baja cycling guide

About this guide

We cycled the Baja in summer 2018, a part of the long and hot and rewarding Colorabo Tour. This guide is my effort to offer the community a clean and informative piece which details our route, rides, elevation, and sleep spots. There’s a short section on important gear, and brief thoughts considering the safety of cycling the Baja. I’ve also included links to additional guides which offer detailed kilometer-by-kilometer information.

By reading further you agree to the Legal Disclaimer.

About the cyclists

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Tyler Deming

Tyler, aka Twerk Daddy Deming, is a part-time nurse, full time friend. He currently resides in Seattle, and enjoys a well curated hip-hop dance party.

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Reese Wells

Reese, aka Primitive Wells, is the author of this guide and this website. He unconditionally loves puppies and conditionally loves bucket hats.


More to do with the colorabo tour!

 know before you go

Safety info:

As with any road cycling experience there are dangers inherent - the road down MEX 1 (the main Baja highway) is generally narrow, and in patches poorly maintained. Truck traffic is sometimes scary - our policy was to pull off the road if we felt unsafe and let the traffic pass. However, the majority of the traffic was respectful and safe to cyclists.

We were told, with anecdotal evidence as support, that it’s safest to stay in towns, rather than wild camp outside of town, due to reports of scorpions, snakes, and the occasional bandito. We listened and experienced no sketchy encounters.

Overall, I felt safer in the Baja than cycling in the US, both for my personal well-being and the safety of my gear.

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Tips gleaned from experience:

  • Get your tourist visa online before crossing the border at Tijuana. It will save you time and potentially money at the border.

  • Carry LOTS of water, for the station fillups are sometimes few & far between. I recommend a MSR 6L dromedary (see Important Gear below).

  • In central Baja specifically we enjoyed eating dinner at a small restaurant, getting to know the family owners, and then camping behind their stores. This was often free and allowed us to dive into the culture.

  • Carry plenty of repair gear. Bike shops are infrequent at best.

  • Please note that we cycled at an unusually fast pace, averaging 150 km per ride, due to time constraints on our trip. I recommend a slower pace done in the winter months, rather than during the summer.


important apps

  • Maps.me - able to import routes, save important locations, and see where you are regardless of cell service.

  • iOverlander - able to find campsites, water stations, and military checkpoints.

  • WhatsApp - messaging platform for when you’re connected to WiFi (which is in most towns you’ll pass through).

  • Google Translate - pretty sweet & intuitive translation system for communicating and reading signs.

important gear

other resources

  • Cycling guide by Ira Sutherland - by far the most useful guide we read in preparing for the tour. Includes (mostly) accurate kilometer markers.

  • The Adventure Junkies do a nice job with their guide.

San diego to ensenada 

map & distance: 140 km

elevation profile:

San Diego to Ensenada.PNG

where we stayed:

Warmshowers.org hosts Thomas y Carmen

the day, recap:

It was, in general, a wild and crazy day. We crossed the Tijuana border early in the morning to little fanfare and then made it our mission to get as far from the unstable city as possible. The highlight of the day was eating donatos (fried tacos) in Rosarito, then cycling the streets just after Mexico won a World Cup game.

things to Know:

  • Do not ride the 1D highway out of Tijuana. It’s illegal to cyclists and you will be stopped by police at the checkpoints.

  • After riding along the coast for several miles MEX 1 takes a hard east turn into the hills before descending down to Ensenada, which is a big city with everything anybody on a bicycle could ever need.

  • If you’re moving at a slower pace, I recommend staying over in Rosarito for the night, then continuing south to Ensenada.

  • The traffic is quite intense to Ensenada. Stay safe, well lit, and aware of the passing and oncoming traffic, especially when you turn from the coast and up into the hills.

ensenada to punta colonet

map & distance: 122 km

elevation profile:

Ensenada to Punta Colonet.PNG

where we stayed:

Hotel Escondido (300 pesos)

the day, recap:

A sweet stretch of well paved road redeems the continued heavy traffic and substantial elevation. The town of Punta Colonet is nice and quiet.

things to know:

  • There is a small grocery in Punta Colonet good for resupplies. An awesome tacqueria is just next door. Definitely the local hangout.

 
 View from Hotel Escondido, just outside of Punta Colonet

View from Hotel Escondido, just outside of Punta Colonet

 

Punta colonet to el rosario 

map & distance: 127 km

elevation profile:

Punta Colonet to El Rosario.PNG

where we stayed:

Cabanas de Mama Espinoza (100 pesos) - we camped in the back lot for a reduced price

the day, recap:

Really awesome ride today, the highlights being the long stretch along the coastline, a fun and challenging climb up towards the end of the ride, and the immediate descent afterwards into El Rosario.

things to know:

  • The section of riding along the coastline is worth a pullover and a lunch. One of my favorite sections of the Baja.

  • The traffic is still relatively heavy into El Rosario, but beginning to thin a bit.

