Starting Point: U.S. CBP - Tecate Port of Entry, 405 Tecate Rd, Tecate, CA 91980
First Stop: El Valle de Guadalupe (Wine Country) - 58 mins
Second Stop: Puertecitos - 4 hrs 22 mins
Total Distance: 666 miles
1. Get your Multiple Immigration Form (FMM) before crossing into Mexico by completing this online form for each person in your party. Make sure to print both the FMM and the receipt. If you don’t bring the receipt, it is possible they will make you repurchase at the border. ***Note: print and take physical copies of both. Electronic will not work.
2. Purchase Mexican Car Insurance, your U.S. Policy will not cover you in Mexico. Baja Bound Mexican Insurance can be purchased online and in advance at this link. Make sure to print physical copies of your policy and carry them in your glove with your current title and registration documents. The Mexican officials are sticklers about making sure you have all of your documentation in order.
3. If you plan to fish or take any fishing gear into Mexico, you will need a fishing license. Mexican officials view the possession of any type of fishing gear as intent to fish, and will therefore require you to have a fishing license. If you don’t plan to fish, our advice is to remove all fishing gear from your vehicle. ***Note: It is LEGAL to take a spear gun into Mexico. You can purchase your fishing license online here.
4. Internet: There are so many hacks to try and get internet service in Baja, from digital SIM Cards, to purchasing local prepaid SIM cards and recharging them when you need to. We have found all of this to be a total headache unless you read and speak Spanish fluently, and even then, service is limited across Baja. If you NEED internet, our recommendation is to purchase Starlink RV. It’s almost $600 for the gear and $135 per month for service, but you will have internet everywhere. And you can pause the service when you get home and then turn it back on the next time you plan to go off-grid.
5. Here is a link that shows a list of things you are not allowed to bring with you across the border into Mexico. If you abide by this, you will need to provision in Ensenada. We recommend the Soriana Super just north of Ensenada and across the street from El Corral.
6. ***Note: DO NOT bring cannabis, drugs of any kind, firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition into Mexico. You will go to jail for the rest of your life if they don’t shoot you while trying to arrest you. This is not worth the risk.
Google Maps Link
Day 1: Grab an early lunch at an In-and-Out Burger before heading across the Tecate border. We highly recommend the Tecate border crossing because it’s the sleepiest and generally quickest to cross. It’s also the least seedy of all the crossings and immediately puts you into the beautiful Mexican backcountry.
Once across the border, it should only take you an hour to get to El Valle de Guadalupe, Baja’s little-known and beautiful wine country. We have routed you to El Cetto, which is the oldest winery in Baja; if you purchase a bottle or two of wine, they will let you dry camp on their vineyard.
If you get into El Valle shortly afternoon, take your time before pulling into El Cetto, and do some wine tasting at the other wineries.
The climate in this region is 100% identical to Italy’s Tuscany. The wineries with old vines produce some of the best Italian wines we have had since visiting Italy. It’s pretty convenient to stock up on wine for your entire trip. Make sure to arrive at El Cetto before they close for the evening, grab a bottle or two of their wine, set up camp, and enjoy an evening on a vineyard with sweeping views of El Valle.
Day 2: Head for the Sea of Cortez; the next stop is Puertocito! This route takes you southeast, through Ensenada, across the Sierra de California Mountains, down the coast past San Felipe, and then into the little bay of Puertocito. Once clear of Ensenada, roll down your windows and take your time. This is a lovely drive.
On the way out of El Valle, we recommend the Soriana Super just north of Ensenada if you need to provision. There is another opportunity to provision in San Felipe, but we recommend skipping that town.
Once you turn off the highway into Puertocito, follow the road south, and you will come to the bay. Pay the fee ($20 as of this writing), pick a Palapa, and set up camp. If you are lucky, 5’oclock will coincide with a high but ebbing tide. That is the perfect condition to visit the Aguas Termales Hot Springs.
The Sea of Cortex mixes with the springs and cools the scalding water to a relaxing temperature. If you are like me and find most hot springs disgusting mud holes filled with naked old men, these are the springs for you!! The ocean keeps these clean, and the springs pour out into the volcanic rock. It's a pretty cool experience.
Stay a night or stay until you run out of potable water. We will tell you where to fill your rig with purified water on the way to Punta Final on the south end of Bajia San Luis Gonzaga in the Day 3 itinerary.
Day 3: Head south for 1.5 hours and arrive to Punta Final on Gonzaga Bay! On the way, stop at Desierto del Mar Restaurante to fill up on purified water. BTW… It’s less a restaurant than a convenience store.
We all know that we can’t drink the water in Mexico, but most don’t know that the people of Mexico don’t either. They visit stores that provide “Agua Purificado” and fill their containers up for the week. They do wash their fruits, veggies, plates, etc in their water, but they use a sterlizing agent called Microdyn. If you find yourself wandering off this itinerary and need to fill up on purified water, do a search on google maps for “Agua Purificado.” If there is one in the vicinity, it will show up on the map.
