Mexico’s Baja California peninsula is more than 1,000 miles long, with hundreds of miles of uninterrupted shoreline and beaches, and several national parks and other protected areas. Except for a handful of tourist centers, like Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada, it’s nearly free from development sprawl.
There’s free wild camping near most national parks, plus affordable rustic campgrounds. But camping here isn’t for everyone. Many of the access roads are dirt, and a lot of the sites and roads are unsuitable for larger rigs. Check local road conditions before driving into the unknown, and assume you won’t have cell phone service, hookups, access to stores, or other campground amenities. Also note: Masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are still widely used in Baja. To show respect and keep local populations safe, it’s recommended to wear a mask in public spaces.
From beachside camping to stunning views of snow-capped mountains, here’s where you should camp on a trip to Baja.
Parque Nacional Cabo Pulmo, Baja California Sur
The beaches are beautiful at Cabo Pulmo, but the main attraction here is the reef. The park is home to multiple species of coral, plus sea turtles, sharks, and tropical fish. Several dive outfitters in town take visitors to the offshore fingers of the reef, but you can also see some of the wonders of this UNESCO World Heritage Site simply by snorkeling from shore. Windsurfing is also common here, and those feeling a little adventurous can take a guided tour to swim with sea lions. Inland, there’s a goat farm with locally made cheese and hot springs at Santa Rita Ranch.
Where to Camp
The road to Cabo Pulmo is dirt, and much of the 22 miles are washboarded, so you shouldn’t visit if you don’t like getting rattled a bit. The town is small, but it does have some restaurants. Camping is free at the national park’s campground, and it comes with complimentary views of whales off the coast. There are no facilities, but it’s an easy 0.25-mile walk to town. While there are trash cans at the campground, they’re not always emptied, so to be respectful to this nature preserve, it’s best to keep your trash on board and carry it out.
Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto, Baja California Sur
The Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez) contains some of the most biologically diverse waters on the planet, so naturally Bahia de Loreto’s allure is partly underwater. Loreto has plenty of dive, snorkel, and eco-tour outfitters to take you into the UNESCO World Heritage site for a chance to see dolphins, orcas, whale sharks, and several species of whale. It’s reasonably priced to charter a day trip to circumnavigate the rock formations of Isla Coronado, where you can watch for sea lions and blue-footed boobies, plus eat lunch on a turquoise lagoon.
Where to Camp
Loreto is also one of Baja’s pueblo magicos (magical towns), a designation that recognizes its rich culture. There are three RV parks in town, and the closest one to the restaurants and shops of the downtown plaza area is Romanita RV Park. This campground is accessible to smaller RVs. Some sites have water and electric, plus there are bathrooms, showers, and an outside sink for washing dishes. More than an hour north, there’s also a string of beach campgrounds along the Bahía Concepción, some of which offer space for larger rigs, including Playa Santispac.
Parque Nacional Zona Marina del Archipiélago de San Lorenzo, Baja California
Another mostly aquatic park, San Lorenzo is an oasis for many threatened species of birds, plus whale sharks, orca, and sea turtles. Located on San Lorenzo Island, diving, snorkeling, and eco-tours are popular here, launching from the town of Bahía de los Ángeles on Baja’s coast. Experienced paddlers can also reach the park’s enticing archipelago of uninhabited islands. While you’ll need a boat to fully explore the park, you can get a good feel for it just by camping near town. On the drive in, you’ll also pass through the edge of the Valle de los Cirios natural area, and its tall, twisting, Dr. Seuss-like trees.
Where to Camp
There’s free wild camping north of town in an area called La Gringa. Not as far north are a few campgrounds, including eco-friendly Campo Archelon (named after a giant species of extinct turtle). They have beach camping for small rigs, plus reservable sites with palapas, which are great for escaping the wind. There are no amenities at the sites, but there are on-site showers and flush toilets, plus the campground cafe has sandwiches, coffee, and WiFi. Sometimes kayaks are available for camper use, and there are also five cabins with their own running water and kitchens.
Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Mártir, Baja California
Cresting above 10,000 feet, Mount Picacho del Diablo is both Baja’s highest peak and the crown of Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park. It takes 2 days to summit the peak with a local guide, but there are many shorter day hikes around the mountains here. Other attractions include a cultural center museum and the renowned National Astronomical Observatory, from which you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. Look for bighorn sheep, eagles, roadrunners, coyotes, and California condors, several dozen of which now live here thanks to a reintroduction program.
Where to Camp
The park is located northeast of San Quintín, and the final 10 miles of the roadway into the park are steep and unsuitable for longer vehicles and those prone to overheating. There are first-come, first-served campsites throughout the park, mostly in old-growth pine forests. Some are just for tents, while others can accommodate campervans.
Amenities include a smattering of pit toilets, picnic tables, and fire pits. Camping is included with the park entry fee, and Zona 4 has some of the best sites (take the first dirt road on the right, and note that nights can be cold). There are also four reservable cabins at the park entrance, with water, electricity, stoves, and grills, but no refrigerator. Be sure to bring your own bedding and propane, and call between Monday and Wednesday before 3 p.m. to reserve your stay (011-52-646-172-3000 ext. 3229). Visitors can also stay in cabins at the nearby Rancho Meling.