  • We finagled a reduced price for camping at the back of the famous Cabanas de Mama Espinoza. This is what our spot looked like. Totally worth the 100 pesos. Watch out for the mosquitoes! They’re vicious here.

 
 Tyler eating cold oatmeal for breakfast at our site for the night.

Tyler eating cold oatmeal for breakfast at our site for the night.

 

El Rosario to Cataviña

map & distance: 127 km

elevation profile:

El Rosario to Catavina.PNG

where we stayed:

La Enramada restaurant - camped in back (free)

the day, recap:

It was a long, hot, and overall beautiful day, especially the final 16 km into Cataviña, as we rolled past huge saguaro forests and large boulder fields. If you’ve brought your climbing shoes, this is the best place along the Baja to get some bouldering in.

things to Know:

  • At this point you’re heading into the rural Baja countryside, and services are few and far between. Load up on water whenever possible.

  • There’s a large gas station on the south side of town that has air conditioning and showers. Also a large selection of milk.

  • We camped in the back of a restaurant for free. It was loud due to its proximity to the semi-trucks coming into the gas station. But hey, free!

 
 The saguaro & boulder fields of Cataviña

The saguaro & boulder fields of Cataviña

 

CataviñA to Rosarito

map & distance:157 km

elevation profile:

San Diego to Ensenada.PNG

where we stayed:

camped in back of Mauricio’s restaurant (free)

the day, recap:

Another long day tempered by the fact that it trends downhill. We caught a pretty vicious headwind that added some grit to the day. All in all, your casual day of cycling in the desert.

things to Know:

  • After having a delicious - and large - meal we camped behind Mauricio’s restaurant for free. It was a sleepy town until dark, and then there was an amazing amount of folks walking all around until the early hours of the morning.

 
 Our camping area behind Mauricio’s. Pretty rad.

Our camping area behind Mauricio’s. Pretty rad.

 

Rosarito to el marasal

map & distance: 154 km

elevation profile:

Rosarito to El Marasal.PNG

where we stayed:

Hotel Olivia (250 pesos)

the day, recap:

We took the unconventional path and scooted right through Guerrero Negro, famous for its whale watching and for being the gateway into Baja Sur. These 154 km are incredibly flat, and we caught a tailwind that made the living easy all the way into El Marasal.

things to know:

  • The military checkpoint at the border of Baja Sur is the largest checkpoint on the Baja. But we were shown remarkably little interest as cyclists.

  • There’s an accommodating hotel - Hotel Olivia - we stayed at on the cheap. At this point, and moving further south, the towns are wealthier, more populated, more attractive to tourists, and more expensive.

 
 A typical look at central Baja: ‘Where’s all the water, man?’

A typical look at central Baja: ‘Where’s all the water, man?’

 

El Marasal to Santa Rosalia

map & distance: 143 km

elevation profile:

El Marsal to Santa Rosalia.PNG

where we stayed:

Black & White Hostel* (300 pesos)

*unsure of the name. We asked for the cheapest place in town and were directed here

the day, recap:

This was one of my hardest days on the trip, mostly because the elevation dropped as we headed towards the Sea of Cortez and the humidity jacked way up. I didn’t really like the vibe of this town, it became very touristy and expensive.

things to know:

  • The road into Santa Rosalia is the worst we experienced on the Baja. Make sure your stuff is strapped on tight as you’re rolling into town. It’s a bumpy ride.

  • Enjoy the descent into town. It’s epic.

 
 The descent into Santa Rosalia! Whee!

The descent into Santa Rosalia! Whee!

 

Santa Rosalia to Mulege

map & distance: 63 km

elevation profile:

Santa Rosalia to Mulege.PNG

where we stayed:

Warmshowers.org hosts Pancho Villa (free)

the day, recap:

A short and hot little burrito of a ride today - very little to report other than immense gratitude for our Warmshowers host Pancho Villa. The deal is a simple one. You can stay at their cabana on the Sea of Cortez for free, and as a thanks you can choose to eat at their restaurant, which just so happens to be the best food I ate down the Baja. You do the math.

things to know:

  • Mulege was my favorite stop along the Baja - it is a small, not-so-touristy beach town that still has a lot going on. We took two days off here and explored. Highly recommended place to rest your weary bones.

 
 The setup at Pancho Villa’s. If I turned the camera around 180 degrees you’d see the Sea of Cortez.

The setup at Pancho Villa’s. If I turned the camera around 180 degrees you’d see the Sea of Cortez.

 

Mulege to Loreto

map & distance: 135 km

elevation profile:

Mulege to Loreto.PNG

where we stayed:

Hotel Miramar (400 pesos)

the day, recap:

I found this stretch of road to be some of the most scenic, especially the part where we hugged the Sea of Cortez. There are some cool little beach communities where you can camp and enjoy cocktails between Mulege and Loreto.

things to know:

  • The traffic starts to pick up as you near Loreto, which is one of the more popular destinations down the Baja. Be aware and prepared.