When you arrive at Desierto Del Mar Resturante, go inside and ask for Agua Purificado. If you are facing the building, the building to the left of the restaurant/convienience store has the purification equipment. Once they open the gate for you, just pull your rig up close, they will bring a long hose out and fill your tanks or jerry cans with purified water. Enjoy!
Once you have filled up on water, and potentially a couple of extra cervezas, head south for a few more miles, then off on the dirt road that leads to Punta Final. When you reach the gate, pay the $20 per night and enjoy the luxury of going to sleep and waking up on a beautiful beach in Baja.
Day 4: Optional (January - April): If you are traveling in Baja from January to April, going to see the Gray Wales in the bay of Guerrero Negro is a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list item that you can’t pass up. It is one of the greatest experiences of my life. Why? Because whales are sentient beings, they are self-aware; they live as long as humans and have long memories. And, that is why they don’t like or trust the only species on the planet that hunts them. Humans!
We are avid boaters and have cruised the waters of Mexico in our Tayana 58 (Reverence); we have seen other boats get too close to the gray whales and then watched the whales sink their boats. We have a healthy respect for the whales and have always respected the mandatory distance of 100 yards.
What makes the experience in Guerrero Negro special is that the locals have developed a special relationship with the whales; the whales actually trust them. The whales will bring their babies right up to the boats and let you pet them. Because the whales are sentient, they can tell that the people are awestruck by them; they love the attention. And, I suspect the whales enjoy the rare opportunity to safely see humans up close in the wild. They can be curious and interact with us. Again, this is a do not miss.
These tours are truly world famous, so we recommend making a reservation at Restaurant Mario’s in advance. We also recommend an early morning tour as the wind picks up in the afternoon, making for a wet and rocky trip.
That said, there really isn’t anything special about Guerrero Negro aside from the whales and the salt mining. And … Wait for it … Part of the whale tour is of the salt mining operation, so you will get to see that too. Regarding places to stay, it’s not pretty, but they will let you camp behind the restaurant, making your early morning departure that much easier, and the restaurant is pretty good.
Day 5: Guerrero Negro is just south of the Baja Norte line; from here, you will head north to Hotel Mission Catavina. It’s 2.5 hours from Punta Final and 4 hours from Guerrero Negro. Either way, you will arrive in a Desert Oasis. As you start to enter the area, you will see the desert landscape change from barren to beautiful. The hotel is exactly what you would hope to find; it feels authentic, like the Mexico you dreamed of visiting. The rooms are air-conditioned, clean, and spacious. There is a pool and an excellent restaurant. A great article about the area includes things to do in the Baja Storyteller, so I will keep this short. Hotel Mission Catavina is a perfect way to get off the road for the night, take a shower, relax and enjoy a great meal prepared by someone else! The grilled Pulpo was excellent!
Day 6: Get an early start, but make sure to indulge in the excellent breakfast served at the hotel before hitting the road to San Quintin. San Quintin is 4 hours north with a stop to fill up on Aqua Purificado! If you leave early, you can get into San Quintin around lunchtime and picnic on the beach. We recommend spending the day exploring Reserva Natural Punta Mazo on the coast and then heading back into town for dinner at Eucalipto Restaurant, Bar and Grill. The food is excellent, and the owner/chef is a great host!
Eucalipto is very popular, so we recommend making a reservation. Plan to park here, then after dinner, stay the night in the parking lot with 24-hour security that just happens to be right on the water! Make sure to tell the lot attendant when you park that you plan to stay the night and pay the $20 fee. That is what covers the cost of the 24-hour attendant.
Day 7: Last stop, a triumphant return to El Valle for the night before returning to the U.S. This time, try staying at the El Valle RV Park. The park has literally been hand-crafted by the owners Luis and Pherla. They have a great story. Luis and Pherla are originally from the Ensenada area. When they were married, the property was given to them as a wedding gift. They then moved to the United States, raised their children, and worked until it was time to retire. At one point, they completely forgot they owned the land!
Nearing retirement, the couple was contemplating their future and decided to move on to their land and turn it into something they would be proud to share with others. They have literally done all of the work themselves. From building the wine barrel cabins to the aluminum wine bottle cabin. When we arrived in early spring, they were out using hand tools to clear the grass that was growing into the campsites. These two are salt of the earth, their property is artfully done, and … They are walking distance from the best Mexican breakfast you can get your hands one. Before heading to the Tecate border crossing, make sure to stop at La Cocina de Doña Esthela and try some of their Lamb Gordita’s (Gordita de Borrego)! So yummy.
Hopefully, this is enough to get you into Baja and exploring. With a little curiosity and time, you will inevitably find a ton more dirt roads, beaches, coves and places to eat because the adventure in Baja is endless! If you do find something Jump-worthy, please let us know. We will check it out on the next trip and then add it to the itinerary for others to enjoy! I hope you, like us, are looking forward to your Next Jump!