleasant.

a grey whale swimming up close to a small boat with tourists in scammon's lagoon
Getting up close with gray whales in Scammon’s Lagoon.

We hope this information was helpful in better understanding what it’s like to camp in Baja. If you’re ready to plan your first trip, check out our beginner’s guide: How to go camping in Baja for all the details regarding required documents, crossing the border, fuel, currency, and more.

For an inside look at what it’s like to spend months traveling around baja in a truck camper, check out our daily recaps:
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About

We’re Mark & Michele, modern-day nomads perfecting the art of slow, full-time travel.  Our tiny home on wheels and slow-paced travel style allows us to minimize our expenses while maximizing our freedom.  May our unconventional way of life inspire you to design a life that you love.

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