  • Loreto is wealthy and large-ish. Lots to do, and fantastic ceviche.

 
 Playa Santispac, between Mulege & Loreto. A popular beach camp.

Playa Santispac, between Mulege & Loreto. A popular beach camp.

 

Loreto to Cuidad Constitution

map & distance: 143 km

elevation profile:

Loreto to CC.PNG

where we stayed:

Missiones RV Park (250 pesos)

the day, recap:

The big news of the day is the infamous hill out of Loreto. In hindsight it’s a pleasant, long, and reasonably graded experience with excellent views. So start early, stay hydrated, and enjoy - don’t let the buzz get you nervous. We capped off a long ride day with an excellent night of camping & pool swimming at the Missiones RV Park on the north side of town.

things to know:

  • There’s a tasty little tienda just before the climb starts. You can load up on milk there to power your upwards journey.

  • Stay at the RV park if you enjoy your camping setup. It was amazing getting to swim around in their pool and cool our hot bones.

 
 Leaving Loreto to C.C. - you climb up and over those purple puppies. Easier done than it looks. Enjoy!

Leaving Loreto to C.C. - you climb up and over those purple puppies. Easier done than it looks. Enjoy!

 

Cuidad Constitution to Las Pocitas

map & distance: 100 km

elevation profile:

CC to Las Pocitas.PNG

where we stayed:

Camped at Church (free)

the day, recap:

This was a relatively low key day that was difficult because of the heat - well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. There is an EXXO gas station in town that is air-conditioned, and we hung out there for five hours eating sandwiches until the heat broke and we could wander over to the church to camp for the night.

things to know:

  • The padre (priest) hosted us for free at his church on the west side of town, and we were so grateful. If you choose to stay here please respect the area and the church’s hospitality - it’s truly a gift.

 
 Sunrise leaving Las Pocitas. Chip chop, beat the heat.

Sunrise leaving Las Pocitas. Chip chop, beat the heat.

 

Las Pocitas to La Paz

map & distance: 111 km

elevation profile:

San Diego to Ensenada.PNG

where we stayed:

Pension California (350 pesos)

the day, recap:

It was an exciting day, to be sure - riding into the traditional end of a Baja tour - this is where most folks catch the ferry to the Mexico mainland. Our destination was for Los Cabos, so we laid over for the night and continued south.

things to Know:

  • I wasn’t super impressed with Pension California. There are loads of hostels to choose from, so don’t feel limited to this.

  • The roads into and out of La Paz are wicked busy. Be safe, visible, and aware. If possible don’t ride at peak travel times.

 
 La Paz sits behind those hills. It’s a fun and somewhat challenging ride through them.

La Paz sits behind those hills. It’s a fun and somewhat challenging ride through them.

 

La Paz to Todos Santos 

map & distance: 82 km

elevation profile:

San Diego to Ensenada.PNG

where we stayed:

Friends!!!

the day, recap:

The road out of La Paz on MEX 1 towards MEX 19 is brutal, and lets up only when you hop onto the 19. Get up and out early if you can.

things to know:

  • Todos Santos is getting into the super fancy tourist destinations of the southern peninsula. As we stayed here (and in Cabo) I found myself craving the quiet cultural scenes of central Baja.

  • Don’t expect to eat cheaply here. Least expensive thing to do is buy and cook your own meals. Oh - the Todos Santos Brewing Company is pretty cheap and tasty.

  • El Pescadero is 6 km south of Todos Santos, and is still holding onto the quieter, more traditional feel of the Baja. But, it’s changing too.

 
 Tyler biking out of Todos Santos. This was one of my favorite streets in town.

Tyler biking out of Todos Santos. This was one of my favorite streets in town.

 

Todos santos to San jose del cabo

map & distance: 108 km

elevation profile:

San Diego to Ensenada.PNG

where we stayed:

Friends!!!

the day, recap:

There are a few surprisingly hard climbs heading into Los Cabos. Get ready for the madness and mayhem of the fastest growing tourist destinations in Mexico. We stayed in San Jose del Cabo for a wedding. I don’t really have much to say about the experience, other than it was not my favorite way to end the tour. I crave the quiet, cultural spaces, and that feels lost in the Cabos. If you’re headed on to the mainland cycle back up the MEX 1 to La Paz! Congratulations!

things to know:

  • San Jose del Cabo is a great place for Air BnB on the cheap.

  • There are some neat secluded beaches several kilometers east of San Jose del Cabo.

 
 The San Jose del Cabo coastline.

The San Jose del Cabo coastline.

 

what’s next?

Thanks:

Thanks for taking the time to read through this. You can head back to the top of the guide here. I’m open and welcome to any feedback or questions - feel free to reach out via email (available below). Also, if you liked this guide check out some other materials from this tour.

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